Day 3: Kathmandu to Lukla to Phakding

Hello from 8,700 feet, up from 4,264 in Kathmandu! Quite the adventurous day. Woke at 5:30am (actually was awake with mind racing at 3am, partly from anticipation, likely also from vestiges of jet lag and side effects of malaria pills). Quick breakfast and on way to airport by 7am. Amy and I failed to get our gear weights under 33 pounds each, so loaded up our down jacket with everything heavy, especially Cliff Bars and Gatorade Protein Bars that surprisingly are quite heavy. Nothing like waddling around like the marshmallow man sweating in 60 degree morning temps!

Airport check in was, to put it mildly, barely organized chaos. Somehow we got through security no problem despite bulging pockets they never made us unload and barely a pat down with acceptance of a weak explanation that the bulges were all food. Once inside the terminal, our guide beckoned us to follow him in cutting through a back way to our airline desk where he sweet talked the Tara Air attendant to allow us on despite being 3 kilosish each over in gear weight (not counting the 3ish kilos each bulging from every coat oriface). Good golly… just hoping we don’t pop the plane tires following the requisite hard landing that happens at Lukla. However, luck should be on our side when we observed the gate agent kiss the tickets of all passengers. Wow. Love the Nepalese. Plane, however, left one with the distinct impression that Tensing and Sir Edmond flew on this plane in the 1950s… but the shock absorbers anyway looked massive and newish.

Once airborne, and past the urban sprawl of Kathmandu, one quickly sees why agriculture is the country’s largest industry. Hillside stepped farming seems to be everywhere, with villages dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see. Suddenly the massive Himalaya comes into view. What an extraordinary sight. White and dare I say massive (a huge understatement) mountains, each apparently with their own weather patterns, are everywhere on the horizon, looming larger by the minute as we seem to barely fly high enough to go over the foothills (each probably a few thousand feet high themselves). Suddenly the airport looms ahead and wham, we are down, stopping a mere hundred feet or so before the cliff wall.

Prying my fingers from the seat in front, we disembark through a crowd of about 40 porters fishing for employment. Our guide found our porter and we settled

In to do some repacking, have a cup of lemon tea, and then set off after pics at trailhead. Jom jom (let’s go) as they say in Nepalese.

The trail heads up the Khumbu Valley, home to many isolated towns and villages. The glacial green river, hundreds of feet below, has its source in the Everest area, a view we have not yet had. But oh what views we have seen! This first “modest” 8K, 3.5 hour acclimation climb takes us up and down sections of the valley, passing and being passed by mule and pony trains (yaks service the higher terrain) and numerous porters carrying what seem superhuman loads on their heads. We also pass trekkers of all sizes and nationalities coming down the trail, and porter teams as well, many coming from Everest Basecamp. This is the season when expeditions are positioning requisite equipment up and down the mountain for summit attempts in May. Today’s beautifully sunny and mild temps (low 60s) made the first leg of the climb pleasurable, particularly with towering snow peaked mountains in view at elevations higher than nearly all in the continental US.

Staying the night in a typical Nepalese tea house. To characterize it as a B&B would not be fair as sleeping quarters are not heated and there is no hot water (although we do have a bathroom in our room, a Taj Mahal compared to what’s coming higher up with more, shall we say, communal “facility accommodations”. They feed us dinner and breakfast with only a wood stove for heat in dining hall (stoves heated with yak dung above tree line). Had an actually quite good version of pizza Nepalese.

Good night for now. Will try to post pics too although WiFi is sketchy here.

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