Continued from Part Two

I step outside our room into the courtyard, turn to go into the kitchen, and am stopped in my tracks. A massive white peak glows in the twilight above. After a cloudy afternoon it is my first good close look at a 6000m peak, presenting itself in dramatic fashion. I snap a picture and smile into the dining room.

Thamserku (6618m) looming over the hotel

A few hours earlier Cam and I set foot on the trail. I was excited to get out of Lukla and finally into some peace and quiet in the countryside. It came quickly and was wonderful. Though this section of the trek is fairly heavily populated, the pace of living quite suits someone who grew up in the woods of Northern New York. We meander through the towns, greeting other trekkers and porters, and eventually make our way to a waterfall by the trail. A short, steep climb brings us to what looks like an amazing hotel. It is perched on a hill with one side looking at the waterfall and the other the fertile river valley below. We immediately get a double room ($3 USD), ditch our packs, and go the dining room to order some food and a gigantic pot of milk tea. There we meet a solo trekker from Switzerland and a British couple. They were headed up, and in a few days I would be joining them.

Dinner was delicious and by 8pm we had passed out, weary from the long day. This would be the start of a pattern — bed near dusk, rise at dawn. A very welcome change from my night owl lifestyle back home. The next morning we headed out early and walked for a few hours before making it to Namche Bazaar (3440m/11,300ft), a beautiful terraced town cut into a bowl in a hillside. Namche is the “Sherpa capital” and largest town in the Khumbu, so we had our choice of dozens of hotels in town. We ended up picking one right in the middle — it had a spectacularly positioned dining room looking out over the gorge to the Southwest, from which we proceeded to gorge ourselves on lunch.

From the start of the trek Cam had been complaining of weariness and coughing, so we decided to take a rest day; mainly for acclimatization but also to give his body a chance to shake out the respiratory infection. We slept in, changed to a “luxury room” (attached shower! wooohoo!), and I set off on a day hike to Thame, a famous Sherpa village four miles up the churning Bhote Kosi Nadi river. It’s a gorgeous walk along a hillside above the river and I chat with a group of cute Sherpa kids on break from school in town. By one pm I’ve made it to Thame (3800m) and have a huge lunch of (unlimited!) Dhaal Bhat, a dish of rice, lentil soup, and vegetable curry. The day is rather cloudy but once in a while the clouds would part to reveal a massive 6000m snow-capped peak a seemingly stone’s throw away.

By the time I make it back to Namche it’s late afternoon and drizzling a bit — we order dinner and I take a (much-needed) shower. Cam is starting to feel better, so we plan to rise early and hike to the next town.

We round a bend in the trail, and something strangely familiar comes into view. In a gap in the clouds two massive mountains appear, and I recognize one instantly: Everest. I stop in awe for a few seconds and snap some pictures — though they’re still 25km away they seem larger than life. It’s a pretty, warm day and I can’t help thinking about what the conditions would be up there..

First glimpse of Everest and Lhotse

A steep drop back down to the Dudh Kosi and back up the other side eventually brings us to Tengboche (3860m/12,660ft). Its famous monastery dominates the town and owns half of the hotels in the village. I know the view is supposed to be incredible, but the afternoon clouds have again robbed any chance of sightseeing. At this point Cameron was feeling pretty rough and was anticipating needing two days to rest. Not looking forward to sitting idly for two days, we decide to split up and meet up at the top of the trek. Luckily, we run into Darren and Tanya (the Brits) again at our hotel at chat it up over dinner. We’re enthused to keep going and I decide to go along with them the next morning.

I wake up excitedly the next morning and peer out the window at a massive cirque of peaks. Rushing outside, I gaze in the splendor of the most superb view of my life. Nothing had ever even come close. Two massive peaks (Thamserku [6618m] and Kangtega [6783m]) dominate, and I mean utterly own, the sky to the Southeast. Their glaciers creep down 2800 vertical meters of their flanks, connecting to the summits less than 6km away. To the North Ama Dablam’s picturesque summit foreshortened the Everest-Lhotse massif just beyond — stunning alpine scenery at 6am.

I pack up after breakfast and bid Cam adieu, setting off on my own. The trail drops down to a thick rhododendron forest and I’m not psyched to be off on my own…

To be continued