Saturday, April 29, 2006

Khumbu Map

While some of the place names do not match exactly, this map gives a detailed view of almost all of our trek.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Notes From our Trekking Journal

This is going to be a fairly long post. Grab a drink and enjoy!

A= ascended
D= descended
all times shown include lunch, toilet, rest and photo breaks.

Day One
April 3,
Lukla to Phakding

A: 750'
D: 1,340'
Highest elev. reached today-9,520'
Elevation in Lukla-9,350'

We meet our guide, Sanga Rai, at our hotel and immediately go to the airport. It is really chaotic and Sanga literally throws our luggage on the scale to be weighed and cuts in front of many people. No one seems to think this is rude, probably because they are shoving and doing the same thing! There is no queue system in Nepal, that is for sure.
Short but semi-frightening plane flight into Lukla--the landing strip is as big as a driveway in a suburban home, with a steep upward U-curve to boot (necessitating specialized "STL" - Short Takeoff and Landing aircraft)! These runways are called "Hillary Jobs" in Nepal - after Sir Edmund Hillary whose foundation and lifelong work has done much to benefit the people of this region; airports, hospitals, schools (including the one our guide attended before going on to college), etc. Very beautiful scenery. Met Harka, our porter, in Lukla. He hiked 9 hours from his village to meet us. (Paul continuing here now.)Can't belive how cold it is our first night. After 6 weeks in the tropics we are freezing. I shake my water bottle expecting to hear ice, but then check my Suunto Vector watch and see that it's actually 60F in the room - not even chilly!

Day Two
April 4th
Phakding to Namche

A: 3,460'!!
D: 890'
Current elev.: 11,340'

We were supposed to overnignt in Jorsalle but it only took us 2 hours to reach it, and it seemed silly to stop trekking at 11:30 a.m. Originally thought we might feel crappy due to the elevation and didn't want to push all the way up to Namche, but we were feeling energetic and decided to go for it. Semi-tough uphill climb; "slowly, slowly", reminded Sanga, and we took his advice. Namche is quite the booming village; loads of shops, guest houses, trekking supply stores, photo developing shops, and bakeries (electricty too!). We stay here for two days then continue on to more semi-remote places. My body is tired from the walking, especially from the climb today. It will only get easier with experience, right? (Paul continuing here now.) The trek up to Namche was through fantastically beautiful pine and fir forest with red, white and pink tree sized rhodedendrons in full bloom. We repeatedly crosed a gorgeous turquoise glacial stream over various "bridges of death" (not really that scary - very well constructed - but at certain points you could look down at least 600' to the river below). I know it's lame to make comparisons, but this lower portion of the trek could be some imaginary, vastly overscaled spot somewhere on the eastern slopes of the Cascades or Sierras. I had to stop myself from starting to hunt for Morel & Porcini mushrooms and keep my eyes on the rocky trail in front of me.

Day Three
April 5th
"Rest" Day in Namche
A= 1670'
D= 1670'
Highest elev. reached: 12,760'
Time= 4:13

Rest day--ha!
Hiked from Namche to a viewpoint close to the fancy schmancy Everest View Hotel ($400/night! Guests get flown in via helicopter and have to have oxygen pumped into their rooms. Doubt they can walk around much outside without feeling terrible).
Saw our first glimpse of Mt. Everest and Ama Dablam. Visited a local state-run museum nearby on the way down. There was an army post there and razor wire all around. Sanga said they were there in case of the Maoists. (Paul continuing here now.)Wind kicked up pretty seriously while we were at the top of our "rest climb" and again, the cold was shocking. I was actually rather worried as to how I'd handle it further up.

Day 4
April 6th--Snow Day!
Namche to Deboche
A: 2,790'
D: 1,820'
Highest elev. reached: 12,764'

We were supposed to overnight in Tengboche but all the guest houses filled up. Much colder today due to the snow that began on our ascent. The morning started off very overcast and in the clouds, so we had no view. Sanga tried to make us feel better by saying there was nothing to see, which we know was hardly the case! I don't blame him, I guess.
Visited the monastery in Tengboche. Heard the monks chant for maybe 5 minutes.
Watched goofy Tibetan pop videos in our guesthouse in the evening. The women certainly looked more glamorous than the macho men with long, flowing hair on horseback. (Paul continuing here now.) As you may know, the Khumbu (aka the "Everest Region of Nepal) is populated by the Sherpa people. The Sherpas (as they are now known - more on this later) emigrated to Nepal from Eastern Tibet around 500 years ago, bringing their Tibetan Buddhist religion with them (and a strong continued connection to Tibetan culture, religion and language). They are well know as the high altitude climbing guides that have allowed westerners to "conquer" the 8000 meter peaks of the Himalaya. Additionally, they own all the land and lodges here (and some have become quite wealthy as a result). Sanga, our guide, hoewever is Rai, as are many of the other trekking guides. They too are an upland people, though not of Tibetan origin. They are considered to be one of the original peoples of Nepal (a country of at least 86 distinct ethnic groups - each with their own language and place within the "Caste" system)and live just below (elevation-wise) of the Sherpa. For over a century know, the Rai men have comprised the backbone of the British Army's elite Ghurka fighters.

Day 5
April 7th
Deboche to Pangboche
A: 1,000'
D: 100'
Time: 1:36

Since this was such an easy day, we had an acclimatization climb scheduled as well. Sanga also said he was testing us to see if we can endure the hike.

Pangboche to the bottom of Ama Dablam Base Camp
A: 2,240'
D: 2,240'
Time: 4:50
High point reached: 14,730'!

Holy crap, what an ass-kicking climb. I felt terrible, as if I were drugged. Unsteady, disoriented, somewhat nauseated, dizzy, and extremely tired. I could have just curled up on the ground and went to sleep, but Paul refused to let me. It was very windy and cold at the top. I have never walked so slowly in my life. Tiny two inch baby steps at a time, heart beating like mad, completely out of breath, terrible headache. My legs felt they were made of lead. Sanga congratulated us when we reached the top and said, "Michele! Do not lose your exitement!", as I wanted to pass out right there. It is the highest elevation Paul and I have ever been in so far.
We are the only guests in the lodge, so in the evening it turns into a makeshift tailor shop. A man sets up a hand powered machine and holds the bobbin in one hand. He has a stack of cloth and makes pants for someone. A woman comes in with a new zipper later on to repair her down jacket. Eventually word gets around that the tailor is in action, and it turns into quite the small village scene.

Day 6
April 8th
Paul's sick day due to acclimatization

Paul felt terrible in the morning, "like I have an ice pick going into my eye", and Sanga decided it would be best for him to stay in bed and rest rather than climb higher. I hand-washed clothes in some very cold water. Later the four of us took a very short and easy hike and hung out on a sunny overhang that was protected by the wind. Easy relaxation day. I have started to come down with a sore throat.

Day 7
April 9th
Pangboche to Dingboche
Michele's sick day
A: 1,420'
D: 450'
Time: 3:55
Current altitude: 14,270'

I have a terrible head cold. Why now, of all possible times? It feels like I am swallowing knives and have to spit on the ground instead; it is that bad. Stuffy head, ears hurt. Started to cry while hiking because I was in so much pain and was not enjoying anything. I was relieved when we stopped; I went to sleep while Paul and Sanga went for a short hike. They brought me back throat lozenges from a local store. We are above the treeline now and no longer have wood fires at night in the stoves to keep warm. Yak dung has replaced the wood and it doesn't smell very pleasant! I really like the yaks--they are kind of cute. We eat their cheese almost every day; tastes kind of like parmesean.
Meet a filmmaker from Canada who is doing a documentary on the oldest Canadian ever to attempt to climb Everest. He died enroute of heart failure last year at Camp Two.
(Paul continuing here now) Leaving Pangboche we walked through the last of any trees we would see for a long time - junipers not unlike the ones in my yard in Bend - just lacking the gin producing berries. From here on out it was scrub rhodedendron (whose leaves are used for the most fabulous insence) low juniper bushes and yak-mowed grass.

Day 8
Dingboche to Chhukung
A: 1,290'
D: 60'
Time: 2:25
Current elev.: 15,574

Gradual uphill hike, very pleasant. I am not feeling any better, but was able to enjoy today's hike more than yesterday's.

Major ass-kicking hike to Island Peak Base Camp
A: 1,620'
D: 1,620'
Time: 6:25 (ugh!)
Elev. at Base Camp: 16,770' (first ascent over 5000 meters!)

What a screaming headache I have. Sick both of a head cold and from AMS (acute mountain sickness). Not happy, am in pain right now. I cannot eat--absolutely NO appetite, despite burning over 5,000 calories today from trekking and breathing very hard. The thought of food is revolting, but I need to eat. What to do? I hide my food like a child under a mound of rice and pretend I have eaten more than I really have so Paul and Sanga don't bug me.
Despite all this, the walk was long and oftentimes stunning to Island Peak base camp. By the time we arrived, the light hurt my eyes so much I couldn't look around to see the sights, so Paul took photos. Several people were practicing climbing for their eventual ascent to Island Peak. We drank hot Tang (very good, really!) before heading back down. Paul and I held our heads and rocked back and forth on the bed when we got back to the lodge; it felt like our brains were going to explode. The last time my head hurt that much was when I had a mild case of encephalitis. For once we run into Americans; the lodge was full of them! Several were climbers from Oregon and Washington. Paul used to live down the street from one of them, who lived in Bend! Weird. (Paul continuing here now)Agreeing with Michele, I think this was the most wiped out I felt the entire trek. Just klobbered. Could barely talk or eat.

Day 9
April 10th
Chhukung to Dingboche
A: 30'
D: 1,300'
Time: 2:00
We were supposed to trek to Thukla, but I still have a crappy case of AMS on top of a head cold. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish which from which. Paul reminded me that I am supposed to be enjoying this, not feeling miserable. I felt lame about not being able to continue on, but from the look on my face, Sanga decides for me. Later on I realize that was the best decision. I have even considered ending the trek early; that is how terrible I feel, mentally and physically. I still cannot eat much, but more than the past few days. Headache is somewhat better due to being in a lower altitude. I am nervous about hiking to Lobuche tomorrow and tackling Everest Base Camp the day after; however I feel less defeated as I did yesterday and am not giving up yet.

Day 10
Dingboche to Lobuche
A: 2,190'
D: 300'
Time: 5:14
Current Alt: 16,270!

Loads of uphill climbing today over moving glaciers (underneath the endless sea of rocks beneath our feet from which we had to hop, hop, hop). Passed a huge section of memorials built for people who have died while ascending (or trying to ascend) Mt. Everest. Very moving and sad.
This guest house is a dump [not my exact words in the journal, mind you]. All of the other nicer places have been booked, and for good reason. Even the stream is polluted! What is wrong with people? How can they litter this high up in the clouds? They should be ashamed.
When Sanga shows us our room, there is a locked door inside. He says it is a toilet, but is locked because it "freezes" in this weather. As soon as he left, we tried picking the lock, as there was no way in hell we were going to hike up and down stairs in the middle of the night (we are literally peeing up to 5 times a night, which is a positive sign of adjusting to the altitude) to use a disgusting toilet. Paul figures out how to unscrew the lock; the toilet was nasty, but certainly NOT frozen (or unused)! It is our saving grace and we are thankful for having the luxury of a toilet in our room for once.
The walk here was steep at times, and incredibly stunning. Even walking on level ground I was huffing and puffing like mad and could barely catch my breath!
AMS symptoms have improved for both of us, but I am still hacking up nasty plegm and have a loud, harsh cough.
Big day tomorrow to Gorak Shep, then the post lunchtime hike to Everest Base Camp. Yikes. (Paul continuing here now.) As nasty as this place (the "Alpine Inn" hah!)was, and for whatever reason Lobuche is, if you have a copy of John Krakauer's "Into Thin Air", go read his section on what it was like back in 1996. It has definitely improved.

Day 11
April 13th
Lobuche to Gorak Shep
A: 1000'
D: 300'
Time: 2:50
Current elev: 16,930' (only night sleeping over 5000 meters)

The walk to Gorak Shep was really scenic [dumb statement--nothing this trip has been anything but!]. Again I have no appetite. Maybe it will return when we descend? This is not a good weight loss plan--hiking in high elevation and eating very little. I don't recommend it.

Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp
A: 1,290'
D: 1,290'
Time: 5:56
Highest elev reached: 17,510'!
Long, rocky trek up and down hill. Unfortunately I forget my camera in the lodge and we have no photos of the base camp. This makes me even more angry and disappointed. The glaciers by the Khumbu ice fall are like giant, frozen ocean waves. I feel like we are now on the moon--it seems otherworldly. So if you want to see close up pictures of all this, I suggest Googling them, or taking the hard route and going there yourself :)

I was coughing a lot and found it exhausting to catch my breath. Why does this appear so easy for some people? Some woman who was SMOKING, for crying out loud, passed us! Maybe I should start? Ha ha!
[WARNING: This is about to be pity party for Michele time. Skip ahead if you are not interested]
When does this get easier? I feel I am walking so incredibly slow. Is my cold really slowing me down that much? I am supposed to be enjoying this but it feels like a death march.
I was so exhausted and defeated-feeling when we finally arrived at base camp. Again I had thoughts of quitting the trek and heading back to lower elevation. We sat down on a rock in the freezing wind--giant fleece under a windproof shell under a down coat! I looked at Paul and said, "I don't think i'm very good at this--I want to cut the trip short and go back down", and started to cry. I feel like a lame, weak quitter. Paul hugs me and says we'll talk about it when we get back to the lodge. Boo hoo. We spend all of 15 minutes up there. I wish we had more time, but it is getting late and need to head back. There are many expeditions up here and we wonder how many of them will make it to the top? (Paul continuing here now) Michele is of course being much too hard on herself here. It WAS very freaky how some - not even remotely fit people - seemed to cruse along with no pain at this elevation. But I think at this point we were too focused on our own goals to notice that rescue helicopters were making multi-day trips to bring people down who were at risk from dying at this altitude. And in any case, this would be a long, tiring, ankle twisting hike no matter where you did it, and unfortunately we got to base camp around 2:45 PM at which point the wind chill had dropped well below freezing (our porter and guide really really wanted to go!). I can only say that the fortitude of the people who choose to make that place "home for the 60 or so days it takes to actually summit the mountain is truly impressive.

Day 12
April 14
Gorak Shep to Kala Pattar
A: 1,600'
D: 1,600'
Time: 3:40 (including 40 minutes at summit)
Peak Trek elevation reached: 18,400'!

Still no appetite. What to do? Yesterday I was close to considering not climbing Kala Pattar (which provides the main viewpoint for Mt. Everest) and now I feel I've turned a corner (so to speak). We awoke before dawn and had some breakfast before beginning the steep climb up. I had much more energy than yesterday. It almost felt easy! I wasn't breathing as hard, but started to as we reached the top where the air was really thin. People coming down kept saying, "Keep going, it's worth it!", which was encouraging.

An they were right. It was more beautiful and jaw-dropping than I could have imagined. I started to cry again (do you think I have cried enough yet on this trip??), not because I was feeling crappy or dejected, but because for the first time since we were in Namche, I thought--I can do this and i'm not giving up! That and the view was so overwhelming-and we reached our highest peak ever on the trip!
Perfect weather and views of the largest mountains on earth in every direction, Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori, and of course Everest, with huge glaciers stretching out below. We both congratulated ourselves on completing the highest climb of our lives.

Gorak Shep to Lobuche
A: 300'
D: 1000'
Time: 2:03
Current Elevation, 16,270

Came down in the afternoon back to Lobuche. Stayed in a much nicer lodge this time. We had been under the impression that both our guide and porter had contracted food poisoning at the "Alpine Inn", and therefore decided to reserve a better lodge for us in advance, before we went up to Gorak Shep (though it turned out that they were actually just hung over from drinking too much Nepalese whiskey).

On this portion of the trek, we definitely did not have our pick of the best rooms in the best lodges. Unlike some of the bigger treking groups (one group from England was 46 people!) which could send an unburdened porter ahead to reserve entire lodges (hours before the actual trekkers would arrive), we traveled together with our guide and porter and typically had to take whatever room was available when we arrived in the afternoon (more than a few times, we were lucky and got the last private room available, otherwise we would have been stuck in a dorm room).

Michele's appetite returned enough this evening for her to devour an entire pizza in five minutes, in addition to eating apple pie for dessert!

Day 13
April 15
Lobuche to Dzongla
A: 640'
D: 960'
Time: 3:00
Current Elevation: 15,930

Short trek day today in prep for crossing Cho La pass tomorrow. It is actually colder in our room than outside. Everyone is lazy and doesn't move much after lunch. Semi-crazy place. Toilet is nearly 100 yards from our room and very nasty. We've re-named it "The Funhouse" and can't stop laughing at the joke (not like it's really that funny) - much to the confusion of our guide.

Day 14
April 16
Dzongla to Thangnak via Cho La Pass
A: 2,190
D: 2,670
Time: 7:43
Peak elevation at Cho La Pass, 17,600'
Current elevaton: 15,420'

A tough one! Felt dizzy at the top of Cho Las pass. Also had heart burn again (Did I mention yet that I finally can eat again? I almost didn't recognize the sensation of hunger.) Saw the Canadian film crew we met on our 2nd night in Dingboche up on the pass. One of them had to go home as his AMS had become so severe his resting heart rate was over 170 beats a minute. Mentioned the heart burn to Elia (the lead film maker) and he pulled out a giant bottle of Tums and offered me some. I guess heartburn is another known problem at altitude.

We walked past ice falls & crossed a small glacier at the top of the pass. Lot's of snow up there and quite windy. The descent was really, really steep - lots of huge boulders covered in snow and ice. Feet and legs were very tired. Lodge here in Thangnak is the nicest we've been in a while. Descending below 16,000' it almost looks like spring time again - tiny purple flowers and some actual green grass & plants. Almost feels warm in the sunshine. (Paul continuing here now.) Descent from Cho La was so steep, that once we were down and perhaps a half mile or so away, when we looked back, we could not even remotely see the route we had climbed down. It looked like a cliff - impossibly steep.

Day 15
April 17
Thangnak - Gokyo
A: 650'
D 380'
Time: 2:20
Current Elev.: 15,584'

Nice easy walk over another boulder covered glacier (this one descending from Cho Oyu, another 8000 meter peak) to the Gokyo valley - a beautiful string of lakes connected by a rushing stream.

Gokyo - "4th Lake"
A: 1,140
D: 1,140
Time: 3:55

Took an afternoon hike up towards the "5th Lake" (of the string of lakes in this valley). Rugged up and down over huge glacial moraine ridges. Views from the 5th lake are supposed to be spectacular. It's right at the base of Cho Oyu, and also features excellent views of Everest (and about 1,000 other unbelievably beautiful mountains). Unfortunately clouds moved in, wind picked up, and legs were still tired from yesterday's climb over Cho La, so we turned around perhaps 40 minutes from the lake and beelined back to the lodge. Plan is to climb Gokyo Ri (another > 5000 meter viewpoint) at dawn tomorow, though legs are hoping for a cloudy weather sleep-in.

Day 16
April 18
A: 0'
D 0'
Time: All day


Awoke to thunder and lightning around midnight and looking out the window, could already see that it had snowed several inches. No 5:00AM hike up Gokyo Ri, much to my relief. Was still snowing hard when we finally got up with close to a foot already on the ground. Our plans to cross Renjo-La pass to the rarely visited Bhote valley are now cancelled due to the weather. I have mixed feelings about this. My body is very achy & tired and not wanting to hike up another 18,000' pass, yet I really was looking forward to being in a remote valley and camping out one night on the other side of the pass (there are no lodges yet in this area). Spent several hours building a snowman outside the lodge (was tough going as the snow was so dry). Until we equiped him with a nose and eyes (rocks Paul fished out of the river), the Sherpa owner of the lodge thought we were building a Buddhist Stupa. Afternoon was spent by the fire, watching the snow pile up, wondering how we were going to get out. Had our first alcoholic drinks in two weeks, now that we are no longer ascending higher--hot lemon with rum! It takes very little to make us giddy. Harka and Sanga are more than happy to help us finish the small bottle of rum we purchased.

Day 17
April 19
Gokyo - Machermo
A: 370'
D: 1,510'
Time: 8:10
Current Elev: 14,490'


Major snow storm. Very difficult walk through deep snow. Waist deep postholing and frequent falls. Biting headwind threatens frostbitten cheeks. Very slow progress until we meet up with another group (9 people) and can proceed with a somewhat better broken trail. Sketchy descent down icy icy rock steps with steep cliff dropoff to the left. Can't believe Harka - our porter - manages all this with tired old boots and a basket with all of our stuff balanced on his back. Eventually the trail flattens out and we make it to Pangka for lunch. Everyone seems quite relieved. Weather clears in the afternoon and the trip down to Machermo is much easier going.

Day 18
April 20
Machermo to Phortse Tenga
A: 790'
D: 3,230'
Time: 7:34
Current Elev: 12,020

Long snowy wet melty day. Very slippery and muddy at times. It is so nice to see trees again - really beautiful. Paul and I had constant snowball fights the whole way down, very fun. The main lodge in Phortse Tenga was completely filled, so we are staying in the Himalaya Lodge. Very old school; bunk beds only, no private rooms and only a wood oven in the kitchen for heat and cooking. We are the only ones staying here and a single woman runs the whole show herself. Using just one wood fired burner she makes us the most delicious potato curry soup, grills up chipati from scratch, tops them with tomato, cheese & veggies & pops them into a double deckered steamer to make us yummy pizzas. She does this all much more quickly than do many of the big fancy lodge kitchens which are equipped with kerosene stoves.
Many helicopter rescues today. Overheard a medical resuce worker in Machermo radio for a helicopter for 2 people with HACE (high altitude cerebral edema--very dangerous) and one with pneumonia.

Day 19
April 21
Phortse Thenga to Thamo
A: 2,190'
D: 2,640'
Time: 8:00
Current Elev: 11,530

Long, long day. Very beautiful and scenic. Back to blooming rhododendrons, birch & pine (and green grass!). It like being back on earth again, whereas above the tree line was like the moon. Much warmer today and the snow is melting. Much of the trail has turned into small rivers running over our feet everywhere we go. All day we hike in soaking wet socks & boots (gaiters & plastic bags proove useless). It was really unpleasant and after more that two weeks of happy feet, blisters are now happening. Took our 2nd shower in 3 weeks at the hydro-electric plant in Thamo--K.B.C, short for Khumbu Bijuili Company. The shower room even had an electric heater! Felt like a new person.

No music allowed at dinner this night as word comes that one of the local climbing Sherpas has died (along with 2 other climbers) in an avalanche somewhere up on Everest. First real news that situation in Kathmandu may not be so stable when we get back.

Day 20
April 22
Thamo - Thame day hike then back to Namche
A: 2,760
D: 2,750
Time: 8:35
Current Elev: 11,320

Lovely hike to upper & lower Thame. Visited the monastery and enjoyed some raucous music and chating by the Buddhist monks. Sanga loaded us up on rakshi (homemade rice wine) for the hike back to Namche and we made the long distance in record time. Amazing to be back in the "big city" with stores, electricty, internet and all the trappings of "civilization".

Day 21
April 23
Namche to Phakding
A: 950'
D: 3,360'
Time: 5:38
Current elev: 8,890'

Loads of downhill action. Feet are blistered due to hiking in soaking wet shoes for 3 days. Rhododendrons and peach trees are in full bloom. Barley & wheat are now over knee high and potatoes are well on their way. So much green that we don't recongize most of the hike - even though we had walked the same trail just 3 weeks before. Was fun to speak to a group of trekkers just beginning their trip, all wide eyed, curious and cold, just like we had been.

Day 22
April 24
Phakding to Lukla
A: 1,600'
D: 920'
Time: 2:53

Great to be back. Sanga took us for amazing, spicy momos for lunch. Plane back to Kathmandu leaves at 7:30 AM tomorrow. Not sure what we'll encounter when we get there...

Whew! That is all for now. We will post some photos in Japan, if Phil and JJ let us on their home computer in Kanazawa :)

The grand total:
Number of feet ascended: 35,313
Number of feet desceded: 35,818
Total feet combined: 71,131

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Safe in Kathmandu

I'm sure many of you have been monitoring the political situation here in Nepal as we have been trekking, and here's our latest report.

So we were all set to spend the day at the Kathmandu airport (after flying in from the mountain town Lukla - where we started our trek) - as the city was supposed to be under an 8am to 8pm curfew and there would be no way for us to get to our hotel - when the king finally caved in to the protesters main demands (crazy things like a constitutional government elected by the people).

The strike was lifted and everything is almost completely back to normal here, just like somebody flipped a switch. I guess we missed 19 days of chaos, strike and deprivation while we were treking (we experienced absolutely no hint of any of this while we were in the mountains - only heard the smallest hints of the news from other trekkers or from the radio (translated to us of course) as we huddled around the yak dung burning stoves staying warm) Now we are back to a city full of very happy people out shopping and enjoying the late spring sunshine. Everyone has big smiles on their faces.

The only indication that anything happened at all is that the air is amazingly clear here as there has been basically no car traffic the entire time we were gone (the fact that it rained significantly for the first time since October probably helped too). That and there is still a big police presence, but things are definitely looking more hopeful for this wonderful country.

We're spending one more day here sightseeing and shopping before heading back to Bangkok on the 27th. We hope to get a few days at a beach there before we fly to Japan on April 3.

We'll try to get a full rundown of everything that transpired on the trek up in the next few days - including the vast reams of datum we recorded.

Keep the comments coming!!!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Last Day of Our Trek, and All is Well!

It has been a while since we have posted, and for good reason. There was nowhere to post from!

This will be a short post as it costs a bundle to email here way up in the clouds of Lukla, Nepal (Khumbu region) and we will post a more extensive update when the price is right--possibly Kathmandu (if we are able to due to the political situation) or Bangkok.

In all we climbed and descended over 35,000' (70,000' total!), which is pretty amazing. I wanted to completely give up several times along the way as it was far more difficult than either of us had bargained for. But we stuck with it and feel pretty amazing, albeit tired.

We hit a major snowstorm while up in Gokyo and it was pretty scary hiking out. But here lower down in altitude, it is springtime; you would never know that it snowed as much as it did. Several people have reportedly died above Everest Base Camp due to the weather. We saw and heard many rescue helicopters in the past week and are thankful we were not in them.

Thanks for all your amazing comments! We love reading them.

More updates to come!


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Greetings from 12,000 feet!

This will be a very quick post as it costs an arm and a leg to use the internet way up here in the middle of nowhere.

After finally leaving the beach in Mui Ne, we only spent one night in Saigon and would love to go back someday. We flew the next day to Bangkok, and the day after that, to Kathmandu, Nepal. We had a quick day of buying gear that we didn't have with us (hiking boots, etc. - all stuff that we have at home but didn't want to lug around for 6 weeks in the tropical heat), and then had the joy of an ATM Machine eating Paul's card when we were trying to get enough cash together to actually pay for our trek (we didn't know we'd need to pay cash). Repeated subsequent attempts to do a cash advance on Paul's visa failed - even after a $20 call to get it straightened out with the credit card company - but luckily Michele's card (same company!) worked fine and we were able to deliver a 3" stack of 1000 Rupee notes to our outfitter.

We entered Sagarmatha National Park (aka Mount Everest National Park) yesterday and started our trek in Lukla, which we flew to from Kathmandu.

We are currently in Namche and leave tomorrow, headed for Everest Base camp--it should take 7 days to reach it. From there we will cross two different mountain passes to explore other alpine valleys that are more off the beaten path--and it will only get colder!! We had to buy neck gaiters today and hope we have enough warm clothing.

All is well with the acclimatization process, thanks to the wonderful drug called Diamox.

Sorry for not responding to any personal emails you all have sent but we are short on time due to the high costs here, and you'll hear back from us in a few weeks (and we'll backfill on some other stuff we've skipped over then).

Send your prayers to our legs and lungs!!!