So today we arrived in Dingboche at 14,600 feet after 2 days and almost 20 miles of up and down (mostly up) trekking through the Khumbu. Yesterday was a long 7 plus hour day and everyone was feeling it last night.
We stayed in a small lodge in lower Pangboche - the woman running it is a widow - her husband was a well known Sherpa killed in an avalanche in 2006. She runs the place with her kids helping but but you can tell its hard - the place needs some work and a lot of other sherpas including our lead guy Dendi like to bring climbers there just to try to support her. We could have stayed somewhere else, and perhaps been a bit more comfortable, but the community here is strong, and friends support one and other as best they can. Sherpas are well respected and can make very good money - as much as $3000 in the climbing season’s short 2 month window, while the average household income in Nepal is just $600 a year!! Obvious drawback is the risk, and especially in recent years, more and more families are left to try to survive after the loss of a father or husband or brother from climbing accidents and avalanches. Many took the money they made working as support for western climbers and opened very comfortable (for this region) lodges throughout the Khumbu so that they could stop climbing and have a good life and make some money putting up climbers and trekkers. But if they die in the mountains, their families are left with very little and few options to make a living and some struggle to operate their lodges.
The effects of last years earthquake though not catastrophic in the Khumbu can certainly be seen. Crumbled buildings, leaning buildings with people still living in them, new rock, snow and ice slide paths are everywhere. Rebuilding is slow and the process of getting pledged aide to those in need is even slower. (I’ll reserve my comments about that till I leave!!)
Just today I heard about a town I visited 12 years ago - Zhangmu. Just over the border in Tibet, it has been completely deserted as it now sits precariously above a void created by the quake which it is now destined to fall into at any moment. Truth be told - it was probably the worst place I had ever been to in my life. I can only describe it as a perfect location to film a horror movie set in a sanitarium. It was scary. And was also where I had to pay a bribe to be allowed to leave China - at gunpoint. Fun stuff. Anyway..... I ramble as I have nothing else to do right now.....
So lets talk about today. We were fortunate to have an audience with Lama Geshe this morning in Pangboche, one of the highest Lamas in the world behind the Dali Lama. We spent about 45 minutes receiving his blessings for a safe climb (he gave my knee some extra good juju love and smacked it a few times with the Dharma)!
The blessing includes chanting, head butting, getting rice thrown at us and burning juniper. It was quite special and many will not even step foot on Everest without his blessing. A good way to start the day’s trek which wasn't as bad as yesterday’s but altitude is really starting to hit us. That dull persistent headache is nearly unavoidable, but manageable as long as your drinking 3-4 liters of water a day. Meals are becoming repetitive - fried rice or noodles with egg and vegetables for lunch and dinner. Fried egg and egg battered french toast style bread with honey for breakfast. You kind of start to eat what your stomach thinks it can handle. Step outside the box - like I did a couple day ago with a “pizza”, and you pay the price - yak cheese is not exactly fresh mozzarella.
The cold also starts to feel.... well... colder. I was hiking yesterday with shorts on but by the time the sun went behind the mountains I was in my down jacket, wool socks and hat....WHICH I also slept in under two thick blankets which I can only hope i was not sharing with any other critters.
Everything considering is actually quite nice and comfortable, it is part of this journey and shows you how fortunate we all are where we live. I mean the rat that I almost stepped on on the way to a “shower” wasn't THAT big, and at least I could have a “shower”.... and it only cost 500 rupees - 5 bucks! Showers for the rest of the trip will be a real rarity - I’ll be lucky to have 4-5 over the next month so I wasn't giving up the chance.
We will be here for 2 nights acclimatizing then on to Lobuche then base camp. We have internet access here - about $4 for 100mg of service and very slow but no phone service. Its not like we are surfing the web, its all sending and checking emails and updating their social media outlets. First thing everyone does when we get to a new village is check cell service and WiFi options - its actually pretty funny - in this remote place 3G and WiFi is available - and makes all of us happy! Everyone races to be the first to post a new Facebook photo every time there is one bar of service on their device. They really are encouraging me to start a Facebook page - even if just for the trip... but I’m staying strong and have not given in just yet!!!
Headache is ramping up staring at this screen.... signing off for now, maybe go have a coffee and throw on another layer of warmth :))) Tomorrow we are doing an acclimatization hike up to 16,000 feet so gotta get some rest!