It’s that time of year again – Ama Dablam 2013 is a go!
I’m on the way to Kathmandu and there are a few people there already with more to follow. Andrew (UK) and Sean (Canadian) are already trekking in The Khumbu with their respective wives (who will be flying home imminently) and hopefully they will be very well acclimatised by the time we get to meet them in Pangboche.
Jamie and Mitchell (both UK) are jumping on the permit and doing their own thing. First off they are going to trek up to Gokyo and over the Cho La and then climb Lobuche East (just over 6,000m), after which they’ll be using the teahouse below Ama Dablam Base Camp for their operations base.
The main group consists of Alasdair (UK), Carl (Netherlands), Dave (UK), Febbie (S. Africa), Ian and Cat (UK), Jon (UK), Mark and Chris (both UK – he’s climbing, she’s trekking), Richard (Ireland) and Sieto (Netherlands) and they are all due in today or tomorrow.
The next wave follow a week later and consists of Jon (UK – assistant leader, 4 times Ama Dablam summiter and 1 times Everest summiter), Jason, Aeneas, Paul, Rick, Simeon and Jeremy (all UK) and Marcus (Switzerland).
So all in all quite a multi cultural group with a wide range of experiences under their collective belts. I’ve managed to meet over half the group prior to the expedition and it’s fair to say that yet again we have the makings of a great, fun trip.
Both groups will start with a sightseeing tour in Kathmandu followed by a frantic afternoon of unpacking, repacking, making last minute purchases, unpacking again, nearly getting run over, parting with money to a friendly chap who has painted a red ‘tikka’ on their foreheads and generally getting over the jet lag and trying to accustom themselves to the sights and sounds of Kathmandu. We’ll be eating at the likes of Roadhouse Café, Krua Thai, Mike’s Breakfast etc and I’ll no doubt take a bit of a side trip to Himalayan Java to catch up with some friends who live in Kathmandu. We’ll also be found in Sam’s Bar being looked after by Verena and Sam – a great couple who run THE BEST bar in Kathmandu.
But we’re only in the city for a day and then it’s time to fly to Lukla and start trekking.
The flight is an experience in itself and proves to be a very exciting start to the next phase of the trip and gets us to Lukla airport which is the gateway to the Khumbu Trail – the main access trail to the Solo Khumbu region and Everest itself.
Iswari and the guys at Himalayan Guides usually work their magic and get us on to one of the first flights which means that, weather permitting, we may be in Lukla as early as 8 o’clock (I’ve even landed there at 07:15). The process of getting through the domestic terminal can be quite disorientating in itself with a lot of what appears to be chaos but in actual fact is how it works over here.
Invariably not all the bags can make it on to the tiny aircraft so we prioritise and hope to fly with the bags that we will need for the duration of the 5 day trek in. The rest of the bags and the few hundred kilos of freight can follow at a later date and will almost undoubtedly be at Base Camp by the time we arrive there (fingers crossed. There are only 2 bags that have ever gone astray (and that was because they hadn’t arrived in KTM) and still they arrived at BC before we were due to start working the lower slopes of the mountain).
So we’ll have breakfast at Paradise Lodge where Dawa Phutti will be our host and then we’ll sort what bags we have (if they need sorting) and in the meantime our trekking Sherpa will be organising our porters. Then we’ll trek for a few hours to Ghat and have lunch at The Everest Summiter Lodge which is run and managed by Phendan Sherpa (we stood on the summit of Everest together back in 2005 from The North side) and his lovely wife Sonam. After that we’ll trek to Phak Ding and have a brew before making our way on to Monjo (time permitting) where we’ll stay with my friends at Top Hill Lodge. The great thing about staying in Monjo is that it makes the next day a shorter trek to the National Park entrance which means that we’ll be ahead of the crowds and get through in double quick time. After that we cross the main river (a raging torrent really) a few times on some quite exciting suspension bridges before negotiating the zig zags to Namche Bazaar where we’ll likely arrive around 11.30. After a coffee and chocolate doughnut at The Everest Bakery we’ll have lunch with the friendly chaps at Kala Pattar Lodge and then don our sacks for a further hour of trekking to Kyanjuma and stay with Tashi and Lakpa at Ama Dablam Lodge.
Now Tashi and Lakpa run one of the busiest lodges in The Khumbu despite the fact that it isn’t in one of the main villages along the trail – and the reason is all down to their hospitality and friendship. Trekking and Expedition Leaders like myself will endeavour to stay there because we know that they will look after our group and go the extra mile (as well as ply me with proper coffee and cheese toasties). It’s also a cracking location with a fantastic view of Ama Dablam and Tashi also allows my group to go and see her amazing prayer room (which is reserved for the minority). In fact I’ve even slept in the prayer room.
Interestingly there is a teahouse next door which is almost identical in size, aspect and view but it is rarely busy – a reflection on how hard working, friendly and conscientious Tashi and Lakpa are.
Amazingly HRH Prince Charles has invited Tashi and Lakpa to have an audience with him which will hopefully be coming to fruition in January or February next year.
Since Ama Dablam Lodge is at just over 3,500m we’ll stay there for 2 nights to start getting used to the altitude and will be taking in a side trip to The Everest View Hotel and the amazing village of Khumjung (which hardly anyone visits compared to the 000s who trek along the Khumbu Trail) where there are the most fantastic mani walls (walls made from stones that have been carved with ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’) – it is a truly auspicious place boasting the longest mani walls in The Khumbu (and they are longest by a long chalk).
After staying at Kyanjuma we’ll make our way to Tengboche (huge monastery and great bakery) and on to Pangboche. As with our first trekking day, because we are slightly further along the trail we are ahead of the crowds and will be in Pangboche for afternoon tea at Sonam Lodge which is run by fellow Everest (x4) and Cho Oyu summiter Germin Sherpa.
The next morning we’ll mooch to upper Pangboche (again hardly anyone goes there) and visit the monastery for our first puja (blessing) before having an early lunch and trekking to Ama Dablam Base Camp which will then be our home for the next 17 nights. It’s situated at around 4,400m and certainly we will start to feel the effects of the rarefied atmosphere – so we’ll be staying put for the first 3 nights. There will be a technical training session to go through how to used fixed ropes as well as some time spent chatting about radio procedures, medical issues, logistics etc and some top tips and handy hints to do with admin and tent routine whilst on the mountain. There will be another puja (we need all the luck we can get) as well as an acclimatisation walk up to ABC which is about 900m higher. After dropping some gear there and returning to Base Camp then, and only then, will we consider going higher and sleeping at ABC before eventually progressing to C1 at 5,850m.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – I haven’t even arrived in Nepal. I’m sat in Doha having a coffee and waiting for my onward flight to Kathmandu. WiFi connections permitting I’ll try and post the odd missive along the way as well as Tweeting (@timmosedale) and updating FaceBook (timmosedale and / or timmosedale).
I hope that you enjoy the show.