April 05, 2010
By STEPHEN REGENOLD
It’s been a little more than two days since my last update. But in that short time, the trajectory I am on from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp has brought me hundreds of miles and thousands of feet into the sky. It began with a flight on Friday morning from a small airport in Kathmandu to Lukla, a mountain village at about 9,000 feet. The flight into what is one of the craziest airports on the planet is another story. But safe to say, all went fine. We bumped to a landing on the steep airstrip, found our gear, and piled out into the thin Himalayan air.
Min Magar, our guide, photographer Scott Simper, and I got lunch in Lukla. While we waited for an extra bag to arrive on another flight, I went out to explore the town. A narrow street with vendors was crammed with locals and travelers. There was yak cheese for sale alongside outdoors gear. I got an orange Fanta soda pop and watched a few flights zoom off the airstrip toward mountain destinations beyond.
Trekking shoes and feet on the ground were our route further into the Himalayas. Phakding, a settlement on the river a few miles from Lukla was our destination. We pulled backpacks on and headed out after lunch, tromping downhill a few hundred feet to start a trek that would be uphill most of the rest of the way. The lower part of the trek to Base Camp, from Lukla to Namche Bazaar, is as much a cultural experience as it is an immersion in nature. Kids run on the dusty trail between villages. Porters tote huge loads on their backs, some with cell phones in their pockets beeping out tunes. Trekking groups from North America and Europe gaze forever up at the immense mountains and rocks jutting into the sky.
On the way to Phakding, we crossed swinging bridges, dodged trotting horses and overloaded porters, strained on a couple uphills, but generally took an easy pace. We slept at a lodge to the sound of the river, a white noise of rapids and water pouring over rocks.
Saturday promised a more difficult trek. We geared up early and dug in for a tromp uphill toward 11,000 feet. Our destination, Namche Bazaar, is a veritable metropolis by Khumbu standards, including hotels, a grocery store, gear shops, a market, many restaurants, and hundreds of structures perched on a precarious vertical landscape.
Halfway through the day’s trek, we caught our first glimpse of Mount Everest. Far away and obscured in clouds, it seemed to be hovering somewhere up near outer space. An hour later, we were nearing Namche. A few hard final couple hundred vertical feet and we were at the Panorama Lodge, a cozy hotel and restaurant in the upper part of town. There we met with Wally Berg of Berg Adventures and the lodge staff. Lemon tea was served. Smiles and handshakes. A warm welcome after a long day on the trail.
—Stephen Regenold will blog live from the Everest Trail this week and through the month of April. Monitor Expedition Hanesbrands’ progress at http://climbwithus.com and on Gear Junkie at the site’s Everest Blog (http://gearjunkie.com/everest-blog).
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