26 days in the Everest/Khumbu Region
So we just finished our epic adventure through the Mount Everest/ Khumbu Region in Nepal. 26 days (6-10 hrs a day) of trekking, where we climbed to heights of 17,782 ft/ 5,420 m, 3 separate times (Gokyo Ri, Cho La Pass, and Everest Base Camp), through the stunningly beautiful and extremely steep Himalayan mountains in Northern Nepal. WOW!!! What a crazy and incredibly challenging 4 weeks this has been!! It was by far the hardest thing (physically and emotionally) we have EVER done. We definitely developed a love/ hate relationship with these mountains. But after much blisters, sweat and tears, we completed our journey, and lived to tell the tale,...so here goes.
I'll take it from the beginning, and try to keep it brief. After a richshaw, over-night train, bus to the India/ Nepal border, another 13 hour bus (where we sat crammed in the back row with 6 other Nepalese, one drunk guy and a small kid who peed on Colin's leg!), and a taxi ride, ... we finally made it to our guesthouse in Kathmandu. Adventure!! Permits, park passes, and purchasing all our warm weather gear in Kathmandu followed. 9 months of warmth in India left us ill prepared for the unimaginable cold weather to come, but luckily we were able to buy everything we needed for super cheap in Kathmandu to keep us as warm as possible at the top.
All the warm gear seemed a bit overkill in the beginning since we decided to hike in through Jiri, where it was hot, instead of flying in to Lukla, like most people do. It adds 7-8 extra days to the hike, but saved us $300 in flight fees and showed us a different side of Nepal. We were trekking through tiny villages and rarely saw any other tourists. It was warm, green and lush and we could see snow capped mountains off in the distance, so added a sense of anticipation for what was to come. It really was a beautiful hike and gave us the opportunity to interact with the locals on a personal level before entering the "highway of trekkers" on their way to basecamp which starts in Lukla. We had heard the hike in through Jiri was the hardest part of the trek, but we naively shrugged it off thinking, "eh, we're strong... no problem for us." Ha!! Holy cow!! We love to hike and are in fairly good shape, but wow did that first 7 days to Lukla whip us into shape fast! To give an idea,... day 1 started with 3 hours of STEEP uphill stair-step climbing, with no reprieve and then 4 hours of down. Made us immediately re-think that 10 lbs. of peanuts and snacks we packed for the month long trek. Day 2, was 3 hrs. straight up, then 2 hrs, down, and then 5 hrs of stairmaster hell uphill climbing ...just to top off the day... WITH full packs!! Ouch! I was literally trying to figure out how to fake an injury to get out of the hike, but kept on. During the 26 days of hiking, I can remember 2, and I repeat 2, relatively flat sections of the trail, ... and they lasted for maybe an hour each. I'm not really sure what we expected,... after-all, these ARE the Himalayas and we ARE trekking to Everest Base Camp, but whew... the reality check came quick and hard for us and this hike kicked our butts!!
As we continued on day after day, we got stronger and stronger. We were even trail running at times. We found our stride, our pace and really learned to enjoy the push. We hiked together at times and with other travelers, but mostly, we hiked alone,... meeting back up periodically for tea and food. It became a meditation and a routine that we grew to really love. We slept in home stays along the way that they call "teahouses", which were basic houses with paper thin walls. We ate dinner and breakfast there, hiked during the day, and were in bed by 7 or 8pm. Since we had no guide, porter or deadlines, we woke up when we wanted and hiked until we were ready to stop. As we hiked further though, the terrain changed from green to white and it got colder and colder. Trees and flowers slowly vanished and snow and ice emerged. Waterfalls started to become frozen, ice sickles took the place of drying corn, the air got thinner and it became harder to breathe and our bodies felt heavier. Lack of oxygen induced goofiness and daydreams of saunas and warm beaches became a regular occurrence, and singing songs of being warm actually helped dull the pain of my numb extremities... oh the power of the mind. At times it was all we could do to put one foot in front of the other and mentally coach ourselves along step by step. Sounds hellish, and to be honest it was at times, but the interactions with the beautiful locals, the awe-inspiring views, the silence of stillness, the meaningful introspective time, the sounds... the smells... the heart-centered travellers we met along the way... and the incredible sense of accomplishment after each and every day... made all the immense effort worth it in the end.
Small villages, banana trees, fresh chilies, corn drying in sheets. Terraced fields, rivers and waterfalls,...ice, snow and glaciers. Mossy rhododendron forests, geometric ground cover, bright fall bushes. Big mountains jagged and white, misty clouds, aquamarine lakes and ice sickle waterfalls. Stone walls, stone houses, stone bridges, stone paths. Dust and dirt, ice and slush... muddy trails. Dredging through the sludge of our own minds to find clarity. Wind howling through the lodge boards in the night, the crickle crackle of glaciers melting and breaking... the click of the hiking pole on the rocks, and the swish swash of Gortex pants. Red cold chapped cheeks, smile lines for days. Inquisitive glances, kind eyes, warm hearts, old torn but colorful clothes, long hair wrapped in a bun. Sandal wearing sherpas carrying unimaginable loads. Woven baskets with anything from cases of beer to raw animal parts. Sweet snotty-faced kids, cute babies, and kittens. Yaks, donkeys, baby goats, and chickens. Horses, crows, mice, furry gerbils and weird waddling duck/penguins. Namaste, bonjour, hola, hallo, hey and guten tag. Ciao, tashi delek, konnichiwa, g'day mate, and of-course shalom. Veg noodle soup, dal baht, momos and yak cheese "pizzas". Dried buff jerky, peanuts, snicker bars, M&M's and apple pies. Sore legs, sore knees, sore shoulders, ...sore everything. Blisters, sweat and tears. Hiking until I couldn't take one more step,... then hiking for 4 more hours. Greasy hair, stinky socks, wet wipe showers, snot rockets, and 50 spf sunscreen ghost faces. Paper-thin walls, scanky frozen squat toilets, and altitude sickness. Cold days, cold nights, numb fingers and toes and frozen water bottles. Layers and layers of clothing and still being cold. Drawing and journaling by yak shit fireplaces, pot after pot of lemon ginger tea, kamasutra playing cards, reading by headlamp, asleep by 8. Sleeping bag slumber... awake at dawn. Finding my stride, my flow, my strength... a walking meditation. Stupas, prayer flags, and Om Mani Padme Hum... the pilgrimage. Trading massages, snuggling in single beds, and coaching each other along. Deep conversations, long comfortable silences, ...introspection. Looking inward, healing and growth. Daily yoga, morning and night, ...feeling tight, tired and too cold to move.... feeling strong, determined and un-stoppable.... roller coaster of emotions. Moments of torture, moments of bliss... tears of joy and pain. Walking and trekking, trekking and walking.... 26 amazing days.
We're so glad we did it, and we're soooo glad it's over!! We came, we perservered, and we rocked this shit!! Gratitude.
Yay! Everest in the Background.
Back to the beginning...
starting the trek... day 1... with our beautiful Kiwi friend from New Zealand. We love you Dani!! See you in Thailand!!
About an hour into the hike, Colin decided to leave behind this heavy bag of peanuts and M&M's. I, ofcourse, picked them back up, but was more than willing to share them with the locals along the way. This woman had never had M&M's before and when she ate it, her eyebrows raised, she smiled the sweetest toothless grin and said, "woohoo!!" So cute.
my next nose ring
some of the beautiful people we met on the way
it was warm, green and beautiful in the beginning
Om Mani Padme Hum
prayer flag, wheels and stupas
kittens and their green eyed mama
if I didn't have to hike for 20 more days after this... I would have stolen this little cutie.
geometric ground cover everywhere!!
us on day 2... hour 7... exhausted
many days you could see the moon out during the day... beautiful.
carrying meat up to the higher villages
super cute older couple we had tea with one day... so kind
he even smiled for the photo!!
up and up!
our paths were stunning
i love the yaks!
the porters are the true heroes of the trails... carrying so much stuff!!
working hard and sleeping hard
silence of the lambs horse?
like mother,... like daughter... adorable.
Jesus hat... for Carole
Colin's hair after 2 weeks of no shower!! Ahhhh!!!
Nepalese child gang. ...is that a Chucky doll on the right? ha!!
finally reaching the snow line... tired again. And the real cold begins!!
team America representing at the stone skipping competition against the German and Colombian. Go Colin!!
yak glamour shots
Gokyo Ri hike... at the top!! Everest in the background! 17,500 feet!
Mount Everest in all its glory
Thanks Kelly for the clif bars!!
This years Christmas card... Merry Christmas everyone
ofcourse had to do some handstands!! Everest in the background... the smoking one
on to the next hike... Cho La Pass here we come.
Colin and the yak feeling a bit beat. Tongue out and everything... love it!
Cho La Pass... the hardest day for both of us!!
exhausted at the top... but the view made it worth it
view from our guesthouse window that night
we walked with a whole group of Brazilians at the end...one guy very sick from altitude sickness who almost died. He had to be airlifted out by helicopter... but made it and is safe back at home now. Scary moment though.
home stretch... hiking to Everest Base Camp... cotton candy clouds
Everest Base Camp... expeditions only go in April and May,... so there wasn't much up there except some rocks and prayer flags in November. Exciting none the less.
Colin's uncle Bill (his father's brother) inspired him to hike up to Everest over 10 years ago. He passed away from cancer the day we summited. We dedicate our trip to you Uncle Bill. You are loved and missed.
we practically ran down the mountain after basecamp... ready to get to warmer weather. We made it back to Lukla in 3 1/2 days and were ready to fly out the next morning.
we flew over what took us 8 days of hard hiking and a 12 hours bus ride in 30 minutes on the way back. Beautiful to see it from the air.
Gratitude and love