Thursday, 15 December 2011

Everest Walk In: Jiri to Namche Bazaar

There is now an airstrip at Lukla, where package tourists are air-freighted straight to high altitude, but I've chosen the original mountaineer's walk-in route from Juri to Everest Base Camp both for nostalgic reasons and to aid my fitness and acclimatisation process. Tuesday 15 November (day 1): Juri to Bhandhar. Departing Juri's Cherdung Lodge at 7:30am it's a muddy uphill hike through the chilly mist to Shivalaya. Stopping for a dhall bhatt (lentil broth with rice and lightly spiced vegetable curry) lunch here I meet up with Matt and Lorraine, from London, who are on a six-month work-gap trip to Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines. We are persuaded to buy a, probably unnecessary, 2,000 Rupee (about £20) Gaurishankar Conservation Area Permit (we are only just clipping the edge) before logging-in our TIMS cards at the police post. By mid-afternoon, after a cold and misty climb over the 2,705m (8,926ft) Deuralia Pass (about twice the height of Ben Nevis), we drop down to Bhandar and the comfortable pink and blue Ang Dawa Lodge, our home for the night.
Wednesday 16 (day 2): Bhandar to Sete. We are following orange markers painted for the benefit of marathon runners but this lulls us into a false sense of security and we cross a suspension bridge and head uphill rather than following the river. We lose about an hour but eventually make Kinja for lunch. The afternoon is all uphill to Sete where we meet the Chapman family, a party of seven Australians who are also walking in. The basic Sherpa Guide Lodge is our chilly home.
Thursday 17 (day 3): Sete to Junbesi. More uphill this morning to Lamjura Bhanjyang pass, which at 3,530m (11,649ft) it's the highest point on the trek between Jiri and Namche Bazaar (that's nearly three times higher than Ben Nevis). It's freezing and the cairn marking the summit is wrapped with frozen prayer flags and katas (ceremonial silk scarves). We huddle round a wood burning stove for lunch then it's downhill, via the monastery, to the welcoming warmth of the dining room in the blue and white Ang Chhokpa's Lodge and the best dhall bhat of the trek.
Friday 18 (day 4): Junbesi to Nunthala. It's a fairly easy hike up and down through pine forest to Ringmo for lunch then steeply up to the chorton topped Trakshindu La pass 3,080m (10,164ft) and a steep descent to Nunthala's Moonlight Lodge for the night.
Saturday 19 (day 5): Nunthala to Khari Khola. As the day progresses more and more white-topped peaks appear on the horizon. In the evening the delights of the Namaste Hotel include, Tongba, hot Tibetan millet beer sucked through a metal straw squashed at one end to keep the pips in the jug. A popular experience for John and David, two of the younger Chapmans.
Sunday 20 (day 6): Khari Khola to Thado Kosi. A long day and we arrive at Everest Summiter Lodge in Thado Kosi where the owner, the older brother of Khasi (the Chapman's guide), has climbed Everest six times as the certificates on the lodge wall testify. Khasi is only just behind him.
Monday 21 (day 7): Thado Kosi to Namche Bazaar 3,420m (11,286ft). Late morning and we enter the UNESCO World Heritage listed Sagarmatha National Park and a suspension bridge across the Dudh Kosi to Jorsale for lunch then, after crossing Namche Bazaar's high bridge, it's an exhausting climb up to the Everest viewpoint and, through fir tree branches, my first close up view of the world's highest mountain.
Namche, the Sherpa's 'capital, is spectacularly set in a natural amphitheatre but the chilly Hotel Hill-Ten leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately I'm obliged to stay two nights as my gear is being laundered here. A necessary hot shower is an extortionate 400 Rupees (about £4). At 100 Rupees per day hire fee a down jacket is better value.
Tuesday 22 (day 8): Namche Bazaar. An acclimatisation day is also necessary. North of the village is the the white Tenzing Norgye Memorial Stupa with fine mountain views but a little further on there's a great view of the star of the show - Ama Dablam ('Mother with Children' mountain). With a puff of white cloud above her summit, doesn't she looks magnificent?
Photos of the Jiri to Namache Walk In.

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