Everest Home Home
DAY THREE 11,500 ft. -- Acclimatization Day -- Day Hike
"Would you like hot coffee or hot tea?" I glance over at my thermometer.
At 6:30 a.m. it is 29 degrees. Hot anything sounds good at this moment.
The sherpa also leaves some hot washing water. It takes me the entire
hour before breakfast to get myself organized.
It's like buying a backyard barbecue which
fits beautifully into its box, but just try unpacking it and putting it
back in that same box, it's impossible. This is the situation with which
I am faced. It all came out of the duffel bag . . . the challenge is to
get it all back in.
Today is a rest day, an acclimatization
day. In order for us to make it to the base camp at 18,500 ft. we must
acclimatize to the thin air. When we reach base camp the amount of oxygen
will be less than 50% of what it is at sea level. The goal is to ascend
no more than 3,000 ft. and then stay at that altitude for a second night,
and essentially repeat that process every 3,000 ft. Other than minor headaches
and restless sleep, no one in our group displays any sign of altitude
Prior to leaving for the trek I needed
a new pair of boots, sturdier with better soles for gripping rock trails.
The week before we were due to leave I found myself still without a boot
that fit me satisfactorily. Particularly for a trek of this nature you
should walk a minimum of 10 to 20 miles to break the boots in. The
boots I would depart for the trek with had less than three miles in them.
I knew the old boots fit me like bedroom slippers so for insurance I threw
them in my duffel bag.
Three days into the trek the new boots
were terrific, not one blister. I decided to make a gift of the old boots
to a young sherpa wearing no shoes whose feet seemed to be similar in
size to mine. The incredible smile on his face as he accepted the boots
and clutched them to his chest is a picture that will remain forever in
my mind. He strutted around the camp with the greatest look of pride on
his face. One has great status when one has a pair of boots.
After a delicious breakfast, we take a
trip down into Namche Bazar to look at the wares of all the people who
had come from miles around -- Nepal, Tibet, India, China -- to display
their goods at the big market on Saturday.
The Tibetans are perhaps the most interesting
in that they never bathe and never cut their hair . . . never. We make a
point of staying downwind from them. They prominently display their beautiful
carpets and silks with distinctive rich colors in an area about the size
of a football field.
After lunch we prepare for a short afternoon
acclimatization trek where we will climb from our current altitude of
11,500 ft. to a little over 12,700 ft. and then return. The goal here
is to walk high but sleep low. If you follow the Everest climbs you will
note that they establish base camp and then climb beyond to camps one, two, three,
four, and sometimes five, each time returning to base camp to continue
their acclimatization process. Climb high -- sleep low.
This trip takes us through two beautiful
towns, Khunde (koon day) and Khumjung (kum jung). Khunde is where Edmund Hillary,
the first person to climb Mt. Everest in 1953, built a school for grades
one through twelve. Children come from communities all over to attend,
sometimes walking as much as 5-7 miles each way.
The next stop is Khumjung and the highest
bakery in the world. How does this sound after four hours of hiking? Sitting
out on a deck, surrounded by towering mountains, including Mt. Everest,
drinking hot tea and eating homemade apple pie. Doesn't get any better!
From there we walk to the Everest View
Hotel. This is a hotel built 20 years ago by the Japanese with the
intention of flying people in to an airport located in Syangboche (shang
bo shay), about
a quarter of a mile from the hotel.
Because the hotel is situated at 12,100
ft., those who flew in from Kathmandu at 4,200 ft. developed altitude
sickness within 24 hours. To counteract this they placed oxygen bottles
in the room, but they had very little effect on the acclimatization process.
Then to top it off the government shut down the airport at Syangboche,
meaning that the well-heeled Japanese would now be forced to fly into
Lukla at 9,200 ft. and then walk for a minimum of three days to the hotel.
Disaster strikes -- the shutter on my
camera breaks, a camera with multiple-lens capability of 35mm to 300mm.
I go into Namche looking for the impossible -- a store that can rent me
a camera. Talk about luck, the third store I enter the owner has a personal
camera of his own exactly like mine, no I take that back, it's the newer
version of mine. Talk about remarkably unselfish people -- he rents it
to me for 200 rupies (Rs) a day, or about $2.50 a day.
Next begins the organization process,
getting my stuff ready for night. And then it's outside to perform a magic
show for the porters, sherpas, and children who had assembled in the area.
I also brought some pictures of my family from home which they are delighted
to see. Then it's another sumptuous dinner and off to bed to await what
is to come tomorrow.