Climbing from Namche ( 3440m) to Everest View Hotel ( 3860) and back to Namche
When I’d read “acclimitization day” on the itinerary given to us by Himalayan Expedition I had (naturally) assumed that it was just another word for “rest day”. To my great surprise last night we were told that we would climb up 400 m from Namche to acclimitize our bodies to the higher altitude and the lower level of oxygen, which, according to one book I was reading, was down to around 60% ( and would continue to go down to almost 50% of what you’d find at the sea level).
To get used to this new situation, the mantra is to “climb high and sleep low”, and this is followed regardless of whether you are going to the summit of Mt.Everest or going up to the Everest Base camp. In fact, mountaineers who are climbing Everest spend the first month running up and down the mountain from lower camps to higher camps and back before they make the final attempt. We were doing a lower scale version of the same thing. In this process, when the body adjusts, the number of RBCs in the body go up dramatically, and suddenly your body’s transportation mechanism for oxygen gets better in a bid to adjust to the changing environment.
All this is happenning inside the body. On the outside, you are still one panting gasping individual trying to go up a very steep hill so you can get a very good view of Everest.
By now our little group of 11 had a set schedule for climbing. Three of us , Satish, Sudhir and I ( sometimes accompanied by Aditya when he was not having a splitting headache from Acute Mountain Sickness, a condition that he was vehemently denying, saying it was the cold that got to him) would be leading the pack alongwith the indomitable head porter Om Bahadur Ji. Abhishek, Shweta and Ramesh would follow a distant second, Ali, Javed Bhai and Sachin would bring up the rear, and the very tail end would be dear Padmaja, coming up very slowly but very surely, acccompanied by Kiran, our guide.
One thing you learn on the mountains – sometimes slow and steady does help!
Here’s the whole group after we made reached to the Everest View Hotel – a climb of about 3 hrs.
The view from the Everest View Hotel was spectacular, as the day was bright and clear. Everest, with its ever present plume of snow, flanked by Lhotse ( an 8000+m peak, and the fourth highest in the world) and Nuptse were right there.
Sudhir and I walked up further to the ridge from where we could see Khumjung village. This village was adopted by Edmund Hillary who has done a lot for the Sherpa community here in the Khumbu valley. There is a school and hospital set up by his foundation at the village.
Sudhir and I were rewarded for our efforts of going up a few hundred feet further than the others. On the hidden side of the hill after crossing the ridge is a lovely rhododendron forest of yellow and white rhododendrons. In the warm sunlight it was simply glorious.
After having tea and coffee at the hotel ( where we were ripped off – the tea and coffee cost us Rs. 1700), we came back down to Namche and back to our lodge. The evening ended up being a lot of fun – we had a great music session with a guy from Pune.
Later on, I happenned to run up to get a cup of hot water, and found the sherpas sitting around the dining table sipping on some interesting concoction. I was invited to try, and, as happens when it comes to anything containing slightest traces of alcohol, I found myself unable to refuse. So here I was, sitting and sipping on “Tongba”, which tastes a lot like the “Chang” we have in North-East India. Its made of millet, and it warm, and the taste kind of grows on you with each sip, of which I took quite a few.
I slept well again, on a full stomach, with my limbs worn out from all the walking.
Coffee shop vignette from Namche Bazaar Everest Bakery
After a half-day of strenous climbing, a lunch followed by a nap, and some serious shopping for gear, its feels really good to enter the cozy atmosphere of a coffee shop. The walls of the Everest Bakery in downtown Namche are lined with delicious looking goodies – apple pies, chocolate donuts, strudels, danish, cinnamon rolls and muffins. The prices are atrocious – NPR 250 for a slice of apple pie – of course I did not know that I would be willing to shell out this and more on the way back. It has not gotten to that stage of desperation yet, so I settle for a hot chocolate, and immediately regret it when Cheekala’s coffee, complete with a little twirl of foam and a wafer, arrives looking way more inviting than my hot chocolate. Meanwhile a pizza is baking and the delicious smell fills the bakery making the 4 of us sipping our drinks very very hungry. Padmaja puts back the magazine she’d been browsing ( called Voice of Women, or VOW, from which we had been reading out strange poll stats), and we head back for lacklustre dinner back at the hotel.