Nepal Himalaya 2002 Diary
Day 00, May 06, The flight to Kathmandu
Day 00, May 07, Getting used to Kathmandu
Day 01, May 08, These are no mountains, these are only
Day 02, May 09, Namche Bazaar - Don't go too far or
you will be shot
Day 03, May 10, Rest Day at Namche, an informative
Day 04, May 11, Easy trekking to Tengboche monastery
Day 05, May 12, Going up to 4400m, Arne loves his diarrhea,
Day 06, May 13, Whenever the American economy is not
working they just decide to go to war, Lobuche
Day 07, May 14, The Everest Base Camp (5500m) - meeting
the Russian Lhotse Expedition
Day 08, May 15, Summiting Kala Pattar (5548m) - the
altitude caught us
Day 09, May 16, DoubleJacksTrippsToWinLowChicagoInTheWholeTakesTheHalf
Day 10, May 17, Back in Namche, the video of the 1970
Japanese Skiing Expedition to the Everest
Day 11, May 18, Thame Monastery,
the monks invite us for lunch, the potato day
Day 12, May 19, Namche Bazaar, Yak Steak
Day 13, May 20, Unspectacular way back to Phakding
Day 14, May 21, Lukla - partying with the Nepali army
Day 15, May 22, Flight back to Kathmandu (this is the
first flight within the last 3 days)
Day 0, May 6, Monday
Flight from Delhi to Kathmandu with Royal Nepal Airlines, after ten
hours of stay in the transit hall of Delhi airport (12:35 am to 10:40
am). On the same flight to Delhi and transiting to Kathmandu are two
medicine students from Denmark who are going to work for Kathmandu Hospital
as their exchange year. Also with us is Pemten Lama, a Nepali business
man who runs a factory and trades carpets to Germany, Austria, Great
Britain and the US.
After checking our luggage through to KTM Pemten and I want to leave
the airport to sleep in a hotel, but the Indian officials would not
let us leave the airport as apparently too much time has passed since
our plane had landed. So we are trapped in this uncomfortable transit
hall even though we have a regular visa for India.
Pemten pays for my water and food as I do not have any Rupees. He explains
me a lot about Nepali habits, hotels, tourism and prices. Finally we
make it through a horrible night in some armchair. Royal Nepal Airlines
take us to Tribhuvan International Airport Kathmandu (KTM) with a Boeing
757 where we park about 30m away from the arrival hall. But interestingly
we do not just walk off directly. We have to take a bus which takes
a huge turn, going double the distance to drop us off about 20m from
Upon arrival, a short description of the visa process: with the disembarkation
card, visa application form and a passport size picture you go to the
counter for the without visa people, pay $ 30 US and off you are.
When leaving the airport, a horde of people want you to take their taxi
and another group wants to carry your luggage. "No, no taxi. I
am waiting for my friend". Hmm, but there is nobody. After about
30 min a guy shows up with my name written on a sign; it is Pemba Sherpa,
the brother of Gelu Sherpa. He hardly speaks any English, but puts a
Tibetan scarf (Khada) around my neck as a welcome gift. We take a taxi
to the hotel and I use the few Nepali Rupees that Pemten Lama gave me
in case I needed to call him to tip off the notorious baggage porters
who expected dollars or euro and were quite unhappy that they could
not rip me off.
Arrival at the Hotel New Gajur: Three smiling boys carry my luggage
and say "Namaste" (Hello). Good beds, own bathroom with shower
and hot water, ventilation, no AC. Not luxurious but good enough, $
7,50 per night. Later we pick up Arne from the airport.
Arne and I relax at the hotel - knock - knock - "Namaste, I am
Gelu. I just got back from my sick mother, so I can be your guide as
promised." My first thought: "Yippie, his English is much
better than Pemba's, we can understand him!"
In the evening Gelu takes us to a typically Nepalese restaurant called
"Nepali Kitchen". We have a lentil soup, Dal Bath & Tarakeri
and Chicken, including drinks and yoghurt dessert for Rp 240 (Euro 3,50).
One thing we learn and what Pemten Lama has told me: Only drink previously
boiled or bottled drinks!
After going home and washing our hands for the 20th time this day we
go to relax at an internet cafe (10 computers are probably sharing one
56k connection) and shoot some pool in an underground bar later that
night. At 11 pm the bar owners lock their doors so they get around
the curfew. After 11 pm there is only military on the streets. Arne
looses three games in pool and a Nepali guy wants
to play for money. After I won the first two games and 80 rupees he
wants to bet much higher. I know that he missed some shots intentionally
so I am aware that this is getting risky for me. Arne and I decide to
go home as it is already late.
Back in the hotel we both have to digest the manifold new impressions
of the first day.
Quote of the day: "I will lock the door so that we are not surprised
by some Asia Noodle Snack."
Day 0, May 7, Tuesday
Gelu wanted to pick us up at 10 am, so our alarm goes off at 9:30.
We are ready by ten. Around eleven - no Gelu. We walk around in the
streets, back at the hotel at twelve - still no Gelu. He finally shows
up at 12:15 - let us go for lunch. That is how Nepali clocks work. We
have lunch right across the street in some dark backyard. Nobody is
in that room except for a Buddhist monk and a guy talking to him. The
waiter takes our order. Arne takes buff momo (water buffalo wrapped
in dough), Gelu and I take chicken momo. Momos are similar to Swabian
A perfect scene: The monk walks to the refrigerator, pulls out a bottle
of cool coke, opens it, walks past us and drinks. This looks like the
latest Coke commercial: "Asia drinks Coke - believe!"
After lunch Arne and I decide to see the rough side of Kathmandu. We
only have to walk down our street away from the lively city center and
it starts to get a little bit dirtier. The streets get narrower, solid
paving turns into mud. There are many people in the streets, even more
garbage, fewer shops, selling only old and bad looking veggies. Kids
do not wear shoes and they do not have anything to play with. We meet
many beggars - let's get outta here.
We walk far until it gets better. You can see the
standard of living increase as you walk. We are passing the Royal Palace
which was open to visitors until all members of the royal family were
killed in a terrorist attack. This was the start of the whole political
crisis. With the late king's brother now reigning Nepal is still in
a state of emergency: heavy protection for airports and infrastructure,
strict curfews in every city, fights against the rebellious Maoists
in many regions.
Back at the hotel we rest. Gelu stores my suitcase at his apartment
so that we do not have too much luggage on our trek.
Day 1, May 8, Wednesday
The alarm goes off at five - we refuse to get up. Fortunately, the
ever-smiling hotel boy wakes us up at 5:15 am. Enough time for us
to take a shower (turning the bathroom into a swimming-pool). Brush
our teeth, put on the trekking shoes and Gelu comes into our room right
on time. The taxi is waiting downstairs.
It takes us 30 min to get to the airport; Kathmandu is not really awake
yet. We pass several military posts with heavily armed soldiers. The
domestic flight to Lukla with Shangri La airways is scheduled at 7 am;
we have to take care of our Sherpa since the controls are stricter for
the Nepalis. Tourists never encounter any problems as they are an important
factor for the Nepali economy.
A huge trekking group - The Everest Marathon - goes through the "security
checks" and we scoop in between. Inside the terminal Gelu meets
someone he knows and jokingly I say it is his father. As we do not reach
the maximum load of luggage this man talks Gelu into taking two huge
bags of rice with us to Lukla. Later Gelu tells us that this was his
uncle who trades goods with the Nepali army. Gelu also takes a bag of
toys, balls and sweets with him. In Lukla he is supposed to give this
to the soldiers as a present. At 7 pm Shangri La puts up a sign that
the flight takes off at 9:25 - two and a half hours later. F**k, so
we have to wait. Shortly thereafter the teashop opens; at least we can
get something warm to drink in the morning - our first milk tea.
It is impossible to get an English newspaper. Every airport official
has one but somehow this is a symbol of status and none are left for
me. I do not know where it came from (probably Gelu's uncle) but after
30 min I have my own! Meanwhile our flight is rescheduled again - will
leave at 8:30, so it is time to go through the hand luggage check. At
9 am a bus takes us to the runway passing military planes, old helicopters
and women repairing a part of the runway. The bus stops but no airplane
in sight. At 9:15 it touches down, not bigger than an Al Bundy shoe
box, but it can transport 18 passengers. Loading the plane is easy:
First the flour and the rice, then our bags. The rest of the bags go
inside the cabin right behind me.
In front of me sits an old Sherpa woman - dressed in traditional Sherpa
clothes and a pair of freaky-looking New Balance shoes. She smells strongly.
Furthermore, there is a French surgeon with Sherpa, a Canadian couple
with Sherpa and a Polish guy with Sherpa. The steward hands us sweets
and cotton (for the ears). The small propellers start to rotate and
off we are.
From the air you can see many mountain ranges, also the Mount Everest.
Shortly before we get to Lukla (2800m) we narrowly pass over a mountain
- a skilift would be higher above ground, but fortunately we did not
hit any cows.
Then the plane drops dramatically before we can see the runway (but
we do not want to see it). It is built on the mountain, steeply uphill.
That is why we have to drop down before we can land uphill. Stop as
fast as possible. This captain seems to have landed on many aircraft
We take our luggage, walk over the runway and pass the army posts. Gelu
bargains with different porters, finally he takes one. While we have
lunch at the Eco Paradise Lodge the porter straps our bags together
so he can carry them on his head. We look around and ask Gelu for the
names of some of the mountains surrounding us (probably 4500m high).
Gelu says: "These are no mountains - these are only hills!"
(Quote of the day)
At 11 am we leave Lukla, pass Chablung and Ghat, get a good view of
the Kwande (6187m) and the Mera (6476m), pass a Buddhist monastery and
always have to pass every Mani (Prayer stone) on the left side. After
about two hours we reach Phakding (2500m). By that time we have passed
the Canadians, the Polish and the Everest Marathon group. Gelu estimated
four hours of walking but we were much faster - even
our porter Pine could not keep up, he came in 30 min later. In Phakding
we stay at the Everest Guest House. As we walk around Phakding we meet
the Canadians again and a guy from New York (Ned). The Canadians are
figure skaters for "Disney on Ice" which tours Asia at the
We go to bed with the sunset which is 7:30 pm - for staying in shape
we do some push ups and sit ups (we want to keep doing these exercises
during the whole trek).
Day 2, May 9, Thursday
Our bedroom is separated only by thin wooden walls to the others; therefore,
we can hear everybody turning around, snoring and getting up. Hmm, the
first ones got up earlier than we wanted to, so no more sleep. We finally
daze until 6:30 when Gelu wakes us up. We pack our stuff so that the
porter can get a head start.
For breakfast we get milk tea and Sherpa bread which is fried dough,
relatively sweet. I know a similar Swabian specialty called "Verzogene
Kuechle". We leave at 7:30, let us try to catch the porter and
the Canadians who left 30 minutes earlier. On our way we pass four swinging
bridges, after one hour of walking we catch up with Pine, shortly thereafter
we pass the Canadians and the French guy. Gelu always tells us that
we are very fast but regarding our heart rate it seems quite acceptable.
We are walking in a valley, the hills around us are constantly getting
higher. To enter Sagermatha National Park Gelu has to buy a permit.
Jorsale (2810m) is the last settlement before the path starts to climb
up to Namche Bazaar (3440m), so we take lunch there. Fried noodles should
be fine - the porters and the Canadians arrive after 30 min. Are we
strong enough to take the highest swinging bridge on our tour and to
climb up to Namche?
It takes us 2 hours to get there. On the way we see the Ama Dablam (6856m)
and a little piece of the Everest.
Namche Bazaar is a little city with a small airport, built on a hill.
The army post at the entrance registers us; I want to take a picture
of a soldier, but this is strictly prohibited by government - ok, just
do not take away my camera. Now we walk up to our hotel. The way upwards
does not want to stop; after 200 additional meters in altitude we reach
the Passang Lodge featuring the world's highest solar heated bath tub.
Signs say internet and telephone everywhere but the Maoists have capped
all communication lines in the area, so no calling home. We are told
that if we are on the streets after 7:30 pm the army will open fire.
This is the official curfew of the Sagarmatha region. Namche is a pretty
cool place which even has a couple of pool places where Gelu kicks my
ass twice. Coke and Fanta prices rise with the altitude and so we pay
over 2 Euro for an expired can of coke.
Arne wants to buy a flashlight since the sun sets around 7 pm and
most bedrooms do not have light. Eventually, the fourth model he tries
works but the batteries cost three times as much as the flashlight itself.
Back at our lodge we can get a great view of the army post on top of
the mountain. Some artillery and sand barricades are stationed there.
The lodge manager has to report our names to them. In the living-room
we watch TV with everyone. With only 4 channels there is the only choice
between sports, music, an Indian talk show and again music. We end up
watching a super unrealistic Tibetan movie with an ape-man as protagonist,
Buddhist gods and some martial arts scenes. At least the colors
are always very bright. As usual we order milk tea with our dinner -
today we try some potato filled dough and noodle soup.
We want to go and wash our hands before dinner, so I go and get my soap.
When I come back, Pine has a bowl of hot water for us. We take it outside
(it is 7:25). The lodge owner comes out and says very softly: "Don't
go far!" (Quote of the day) - that kills us, metaphorically
Day 3, May 10, Friday
Acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar
We slept for 10 hours, at least that is what the clock tells us. Unfortunately
our inner clock does not feel the same. We woke up many times during
the night even though we were really tired. The altitude probably causes
these difficulties, yet we have not experienced any serious headache
and the air so far also appears to be normal. Arne tells me that I was
breathing faster during my sleep and I also estimated my resting pulse
at around 65 to 70 instead of 56 normally. In Namche Bazaar many signs
and posters warned us about AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), therefore,
we pay more attention to our health.
Gelu wakes us up at 6:30, the sun is shining. But when we finally get
up clouds have already hidden the Thamserku (6808m). We hike up several
hundred meters to Shyangboche airport, a grass runway going uphill.
On the way we pass many trekkers, some of them seem to have real difficulties
with the altitude. There is one American woman in particular that breathes
heavily and probably has a pulse way beyond any good. I could tell that
she was burnt out and should probably take a longer rest in Namche.
Trekking almost 4000m up high is not like strolling along Maui Beach.
At the airport we walk over the runway. Gelu tells us that recently
a plane has crashed and since the Maoists have destroyed all communication
only helicopters are allowed to fly in. He flew in here last year with
a French mountaineering group. They used a Russian helicopter because
they can carry 3.8 tons of equipment, much more than any plane.
At the airstrip we meet another one of Gelu's uncles. He works together
with his uncle in Kathmandu to provide the army with the necessary supplies.
Goods come in at irregular intervals. We have tea at the Phinjo Lodge.
We shoot some pool there - they have a perfectly straight pool-table,
unlike the one down in Namche last night which was like the Himalayan
highlands rather than a straight plateau.
Today is the day of information and statistics:
This year the number of tourists has gone down by 70% caused by the
political instabilities in Nepal and by the worldwide recession. The
Maoists have not killed any tourists so far but last year they tried
to take over a district center close to Namche where dozens of people
were killed on both sides.
Electricity is very expensive. 9 Rupees (14 Eurocent) per unit. People
in Namche also have to pay a flat fee for water of 300 Rp per month
as long as they do not surpass 6000 liters.
Namche has the highest hotel in the world. Our lodge has the highest
solar heated hot tub in the world.
After several matches of pool we walk back in the rain. For lunch we
have potato bread (similar to Reibekuchen) and milk tea as usual. Afterwards
Gelu takes us to the Sherpa museum. Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man
to summit the Mt. Everest, founded the Sherpa museum in Namche in 1994
together with a Sherpa from his former expedition.
Earlier on Sherpas only used wooden pots and storage tanks, now everything
is made of tin and metal. Gelu explains the Buddhist prayer room to
us which holds Buddha and two other gods, one who built the world and
all being, the other one protects life and is help for everyone. Around
them you have 20 or 108 (in the bigger monasteries) holy books and many
other items that are supposed to fight all evil. Surrounding the temple
there is a big white Khada (similar but bigger than the one we received
as a welcome from Pemba). On the shrine there are small bowls filled
with water. The water has to be changed every morning with the first
prayer. For the ceremonies Lamas are playing strange instruments and
Sherpas have to listen to the ceremonies from outside the prayer room.
The Sherpa Picture Gallery:
Shows many Buddhist ceremonies (all Sherpas are Nyingmapa Buddhists,
the other three schools are Kargyupa, Sakyapa and Gelugpa), weddings,
pictures of famous Sherpas, of Namche Bazaar and the mountains.
The Everest Documentation Center:
Here we find the whole documentation of the conquest of the Everest;
descriptions of the first unsuccessful attempts by some British and
Indian expeditions; the famous and spectacular ascent of the peak by
Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953, followed
by numerous other ascents along the three main routes. The most popular
route starts at the base camp, goes through Khumbu Icefall and continues
on the Western cwm before it climbs up to the South Col and the Southern
Ridge. If you make it over the 10m high vertical Hillary Step you are
on your way to the top of the world. The second route, being the easiest,
starts in Tibet (China) and goes up the Northern Ridge. The most difficult
of the three routes is the one starting from base camp and going immediately
up the Western Ridge. Further on, you remain up there have to proceed to the top at strenuous
Other than these three "standard" routes, there have been
many other successful attempts on new routes (approx. 12 routes in total),
some of them extremely challenging. For example, in 1980 the Russians
came from the Western cwm but took a route to the peak that no other
mountaineer has ever managed to take again, or Reinhold Messner's spectacular
"solo run" from the Tibetan side on a path between the Northern
and Western Ridge, choosing a route that never crossed another team's
way (no previous preparations), going up completely by himself within
3 days and being the first one to peak without using additional oxygen!
The Everest Documentation Center also keeps many newspaper articles
on the numerous heroes of Sagarmatha (Everest) and many pictures of
The flip side to all fame the Everest can bring is the chance of DEATH
it inevitably entails. One out of four mountaineers trying the unforgettable
die in the process.
Namche also has a German bakery which we have to try (of course) - we
have some chocolate donuts and apple pie. After warming up in the bakery
we go to the market that starts Friday afternoon and goes on till Saturday.
Many Tibetans park their yaks somewhere and present their goods, vegetables
and fruit. We buy some peanuts and throw them at the girl working at
the airport lodge. She joins us and invites us for tea nearby. There
we meet with a Sherpa family and socialize nicely with them. You can
clearly see the difference to many other people here. The girls are
properly dressed and try to be attractive. All of them are still in
school and their English is surprisingly good. After a second cup of
tea we decide to go back up to our lodge. Arne and I take a hot (super
hot) shower, relax and have traditional Tibetan food for dinner.
We are both extremely happy that Gelu integrates us this much in the
traditional life and customs of his country and explains everything
7:25 pm 1 Gunshot
7:26 pm several machine gun shots
7:27 pm Quote of the day: "Move over here, this side is safe!"
as we sit with our backs at the window facing the army post
7:28 pm more fully automatic bursts, but we continue watching an Indian
Day 4, May 11, Saturday
We got a good night's sleep - a good 10 hours. Our sleep was also more
steady and quiet. At 6:30 the sun is shining, wake-up service by Gelu.
We have a very good view on the yesterday mentioned Thamserku (6808m).
But after we have put on our clothes the first clouds have already covered
the mountains again. Today we did not get a clear view at any mountain.
We leave the Passang Lodge a little bit late, around 8:15 am, with
around 4 to 5 hours of trekking ahead. The other groups have to ascend
about 200m for taking the route which starts right next to our lodge.
One and a half hours of light downhill trekking. The highlight of the
day was passing the two Canadians (Alex and Holly) as usual.
Quote of the day: We are discussing how very few people (Messner and
a few Sherpas) can make it to the Everest peak without additional oxygen
and Gelu says: "Almost everybody uses oxygen to climb the Everest,
but most Japanese tourists already use oxygen in Namche (3440m)!"
We have lunch in Phunki (3250m) with its many water-run praying mills,
the last stop before the steep ascent up to Tengboche (3867m). After
resting from 9:45 to 11:30 and chatting with the Canadians we take the
hike up (600m) within 1.5 hours, probably too fast but we feel good
and strong; all the while, we are already slowing down from the "hill-run"
we were practicing the first three days.
Tengboche has a very nice monastery. We get to see the monks at their
mess. Monks drink Sherpa tea and eat Sherpa bread during
their messes and make a lot of noise with strange instruments. The tourists
have to sit on one side of the wall, every monk is sitting on an elevated
bench and a pillow. We are allowed to take pictures. We stay the night
at the Tashi Delek Lodge right across the monastery entrance. In the
dining hall everybody gathers around the oven. There we meet three German
women and a man who had to turn back before reaching the base camp due
to serious AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Now they are discussing how
they can get the man down to lower altitudes.
Day 5, May 12, Sunday
At Tengboche we slept well, even though most people have a restless
night in this altitude. In the morning the sky is completely clear so
we can get a good shot on the mountains surrounding us: Mt. Everest,
Lhotse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam, Thamserku,
The monastery shines beautifully in the early-morning sun but after
taking some pictures we have to leave it behind. We take a 30 min downhill
walk on which two straying dogs show us the way. This can happen to
you any time and they just take you to the next village where they hopefully
find their next victim.
We have not met the Canadians this morning, so maybe they did not stay
in Tengboche. In the valley we can see some Himalayan pheasants but
they are too fast to get them on a picture. We pass through Devuche
(3800m) where our route is pretty flat. Shortly before stopping for
lunch we catch Alex and Holly who are already joking about how slow
we were this morning. Together with them and an architecture student
from Arizona named Matt, we take lunch in Pangboche (3860m). It took
us 1.5 hours so far with 2 more to go. We watch how some porters bring
a big piece of yak meat to the lodge, flies everywhere. They cut off
a big piece for the cook. The Sherpa of the Canadians also buys a piece,
but we western customers are quite disgusted about the hygiene of the
The last part of the route is as easy as the first. Arne and I have
to slow ourselves down all the time because we have seen too many victims
of mountain sickness. AMS is definitely something we do not want to
Tonight we stay at Dingboche at an altitude of 4410m.
In the village we stay at the highest lodge. We all have a slight headache,
Arne also has diarrhea. Hopefully this will go away by tomorrow. Quote
of the day: Arne: "I would love to fart, but I don't dare to
We buy extra Water for 2 Euro each as we are afraid of dehydration.
As soon as the sun sets the temperature drops dramatically up here.
Day 6, May 13, Monday
As Arne and I did not feel too good in last night we decided to see
our headache in the morning and decide if we should take one day of
rest here. Our sleep at 4460m was rather rough but we felt good the
After sleeping in until 7:30 we decide to go on. The lodge in Dingboche
is not so clean (for the first time we clean our drinking water with
iodine tablets). Furthermore, we fear that not the height could be our
worst enemy but rather catching a flu. So there is no time to lose.
Starting late at 8:30 we walk very slowly but the headache comes back
very early. On the way we meet a guy from Iceland. He speaks perfect
German, tells us that he has lived in Leipzig for two years and that
he is finishing his master's degree in Copenhagen, Denmark.
After 90 min of walking we reach Dhugla (4620m) where we take lunch.
There we meet a group of Swiss people who also stayed in Dingboche last
night. All of them have taken one year off to travel on all the continents.
There is also a couple from Venezuela, the parents of the husband were
actually German and Austrian. He operates a big dairy and food business
and just came to Nepal for several days. So everybody at the lunch table
The guy from Iceland takes off without any lunch because he wants to
eat in Lobuche and then go further up to Gorak Shep today. He has already
been to the base camp and higher several times during the last few weeks
so the height is no problem for him. A friend of his is trying to summit
the Everest with a commercial expedition called "Adventure Consultants".
On our way up we stop at Thuklala, a place with many prayer flags where
they put up a stone monument for every mountaineer who died on his way
up the Everest. There are so many stone monuments that you cannot count
At 1 pm we reach Lobuche (4930m) where we again stay in the highest
lodge, the "Over the clouds lodge". At 4 pm a colorful group
of trekkers comes in with whom we will share the lodge. They travel
without a guide or porter: an Australian girl (Esther), an American
Marine (Mike), a Mexican (David), a British (John) and a German (Stefan).
For dinner Arne and I plan to have our first yak steak. Gelu told us
that they get better the higher up you get. But unfortunately the lodge
does not have good meat today, so again we go with Rara Instant Noodle
Soup. Quote of the Day 1: "With Rara Soup you can never go wrong!"
Quote of the Day 2: Arne and Mike are discussing
about our countries' economies, Arne says: "Whenever the American
economy is not working too well they just decide to go to war."
The Nepali kids at the lodge are quite inventive in ball games. As a
ball they took styrofoam balls, put them into several plastic bags and
wrapped them up with strings. Although it does not have a ball-like
shape the ball is still good enough for volleyball and some soccer.
Day 7, May 14, Tuesday
Although we had the worst night of our lives we continue our trek.
In a height of about 5000m you wake up all the time, your throat is
extremely dry, the nose is dry, the water tastes bad, the wind is loud
and cold and your expectations of the following day will not let you
rest. But we are too close to our aim!
Alright, a quick milk tea, a muesli and off we are. We know that it
usually takes 2 hours to Gorak Shep (5160m) and another 6 hours roundtrip
to the base camp and back. Earlier experiences have shown us that these
times are easy to beat. But today was not our day, especially not mine.
I feel very dizzy this morning and am totally dehydrated. So we are
fighting our way up to the last lodges on our way (Gorak Shep has only
two). It takes us 2:15 hours and we are exhausted. I do not want to
continue anymore - my head is killing me. While I drink a lemon tea
in the Gorak lodge two Lamas are sitting there, throwing rice around
and praying to the gods to protect the expeditions climbing the Everest
I think to myself: "I am already that far, I can not give up
now!" After a Rara Soup we take our heavy legs and go. On the way
to the base camp we have to pause many times. The way is constantly
going up and down and very unpleasant. I think I am developing a bronchitis.
Halfway through the trek the scenery changes and a rocky glacier with
many little lakes emerges. After 3 strenuous hours we reach the base
camp (5350 - 5500m). It is a collection of many tents on the left side
of Khumbu Icefall. The expeditions have to stay on the glaciers moraine
for approximately 1 to 2 months to wait for the perfect ascent.
Gelu knows the sirdhar (chief Sherpa) of the Russian "Lhotse Saint Petersburg"
expedition that is headed by Alexei Paskhin.
They invite us for some tea and crackers but tell us we should only
stay here for 30 min. As I would rather get a close-up of the humongous
icefall Arne, Pine and I walk up to the icefall. This takes some skills
to master the big stones in the moraine. We shoot some pictures there.
It is getting darker, 4 pm almost. We have to get back to the Russians.
Pine cannot hold it any longer and is using the toilet tent of the Russians.
Quote of the day: The drunk Russian chief coordinator runs out of his
tent and shouts, "You Nepali brat, you dare to shit in my toilet?
This shit costs you 70 Rupees! You hear me? Every shit costs you 70
Oh, you two... Germans?...Come here and drink some Vodka with
us, we have to celebrate our boys summiting."
The Russians at the base camp started drinking at 2 o'clock in the morning
because this was the day designated for their team of ten to summit
Lhotse (8516m), the fourth highest mountain on the world. At 4 pm
they still had not heard anything from their guys. You could see that
they were getting more and more nervous and were listening to their
radios all the time, with no response. With us they were cool; I tell
them about my experiences and adventures in Moscow, they tell us about their
backgrounds and plans. After a while they talk Arne and me into drinking
this self-made liquor. Somehow I manage to get around it but Arne drinks
the poisonous stuff.
At around 4:30 we definitely have to leave. They wish us the best as
we wish them luck, but they still have not heard anything from their
boys. Soon there will be no more oxygen bottles left up there. The next
day we should hear that all 10 of them summited and that the expedition
was thus successful. On the same day (or was it the 16th?)
the Everest has been summited for the first time this year. Appa Sherpa
(who summited for the 12th time - world record) as well as 76 others
(the official reports state 54, 55 and 61 successful summiters,
so what's the right number?) made it to the Everest's peak.
The way back to Gorak Shep should be as strenuous
as the way up. All of the sudden Arne cramps himself heavily and cannot
walk any further. The Russian alcohol must have caused some diarrhea
explosion (no more details). It took him 30 min until we could proceed
our way down. We arrive at Gorak Shep after sunset at 7:30, the longest
day on our whole trek - so we drink and eat something and go to bed.
John, the Brit, gives me a Diamox tablet to stop my AMS and I can sleep
Day 8, May 15, Wednesday
Wake up 5:30 (no problem, we could not sleep anymore anyways). Somehow
many others have left before us. I take the second half of the Diamox
tablet. We have a milk tea but it is too early for breakfast. Immediately
afterwards we are on our way up the Kala Pattar (5548m) - a trekking
peak with an incredible view on the Everest, probably the most famous
view of all. The incline is supposed to take us 2 hours but we are feeling
rather sick. Flu, cough and altitude sickness are a bad mixture. That
is why it took us 2.5 hours to tackle this beast.
"Wow - what a payoff!" On the top we are surrounded by the
highest and most beautiful mountains in the world:
Pumori - Khumbtse - Mt. Everest - Lhotse - Nuptse - Ama Dablam - Lobuche
- Gaychhung Khang
My dig cam works bravely and because we are at the peak early enough
there are no clouds covering our lenses. We stay up there for almost
an hour to take pictures of the mountains, us and my little mouse. This
would be a perfect day for an ascent of any of these mountains.
The way downhill seems to be a lot easier for us but our coordination
almost fails several times and we have to be very careful. Back at Gorak
Shep we grab our luggage and continue down to Lobuche as fast as possible.
The height is killing us. Arne and I are upset at
ourselves that we did not acclimatize slower because we could have enjoyed
it more up here.
At Lobuche we rest in the same lodge again. Now there are other people;
we meet Ned again, an I-Banker in Fixed Income from New York. There
are other Americans who teach us to play Hearts this evening. Being
a little lower already we do not feel much relief yet but our hopes
are on tomorrow's long walk down. The Lonely Planet says: Immediate
descent is necessary; already 500m can help.
Day 9, May 16, Thursday
Yeah, 500m can help, so we will descend 1200m! After that we should
be on the safe side. Gelu wants to go down to Devuche, a place where
it takes you 2 days to go up; getting there should take us about 6 hours.
We are flying - feeling good all the way. 1.5 h to Thukla, another 1
h to Periche for lunch and another 1.5 h to Devuche
The landscapes and nature change dramatically after
hitting the tree border line. We take a night's rest at a comfortable
luxury lodge which basically means they have a ceramic toilet (to sit
on!), a pool table and a heated oven all day long. This really equals
a five star hotel.
At night we play UNO and Poker with a few Americans who are on their
way up. One of the Poker players is simply amazing. Quote of the day:
"Let's play a DoubleJacksTrippsToWinLowChicagoInTheWholeTakesTheHalf."
Day 10, May 17, Friday
From Devuche we go up to Tengboche (3867m) with the nice monastery,
then downhill again to Phungi Tanga (3290m) then up the hill again;
the same way as several days ago.
Basically you go down a valley on one side, cross the river on a swinging
bridge and go up on the other side again. But today we are taking a
different route, not the one back to Namche; instead we are going to
Khumjung (3790m). Khumjung has a small but pretty monastery that is
set up for the god Guru Riupochhe. When we get there it is closed but
Gelu asks his way around and finds the woman with the key. She lets
us in to take some pictures. The Khumjung monastery does not have a
full-time Lama; only on special occasions Lamas show up to celebrate.
From Khumjung it is another 30 min walk to reach Shyangboche - the airport.
We stay in the airport lodge - Phinjo Lodge which is run by the same
family we stayed with in Lobuche and the same girl that had invited
us for tea in Namche one week ago. Gelu brings flowers for her and is
very excited (we could see that). We have never seen a Sherpa guy looking
so attentively at himself.
At the Phinjo Lodge they also have a pool table, so that is where you
can find us. When we come back upstairs the whole family and some friends
as well as Gelu's cousin sit around the oven in the living-room. We
are invited cordially to join them and drink chhang (rice beer). The
group is very outgoing and we get many laughs talking about our trip,
about Sherpas and Gelu's girls.
Gelu had promised earlier that tonight we would watch a movie about
a tragic expedition to the Mt. Everest. The film is a documentary of
the 1970 Japanese Ski Expedition to the Everest. Starting from Kathmandu
800 porters carried 27 tons of equipment to the base camp. It is very
interesting to listen to the comments of the Sherpas during the film:
"Look, there is my friend.", "Look at the old Namche
Bazaar, can you see our house?" And then we see a Sherpa child
sitting on the lap of the main character Yiuchiru Miura, a famous Japanese
skier with many records on his account. "That is me sitting on
his lap, this is my friend Yiuchiru." Says Phinjo Sherpa, "and
there is my father on this side."
Wow, Phinjo is like the second main focus in the film. We see how 40
experienced Sherpas try to find a way through the most dangerous part
of an Everest ascent: Khumbu Icefall. Suddenly a whole part of the glacier
collapses and buries many Sherpas. Six of them are buried and later
found dead, amongst them the father of little Phinjo - an unparalleled
tragedy. But this should not stop the crazy idea of skiing down the
Everest. On May 6, Miura finally skies down about 2 km starting from
above the South Col. He uses a parachute to slow
himself down at least a little. In the end he falls but is able to come
to a complete halt before falling down the bearschlund of the Northern
To see someone's destiny being so closely connected to a film you are
watching together with them is a totally new experience to us.
Quote of the day: "Breathing starts with breathing out."
Day 11, May 18, Saturday
The Potato Day
Again market in Namche Bazaar, but we are not going there today. Our
plans take us to Thame monastery (4000m) which is about a 4 hour walk.
After the first hour we meet friends of Gelu that are currently building
a house. They invite us for tea, so we stay with them in a small but
fully equipped kitchen tent and slurp our milk tea. Under the provisionally
built stove there was a tiny black cat trying to keep warm close to
the fire. At the construction site we are able to leave one of our heavy
bags as we will come back this way tomorrow.
On our trek we take lunch in Thamo - at least we try to. Milk tea is
the only thing we receive promptly. We have ordered a Rara soup and
a potato spring roll. As we hear noise in the kitchen we think they
are working - but not quite. After 40 min of waiting I ask Gelu: "For
Rara soup you normally take this instant noodle pack I see over there,
add boiling water and let it sit for 5 min, right?" "Hmm,
right" - and he goes to the kitchen to speak to the woman. Immediately
she comes in and takes a pack of instant noodles out of the cupboard.
My perfect perception tells me that we have just wasted 40 minutes.
Our soups arrive shortly thereafter. So with a little bit of noodles
in our belly it is easier to wait the next hour until the potato spring
rolls are served. Nepali is like French kitchen - it can take you hours
In Thame we arrive after 3.5 hours of walking. We find accommodation
with a Sherpa who has summited many mountains, amongst them the Mt.
Everest. His friend guides us to the monastery 200m higher. Nobody is
there, only some people working in the kitchen. All monks are at lunch.
All the sudden our Thame native is waving at us: "Come here and
sit down!" The monks have invited us for lunch!
25 monks (all lamas) are sitting on two long benches, one monk seems
older and wiser that the next and all of them smile at us as we sit
down. The Thame guy makes some jokes and everybody is laughing heavily.
They offer us potatoes and milk tea that we have to take with them.
Everybody looks at how we peal our potatoes. Some of the younger ones
talk English and ask us where we were from. Except for some short conversations
our native continues his jokes and we do not understand anything. The
most fascinating for us right now is this cool monk wearing a North
Face jacket and a Nike wool hat.
Later we have a look inside their chapel where all preparations take
place for the biggest festival of the year. The highest lamas from Kathmandu
will arrive for this. It is scheduled on May 22nd, 4 days from now.
The monks have baked many cakes to donate to their gods. Many gifts
and donations ornate the temple. "No pictures inside, please",
so we take some with the nice monks outside and head down to the lodge
again. On the way back I have a deja-vue (Quote of the day): "Now
listen Arne - we are going the normal way to the house, Pine that we
can't see right now will take a shortcut over the stream but will still
be a little slower than us. At the house he will catch up with us. Gelu
will take the standard rout and come in behind us." (like magic,
the scene happened exactly like this, the prediction lasted for around
At night we have Sherpa stew (a mixture of everything you can find in
a kitchen, especially potato and flour). After that I have plain potato
with butter - but not one, not five and not ten potatoes; It is unbelievable
- I receive 18 potatoes weighing at least 2 kg. So Gelu, Pine and Arne
have to help me. But still, Pine had some leftovers for the next morning.
Later that night Gelu gets some Chhang (Rice beer) for everyone that
perfectly distributes the potato stuff inside our stomachs. We start
to sing "Resam Piriri" - a Nepali song that Gelu taught us.
When the house owner sees that Gelu is able to read,
he passes him a paper, quite familiar to us, that he has to read to
him. It is the Maoist paper of the Nepali Army that basically disgraces
the Maoists and their leaders and tells everybody to give up resistance.
The military measures are illustrated by a nice comic. Outraged, our
illiterate host throws the paper in the fire. Goodnight everybody.
Day 12, May 19, Sunday
The Yak Steak
On our way back from Thame (3800m) to Namche (3400m) we really are
flying. The thought that there is a satellite internet connection in
Namche makes me grow wings because I want to read the emails of my friends and family
really bad. I have not heard from them in 12 days now. Instead of 3.5
it only takes us 2 hours.
The internet café costs 10 times as much as in Kathmandu but
12 days away from civilization have been enough. I tell my parents that
everything is fine and read my mails eagerly.
Today we stay at a very nice lodge and take our first hot shower in
10 days. It feels like heaven. Putting on fresh clothes with no herb
body odor and getting rid of our fatty hair was definitely necessary.
On our walk through Namche we have some sweet baked goods at the German
bakery, stroll over the Tibetan market and shoot some pool. What a relaxing
day, except for the fact that I sucked in pool. In the evening we get
company by some French Canadians from Quebec who
climbed a few mountains in the area. They prefer sleeping in their own
tents outside and let their Sherpas cook dinner for them. They rather
like to stay for themselves. All right, we do not care about that because
we have ordered something very special tonight: Yak Steak. To
enjoy it do not need anybody around us. How delicious. The steak comes
with a brown sauce and potato chips. It is beaten hard so that it appears
rather flat; probably that is why it is not chewy when it is well done.
Day 13, May 20, Monday
We have arranged with Gelu that this morning we can sleep in. Somehow
Pine does not understand too much of such agreements. At 6:30 am he
comes in our room and I really have to discuss with him why this might
not be the right time for us. Finally he grants us time until 7:15 when
he disturbs us again. Alright little man, you want war, you get it:
Today our own packs are even lighter than usual and his big luggage
a little bit heavier - but he asked for it!
The lady of the house wanted to help us find one of these state of emergency
papers handed out by the army. She even asked the city's police officer
but unfortunately nobody had kept one, sorry.
Well, let us go down to Namche center and see if we find some there
or if we find at least a cool hat that we can give to Pine. Neither
of that should come true but instead we meet many people from earlier
days. There is Kevin Mac with whom we played "Hearts" in Lobuche,
the French guy who summited Island Peak after being on Gokyo Ri and
Kala Pattar, then there is the Sherpa marathon runner (a friend of Gelu's)
who came in second in the last 2 years at the Everest Marathon and finally
we meet the group of "Adventure Consultants" with our guy
from Iceland whose friend has made it on top of the Everest as the only
customer of that group. Congrats to him.
We leave Namche with a last look at the ugly Tibetans on the market
who always want to sell you some crap. At the last house that usually
serves as army control post we do not find any patrol today, but
there is an emergency paper relatively loosely attached to a morose
wall. That is my game! I take it and am happy like a little boy.
The way back from Namche to Phakding is unspectacular
except for that at the exit of Sagarmatha National Park we meet three
guys of the Russian Lhotse Expedition. While we have some tea we congratulate
them to the first ascent of the year on this mountain and they are very
proud to tell us that all 10 made it - at 6 pm which is extremely
late and they got back to base camp at 1 am the next morning. Wow,
their colleagues at base camp must have been really afraid for them.
The problem was that as first group you have to set every single hook
and nobody has prepared a route for you.
Day 14, May 21, Tuesday
The army party
I do not remember the way from Phakding to Lukla that long but somehow
it is very exhausting. It takes us almost 2 hours. In Lukla we stay
at the Eco Paradise Lodge right across from the airport. A couple of
times we see a Russian helicopter land and take off but it is too windy
for any planes to come in. In the mornings there is less wind that is
why we heard some planes earlier this morning. Today every airline flew
to Lukla minimum one time except for Shangri La. They had no plane flying
in for the last 3 days. That makes me very afraid. Gelu checks with
the airline office and tells us that we will get on the second flight
tomorrow (if there is one!).
For lunch we have a big and tasty Dal Bath - which should be decisive
for the latter happenings. After extra helpings Arne and I go for a
walk to digest our food. We decide to go around the airport, let us
see how far the army guards let us go.
We walk down next to the runway only separated by a fence of barbed
wire. Two army guys walk behind us and all the sudden they shout: "Hey
you two come here - follow us. We are having a party." Huh, are
you talking to us? All right, we follow. Let us see where this leads
We see a crowd of army guys and are steering directly towards them.
First, we are introduced to the commander of the troops. His name is
Mr. Shah and he is the boss of the whole region, with 160 armed policemen
under his control. They pull up three chairs, two for us, one for the
commander. Politically incorrect, I take the middle chair but after
some joking he says he does not mind. We have to take a beer (San Miguel)
in its 650 ml bottle - we are literally forced into drinking. They serve
us like generals. The commander tells us that he is throwing this party
to keep up the morale of his men. They put on Nepali music and everybody
starts dancing. Also we have to dance, too. Everybody is very amused
by our dancing; after a while the music changes to more known tunes
like songs from the Vengaboys. Constantly, Arne and I have to drink
more beer, taste the sheep they have prepared for lunch along with potato
curry, dance and take pictures with everybody. Nirakaram B. Shah, Deputy
Superintendent of the Armed Police, tells us that he has been stationed
in the Kosovo and working very closely together with the Germans there
- he made many German friends. Furthermore, he has two little children,
3 and 6. His six-year-old daughter is in her first year of English school
in Kathmandu. Most of his people, 130, are used to defend Lukla airport
and so far they did not have any encounters with Maoists.
There we sit, being served by his boys and we all have a hell of a time.
Next to us sits the third non-army person, a lama friend of his who
has brought him an important letter.
The second San Miguel goes down even better than the first one. Then
Mr. Shah calls for "appell". All soldiers hustle together
and follow the instructions of one of the sergeants. We count three
rows of people, 50 or 60 in total, the rest is on duty. When everybody
is on position he calls us to open lunch. Following his order we walk
past the rows of men, wash our hands together with him and receive our
third lunch of the day (remember, the 1st one was Dal Bath at the lodge,
the 2nd was that we had to try their cooking all the time).
We sit down with him on his table and try to eat very slowly. At the
same time we try not to look too saturated. After everybody had eaten
we politely excuse ourselves and exchange many cordialities. Then we
are allowed to go home again. In total we probably
had to say "Thank you, good bye" to a minimum of 30
people. We had fun, the army guys had fun with us and we have something
to recount at home - that is unbeatable.
In the evening we shoot some pool and meet many people desperately waiting
to get on one of the promised flights for tomorrow. At the billiards
bar we meet an American who suffered from cancer, recovered and now
has just summited the Everest. His name is Sean Swarner and this achievement
will probably get him into the Guinness book of records - his pool game certainly
Day 15, May 22, Wednesday
In the morning we hear a plane coming in. Everybody runs outside to
see which airline this is. Yippie, Shangri La, their first flight just
arrived. We pack our stuff hoping that this plane would come back a
second time. The next flight should be ours. And indeed, we have
the biggest luck possible. After three days without any Shangri
La flights to Kathmandu, this plane comes back after two hours and takes
us home safely.