We flew from Kolkata, India to Kathmandu, Nepal on March 29. We spent a few days in chaotic Kathmandu preparing for our upcoming trek in the Everest Region and met our trek group consisting of folks from the UK, Philippines and the US. Our trek route (shown in red) would take us over three high-level passes that link the valleys of Thame, Gokyo, Khumbu and Imja Khola.
|Our Trek Route (Shown in Red)|
Our journey started with an exciting flight into the airstrip at Lukla. We flew into this airstrip back in 1997 when it was dirt. Even though it is now paved, it's still a hair-raising experience.
|Approach into Lukla|
On our way out of Lukla we stopped to photograph another plane coming in even though the Nepalese police keep blowing whistles at us and telling us, "no photographs, no photographs!".
|Plane Landing at Lukla Airstrip|
We followed the main Everest Trail up to the Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar at 11,286 feet. The village has grown since 1997 when we first visited but Namche has retained it's Tibetan Buddhist charm.
We spent 2 nights here to acclimatize to the high altitude and took a short walk above the village to the Everest View Hotel where we gained our first view of Mt. Everest.
|First View of Mt. Everest (left plume)|
We stopped for lunch at the tiny village of Khumjung above Namche and visited the Khumjung Gompa or monastery.
|Buddha Statue in Khumjung Gompa|
The Gompa is famous for possessing a rare yeti (sometimes referred to as the "abominable snowman") skull! According to legend, these human-like creatures roam the high Himalayas sometimes killing yaks or abducting small children.
|Yeti Skull in Khumjung Gompa|
From Namche Bazaar we headed west to the tiny settlement of Thame where we spent another two nights in preparation for our first major pass crossing, the Renjo La. We got an early start around 5:30 AM for the 3300-foot climb to the top of the pass.
|Start of our Climb Over the Renjo La|
From the summit at 17,520 feet the view of Mt. Everest piercing the eastern horizon and of the third Gokyo Lake below was stunning.
|View From the Renjo La|
A steep descent through snow and scree brought us to the summer settlement of Gokyo on the east shore of the third Gokyo Lake known as Dudh Pokhari. The lake was still frozen so we missed the characteristic turquoise green color for which the lakes are famous. A chain of six Gokyo Lakes comprises the world's highest freshwater system and in 2007 were named a Ramsar site. The Ramsar Convention (formally the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially for Waterfowl Habitat) is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. The following day Marc and I hiked up to the Fifth Gokyo Lake for more spectacular views of Cho Oyu (the World's 6th highest mountain at nearly 27,000 feet) looming over the immense Ngozumba Glacier.
|Cho Oyu (high point on the left) Looms over Ngozumba Glacier|
We didn't trek another 3 miles to the sixth Gokoyo Lake and the site of Cho Oyu Base Camp. Our trip leader Rinji told us that Cho Oyu is rarely climbed from this side due to the high danger of avalanches. It's easy to see why this lofty and remote place is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. The area is worshipped as the residing place of "Nag Devata" (Snake God) and as a result birds and wildlife are not harmed.
The next day we climbed the spectacularly located Gokyo Ri for more views of Dudh Pokhari and the peaks of Cholotse and Taboche beyond.
|Climbing Gokyo Ri|
As we neared the top, a sightseeing helicopter flew high over the valley then plunged 3000 feet! At first I thought "oh no, his engine has failed!". When he then leveled out just before hitting a ridge I realized he was giving his passengers one hell of a ride!
|Sightseeing helicopter takes a dive!|
Once on top we sat on some rocks to drink in the views of three of the world's highest peaks, Mt. Everest (highest bump over my head), Lhotse (right of Everest) and Makalu (pointy peak right of Lhotse, peeking from behind).
|Us on the Summit of Gokyo Ri|
All too soon it was time to descend from Gokyo Ri back to Gokyo. We still have to cross the Ngozumba Glacier to reach Dragnag before nightfall.
|Crossing the Ngozumba Glacier|
Tomorrow we have to tackle the formidable Cho La, the last major obstacle before rejoining the Solu-Khumbu Valley on the southern approach to Mount Everest.
We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc