The Plan

I get into Nepal a day early and stay a couple of days later, but mostly the plan is as follows:

EVEREST IN HILLARY'S FOOTSTEPS

Length: 28 days from Kathmandu.
Apr 21 - May 18 '02
This spectacular 22-day trek basically follows the classic route to Mt. Everest used by the 1953 expedition which successfully placed Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the summit of the world’s highest mountain. The trek starts from Jiri, a village a few hundred kilometres east of Kathmandu. In the first seven days we cross several river valleys, passing rice paddies, farms and Rai villages of the Solu. Above Lukla we are into the Khumbu region, trekking through alpine forests, stopping in friendly Sherpa villages and visiting Buddhist monasteries. The final leg takes us to the spectacular terrain far above the tree-line and to the base of the world?s highest and most impressive mountains: Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Nuptse, and Mt. Everest. This approach to Everest is especially interesting as it involves walking at altitudes between 6,000ft (1900m) and 18,000ft (5500m) where a great variety of culture, vegetation, natural habitats, and geography is observed. A challenging but very rewarding trip!

DETAILED ITINERARY
DAY 1: Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to the Kathmandu Guest House. Day free to relax and get over your jet-lag.
DAY 2: Day free to prepare for the trek.
DAY 3: A difficult but scenic full days bus ride up the Sun-Kosi river valley to the town of Jiri, the trail-head of the Everest trek and our first camp.
DAY 4: Short days trek to Shivalaya on the banks of the Khimit Khola.
DAY 5: Trek to Bhandar (6,700 ft.), reached in approximately six hours from Shivalaya.
DAY 6: Descending into one of the many river valleys we will traverse, we cross a steel suspension bridge before reaching the village of Sete (8,400 ft.).
DAY 7: Passing through rhododendron forests, we climb steeply to Lamjura pass (11,580 ft.), and descend to the Solu village of Jumbesi.
DAY 8: From Jumbesi we climb a spur between the Jumbesi and Solu rivers and get our first views of Mt. Everest, before reaching the Sherpa settlement of Ringmo. Climbing steeply again to the Takshindo Pass at 10,500 ft., we cross the pass and descend to a campsite at Takshindo monastery.
DAY 9: Descending again through lush forests to the Dudh Kosi valley, we cross another steel suspension bridge which leads to the village of Khari Khola 6,800 ft. Camp is nearby.
DAY 10: Climbing for most of the day, we reach the sixth major ridge on the way to Khumbu - Bupas Ridge at 10,300 ft. Camp at Puiyan.
DAY 11: The trail heads north up the Dudh Kosi valley, passing near the Lukla airfield. We will camp at Phakding by the river. This is the point where you join the rest of the Everest group, who have flown in to Lukla.
DAY 12: Today there is a long, steep climb up to the town of Namche Bazaar (11300ft, 3440m), the main administrative and trading centre for the Khumbu region. The climb is, however, made easier by the distractions offered by the magnificent forests of blue pine, fir, juniper and rhododendron and views of Mt. Everest.
DAY 13: Acclimatization day at Namche. This day can be spent relaxing at camp, exploring the tiny shops in the bazaar or on an optional hike to Kunde, Khumjung, or Thame.
DAY 14: Much of this day?s walk is along a trail with spectacular views of Everest, Lhotse, Kantaiga, and Ama Dablam. Our campsite is at Tengboche (12700ft, 3875m), one of the most impressive locations on earth. It is the site of the regions's most important Buddhist monastery, and we have the opportunity to explore the monastery, see the monks at prayer and visit the Sherpa cultural exhibit nearby.
DAY 15: The first part of the day is spent walking through lush rhododendron and pine forests. We eventually emerge above the tree-line and continue for the rest of the day up the glacial valley until we reach Dingboche (13950ft, 4252m). En route we see some of the area?s most beautifully carved mani (prayer) stones.
DAY 16: This is the second of our important acclimatization days,and it can be spent in Dingboche relaxing by the village stream enjoying scenic views of Ama Dablam, or on an excursion up the Imja Khola valley to Chukkung to get a mavellous view of the surrounding mountains, especially Lhotse’s massive south wall.
DAY 17: Making sure of proper acclimatization, we cautiously continue up the valley from Dingboche to the tiny settlement of Dughla (15150ft, 4620m), on the terminal moraine of the great Khumbu Glacier.
DAY 18: It is a short but steep climb up to Lobuche (16175ft, 4930m), which is really just a few huts at the foot of giant Lobuche peak. Again the views are spectacular and the sunset on Nuptse, towering directly ahead of Lobuche, is especially impressive.
DAY 19: This will be one of the most difficult yet rewarding days of the trek. Most of this day is spent climbing Mt. Kala Patar, a ?small? peak (by Himalayan standards) at 18200ft, 5545m. The ascent is demanding but the climber gets the most magnificent mountain panorama possible: Everest, the highest point on the planet at 29028ft, 8848m, towers directly ahead and on all sides loom the other giants, Nuptse, Pumori, Chagatse, Lhotse and countless others. If possible we can stay and watch the awe-inspiring sunset on Everest and its neighbours. We make a quick descent to Gorak Shep, a tiny hamlet at 16950ft, 5170m, where we stay the night.
DAY 20: On this day we walk along the Khumbu Glacier and up to Everest Base Camp at 17600ft, 5380m, the closest you can get to Mt. Everest without mountaineering equipment. There is often a team there about to attempt a climb. The view of the Khumbu Icefall from Base Camp is spectacular. We return down to Lobuche for the night.
DAY 21: From Lobuche we take a slightly different route down to Upper Pangboche. Here is the oldest monastery in the region which contains what is said to be the scalp and bones of a "Yeti", or abominable snowman!
DAY 22: From Upper Pangboche we descend to join the main trail above Tengboche and continue on down to Namche.
DAY 23: From Namche we continue on down to Jorsale.
DAY 24: An easy day’s walk brings us back to Lukla for our final night in the Khumbu. Although it may have looked primitive the first time through, Lukla will seem quite modern after the isolated villages up the valley.
DAY 25: An early morning flight takes us back to Kathmandu, and gives us a last view of the mountains we have just spent three weeks exploring.
DAYS 26-27: Free in Kathmandu to continue exploring the valley and surrounding hill towns.
Day 28: End of program.

Kathmandu update:

Well arrival went fine and got transfered to the Kathmandu Guest house where they apparently screwed me on the room :) Spent the next day buying some last minute stuff like an umbrella to keep the hail off. Kathmandu is a cheap ripoff capital of the world. Who knows what the stuff labled goretex really is, but at only a few dollars for rainpants or backpacks it may work well enough. Meet the fellow trekker from Giri to Lukla - a 75 year old man named Jack. There will be 4 more who fly into Lukla to meet us a week later. Any hopes of getting some hard training in seem dim, but I am sure that Canadian Himilayan Expeditions has gotten more than a few bad emails about sending him along.

That reminds me that we didn't go from Giri anyway. They were worried that since we started on the first day of the Banda called by the Maoist rebels to close Nepal that we couldn't get a bus to Giri so chose to fly us into Paplu instead which put us several days ahead of where we should have been. Inspite of what turns out to be huge profit margins they also squeezed me for the cost of the ticket. If I had known a month back what I learned in town I wouldn't have payed and let them deal with how to honor the contract. If you are a rich, old person who wants everything handled for you then these trips with groups might be worth it, but otherwise I should have just flown into Kathmandu and set something up on my own. Oh well, live and learn, nepal is extremely cheap if you don't pay a cut to a bunch of middlemen. When I get back I will delete the embarrassing section from the cost page. Forgetting about the money wasted the trip was a lot of fun.

First day started early with a lot of rain. Because of the Banda we couldn't get taxi's to the airport so we had bicycle rikashaws. In the rain, the brakes didn't work so we careened drunkenly down the hills bouncing off the broken coble stones. I had to get out and walk up the hills, because the pedaller couldn't make it up with both Jack and me in the rikashaw. What a F#*^ situation - or kind of fun depending on your tolerance for risk :)

After the flight to Paplu the local militia told us we couldn't start hiking because of Maoist up in the hills and not to use our lights at night in case someone started firing at them. We did start hiking the next day just to be captured by the Maoist a few hours later and held captive for the rest of the day and night. They let us go the next morning, but after a few hours hiking up this large ridge we decended past this monestary and got stopped by another group of rebels who were again pissed off that we were moving during the Banda. This time our guide talked them into letting us go after only 40 minutes. He later expressed thanks he hadn't been killed, but I think he was only joking as no-one looked all that mad during the discussions. He also said we were in no danger and they were only mad at the nepalesse for moving, but this could just be don't scare the client talk. Jack of course was oblivious and later asked when we would meet some Maoists. Since day by day would just be a list of towns you don't know I am going to shorten this up conciderably by saying everything went pretty smooth the rest of the trip. We generally only hiked for 4 hours or so, although Jack would come in hours later. We mostly camped in tents, but the teahouses were all deserted due to lack of tourists so you could easily get rooms for less than a dollar each night. I stayed inside on some of the stormier days, but it was mostly afternoon rainstorms so we were done hiking for the day. Meet Chris Tate a photographer from the National Geographic Adventure magazine expedition up Everest. He was going to be on the team that summitted to take pictures and help film for a documentary movie, but had no real desire to go up. It was just a job to him. He did show me around basecamp when I was there and introduced me to people. The Khumbu glacier was really neat, and Steve and I got lucky when we climbed Kalapatar that the clouds cleared up just long enough for us to get some good Everest pictures. Steve and I were the only two feeling good enough to climb Kalapatar the morning after trekking out to basecamp. Jack had to be carried back in well after dark by the porters and everyone else was feeling sick from the altitude so headed straight down. One of the group - Jamie had a alergic reaction to something, probably diamox and had headed down several days earlier. All of us except Jack had some stomach problems along the way. Jack just went on eating what any 4 of the rest of us did, so I am thinking he must have some worms in his gut he is feeding as well. It doesn't make for good narrative, but the scenery was really impressive hiking with the mountains all around. The pictures won't show it, but everyone who likes the outdoors really should come hike here.

Back in Kathmandu decided to delay my ticket to Tailand and go do some hiking along the Annapurna circuit. One of my fellow Everest group, Julie, came with me. We didn't have time to do the whole circuit and couldn't get a flight from Pocara to Manang like scheduled so just wound up hiking up to Jompson and then flying back. It was a 5 or 6 day hike with great scenery, hot springs, and all sorts of different landscapes on the way up. It is a much more touristed trek during a normal year. (This year no one is here and everything is empty). So the teahouses were for the most part really nice and usually had western toilets and hot showers available. I was feeling generally down most of the time with a sinus cold bothering me. Oh Well, it was a good hike anyway. Had my birthday in Ghorapanni and Julie had them bake a chocolate cake for me. Met some interesting people on the trail and exchanged some email addresses. Back in Kathmandu spent some time getting cleaned up and sending out updates. Ironically I was feeling much better by the time I got back to town and would have liked to keep going around the rest of the circuit now. Anyway, my ticket to Bangkok leaves in two days on May 31st and I am trying to repack into a smaller bag with just hot weather gear. I will give the rest to a family friend to ship back to the states. For now I am giving Nepal my most favored nation status!

-Later all, 5/29/02