My alarm isn't set to go off for another forty-five minutes, but my body appears to met its sleep quota for the night (something I didn't know was possible).
Today, day three of the Three Passes Trek, is scheduled to be my first acclimatization day. What's an acclimatization day? It's a day spent hiking (to higher elevation) before descending to your original elevation for sleepy time. Many hikers (including most participating in an organized tour) spend their Namche Bazaar acclimatization day hiking up to the Hotel Everest View and back (also commonly, and incorrectly, called “Everest View Hotel”).
From Namche, a walk to the hotel brings you up 1,444 ft / 440 m to 12,730 ft / 3,880 m, but it's only 1.4 mi / 2.3 km away. Not a very long day of trekking.
As much as I would like to sit around and do nothing after a quick jaunt to the hotel, I need to take full advantage of my time (which means seeing everything I can) and push my body to make sure I'm not struggling later in the trip (altitude sickness is no joke).
I find Pavel and Olga for breakfast and we decide to hike a clockwise (lollipop-ish) loop from Namche, visiting the villages of Khunde, Khumjung, and Kyangjuma before returning via Hotel Everest View.
It's developing into another beautiful day as we make the steep climb out of Namche.
When we reach the plateau above Namche (where most hikers head northeast towards Hotel Everest View) we head northwest through Syangboche Airport. Airport? Well, it's actually just a dirt airstrip sometimes used by helicopters to bring lazy tourists up to Hotel Everest View (the airstrip isn't licensed for commercial operations and, as far as I'm aware, no flights originate or terminate here).
On the other end of the airstrip we find a fork – left to Khunde, right to Khumjung. We head left as the trail gently climbs to a faint pass before descending towards our first destination.
Entering Khunde, we are joined by a local dog who accompanies us up to the monastery on the western edge of the village. There are a surprising number of dogs wandering the Himalaya and all appear to be very well cared for by the communities they roam. We dub this particular canine Theresa since she seems to be sticking around.
If you've heard about a monastery in the Himalaya, then chances are it's the one in Tengboche (where I'll be passing tomorrow). However, Tengboche's monastery is just one of many dotting these mountains. Despite the Khunde monastery not being as famous as its counterpart further up the trail, visiting the Khunde monastery was a fantastic experience.
Today, the three us are the only ones visiting (possibly the whole of Khunde). A monk ushers us inside, and after instructing us to remove our shoes (probably simply because they smell awful) he gives an unprompted and comprehensive tour/explanation of the interior. We're even allowed to take pictures (something that's prohibited in Tengboche).
We emerge from the monastery to find Theresa obediently waiting for us. She follows along as we head to our next destination, the Khunde Hospital (aka the Hillary Hospital).
The hospital was founded in 1966 by Sir Edmund Hillary (who, with Tenzing Norgay, was the first to summit Everest – probably) and serves over 8,000 people in the surrounding communities. You can buy Diamox here (a drug used to prevent altitude sickness) and Pavel and Olga consider purchasing some before deciding to go the all-natural route.
Still accompanied by the loyal Theresa, we head east into the village of Khumjung. The walking is easy and relatively flat as we make our way through the village and to take a stroll through the Hillary School. Over 300 students attend grades one through ten here, and each day they hike (but what for them is more like walk) in from the surrounding communities to attend class.
These kids are badass.
Our friend Jaz the Englishman (from Monjo) told us that the Ama Dablam Lodge in Kyangjuma was a good place to stay instead of sleeping an additional night in Namche. It's at a slightly higher elevation, but it puts you nearly 3 mi / 5 km up the trail (and means you get to spend the night somehwere new).
Pavel and Olga have decided to stay there tonight (if we can find it), but I can't resist the draw of Namche (and a possible new pair of shoes) so I'll be heading back.
We end up having to ask around a bit to ensure we're on the right track, but eventually, we're (fairly) certain that we're heading in the right direction. Dropping nearly 650 ft / 200 m from Khumjung, we continue east until we reach our destination.
Not looking forward to that hike back up.
Jaz (who doesn't take acclimatization days) spent last night here and told the owner to be expecting us (I guess there aren't too many groups of two Russians and one American).
We're welcomed warmly as we sit down for some well-deserved tea at a table (literally) surrounded by puppies (which is comforting because Theresa has chosen to leave us for what are surely more interesting mountain pursuits).
From the looks of things, we are the only ones at this lodge; surprising, since this place is beautifully situated with great views of Ama Dablam and down into the valley below. Before we part ways, Pavel and Olga want to visit Hotel Everest View (after their failed attempt at finding it yesterday) and so they drop their packs in their room (bastards) before joining me for a hike back up towards Khumjung.
Our trip to Hotel Everest View turns out to be quite exciting.
We're nearly trampled by a spooked yak heading full steam down a hill towards us and we end up going cross-country to the hotel as we somehow lose the trail (but since we're above the treeline, navigation is easy).
When we arrive, we're the only ones there (or at least everyone else was hiding in their rooms). We grab seats on the back patio to enjoy, yet another, pot of tea. The weather is still clear and we can see Everest peeking over the still distant range.
We also work a bit on Pavel and Olga's American smiles. I think they're progressing nicely.
It's been a long day and now it's time for me to head back to my home for the night in Namche. I say goodbye to my Russian comrades, but I'm sure I'll see them again further up the trail.
As I make my way back I consider camping on the plateau where the airstrip is (mostly do avoid having to do the climb out of Namche again), but I'm still undecided on whether or not I'm going to trade my GoPro for new shoes. Back to the Namche it is.
When I arrive, I decide to go by a shop where I made friends with a shopkeeper on my way to Everest Base Camp last year. I find him just where I left him and spend the next couple of hours hanging out with him and his wife. Some seriously nice people in Nepal.
Dinner is dal bhat (again) at a lodge on the western side of the Bazaar (recommended by the shopkeeper). I splurge 250 rupees (~$2.50) on a private room and even get my own shower (too bad the pipes are frozen).
At least charging is free.
- Start: Namche Bazaar (11,286 ft / 3,440 m)
- End: Namche Bazaar (11,286 ft / 3,440 m)
- Distance: 7.7 mi / 12.47 km
- Sleeping elevation change: 0 ft / 0 m
- Day's elevation change: +3,186 ft / +971 m
- Total time: 6:35:03
- Moving time: 5:49:18
NOTE: I have no guarantee that this route is correct, nor that it can be accurately relied upon for navigation. It should serve only as a general guideline for what the trail is expected to look like.