I’m sat in a teahouse at Lungde, the last settlement before the Renjo La. We’re at 4,350m, it’s a long way from anywhere and there’s snow gently falling outside. I’m sat here with 3 guys who are hoping that, with my guidance, mentoring and leadership, they will be able to summit Mount Everest sometime in May. There’s a lot they need to do for themselves but it’s only with my top tips, handy hints, advice and putting everything in to context that they can envisage what it will actually be like high on the mountain. How can people prepare for something like this when it’s their first attempt? Yes they all have previous expeditions and mountaineering forays under their collective belts, but none of them have even been close to being this high before. The enormity of the task lies heavily on my conscience because if I fail in my task of providing them with any aspect of the expedition they may fail. Or worse.
8 days ago we flew to Lukla and arrived late (around 11:30
), but we were still on the first flight. For the past few days there had been many interruptions to international flights coming in and out of Kathmandu and flights to Lukla had been infrequent. We had boarded the bus and sat on the vehicle tantalisingly close to the aircraft for half an hour or so before we’d been taken back to the departures terminal where we waited again, munching biscuits and drinking tea having forsaken an early breakfast back at the hotel to allow for another half an hour in bed. We’d been collected at 05:15
and the guys from Himalayan Guides, as usual, had made the transit through to the departures lounge as efficient as can be expected. Later, whilst waiting for our first call, my agent (the legendary Iswari) had shown me the webcam app he had for Lukla and it didn’t look entirely promising. Kathmandu was bright and crisp following the rain from the previous afternoon which had cleared the haze, but Lukla was looking cloudy. So we waited.
When we were called for the bus for the second time it was a mad dash and scramble … to sit on the bus again. And then the call came and we were on the plane. Then the engines fired up and we were taxiing.
Half an hour later we were the first of only 5 or 6 flights that got in that day and, not only that, all our bags were there too.
We popped round to see Dawa Phutti and Ang Pasang at Paradise Lodge where we had a much need brunch before hitting the trail after I’d briefed the group about a few dos and don’ts and how life would be on the trail.
We were aiming for Monjo but the late arrival in to Lukla meant that we were still a bit short when I felt it was time to stop. We’d popped in to see Sonam Sherpa for a coke and chocolate bar (I’d met Phendan at Lukla and he’d phoned ahead) but even though we were full of energy I felt it would be unfair on the porters for us to continue in to the dark.
Having spent a night at Tok Tok (what a great name) we were one of the first teams through the National Park Entrance because we were half an hour ahead of the trekkers at Phak Ding. We had tea with Pasang Dawa in Monjo and then headed gradually up the zig zags to Namche. After lunch, WiFi, coffee & doughnuts in Namche we continued another hour along the trail to stay with my long standing friend Tashi at Ama Dablam Lodge.
(For those who don’t know, Tashi and her husband Lakpa, accompanied by their youngest son Karma, came to the UK last year and stayed at my B&B before we all went to London for a private audience with HRH Prince Charles. But I digress.)
In between our 2 night stay at Tashi’s we mooched up to the Mong La via an amazing hidden staircase to gain a bit of altitude for a couple of hours before returning to Kyanjuma. After getting back to Tashi’s she allowed us to see her private prayer room which is always such an amazing privilege.
The next morning we bade Tashi farewell and she gave us some Kharta scarves as a blessing for our onward journey and we trekked up to Khumjung where we said a temporary goodbye to Loraine and John (aka my Dad). They were off to visit the Everest View Hotel before heading back to Tashi’s and then their itinerary was to take them very gradually up the Gokyo valley. In theory we will all be reunited tomorrow!
My trusty Everest wannabes and I went up and over the col to Syangboche where we stopped for tea before pressing on via Thamo (lunch) to Thame where we stayed with my friends Dr Kami and his wife Da Dolma. They have a new addition to the family and are truly delighted to have a grandson (their son married the daughter of my Sirdar, Kame Nuru Sherpa, just over two years ago).
We stopped at Thame for 2 nights and visited the monastery in the hillside above the village for a private puja and, with more Kharta adorning our shoulders we said goodbye to Thame continued to Marylung to stay with some more friends of mine. Sadly Ang Chutin wasn’t present but I was delighted to hear that, following my advice that she contact a friend of mine in KTM who organises running events, she has competed in a variety of different races. One was a 60km trail run up and over various passes and she completed it in 9 hours coming in as fastest female. Presently she is studying in Germany and is set to run the Berlin marathon in the not too distant future. I’m now wondering about getting her across to the UK for a week or so in summer to have a go at The Bob Graham Round – but I’ll have to sound her out about that when I get back home in June.
Phurba Sherpa runs the teahouse in Marylung with his wife and they are an amazingly cheerful and resilient couple. Phurba has summited Everest 8 times (once from The North) and was obviously very saddened by the events last year. Not only the disaster that befell the 16 Climbing Sherpas who died but also the way the whole event then unfolded and the ominous twists and turns the tragedy took. Their eldest daughter turned up (she’s a teacher at Namche with perfect English) and we chatted away for hours.
Another departure and another Kharta brought us to where we are now. Poised at 4,350m below a 5,350m pass which will give us access to the Gokyo Valley where, all being well, we will meet up with the 2 trekkers we last saw in Khumjung.
We went up and over the Renjo La and the conditions were perfect. An early start meant that the mud and, higher up, snow were crisp and easy going underfoot. The view from the pass was absolutely fantastic and we dropped down to Gokyo in time for lunch.
John & Loraine arrived mid afternoon from Machermo so we were all reunited and caught up on each other’s gossip. The WiFi wasn’t working, hence not sending the update as planned.
Today John (aka my Dad) dropped down to Machermo to break the journey to Phortse which we will be making tomorrow. All the others went to various altitudes on Gokyo Ri and I mooched off to do a panorama.
The WiFi has just come on and naturally enough is pretty slow because everyone, myself included, has started catching up with the outside world.