A Log of the Everest - Arun Valley trek we did in 1998

1. Arun to Dudh Kosi  2 Along the Dudh Kosi to Namchee Bazarr  
3 - Namchee to Gokyo and back to Lukla
31st March 1998.

Yesterday on tour round Kathmandu in the morning. It rained almost all day but only lightly. We saw a funeral on the burning Ghats at Patupatinash, visited the great Stupa at Bodnath and had a look round Bhaktipur. Kathmandu is extremely chaotic and filthy. Sue narrowly missed a rubbish dump from an upper floor window onto the street; it all lends atmosphere.

We are all ready to be off to Tumlingtar now and the weather is fine. Boots still a little iffy.

everest log 01

Bhaktipur

1st April 1998.

We had a terrific flight to Tumlingtar. I had the best seat on the plane on the left side window facing the mountains. Flying at 10000 feet and I got some good video shots of Everest and her companions. As we came in to land I noticed the pilots consult the manual, despite this they made a good landing on the grass airstrip.

It was good to get into tents and feel close to the Himilaya, I had to tell myself several times that I was actually sleeping on them. We had good views of the mountains to the North including Makulu.

Today's walk was short, flat and hot with the temperature about 30. After crossing the Arun River at the end of the day we made camp by it.

It is a spectacular spot but without the views of the high peaks we had last night. It is a bit like a large version of the Shoalhaven Gorge. Despite having the runs and a headache this is a marvellous place to be. At last we are in the Himilaya, although only the foothills. It is good not to have to do the usual camp chores.

everest log 02

Camp at Tumlingtar

 2nd April 1998:

It was another hot sunny day. We had a more interesting walk through paddy fields, rain forest and narrowing valleys.

We camped in the village. Guts still dodgy and I was very pleased to see that little blue tent go up at the end of the day. I had to restrain my self a while as they had trouble digging the hole. We washed in the creek. It was quite refreshing if you like that sort of thing. I tend to think a trek is a good excuse to get really dirty and not wash. The new boots and old feet are doing fine so far but it has only been easy walking so far.

3rd April 1998:

It has been hot again with a fair bit of up hill. The trail followed rocky river valleys a bit like the upper Ettrema Gorge. I was a long a tiring day and my guts are really loose now and are becoming bit of a problem.

 everest log 04

Ghote Bazar

 4th April 1998:

The day started with a really steep climb that seems to go on to eternity. Feeling a bit tired and breathless. We are now at the lunch spot although it is only 10 o'clock. It is much cooler now. It was a long, cold, wet, uphill walk to camp. It seems you can walk all day uphill and still have to face more in the morning.

I felt awful when we got to camp, which is at about 3000m. There was a lot of hanging about for the camp to be made and I had got wet and cold.

My guts are still loose and I am really feeling the altitude. I crawled into my sleeping bag but could not get warm even in there. The trek leader gave me something that helped enough to get me up for dinner but it was almost impossible to swallow. I did not want to eat and I did not want to talk to anyone. I knew eating was essential so made an effort there but I was not going to talk to anyone.

 everest log 06

Gurasay

 5th April 1998:

I awoke with a crashing headache and Muni, the trek leader, gave me some diamox. This seemed to fix the headache. However I was still not feeling good which was a shame as we were in a spectacular position and the rain had cleared and there were fine views back down the way we had ascended yesterday.

We were up at 0530 and after, what was for me, a forced breakfast we continued up to the Salpa La. I found the going tough and was glad to get to the stupa at the top 3300m. There was scattered snow about and it began to look like more was on the way in.

We still had a long way to go to Grudel through forests and steep valleys but as we descended I felt better and started to enjoy myself again.This was supposed to be a holiday and enjoyment is the aim.

Thunderstorms moved in around lunchtime and we ate and sheltered in a sort of tea house/shrine. We finally arrived at the village of Grudel, perched over the ravine we had to cross tomorrow, at 1715. We camped in the village square.

 everest log 07

Salpa La

 6th April 1998:

Today we reaped the reward for yesterday's hard work, we just had to pop across the river to Bung. Sadly there was a 1500m ravine in the way but despite this it was not a hard day. We had lunch in Bung schoolyard, then ambled on to Upper Bung where we made camp in a pleasant grassy hillside at about 1440. Sadly the weather had closed in and dark mists swirled around the camp, so there were no views.

One of my pleasures when on a trek is to smoke my pipe after a hard days walk and admire the view. Well the view was not there but the pipe still called and as Sue objects to my smoking it in the tent I did my usual thing and went out and sat on a rock. Now, for some reason smoking a pipe in the Himalaya brings out the children. You can be far from any village and as soon as the smoke starts there is a crowd of happy faces staring with puzzled frowns at the pipe. Being dull and foggy I thought no one would come and I puffed away contentedly watching a nearby bush. There was no signs of life till the bush started to walk and sprouted hands and legs.

 everest log 08

Grudel Camp

 It was quite a large bush and was being carried by a very small boy who could not have been older than five. He dropped his bush and stared at my pipe. Within minutes there was the usual crowd around. They knew some English and some communication was possible but it is always limited with me. I had a sketch map of the area and they all could read it so I gave it to the bush boy and they ran off home.

7th April 1998:

We awoke to a cloudless sky revealing what we had missed the previous night. We walked up as usual, passed a stupa and on to a small monastery (Gompa) set amongst the pine trees. After a good look round we continued up to our lunch spot on the hillside in the sun.

By the time we reached the Najing La (pass) we were back in the cloud. I had been carrying a packet of wine gums. They were to last the whole trek so I had to eek them out but I was caught with them on this pass so handed them round and that was all of them gone. There were a lot of happy chewing faces many looking a bit perplexed as they headed down the other side of the pass with out loads into cloud and rain.

 everest log 09

Bung - Looking back

Like yesterday, the camp site was shrouded in mist but it was good level grass and comfortable despite the damp. After dinner we were forced to humiliate ourselves playing celebrity heads, the least said about this the better. I didn't know who the celebrity's were so had no chance. It was a good source of amusement though.

8th April 1998:

We awoke to a cold dank morning with a few glimpses of blue through the swirling grey clouds. There had been thunderstorms during the night, with terrific crashes that shook the ground we were sleeping on. Our tent remained dry but things were damp.

As we set off down into the next ravine the few blue patches were engulfed by the grey. It was a steep descent; then across a good bridge followed by a very steep climb up into the cold and mist. We stopped at a tea hut for lunch then climbed on to the Pagum La. This was the pass that gave entrance to the Dudh Kosi valley and the last of the three main passes that we had to cross on the walk. On reaching the top we were engulfed in cloud and as we descended toward Pagum thunder echoed around and we were pelted with hail.

 everest log 13

Najing Camp

We arrived at Pagum cold and wet. As the porters were still struggling with our bags over the pass, through the thunderstorm, we sheltered in a cosy tea house. We were now in the more affluent area and many buildings were made of stone, as was this one. The cheerful proprietor supplied us with tea. There was a skinhead from Brixton here. A tough looking character who was just getting over a bout of hepatitis. He was travelling alone and doing it the hard way. I explained to him how we were pampered like a bunch of show poodles, tents put up for us, meals cooked, washing up done, gear carried. All we had to do was carry a day pack and go where we were guided. I think he thought we were some sort of ninnies as he just scowled and carried on devouring a huge bowl of soup.

Camp was made on a terrace beside the tea house. The cloud broke that night and the moon shone through to illuminate Khunde and the range of mountains on the far side of the Dudh Kosi. These snow-covered peaks seemed to hover in the air like clouds, glowing in the moonlight. It was a wonderful sight and more than compensated for the fact that it was 0300 and I had been forced to crawl out of my cosy sleeping bag into the freezing air for a pee.

 everest log 14

Clouds below Pagum

Along the Dudh Kosi to Namchee Bazarr  

Back to top

 

9th April 1998:

We awoke to a clear morning with fantastic views of Khunde. It was a nice easy walk in fine weather and the damp of the last few days began to evaporate.

After the usual leisurely lunch we continued up the valley. The cloud rolled in again and there was light rain and thunder but nothing like the previous few days. The camp at Puiyan was cold but dry. Cloud cleared again that night with good views across the valley.

10th April 1998:

The morning was clear and cool. The temperature was about 3 deg and it was a chilly breakfast.

 everest log 15

Puiyan

It was a splendid mornings walk with views of Cho Oyu as we followed the Dudh Kosi north beneath Lukla. The weather was still fine for lunch and I managed a brief hair wash. The Imodium I have been taking seems to be having the desired effect. This area is far more developed than the Ria areas we were in before, and the people seem brighter.

The afternoon stayed sunny for a change with scattered cloud. It was lovely walking with high peaks all around but it was a long day. We did not make camp till after 1700.

We camped at Phakding, on a dry level green beside the Dudh Kosi. It was a warmer night and the moon was almost full. Later that night it lit the surrounding peaks and the river.

 everest log 16

11th April 1998:

Another sunny day with an easy walk along the Dudh Kosi. We entered the Sagamatha National Park at Monjo where there were guards with machine guns. We waited quietly whilst our papers were checked.

We lunched on the rubble strewn banks of the Dudh Kosi. I had read so much about this river, and now being this close I wanted to touch it, so I did. It was just wet, but as I looked around the reality of where I was dawned on me. Not far away was the fabled village of Namchee Bazaar.

That afternoon we had to climb up to Namchee. It was steep and busy with a constant stream of Yaks going in both directions, and the altitude was making me a bit breathless.

 

 everest log 17

Near Monjo

We soon came to the point where a small diversion takes you to a spot where Everest is visible. I could not walk past this although the rest of our group did. I headed off with Ganesh, one of our guides, following. He was worried that one of the poodles might escape. I could not believe the view. Everest was standing there peering over the Nuptse ridge over with its peak clear of cloud and a plume extending from the summit. I had thought about Everest for so many years, read so many books and for so long had not thought it would ever be possible to actually see it. This view, distant as it was, it was quite overwhelming and I thought that I would now die a happy man.

However, whilst I was being overcome with these rather odd feelings Ganesh was getting a bit twitchy as we were now way behind the rest of the group so off we went. He set off at a jog which was a bit hard to match at these altitudes especially as we were heading up, but the crunch came when he decided to overtake a group of yaks by going over the edge of the path and come up in front of them. I made it but was gasping for breath when we got back to the track. The yaks were not far behind so there was no chance of a rest as they would have overtaken us. I felt all this was ok as I had seen Everest.

 everest log 19

First view of Everest Summit

When we got to the village (3400m) we had to keep going up as our camp was in the upper part of town. It was with some relief that I dropped my pack for the day and did some videoing. It was such an overwhelming spot that I did not feel too tired and although we were now higher than the Salpa La I was not having any of those nasty symptoms I had there.

12th April 1998:

Today we had a rest day. We made a pre sunrise visit to the visitor centre above the camp. There was frost on the ground but the views were magnificent. Lhotse visible in its entirety and Everest shyly peaking over the ridge of Nuptse. It was very pleasant not to have to stuff all our stuff into the kit bag and have a lazy breakfast in the sun.

 everest log 18

View from Visitor Centre

We went for a walk round town in the morning. In the afternoon I went for a walk whilst Sue had a little snooze. I went up the hill behind the camp. It was steep and the camp soon seemed a long way below. I went passed the Pangboche Panorama Hotel and sat for a while admiring Ama Dablam and the other notable peaks in this area. It looked a long way down to the Dudh Kosi valley.

Back at the camp we watched an Everest video in the tea house. Later I was able to charge my video batteries, 400Rs well spent. This was the first and last point on the trek where there was power.

 everest log 20

Camp at Namchee Bazarr

Namchee to Gokyo and back to Lukla

Back to top

 13th April 1998:

A cold start to another sunny day. We left Namchee and headed towards Everest with fine views of Ama Dablam. It was a gradual climb up to the crest of the ridge at about 4000m where we stopped for lunch.

The sun was bright and there was little shade but people lazed in the sun whilst I tried to huddle under a bush. Despite this my hands still got burned. It's a problem when walking with a pack, as holding the shoulder straps exposes the hands to the full force of the sun. Our lunch spot was on the opposite side of the valley to Kangtega 6685m, and Thamserku 6808m. It was easy just to sit and gaze.

 Namchee from above

Namchee from above

The afternoons walk was mostly down hill to Phortse Tenga. We passed through a small village and as I was suffering from chafing of the groin (a common problem with me) Sue and I visited the local shop (for local people) to get some vasaline. They could only offer us a huge jar but when we asked for less the woman scurried out to the back of the shop and came out with one they had half used. Although I was unsure what the surface of this grease had been exposed to I decided to chance it. It was better than lugging the big jar around. Within a few days the chafing had gone.

We made a fairly rapid decent and it was during this that my altitude headache returned. It was not as bad as last time but Muni gave me Diamox

 Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam

It was a rather drab crowded campsite and as we were rather late in we did not get the good positions. We were down on the Dudh Kosi again. Although we had dropped to the river it had mainly come up to us. Gurgling and splashing about it was obviously pleased to see us like a happy puppy. Despite the heat of the day once the sun set it got quite chilly and we settled in to a frosty night.

14th April 1998:

We were woken at 0600 as usual by the ever-smiling Chandra with a cup of tea. It was a cold morning -4 and it was hard to crawl out of our bags and start stuffing all our stuff in the stuff sacks

   
I had to have a pee and this was when I discovered one of the side effects of Diamox. It is a strong diauretec. I found a quiet tree looked around, all was clear except for a small group way off in the distance heading this way. With a sigh and a smile I released the flow and admired the landscape. Having taken in all the local features the flow was still rivalling the Dudh Kosi and the distant group could no longer be described as distant. It is difficult to stop mid flow at the best of times but when you have been taking Diamox it is just not possible. There was no abatement as the small group of Nepalis approached, all I could do was to move out of the way looking like a mobile fountain as I tried to keep my boots dry. Being a polite people they averted their gaze and it was with great relief that they receded into the distance. A short while later the flow stopped. When this was done it was a bracing breakfast then off to Dole.

 everest log 23

Camp Phortse Tenga

 It was an easy walk and we were there by lunch time so we had the afternoon to laze around, acclimatise and explore. We were at 4040m and I was feeling ok but we were told light exercise was good but sleep at this time was bad. It was a fantastic camp site, surrounded by high mountains and it even had a shop.

 

15th April 1998:

It was -5 deg when we got up for breakfast. It was another easy walk to Macchermo today and we were there by lunch time. There was a fair bit of snow along the track and as the sun rose it started to melt and became what Muni described as "sluggy". We had good views to the north of Cho Oyu and other large peaks

 everest log 24

The way to Dole

 It was a nice campsite at Macchermo, which is at 4410m. There was a lot of snow around but the camp was clear. Even at midday it was cool out of the sun and there was a cold breeze blowing but I managed to find a sheltered spot for a puff on the pipe. This was to be my last till we came back down as the altitude made smoking a little difficult. I had a slight headache but hopefully it will pass.

 

16th April 1998:

Short but tiring walk to Gokyo. We had to walk through much snow and it was a fair climb. We were to get here for lunch but it was about 1400 when we got here and were in need of feeding. The weather had closed in after we had reached the first lake. It was overcast and windy with a bit of snow. The staff, who were well ahead of us, came out to greet us with hot cordial; very welcome.

 everest log 25

Approaching Macchermo

 Gokyo is a fairly large village in the summer and we had to camp in an allotted space. It was a bit bleak especially with the weather being a bit dodgy. The lake was completely frozen over. Gokyo Ri, our major destination, rose up into the grey overcast.

 

17th April 1998:

We were up at 0500 for breakfast on a cold but clear morning. The temperature on Sue's thermometer was -11. It looked like we were in luck for our ascent of Gokyo Ri. It was a climb of a bit over 1000m from Gokyo to an altitude of around 5500m (18,000ft). It is just a hill but at this height it was quite an effort.

 everest log 26

Gokyo Ri

 We were soon puffing our way up into the blue and Everest appeared over the closer ridges and the Ngozumpa Glacier from its lateral moraine. Sue soon left me behind as I staggered on resting for breath every few minutes and taking plenty of video. The view that opened out below was stunning, from the Everest Massive, Cho Oyu, Makalu, Cholatse to the frozen lakes directly beside the glacier below. The weather was fine and warm with no wind. We went to the peak and took some pictures then Sue went back down and I just sat with the rest of the group and had tea and some biscuits I had brought up with me.

 everest log 30

Everest from top of Gokyo Ri

 Everyone was happy to be there as with these treks there are no guarantees. Not only were we there but the conditions were perfect. There was a small cloud hovering around the summit of Everest but that cleared enough for some good shots.

Eventually it was time for lunch so we stumbled back down to the camp where we were greeted with a hot cup of cordial. In the afternoon Sue and I climbed up the lateral moraine of the glacier and looked out over the devastation of rock and ice. It was cracking, creaking and groaning as loose rocks skid down into pools in the ice with a sound like breaking waves on a shingle beach.

18th April 1998:

 everest log 29

Tea on the top

Today we started the trek back to Lukla and the flight out. As we were heading downhill we made better time and were at Macchermo for lunch. The weather was fine and the walking perfect. After lunch it was on to Dole and the cloud started to build up and the temperature dropped. By the time we arrived we were in the cloud.

Because of the cold we had dinner in the tea house. There was a good fire there and we ate in comfort whilst the temperature outside dropped to -2 deg. Bed was at the now usual time of about 2000.

19th April 1998:

 everest log 32

On the way back to Dole

 We awoke to a good bright morning for the walk to Thyangboche, although it was chilly before the sun peeked over the surrounding hills.

It was an easy walk down to Phortse Tenga where we had camped a few days ago. Many in the group decided to wash their hair as we were beside the river again. It was too cold for me and my hair did not get dirty. We climbed up to the village of Phortse for lunch where the local women stopped digging their potatoes to watch us eat.

In the afternoon we had a steep drop to the Imja Khola and a steeper climb up a wooded hill to Thyangboche. On arrival the swirling mists came in again and the monastery took on an otherworldly appearance, as did the satellite dishes. It was a strange contrast.

20th April 1998

In the early hours of the morning it snowed. This may have been the reason for the visitor to our tent. I was woken in the darkness to a purring in my ear and a scratching at my sleeping bag that was drawn tight around my neck to keep the heat in. Sue is not in the habit of purring in my ear and I lay still thinking it could either be a Snow Leopard or a cat. Gingerly I reached out and got my hand nuzzled by a rather smelly cat. There was no denying her as she crawled into my bag and made herself comfortable. The smell was not too bad but I was slightly worried about rabies. I risked waking Sue (far more dangerous than rabid cats) and asked if cats carried rabies, she thought it unlikely so I settled down with my new sleeping partner.

We were awoken with a start a few hours later as light was seeping through the tent by a terrifying thudding that was getting closer. Sue checked outside to see Ganesh marching along the row of tents banging them with a large bit of wood to dislodge the snow. Next, as usual Chandra arrived with the tea and seemed rather amused to see the cat in my bag. He said it belonged to the monastery so I could have been sleeping with a reincarnated lama. That should earn me some merit for the next life. Pity I'm an agnostic.

The walk back to Monjo was uneventful. This was our last camp before Lukla and there were mixed feelings. Sadness at the end of the journey but relief that we would soon be back in civilisation and some anxiety about whether the weather would be good enough for the plane to fly us out. There are horror stories of people waiting days at Lukla for a plane.

21st April 1998:

It was an easy walk up a gradual incline to Lukla and we were there by early afternoon. Camp was made and the serious business of giving away all our unneeded stuff to the staff was began. It was all divided into lots and numbers drawn out of a hat to screeches of laughter. They all disappeared after to flog the stuff. Then the tips were sorted and presented and lastly Chang was purchased for the final night's revelries. This Chang had intrigued us for weeks but Muni said we were not to have any till the last night. I suspect he was unsure of the effect it would have on our delicate stomaches.

It was a wild night. The Chang tasted like home brew that was in the early stages of fermentation. Not really nice but it had the right effect especially when combined with a little rum. The cook baked a wonderful cake and there was dancing, singing and drinking until we all faded away to our tents thinking what a top country Nepal was.

 
 22nd April 1998:

The morning was bright and clear outside the tent but this was not the case in my head. It was a quiet breakfast, after which we wandered off to the airstrip. Lukla is on the side of a hill on a slope so the runway is quite steep. This slows landing aircraft and speeds up those taking off. Which is just as well as the runway ends over the Dudh Kosi valley. We watched planes land and take off until it was our turn. The Twin Otter rumbled, bounced and bumped toward the precipice then leapt into the air to a cheer from all the passengers. We had left the Khumbu.

 everest log 33

Lukla airstrip.

  Back to top