Feature Image is of a real cool boulder that you will find all over Nepal during the treks which has some kind of script hand carved and then painted in black and white — generally surrounded by tablets of scripture hand carved as well — I just love it. You should always go around the boulder clockwise… Sometimes, I forgot, sorry.
Famous last words, “its in your mind” while I struggle to move forward today along our 6 hour hike. My darling wife and hiking partner told me that twice. I looked at her twice — as if looks could kill — and the second time, I think I meant it. She is in magnificent condition and I think that I’m in pretty good condition by most accounts, but I assure you today was not in my mind. More about that later — moral — don’t listen to your wife while in distress, might add to the stress that you don’t need. Today was a dose of reality of what to expect during the remainder of the next 7 or 8 days to get to Base Camp. While the past days have been mostly a very light incline like most places such as our hiking in Mount Tremblant this summer, but amp up the scenery and real Nepali life conditions ten-fold, the usual inclines that go up and then down, today was real hard.
We woke up in Phukding and were ready to hit the road by 7:30am. The decision was made to skip breakfast and just have a lunch at around 11:30am — about half way. At that point we were about 8,500 feet which is not a level where the altitude sickness kicks in — and it was fine. Prickass said that today, the first half would be pretty much the same as yesterday and after lunch, the next two hours would be pretty going up until we got to our destination, Namche Bazaar, the real kickoff point to Everest because almost everyone spends an extra day there to acclimatize.
The reality was that the first half took some real grit. The inclines were steep and the declines were real steep too with uneven rocks and odd steps which added to the level of difficulty. I will say that it was manageable and one step at a time — although my body felt it.
To prepare for this trek, I worked with “Trainer Tim” starting last November or so. We worked on upper body strength and lower body — but apparently, the lower body preparation may have missed the mark. I augmented with Spin classes probably too infrequently and occasion elliptical work at home. I honesty thought that I did what I needed to do. Lord, I’m sorry if I skipped that one or two spin classes — I won’t do it again!
We got to a location for lunch at around 11:00 which was really the last place you could eat before the next stage of the days trek. Funny enough we keep bumping into 5 Aussie dudes who are doing another trek, not Everest and they have personality — Fun guys. At the restaurant we also met a girl from Taiwan who just completed her school to become a surgeon specializing in internal medicine — and also just completed her internship. So she was really traveling the world on this last trip before the reality of work hits her in the hospital. She had just come from India and will go to Base Camp, then off to a few Arab countries like Jordan, then to South America. More important, she was super bubbly and so much fun to talk to — I really loved her spirit — almost like a puppy dog exploring the new world. We had some traditional Nepali food including the most important, hot veggie soup. The weather outside was definitely in the low 20’s Fahrenheit and your bones felt it.
Next move was to travel about 30 minutes until we got to the entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park, the park in which Everest is located. The usual too many lazy guards, stamped paperwork and tons of bullshit, cash traded hands and we were in. Now for the interesting part ahead.
Namche Bazaar is located at 11,500 feet in altitude while the entry to the the entry gates to the Sagarmatha National Park was at around 8800 feet. This means that in just about 2 to 2.5 hours we need to climb 2,700 feet — and for those of you who are not aware, that is insane. It really means that we are going straight up virtually with no declines of flats. I had no clue and honestly was not prepared for this. I’ve been doing the math in my head and I know that in just over a week we need to climb 12,000 feet which is not easy, but on paper it sounds not too bad. I can assure you that today was a dose of reality — a kick in the ass — wake up Phil and get ready you lazy fuck — a punch in the gut — dose of reality. A sweeping hit to the head — dose of reality. If today is any indication, it’s a tall task in coming days.
It’s kind of interesting that when the climbers summiting Everest go up to Base Camp, they take the exact same route as us. The stay up in base camp for 2 and one half months — working on climbing, going down, going up, practicing making knots, getting in solid state for the assent. Some even traverse down to Lukla again and then come up through the trail to Base Camp again just to keep moving before the summit. I can’t imagine that.
So at first, I was eager and happy to traverse the tree line and go up. Literally thousands of steps up. It was about an hour in that all hell broke loose. I was losing my breath and my legs were giving out. I literally had to stop initially every 500 feet after that first hour, get my breath and then move on. After an hour and half, it got worse, my breath was impossible to find and I was stopping every 100 feet — I had to stop and wait for 30 seconds, then move on. By the time we got within 30 minutes of the Bazaar, I had to stop after every 30 feet — it was that bad. Paula of course looked at me and just trucked on — absolutely no support from her — just her honest opinion that I’m a slug. The worst, worst, worst part of the day was after getting the Namche Bazaar town, we were here right? Not exactly, Prickass pointed to our tea house, another super steep incline into the mountain and another 500 steps — I tried to stay positive, but at that point I could only go 20 feet up and had to stop — I just had no breath. It took us another 30 minutes just to get to the tea house from there, which with fresh legs and lungs without altitude interfering should have been 10 minutes maybe.
I went right to our room, and my clothes were drenched with sweat and I was freezing. Our room has no heating and its now maybe 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside. I paid for a luxury tea house which means you get a heating pad on the mattress and I needed that — let’s say honestly that the term “luxury” here means basic life sustaining with a heating pad but no fucking heat anywhere. After today, no more luxury — it’s over, we’re in normal tea houses which have no heating pads or decent older broken and dirty toilets — toilets are gone now. I was shaking uncontrollably, got naked and jumped into the bed. My breathing was heavy and I just needed to settle down. Paula took a shower in the fucking freezing room but I couldn’t do it — no energy and heavy breath. She went to bed and took a nap until 6:30pm when we were meeting up with Prickass in the dining room. Food was actually great — best we’ve had yet. It was staples like potatoes, carrots, steamed veggies, grated Yak cheese, macaroni and curried chicken — all served family style. Its one of the last times where we can eat meat due to sanitary reasons so I took advantage. I don’t usually eat too many carbs like potatoes and never macaroni but I need it for this event or I won’t make it. Water expelled out of my body in liters per day at a huge rate and carbs burned are the evil of a hiker at this altitude.
Meeting at dinner, Prickass brought out a finger tester for oxygen and heart rate levels. I was stunned — my oxygen level was ok which I thought based on my heavy breathing would be of issues, but my resting heart rate was 105bpm. In my normal life at sea level, my resting rate is maybe high 60’s to low 70’s. 105 is like I am exercising, not relaxing — I’ve never seen that before. Paula of course had a bpm of 75 or so and roughly the same oxygen level as me, maybe a bit better. Prickass was both low in heart rate and high in oxygen level. He also talked about what to expect as we go much higher. He said it’s possible that at night we are sleeping and then wake up because we can’t breath — like starved of oxygen to the point that you think you’re going to pass out — he said not to worry and just relax — it will come back and don’t panic. He said this twice. I’m trying not to think about this and freak myself out — but I will pocket that as a god-to-know. And I will probably freak out anyway.
Tomorrow we will stay at the same location for the entire day to acclimatize — we will meet at 8:30 for breakfast, do a 2 hour hike designed to acclimatize. Go up to an airport at crest of hill and then come down. Going up and coming down is important. After lunch is rest time to get the body set for the next stage — traversing to Base Camp.
Started writing this blog and were done for the night. It’s now 9pm and I need to get some sleep. My legs are burned but if I rest them, it will be fine.