Day 4 - Namche Bazaar ▸ Thame
Distance: 9.2km Elevation △: 360m Max Elevation: 3,800m Air Pressure: 487mmHG (64% of Sea Level)
We left Namche Bazaar in the morning with good weather. What we also left behind was also a relatively reliable Ncell reception. Knowing that this might be our last good groceries stop, we picked up a few more things before we headed towards Thame.
We hiked probably a good 2.5 hours before we made a tea stop. This time it was not a restaurant, guest house or cafe. It was the home of a friend of Sanu. They made a huge pot of milk tea for us with free refill! It was quite delicious.
Some of our team members noticed this as soon as they got into the house, but I didn't realize it until I left, hence the seat I was left with the entire time... There was dried yak dung underneath some of the benches 😱
The sky started to have some clouds toward later in the morning. This would set a pattern for the bulk of the remainder of the trip. An almost clear sky in the morning, clouding over sometimes almost completely in the afternoon.
When the sun was out, it was T-shirt temperature. However when it clouded over, it was windy and cold. So it was putting the Arcteryx Tenquille on and off and on and off again. This was quite frustrating. Some of us also started to develop what is called the Khumbu cough. Since the air pressure was low and we were hiking, we tend to have frequent deep breaths. The air however was very cold due to the freezing wind coming off of the nearby high elevation mountains. The constant in-taking of cold air irritates and dries the throat day after day, giving us the infamous Khumbu cough. Sometimes this can become life threatening, especially for those that tackles month long expeditions trying to summit various high elevation peaks.
We eventually reached Thame. That evening we learned from our guide Sanu a card game that we ended up playing plenty of times for the rest of the trip. I looked online but failed to find a name for the exact card game. It essentially is a variation on a no contract version of Bridge. Trump suit is determined by the previous game's winner. Scoring is in diagonal partnership, but only tricks with the card '10' counts. So at most a partnership can win up to 4 points. If each partnership has 2 points, then the partnership with the most tricks wins.
Day 5 - Thame ▸ Marulung ▸ Lunde
Elevation △: 550m Max Elevation: 4,350m Air Pressure: 455mmHG (60% of Sea Level)
Google Trail Information & Distance Information: Not Available
Even tho previously unmentioned, we started each day with a breakfast. Part of our fee for the tour included breakfast each morning. How it worked was we get to order 1 food item and 1 drink. It didn't really matter how much the food item cost. The problem was sometimes you could get a sort of meal with your selection, carb, protein and a side of salad or soup. However sometimes, like if you want to order a 'fried rice', or a 'noodle soup' you just get a big plate of noodle, or just a soup, with nothing else. We usually ordered the previous night for breakfast, because food in Nepal can take a LONG time to get ready.
So for this morning 5 of us decided that we will try to be clever. We ordered 3 noodles and 2 soups. But we would divide them so all of us gets some noodle and some soup. We placed the order the previous night, and it worked out very well. Each of us got a good portion of noodle and a small bowl of soup. However this was not repeated again because it was difficult to get consensus between a good number of us on the same food items to have.
After breakfast we headed back on the trail towards Marulung and Lunde. Weather was again super nice and all of us were in good spirit despite started to feel the altitude and some of us started to have our pace slowed down. And for me, slowed quite a bit down...
Past a few hills, plateaus and villages, we reached Marulung at an altitude of 4,210m. With the beautiful (but cold) sunny weather, there were a lot of people sitting outside having lunch, or rather, waiting for their lunch. Most of us also spent a good portion of our time sitting outside, until the chill just got the better of us. Because as usual in Nepali style, the drink came out right away, and this time the food took an hour to come out...
After lunch, headache started to sink in for me. To avoid over-exertion, i slowed my pace even more. After about an hour and a half of slow hiking, we finally reached Lunde at an altitude of 4,350m. This matched the highest altitude I have ever been previously at Mount Evans, Colorado. From there on I would be making personal altitude records.
This was the most barren guest house we have stayed in so far. No lights and no power in the rooms. No sink and no flush at the toilet. Regardless, we all promptly unloaded our luggage and all took a nap. I guess it wasn't just me that's exhausted and tired. During the whole trip thus far I had been taking half a Diamox in the morning and another half before sleep at night. However today, I took an extra half a Diamox before nap also, hoping that it would help some more with the headache and the acclimatization.
In the evening, while we waited for dinner, a couple from Shenzhen sat right beside us. They first showed us footage taken with their DJI Mavic Pro, which at that time was not yet released in the rest of the world! They then told us that they were trekking anti-clockwise, and arrived Lunde from Gokyo through Renjo La pass. It took them 11 hours, from 7am in the morning until 6pm in the afternoon! Note that their route took them up 550m before descending for 1,000m. We were doing this in reverse, so that meant 1000m of climbing instead! Realizing what was in-store for us for the next day, we all promptly retreated for even more rest after dinner. I even took a full tablet of Diamox instead of the usual half tablet before sleep, just as a pre-caution.
Day 6 - Lunde ▸ Renjo Lakes ▸ Renjo La (Pass) ▸ Gokyo Lakes
Max △: 990m Sleep △: 441m Max Elevation: 5340m Air Pressure: 402mmHG (53% of Sea Level)
Google Trail Information and Distance Information: Not Available
We got up nice and early at 5am. I woke up to a minor headache on the get-go. We had mandatory garlic soup as breakfast, something we would do before pushing each of the 3 passes. It's supposed to be the local Sherpa people's way of fighting the altitude. Longshen however also decided that this was too much altitude increase over too little time. He didn't like his SpO2 reading and thinks he should stay another day at Lunde to acclimatize before pushing beyond 5,000m. After-all, it was only the day before that we crossed the 4,000m mark. It's quite crazy to push through 4,000m one day, and then 5,000m the day right after.
However, the rest of us, including myself, decided that we will push on anyways. Since Longshen had been in the Everest region a few years before and had been up Gokyo Ri already. We were to stay an extra night at Gokyo after doing Gokyo Ri. That way, Longshen could stay an extra night at Lunde and meet us at Gokyo.
The only remaining problem was porter logistics. We had 1 guide and 3 porters. Usually each porter carries the luggage for 2 people. So how were we going to divide up the porters between us and Longshen? In the end the plan was to have porter Sherpa Pemba to run from Gokyo back to Lunde through Renjo La pass, and then for him and Longshen to do the pass again the next day. Sherpa Pemba will make a few extra bucks, but that's quite a feat to pull off when the bulk of us thinks that doing the pass once was gonna be more than enough!
The morning was freezing cold, but warmed up quite a bit towards later in the morning. We took numerous breaks, including some to enjoy the view at the 2 Renjo Lakes. I have to say that the Renjo Lakes weren't that spectacular, particularly when viewed up close. My Diamox count for the day thus far was half tab in the morning, half tab at 4,900m, and then another half-tab during our early lunch (super dry packed lunch, nothing to write home about) just before the last push to the top of the pass. I also took an ibuprofen at 4,900m, and then another during the early lunch to help with the headache. Basically powered more by Acetazolamide and pain killers than anything else at that point.
After lunch, past about the 5,000m mark, a few of us were going snail pace at that point... Even at such slow pace and with deep breaths, heart rate was still through the roof.
After over 5 hours of climb (including breaks), at just over 5,400m, we have reached the top of Renjo La (pass)! The view here is spectacular indeed!
Once we finished photos all around and enjoyed the view at 5,400m, it was time for our downhill trek towards Gokyo.
As we trekked towards Gokyo, Gokyo Lake got closer, bigger and more beautiful with each step. It took us about 2 hours to descend from the pass down to Gokyo. So we totaled around 8 hours instead of the 11 hours which the Shenzhen couple took. Not bad despite the snail pacing.
The guest house we stayed in the first night was even worse than the one at Lunde however. There were lights in the rooms, but it's now squat toilet with no sink instead. We demanded to stay in a guest house that Bo had stayed in the last time he was at Gokyo for the next evening. But for the first night, this one would have to do.
In the evening we played some Win-10 to relax. Later this little girl, probably daughter of one of the staffs, came in and started repeating whatever we said. You can imagine what kind of words was eventually taught to her and how funny it was when she kept repeating them 😂
So Longshen got left behind at Lunde, but the rest of us made it through the first pass. Porter had to make it back to Lunde before dark and do the pass again next day with Longshen. Will Longshen be able to rejoin us?
To be continued...