I'm blaming the altitude, but the dutch oven that is my sleeping bag this morning is out of control (there's probably some pills I could be taking to combat this gaseous expansion).
In other news, the woman who runs the lodge wasn't very friendly with me this morning. I suspect she's a bit sore about my refusal to take on her husband as my guide. What can I say? I like being on my own out here.
She totals my bill (you typically pay for your entire stay, food and lodging, when you depart) and comes up with a number much higher than I expect. I take the check from her and make my own (correct) calculations. Protip: Make sure you're adding up your purchases as you make them; that being said, I blame poor math skills, not malice, for my caretaker's error.
Today I'm heading to Dingboche where I will be taking my second (and final) acclimatization day of the trek (the first was two days ago). Since I came all the way to Pangboche yesterday instead of stopping in Tengboche (the more common trekking schedule), today's hike won't be very long (only 4.3 mi / 6.96 km).
It's another clear day, and with zero cloud cover it heats up quickly despite my being at the highest elevation of the trip (you lose ~3.5°F/2°C for every 1,000 ft / 300 m of elevation gained). After thirty minutes of hiking, I stop to take off my wool baselayer – continuing in just my shirt.
Today's hike is defined by sightings of the mighty Ama Dablam and of more wildlife – some argali (mountain sheep) and their babies.
Ama Dablam rises 22,349 ft / 6,812 m high out of the ranges to the east and overshadows the entirety of the day's hike. The trail to its base camp begins between Pangboche and Dingboche and is an optional side trip (that I've chosen not to do). Apparently, the climb to the summit is quite technical. Might have to go on the bucket list.
Pavel, Olga, and I arrive in Dingboche after only three short hours of hiking and we (pretty much randomly) decide to stay at Everest Resort. Many lodges are named for the surrounding mountains (or using the words “Namaste” or “Sherpa”) and there's frequently little to be gleaned from their outward appearance alone (it's all about the people).
After settling in and dumping our packs, we head up to the Dingboche Bakery where Pavel and Olga order up tea and I hit a sudden wall of exhaustion, falling asleep while my companions enjoy their midday meal.
When it's time to retreat to our lodging, I'm roused from my slumber and we head back to the lodge to find it now filled (one of the large groups is also staying here tonight). At the suggestion of one of the other trekkers, I order up a veggie burger and fries for lunch (I refrain from eating meat in the Himalaya). I can't say for sure as it may be the exhaustion or perhaps the elevation clouding my judgment, but this burger is the most delicious thing I have eaten the entire trek (and perhaps in all my time in the Himalaya).
To celebrate my reinvigorated spirit and the success of my lunch, Pavel, Olga, and I order up a basket of popcorn and a plate of cheese (yes, just a plate filled with slices of cheese). You can never eat too much whilst trekking (unless you're eating dehydrated mashed potatoes).
We're certainly living the high life (GET IT? HIGH LIFE? BECAUSE CHEESE IS FANCY AND BECAUSE WE'RE HIGH UP!? Holy fucking shit I'm funny.)
Tomorrow is going to be a second acclimatization day and will be my last day hiking with Pavel and Olga before they head northwest toward Lobuche to continue the Everest Base Camp Trek and I head northeast to Chukhung to continue the Three Passes Trek.
We discuss options for our acclimatization hike and decide to head 2,300 ft / 700 m up Nangkartshang Peak, just north of Dingboche (because remember, the goal on an acclimatization day is to hike high and sleep low). Last year, I went up Chukhung Ri to acclimatize, but that was an ambitious undertaking that I do not wish to repeat (at least not from Dingboche). A second trip up Chukhung Ri may be in the cards for me in two days' time.
I spend most of the rest of the afternoon and night outdoors, soaking up oxygen-poor mountain air and gazing up at an incredible star-filled Himalayan sky.
Even if I had to turn around and head back to Kathmandu tomorrow, making it here would have been worth the effort.
- Start: Pangboche (13,074 ft / 3,985 m)
- End: Dingboche (14,461 ft / 4,410 m)
- Distance: 4.3 mi / 6.96 km
- Sleeping elevation change: +1,387 ft / 425 m
- Day's elevation change: +2,024 ft / 617 m
- Total time: 3:02:18
- Moving time: 2:39:39
Note: Pangboche is sometimes spelled Panboche (because the Sherpa language is unwritten).