1st: I am terribly sorry for all the troubles, all of the people of Nepal have endured, after two tragic earthquakes. It is not my intention to bring up ugliness -but instead reflect on the beauty!
2nd: Lost my camera in Kathmandu, drunk in a bar.All these photos are from Xavier Saint-Cyr
So, it was my first stop in Asia -and I feared even leaving the airport. As we reached the front door of the little, old, decrepit airport hallway and out into Nepal -and an equally poor, and decrepit Kathmandu- a storm of taxi-toutes horded towards me like vultures. If you’ve never seen this before, you may not know how to react -I didn’t.
This was his response -laughable looking back at it, now.
‘ Um. Maybe. ‘
Thanks for the support.
I eventually got talked into one cabbie’s whip, for a lower fee than I had heard flying around. He offered to take me to a Guesthouse and the whole time I somewhat wondered if he was going to eventually throw me in the trunk, call the Canadian Embassy and demand a million dollars.
My family doesn’t have a million -I’m fucked.
We arrived at a small Guesthouse where I immediately met three Canadians, all with the same plan as I -to hit up Everest. One of the guys, had a couchsurfing host, who turned out to be an Everest guide. And lucky me, they allowed my punk-ass to tag along.
If you are short on time, there is a hike between 5-8 days depending on your pace, straight to Gorakshep and ‘Base Camp’. But if you have the extra time, enjoy it, and definitely, definitely, hit up Gokyo.
Unforunately, the whole area has felt a lot of turmoil from the earthquakes and I even hesitated to write this piece -but its the most stunning cliffside I’ve stood on, so… had to.
This is a link to donate money and help rebuid Gokyo village, Tenzig’s Teahouse
Also, the first climatization point, at 3000m, Namche Bazaar, is going through some very hard times. But maybe, that is to slow down development to such a natural oasis in the Himalaya, as well.
From Kathmandu its a small plane at about 120 bucks each way (it was 105 for me but that was 5 years ago) to Lukla -and at one time one of the most dangerous airports on earth. They’ve got it pretty tightly knit by now -its been 70 years that people have been hiking and climbing this region after all.
After Namche there are stops on your own accord. If you feel a headache coming on, maybe it’s time to stop a couple days and enjoy the surroundings. Krishna, our guide/friend, (contact him at Krishna’s Climbing Adventures if you want to get the top shelf in guiding). took us on many day hikes.
Each morning we’d wake up -grumpily sometimes- around 6 am, before the clouds (in May) and hike up some kind of ridge. On the way he would tell stories about the high summits, hikers and climbers that died or survived etc.
Ama Dablam (6300m) is the first peak that shines it’s magnificence down, in the region, just after Namche Bazaar, headed to base camp -if my memory serves me.
There is a very fine book about one tragic story, the 1996 disaster, but also the hiking and the region, the peaks and history, a well-known book by Jon Krakauer, the journalist-style author of ‘Into Thin Air. There is apparently an even better piece of writing about that horrifying event and everything that took place, by a Khazak man also climbing at the time of tragedy, I think.
Though base camp was what we went to see, and then feel the history around it, as we arrived it was full of cimbers waiting for the green light to summit. It was cluttered with tents everywhere, and lots of intense mountaineers. I might have pissed one of them off with my naivety.
‘Well, I mean, I don’t know, can’t you walk up most of Mt. Denali? Is it possible to walk up Mt. Cook (New Zealand)?’
I’d done a very little amount of hiking in Alaska, to somewhere around 2ooo m or maybe 3000 max, and saw Denali from a distance, but also met a man that hiked that mountain years before, with his dog -he’d picked us up hitch-hiking. He didn’t make the whole thing with the dog… but the dog maybe a good effort.
‘You NEVER! walk up a mountain.’ He stared at me with his icey, cold; frosted and bone chilling; azure coloured, eyes of death. He’d summitted Everest once already, and now was there with a team of sponsers, taking a group up. He was also, I think, the 11th Canadian to climb all the contienents highest peaks. Again I pissed him off.
I laughed actually, at the mention of Kosciuszko -the highest on Australia’s island continent. ‘Well, you can drive up that one, mate.’ And I winked.
He really didn’t like that.
Thing about that. I was at Kosciuszko -and the whole region- not long before arriving in Nepal, and hitch-hiked through that ‘range’. So I literally drove across this ‘peak’.
He stopped talking to me, but carried on with my Canadian mates. I was then on, outcasted from the mountaineer community.
So. What you get at: Base Camp vs Gokyo
Overpriced food, with very few vegetables. If you are a hiker, carrying a small load of gear, the weather up at Gorakshep can get much colder than other regions, and the local really doesn’t give a flying fart about people in that tea-house. You can pay; and receive. Extra blanket, you pay! So, the whole capitalist vibe is meh, not great.
But at Gokyo, the energy, as a whole is much cleaner-nicer-romantic-spiritual-open aired and intoxicating on a natural level (not on a huffing Yak shit level).
The ridge at Gokyo is about the same altitude as Base Camp around 5300m, so your not missing out on much; but you can reach up to 5600m at Kalapataar, around Base Camp, without paying (any higher and it will cost a lot extra). I gave up half way to Kalapataar, as the fog came in hard, and the drive for it all was simply not there anymore. They get a decent pitch for Everest, but the view at Gokyo, from my eyes, was hella fonder for my memories. Also came to meet some very nice people at Gokyo, who were staying there a while, chilling.
The one thing that caught my attention most, at base camp, was the sheet of stars; the crisp air (outside the Yak poo infested teahouse) and the endless valley of stars -as the clouds seemed to disappear late in the evening.
At Base Camp, the glaciers balancing stones, the ‘glacier falls’ (meant to be the most tactically challenging part of the Everest ascent) and all the very high walls of this flat embankment definitely drew my attention. Still, the food at Gokyo was great. The lakes (five of them) were a color that few regions could have it that way, and the place was empty of development but for that one litte teahouse of Tenzig’s.
Unfortunately, when we’d arrived at Gokyo, my altitude sickness reached an unfathomable level. Things were starting to get real heavy; my head was like an ongoing gong, releasing seismic pressure through my brain. Every ten steps it was like a crater erupting underground, but actually inside my head.
Before getting to the teahouse, I started to feel nauseous -and then fear. One of the lads I’d been hiking nearly two weeks with, thereabouts, wanted to cut me loose and carry on for the camp. He didn’t realize the greatness of this region, for one, and how special -and worthwhile- it could be to hang out a few days. None of us really did at the time. But he also didn’t know how I felt, thinking I was being a bitch -and couldn’t handle the minimalistic problems- until he got the headaches as well.
Pills ended up balancing my cabin pressure, pills given to me by a Nova Scotian. But to rid the nausea -the big problem before spitting blood- it was garlic soup -that Krishna, my new saviour, offered to me when things were looking really bleek (nearly time to turn around).
The boys went up Gokyo Ridge without me, as I rested, and then the following day I pushed upwards, though weak and vulnerable. It washed my whole; and alone I spun around in circles, at the most wonderful 360 panorama I’ve had the chance to experience -yet.