Australia and Oceania, Asia · 29 Days · 43 Moments · December 2016

Everest Winter 2016

4 January 2017

3 January 2017

Trekked to Everest base camp. It wasn't that hard. A few expedition tents were being setup by the mountain Sherpas.
Arrived at Gorakshep (5100m). The intersection between Everest Base Camp (5400m) and Kalapathar (5600m). The walk to Gorakchep was not easy as it got progressively colder and less oxygen. Staid at the Boudha, which was simple and cozy. Right after we arrived helicopters came to retrieve 2 trekkers who got into difficulties. The sky was cloudy so we decided to have lunch then do EBC in the afternoon. Kalapathar tomorrow morning.

2 January 2017

Staying at the Oxygen Altitude lodge before moving to Gorakshep. Nice rooms, some even have electric heating blankets for $1500npr! They run on solar power here. Must be a big battery as all rooms and hallways are well illuminated. Another house call.. This time, one of the girls with the Canadians wasn't feeling well with mild AMS. Rehydrate, hot chocolate etc. I have given away all of my hydration salt, and low on Gu. It was chilli in the room during the night - got down to -9c. My 0c sleeping bag with blankets and hot water bottle kept me super today throughout the night. Didn't have any issues sleeping except for sore throat due to cold dry air. Wonder what sleeping in Gorakchep will be like. Nothing like waking up to Paul singing to Here Comes the Sun.
From Tugla to Lobouche was a really great trek. I found my rate and happily hummed along. Paul, as usual, went flying ahead but he has a much faster walking rate than I. It snowed quite a bit in places and got down to -16c. My drinking tube was all frozen.
We had lunch at Tugla - guess who we bumped into, the Canadians!! I still had diarhea, but the azithromycin should be working.
The weather cleared! So we decided to make a move to Lobouche. Welll, we had breaky at 830 and didn't start trekking till 1030. No rush! It's about a 5 hour trek, with a mid way stop at Tugla for lunch. The Russian guy is going to descend to Pangoche because he's getting headaches and couldn't sleep. Not surprising considering his rapid ascent.

1 January 2017

The snowing got more intense last night. DB, our guide, said the whole mountain is snowing from Gorakchep to here. I wonder how Alessio and the others who left for Lobouche are faring. I was resting with my stomach problems watching some downloaded Netflix in my sleeping bag, when Paul came in saying someone maybe having AMS in another teahouse - the patient was staying with the Canadian group so they came asking for help. We were not sure how bad it was; but seeing that there's already been 1 death and multiple helicopter evacs, we didn't take any chances and brought all our stuff. Luckily it's just mainly dehydration (and no diamox). We spent some time with the Canadian group - their tea house (Good luck) was much warmer than ours. And the Canadians were very fun to chat with! We had to walk back up to our tea house in the dark with our iphone torches in the snow. That was kinda funny.
The weather has turned - grey and cloudy. So we decided to spend our optional rest day in Dingbouche and wait it out. We went to kumju(?) (4700) for lunch on the recommendation of Bart and Jannicka, a Dutch couple we met the night before and spent NYE together. They recommended the pancakes at the Sunshine Eco house. It took about two hours to get there, during the trek we saw avalanche! The trek up was not hard though a few of the streams have frozen and it got down to -10c. The pancakes were OK but nothing to trek 2 hours in freezing cold for. Very soon after, I got sick with diarhea and stomach cramps ... Worst the weather deteriorated, dropping further in temp and started snowing. The trek back was agony. I didn't take any chances and popped azithromycin on return.

31 December 2016

New Years Eve we spent playing UNO in the tea lodge, with Allesio and the Dutch couple. Very chilled. DB got pretty drunk with rum and water. The owner of the lodge love ACDC and borrowed my phone to play music. He offered free recharge for my music!
Acclimatisation hike to the Nagasun viewpoint (5100), as our next stop is Lobouche (4900). The hike was probably the hardest to date during to lack of oxygen. Along the way we bumped into another Aussie couple and a group of G Adventure tour. Allesio and co also did the hike on our recommendation. At the end most people dropped out and only a couple of us made it all the way. But the view was incredible and I took a GoPro timelapse. Paul and I also re-enacted the Titanic scene at 4900m. Coming down was actually much easier though with some scary segments.

30 December 2016

The Bright Star is a nice tea lodge with clean rooms and toilets. At this time of the year all the piping has frozen so no flushing toilets. Instead we just used water buckets. Some of the bigger groups weren't staying at the Good Luck but apparently the rooms there not as nice and the toilets were very dirty (spoke to one who staid there). Sometime after we arrived, Allesio walked in, he's staying here too. He's a really funny guy with a pretty incredible story of a bad trekking company and guide. We helped him out a bit, giving him some advice and I lent him my spare hydropack as a warm water bottle. On a separate note, my Apple Watch still working at 4400m and -12c
From Tengbouche (3800m) to Dingbouche (4400m) was a nice and solid climb - the last segment of which I felt really hard to breath. Along the way we passed the old bridge that fell during the earthquake. During lunch we met another group of 3, an Italian Allesio, a girl and a New Zealand guy. We measured their PCO2, that was fun. Dingbouche is much bigger than Tengbouche, with 25 tea lodges. We staid at the newest one - Bright Star, right at the end of the valley.
This deserves it's own entry. Paul and I share one SuperDry Duffel to make it easier for Pasan to carry. It's just slightly over 20kg. Needless to say, it's a logistical nightmare packing everything in 1 bag, taking us at least an hour much to DB's amusement. So I decided to solve the problem by getting another small bag. To our amazement, at our next stop we found that Pasan managed to pack everything INSIDE the duffle, including the now empty small bag that I bought. It's like magic. DB diplomatically suggested that from now on, we leave the packing to a grinning Pasan. We felt worthless we couldn't pack our own bag. This is a photo of Pasan packing our stuff.
7am at the monastery a Tibetan hound was guarding the gates. She was very calm and didn't bat an eyelid at us. There were other dogs around and puppies too!

29 December 2016

Tsengbouche put on a great show of a sunset over Everest. We took lots of photos and time lapses, hopefully they come out well. I also brought with me 2 of Rae's favourite frogs, I am sure she would have loved it.
We arrived at Tsengbouche! It was an awesome sight seeing Everest in the background and the monastery so close by. We staid at the TeleDache lodge with a view of the mountains. It's getting chillier but still above freezing and warm during the day. The monastery is over 100years old but was burnt down and had to be rebuilt 40 years ago. Most of the monks have left for the low lands during winter to take in more young monks. The few that's left still have daily prayer ceremony at 7am and 3pm. We attended the 7am one the next day and it was very calming - they even offered us tea! But no cameras were allowed inside the hall.
Namche (3400m) To Tsenbouche (3800m) trek. One of the harder treks I have done. We first descended 3 hours and 100m to a small valley for lunch, then ascended the next 500m in a straight line. Along the way we passed other trekkers and mule trains. Timing wise, our guide told us they can do a fast ascend in 2 hours. We did it in 2:20, so we did pretty well. But it was tough... Just constant uphill. Arriving at the gates of Tsenbouche was an amazing feeling.

28 December 2016

Acclimatisation day from Namche. Up to Everest View Hotel down to Kumju for lunch then checking out the Hilary high school. From 3400m to 3900m. The back to Namche for another night. When the Sun was out it got quite warm, up to 17c. After sun down it dropped to around 1-2c. Nice and cozy. A Canadian group arrived and we chatted, they were family and friends going to EBC. I am sure we will see them along the trek.
Two nights at Namche staying at the Comfort Inn. Nice place, bigger than the tea house at Phading but just as cozy. Hot showers available. I discovered garlic soup here, amazing for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Room rates 300 NPR per night if you eat there also; otherwise 1000 NPR. Ensuite available for 1000 NPR but we didn't take that because of the bad plumbing smell. The rooms had windows so I was able to string up the solar panel. Very handy because the whole of Namche lost power during our stay.
Namche Bazzar. Standard two night acclimatisation stop for most EBC treks. Though I'd have preferred to stay 3 nights. But on the first night the power went out across the whole town and never returned. Supposedly there's a short circuit in the underground power cable. This affected power, telephone, wifi, and atm banking! So pretty much everything. Since we are acclimatising well we decided to move on. If need be we can acclimatise in Dingbouche (4400m) for an additional night. Since this is the winter off season a few places are already closed in Namche and is nice and quite.

27 December 2016

Arriving Namche Bazzar. Felt awesome after a 2hr zig zag uphill 600m climb. Spectacular sight with perfectly clear skies.

26 December 2016

Hanging around Phading for a day to acclimatise.
Tea lodge in Phading! Eating Dahl (soup) Bat (rice) the traditional way - right hand only.
Lukla (2800m) to Phading (2600m). DB is our guide, he's done the trek 24 times. Our porta, Pansa, is a Sherpa who carried our 20kg and ran ahead. Other porters along the trek routinely carry 100kgs! They put a lot of load first on their shoulders then on through the foreheads, down the spinal muscles. Pretty crazy technique.
At Lukla, start of the trek! Had Tsamba porridge for breakfast. It's awesome, just a tad sweet! Altitude 2800m, PCO2 95% HR90

25 December 2016

Thamel MoMo Hut. Great MoMos - chicken, palak paneer, buffalo and bacon! 10pcs per plate. Stuffed.
Boudha stupa.
Danny's hand made coffee! Found a nice little coffee place in the old town. Great local coffee for 50npr. Patronised by young locals with a musical bent it seems - given by the Hendrix mural and guitar amplifiers. And yes - it's traditional toilet and you have to take your shoes off as you enter.
Based on several recommendations and after exchanging emails, we decided to go with Himalayan Adventures for providing our guide and porter for the EBC trek. Guide: $25 a day Porter: $20 a day - max load 20kg in a ruck sack. Also have to allow for 3000npr per day for tea houses. A reasonable rate for our own tour.

24 December 2016

Had Tibetan hotpot in Dechenling beer garden. Great spot, great ambience and food. The beer were huge. The hotpot was heated by coal, tasty soup base with a mixture of meat and side dishes. We were stuffed. All for 4600npr ($60 Aud).
Sampling the local hipster cafe culture - for once it's not run by Aussies! Got a x2 expresso which was very similar to Turkish coffee. Very strong body yet not burnt. Took awhile to make - they boiled the water and percolated from scratch.
Interesting tidbit about navigation, google maps cannot work offline here. Here Maps, a reliable offline navigation app can. However some of the street names are different so have to be careful. It took me awhile to match the topology. Eg, I need to get NCell SIM card. Google maps says there's a shop close by in Swayambhu Marg, but Here put Swayambhu somewhere else.
Staying at The Address Hotel in Thamel, Kathmandu. Rooms are nice and comfortable with a balcony. Great location and staff seems friendly. Being in Thamel, it can get noisy at night; good that I have ear plugs. (Shots taken from our balcony)

23 December 2016

Landed in Nepal at 10pm. Uneventful flight.People are very friendly and helpful. Visa / customs not an issue - was out in 30mins. Made friends with Raj who sat next to me on the plane, a Nepali who works in Japan and visiting home for Xmas/NY. He even gave me $2000 rupees just to make sure I was ok with cash at night! Obviously we shared contacts and he will always have a friend in Sydney. The NCell airport outlet was too packed, will get the SIM card in Thamal. The hotel driver whisked me to Hotel Address in 20mins. Thamal is a pretty happening place! Apparently tomorrow there'll be big parties for Xmas.
Long queue for boarding flight KA104 HKG to KTM; lucky there's a separate line for Marco Polo members.

22 December 2016

Transit in Hong Kong, getting some last minute stuff in Causeway Bay - one of the most densely populated areas on the planet.

19 December 2016

Ok weather forecast in Lukla and Namche turned. Lukla will be raining and snowing on 25/12, Namche will drop to -15 during the day by 28/12.

17 December 2016

Transit in Hong Kong airport. Busy but efficient.

7 December 2016

Gear list Boots: Salomon Quest 4D2 GTX Day pack: Osprey Manta AG 36 Water: Geigerrig 3L with virus filter Camera: GoPro Hero 5 + Fuji XE1 Icebreaker base layers People Socks Sungod polarised sunnies iPhone, Apple Watch, Anker solar panel and batteries. Pain in the butt sourcing battery packs - need to work with solar panel (irregular output due to clouds) and support pass through charging. At the end for the Asus ZenPower Ultra (20100 mah); have to test pass through. Drugs: Diamox, dexamethozone, neurofen,