Acclimatizing in Namche
Dispatch—Day 5: March 31, 2009
Namche Bazaar, Nepal—11,296 feet (3,443 meters)
N 27° 48.300’ E 086° 42.667’
People always ask me what the hardest part of an Everest expedition is. I only have one Everest expedition behind me, but I suppose that is all it takes to know what is hard and what is not. Surprisingly, it isn't summit day and it isn't the Khumbu Icefall. For me, the hardest part is rest days.
Writing that feels a little strange, as resting is something good, restorative, and needed, but it is really hard indeed. I am the type of person that enjoys movement, enjoys physical challenge and the constant change that traveling provides. To that end, being asked to rest for roughly a third of the expedition is no easy task. I feel like I have been moving forward constantly since I was a kid, and now slowing down to let my physiology catch up with my mind is a challenge for me.
How do I accomplish the task of resting? Reading is a good start, but I cannot read anything related to adventure, otherwise my feet start to twitch and I feel the need to go for a walk. Card games are a good way to rest; they bring laughter and allow your mind to engage, while your body is absorbing the much needed downtime. Perhaps the best way to rest is to eat.
At the start of one of our many rest days, I look to the teahouse menu. I think about how many meals I can eat today, and if there is anything new that I would like to try. By midday I have rested my way through boiled eggs, Tibetan bread, cornflakes, chicken momos, popcorn, fried potatoes, chicken soup, pasta, and if I am feeling really bold... a yak steak. I know, it sounds like it wouldn't be so hard to sit and read, laugh with friends, and eat, but the truth is, that is why I climb... because it IS hard to do the other stuff.
When you are moving on a trail and breathing hard and feeling all the blood move through your body, well, for me that is the easy part. Making dinner after a hard day climbing, a day that starts before dawn, that is restorative in its own way. Maybe it is an illness, feeling more rested after a hard day of climbing 3,000 feet [915 meters] than a day lounging in the sunshine and enjoying tea. I suspect it is really good to experience days that just force me to slow down and look around. These days are good for letting me think about the days behind us and renew the excitement for the many days that are still ahead of us.
So today, I will practice my resting. I will go walk around the small, but busy, village of Namche and look over at the people who seem to be resting easily, perhaps I will even stop and inquire how they do it. For now, though, I have another order of eggs to dig into and a small sunny spot to go sit in.
- Nat Geo Expeditions