Day 2 - Phakding ▸ Namche Bazaar
Distance: 9.7km Elevation △: 834m Max Elevation: 3,434m Air Pressure: 509mmHG (67% of Sea Level)
We left Phakding around 7:30am and the weather was holding up all right in the morning. Even patches of blue sky could sometimes be visible. We passed by more small towns and villages along the trail, with occasional beautiful Nepali prayers painted on rocks along the way. As usual, plenty of trains of yaks were going up and down the trail transporting cargos.
The total elevation gain for the day was over 800m. To make matter worse, there were plenty of going up and back down, etc. So total elevation change might have been over 1,000m. Along with the effect of having less oxygen in each breath started to be felt, this leg was more gruesome than expected.
With a quick tea stop, along with a number of back and forth over rope bridges at ever increasing elevations, we reached Namche Bazaar (3,440m). It took us over 6 hours including break, much longer than expected. Namche Bazaar however, was well worth the painful hike. It is much more spectacular than I expected. In my mind it was going to be just a slightly bigger version of a small village like Phakding. In actuality it is a very bustling and vibrant town. It was simply unimaginable to me how such a large scale town can exist in such remoteness and elevation. Remember, no motorized transport short of a helicopter can reach this town. The existence of such a town and it's construction is simply amazing!
Namche Bazaar is the central hub of the Khumbu region, vital to trade in the region. Calling it the capital of the Khumbu region is probably not a stretch. There is a large variety of shops, accommodations, bakeries, cafes, restaurants, convenience stores, and outdoor gear shops (both real or replicas). You can find everything from fake Gore-tex jackets to real-deal $700+ USD mountaineering boots. An official 'The North Face' store was also coming into the town soon!
Our guide Sanu checked us into the 'Comfort Inn'. Yes! It's called the Comfort Inn! Not sure if it is actually associated with the US motel chain however. Even tho it isn't quite what you'd expect for a motel, it was actually quite an upgrade from what we stayed in at Phakding. There was working lights at night and in some rooms even no-charge outlets for charging phones and gadgets!
We ended up having a really late lunch that day, around 3pm, and a late dinner at 8pm. In between we walked around town and did some shopping. This included buying a deck of cards that would prove to be vital in helping to kill time down the road. By the end of the day, I started to feel a slight onset of headache, probably the first indication of the thin air and altitude...
Day 3 - Namche Bazaar ▸ Everest View Hotel ▸ Khumjung ▸ Khunde ▸ Namche Bazaar
Distance: 8.0km Max △: 434m Sleep △: 0m Max Elevation: 3867m Air Pressure: 483mmHG (64% of Sea Level)
Day 3 was our acclimatization day. The mantra of acclimatization is to "climb high, sleep low". So that's what we did for Day 3. We climbed from Comfort Inn, Namche Bazaar, an elevation of 3,434m, to Hotel Everest View, at an elevation of 3,867m, before returning back to Comfort Inn for another night.
The morning weather was great and the scenery along the way was amazing! There were slightly sloped grass fields which looked great for a picnic, flowers by the trail, and did I mention amazing mountain views?
Eventually we reached our first viewpoint of the day. Also the first time we were able to clearly see Mount Everest. In case, you are wondering, it is the mountain peak that kind of resembles a pyramid.
Not long after taking lots of selfies at the viewpoint (Bo and Kilik even tried to do Facebook Live but failed... =P...), we reached Hotel Everest View. Guinness World Records declared it as the highest placed hotel in the world in their 2004 edition. It was built by a Japanese man back in 1968, with materials like glass panels and utensils shipped from Japan and hauled all the way up to 3,880m by porters. Am impressive feat even by today's standard, but even more so for having this done almost 50 years ago!
Aside from just allowing accommodations for guests whom have booked there, there is also an area for meals, snacks and drinks with view of the Himalayan mountain range and Mount Everest itself. We did get ourselves a table to sip some Masala tea and enjoy the Everest view. I vowed that if I ever come again, I will stay at the Everest View Hotel!
Reluctantly leaving Hotel Everest View, we moved on-wards to complete our loop by trekking towards Khumjung. Khumjung seems to be a much less touristy village. There were a few restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops along the sides, but bulk of the rest of the village seems to be composed of farm lands and homes of local Sherpa people. Also at Khumjung is a school built by the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust in 1961. The school has roughly 350 students ranging from pre-school to secondary levels.
After having had lunch at Khumjung and saw some talented volleyball action, which I unfortunately did not take any photos of, we moved on to another village Khunde. By this point, the sky is starting to get completely covered by clouds.
I didn't take a photo of the hospital at Khunde. Instead I took a photo of this wall...
With many yaks going up and down the trail, you can imagine that yak dung is a common hazard. The other aspect that you might not have thought of is, due to the high price of everything at this altitude, feeding yaks is expensive, and thus so is their wastes... So yak dung all over the Khumbu region are collected by locals, dried, and subsequently used as fertilizers for their crops. These, are yak dung being dried by having them stuck on the wall...
After leaving Khunde, there was about 2km of rapid descend. This quickly brought us back to the vibrant town of Namche Bazaar.
We found our 6th team member Ray waiting for us at Namche Bazaar. Being a marathon runner, he made quick works of the trail between Phakding and Namche. With this, when we waited for dinner time to set in, we played from Taiwanese Big 2. It was very weird in that there is no 'flush/straight' in the game, and that clubs is the smallest suit instead of diamonds. I also used the opportunity and took what would be the last hot shower in a long time for $4 USD.
Towards the evening however we got some bad news. We learned that, instead of the previously proposed plan of taking 3 nights before reaching Gokyo Lakes, it was actually only 2 nights! This is because there is no accommodations between Marulung and Gokyo. This made the original concerning 2,000m max, 1,300m sleep-to-sleep climb within 4 days, to be done over a horrifying mere 3 days!!!
Original Plan, Namche to Gokyo in 4 Days:
New Plan, Namche to Gokyo in 3 Days:
All-in-all it was an excellent acclimatization day with great weather and magnificent views. We would however need to try to get rested the best we could for the 3 days of continuously gruesome climb coming ahead of us.
To be continued...