Namche Bazaar, Tengboche and Dingboche
Having gone across the many passes and valleys of the middle hills, the trek suddenly takes on a different character once you pass the Lukla airport. There are many, many more people on the trail, and the trail now follows the Dudh Kosi river, going gently upward. Upward progress is now for real since there are no more intervening valleys between here and the high country.
Trekkers must go slowly here in order to acclimatize to the ever increasing altitude. Most people stop for two or three days in Namche Bazaar (3450 m), spend one night near the Tengboche monastery (3800 m), followed by two nights in Dingboche or Periche (4250 m). This is the minimum acclimatization schedule that allows most, but certainly not all, people to make the return trip from Lukla airport to Kala Pattar in two weeks.
Many trekkers I met in this area were on this schedule. I saw people waking up with a headache (early sign of HACE, a form of altitude sickness that can be lethal in hours) and decide to go onward and upward because otherwise they would not 'make it'. I saw people being dragged down to lower altitude by their guides, people who were nearly unconscious, their legs dangling uselessly beneath them. I saw a trekking guide put a client in a Gamow bag and assure her she would be 'cured' of her altitude sickness and that she would be able to join her group for an ascent of Gokyo Ri later that morning. The Gamow bag is supposed to be used to temporarily relieve symptoms of alititude sickness to allow a person to descend to safety. I saw people hiking down with expressions on their faces that looked like they had been to war. I saw the Nepali army rescue helicopter make flights several times a day, flying out the injured and the dead at $5000 U.S. a pop.
There is no shame in getting sick or injured, but few of these people seemed like they were enjoying themselves, and I think that's what they came here for in the first place. Even though these people may have brought home spectacular pictures, the stress they experienced probably took much away much of the fun. Even though I had read about the dangers I didn't expect a scene like this. I was sure glad that I had lots of time, that I had the option of turning back and trying again, and that I didn't have a plane to meet. Extra time acclimatizing doesn't mean you have to lie in your sleeping bag and stare at the walls of your tent. There are lots of things to do and see here.
Namche Bazaar is the hub of the Solu-Khumbu area. Trails to Lobuje, Gokyo, Chukung, and Jiri radiate outwards. Trekkers stop here to acclimatize, and Nepalis buy and sell housewares and farm produce at the weekly market. The peak sticking up on the skyline is Ama Dablam.
Trekkers in Namche Bazaar.
Some trekkers I spent many evenings with on the Jiri-Namche Trek. We talked, ate, and played a lot of cards. Left to Right: Kim Spencer, Nalam Lama, and Trevor Siteman (two Nova Scotians and their guide), Nara Bahadur Bohara, Anke and Niels (German couple), and crouching in front is Arie van der Velden.
Sunrise over Everest and Lhotse.
One morning we got up before dawn and hiked up a hill above Namche to watch the sunrise. It was frosty and clear, and plumes blowing off of the summits of Lhotse (left) and mount Everest (right) signify high winds aloft.
Prayer wheels, Khumjung.
Nara spins prayer wheels at the Khumjung monastery.
Monks erecting a prayer flag pole.
These monks are busying themselves outside Tengboche monastery on a cloudy, cold afternoon. Later that day inside the monastery, I watched monks construct a sand mandala. One of the monks signalled me to come sit beside him, and I watched the monks carefully spread dyed sand on a patterned board, constructing colorful patterns with deep meanings.
Stupa at Dingboche.
This stupa is located just outside of Dingboche on a hillside. In the background is Kantega.
Afternoon clouds veil Taboche, an impressive peak that towers over the Dingboche - Periche area.
View from Dingboche toward the Cho La.
From the hill above Dingboche there is a view toward the Cho La (little glacier shaped like a < in the distance) which is a shortcut to the Gokyo area. Beneath Loboje East (peak on right) is the trail to Lobuje and Kala Pattar.