Moving Up the Khumbu Valley
Dispatch—Day 10: April 5, 2009
Pheriche, Nepal—14,030 feet (4,276 meters)
N 27º 53.601’ E 086º 49.197’
A half dozen of us managed to rally before the sun this morning—aided by flasks of milk tea and milk coffee—in order to get out for hikes and first-light photos. As usual, yesterday had finished cloudy and mysterious, making the morning’s clear sky and unlimited visibility seem special. Already at 5:45 a.m., Cho Oyu was in full sun, while the ten neighbors which had earlier seemed equal to it remained in shadow. The world’s sixth-highest peak was perhaps 20 miles [30 kilometers] to the north and reminding us just how lofty 8,200 meters [26,903 feet] really is.
Walking onto the ridge separating Pheriche from its sister city, Dingboche, we could see Makalu, the fifth-highest mountain, some distance to the east. And of course, Lhotse, the fourth-highest in the world was pretty close at hand and appeared brutally difficult from the side we were looking at. Being too close to the 25,000-foot [7,620-meter] Nuptse wall, we couldn’t see Mount Everest behind it, but we will get around that in a few days. Ama Dablam and Tawoche caught the sun in their time, along with Kangtega and Thamserku. And finally, the sun was on our little hiking team and we stripped off a few layers to enjoy the warmth.
The ridges around Pheriche offer great hiking, and we were happy to stretch our legs and work our lungs in the thin air. We each strive to hit that delicate balance between rest and exercise that is crucial to proper acclimatization. Some of our team got up to 16,000 feet [4,877 meters] and even 17,000 feet [5,182 meters] today, while others just took it easy around “town.” Pheriche is a collection of maybe eight teahouses, a few farms, some yak pasturing lands and the Himalayan Rescue Association’s clinic. Thirty minutes away, over in Dingboche, they have a few more teahouses and yes, you guessed it, one more last, last, last chance at Internet.
It is basically the same system that we tapped into in Thyangboche and Namche, utilizing a series of reflector dishes to bring the Web into some otherwise remote places. Of course, the farther one goes up the valley, the higher the price. Word was that it cost about 1,200 rupees per hour this morning in Dingboche, which with the exchange rate around 76 rupees to the dollar makes it... oh I don’t know... we are too high for math now. Let’s say that it probably makes the Web in Dingboche about the same price as in the less user-friendly American airports. The key difference might be that they grow a fair number of potatoes in Dingboche.
Cokes and Snickers bars cost more up at this higher end of the valley... really the end of the normal settlements... but that is only to be expected since we are getting a daily look at how tough it is to porter such loads to Pheriche and beyond. Most of us are still happy to indulge in some expensive snacks and drinks though. It isn’t so strange to observe that the longer we are out, the more we crave familiar junk food—while craving money slightly less. Back from the hikes, we mostly spent time mingling with other climbers and trekkers, strategizing, reading, and napping through chunks of the afternoon. Erica, Ed Dohring, and I attended a fine talk on altitude illness given by one of the docs at the HRA clinic next door. We like to think we know a fair bit about such things, but it never hurts to hear a good overview again and to meet the good people (in this case Tracy and Madeline) who volunteer their doctoring skills for weeks on end at the HRA clinic.
All are feeling reasonably well and with any luck, we’ll all be loping along to Lobuche tomorrow.
- Nat Geo Expeditions