Namche to Tengboche
We were up around 6:30am and weren’t moving very fast, as the heated blanket, down parkas and piles of blankets made it impossible to move. Much of the elevation we gained over the last several days would be lost and regained today, so a big breakfast in order.
After guzzling hot chocolate and downing some eggs and hash browns, we were off. An hour outside of Namche rewarded us with valley views and a solid glimpse of our distant evening destination. After a few hours hiking down the steep, rocky, unsettled hillside, we had finally reached the valley floor to cross a dinky bridge. On the other side of the bridge marked the start of the uphill climb to Tengboche at 12,700 ft. We had read enough trail maps and talked to several people, so this wasn’t an unpleasant surprise, just another day on the trail. This downhill-back-uphill combo (more like down-cliff-back-up-the-cliff) would be the theme of the trip.
With ample breaks for water and catching our breath we arrived in Tengboche in time for a late lunch. The views of Ama Dablam (Nepal’s Matterhorn) were stunning and like nothing else we had ever seen. Our best description for the surrounding peaks would be similar to the Grand Tetons if you could stretch them for miles and inject them with steroids.
There were 6 puppies at our lodge, so we spent the afternoon chasing them around, lounging in the sun and exploring the Buddhist monastery in town. We were fortunate to make new friends that night at dinner: Ryan, Warner and Tarnie. Ryan and Warner were buddies from Australia and Tarnie was a solo female traveler. We formed one big group and shared the yak-dung fueled fire and chatted about travel.
As with every lodge, the fires don’t last long and the next warmest place is bed, so we made the frigid transition to bed and dreamt of hot breakfast and lemon tea. We quickly familiarized ourselves to frozen toilets, drafty windows and thin lodge walls that would be commonplace the next week.
Tengboche to Dingboche
Snow would cover the ground from here on up and the mornings would be even colder. Having new trail company made the cold mornings and frozen feet a little more bearable. We set out from Tengboche with clear skies around 7:30 am. It was long into the morning hike that we ran into Adam, the solo Australian hiker we had met on our first day. We were all on the same schedule heading up, so our small group grew another member. The 5-6 hour hike went quickly, as we all talked about random nonsense and enjoyed a long lunch break to recharge.
Ryan and Warner were speedy, so they tended to hike a break or so ahead, but we all set off together and ended together at the same lodges. Dingboche at 14,468 ft is nestled in the shadows of Ama Dablam and gave amazing views to Island Peak. We could feel the altitude effects here but felt overall pretty good. The sunshine of the day had made the lodge rather warm and inviting, so we all unpacked and quickly changed so we could enjoy the sun’s sorcery.
This elevation required another acclimatization/rest day tomorrow, so we were all in good spirits. It wasn’t just us enjoying each others company, the guides and porters happily played cards while enjoying the company of a fuller than normal lodge. At this elevation all toilets and water are frozen, so it’s outside pits for any business. Cold is an understatement. Luckily for us, the cold nights did being clear skies and gave views to some of the best starry nights Kim or I had ever seen.
Our rest day consisted of climbing 1,000 ft or so to 15,500ft and hanging out at the higher elevation for a short break. It was straight uphill but well worth the climb. The view from the top was breathtaking…literally. We couldn’t catch our breath – the air is too damn thin. Views of Island Peak, Ama Dablam and higher peaks could be seen.
Ryan and Warner kept trekking further uphill but Adam and Tarnie’s guides mentioned we had reached the point of “acclimization” so we headed back down to our sunny lodge. We spotted a small market with Oreos, Pringles and Snickers and stocked up on cheaper treats. Our lodge increased all snacks by 150% or so and we weren’t falling for it. Snacking, hydrating and playing cards rounded out our night. We had a big day ahead of us – higher elevations and taller peaks.