Sunday, October 20th, 2013 | Author:

After making some arrangements to trek out of the snow with some other folks, we set off through the still hard snow into a beautiful sunny day, surrounded by snowy peaks and reminded of the weather in Gokyo as almost 20 helicopter trips were needed to fly trekkers out of the 5.5 feet of snow. Once below snow line I got into the pace to make miles, from Machermo to Pangboche in a long day. To stay out of the snow, I had decided to focus on seeing some more of lower country and spent a few days touring various monasteries and seeing familiar faces.
After an overnight trip to Thame to get off the beaten path I started working my way down to Lukla and this morning flew back to Kathmandu, ending my trek, but not my trip just yet. Reunited with a hot shower and cotton clothing feels pretty nice.

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Sunday, October 13th, 2013 | Author:

I arrive in Gokyo mid morning with my temporary trekking buddy Sophie to find blue skies and thin air. Higher than I’d ever been before, my pace was reduced to a slow plod. Gokyo is situated next to the 3rd of 6 sacred lakes in a chain fed by a glacier and high in copper, leaving them a brilliant blue hue. After a bit of tea, Sophie and I headed up the ridge to see the dry glacier (covered by dirt and rock) and Gokyo from above. Solo once more as Sophie made her way down towards Namche, I caught some time with my book and writing a postcard or two.
After an uneventful evening for me (the two poor doctors had to evacuate 3 people by helicopter and keep one in a PAC bag overnight) I woke up at 4 to make an attempt at Gokyo Ri for sunrise. Seeing heavy cloud cover, I decided to hold off for the next day, and hike to the other lakes later in the morning. When I awoke, I was feeling the altitude amd decided to lay low as the snow started. And kept coming. Next morning it was mid-thigh deep and still coming down hard, I decided that today was the last time for a while I had a chance to get down, but the trail down to Machermo was treacherous, known for the avalanche that killed 13 Japanese trekkers a few years ago. If I was going to do it, there was safety in numbers, so we grouped everyone leaving into one pack and made our way down to the bridge, the start of the slide zone. From here the next kilometer was an adrenaline-enhanced blur, running from terrain trap to terrain trap. I was 10′ from a porter who was caught in a slide and pushed off a cliff into the river below, amazingly okay. The next slide buried a few trekkers and killed a yak or two but I had one thought, get myself down ASAP. (I later learned that all the humans caught in the slide were rescued safely). Once in Machermo, I headed for the rescue post to deliver some messages from the doctors in Gokyo, warm up, and help pump the PAC bag for yet another victim of altitude sickness (HAPE in this case). After a long night at the post, and getting roped (literally) into climbing onto the roof to clear the solar panels to charge the O2 concentrator, I was ready for bed.

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Thursday, October 10th, 2013 | Author:

Greetings from Machermo (13,850′)! A very short day today from Dole brings me to a beautiful high village bifurcated by a glacial stream. I had an unpleasant run in with a bee a few days ago and had balloon hand. In Machermo, there is a small medical outpost, where I was able to dose my hand in hydrocortisone and the swelling is receding! Last night I spent the night in a lodge with a group of fellow Americans and a young Dutch woman.
You can tell that we are going off the beaten track now, no power, no running water, only small farming villages. The views continue to be impressive and tomorrow I will make the trek to the famed village of Gokyo (15,800′) nestled between a holy glacial lake, Gokyo Ri and a dry glacier reaching down from Cho Oya, the 6th tallest mountain in the world.

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Monday, October 07th, 2013 | Author:

After a long slog across the world to get to nepal via dubai, and two nights of sleepless in Kathmandu, I’m finally in the beautiful Himalayas. Flying in a STOL Dornier twin turbo prop I catch my first glimpse of the snow capped peaks contrasting with the green of the lush valleys. Coming into Lukla, I see the famed runway of the Tenzing-Hillary airport, all 1500′ @ 15% grade of it. A rough touchdown and heavy braking brings us to rest in Lukla.
I don’t waste any time, making my way NW on the highway that is the trail from Lukla to Namche Bazaar. My first meal of Dhal Bhat in a small tea house is a lesson learned, dhal bhat is too big of a meal to walk on, it is a better dinner than lunch. Regardless, I waddle on, clutching my full belly as I head to the village of Monju where I get a room and settle in for the evening, befriending a few fellow trekkers, one Spanish, two Dutch. No problems sleeping tonight as I begin to drift off in the warm dining room at only 7. I excuse myself and shortly thereafter I am abed.


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Thursday, September 26th, 2013 | Author:

Greetings! I have returned from my long sabbatical from blogging and once again will make empty promises about keeping the world more up to date with my musings and whereabouts.

In one week I am off on my next big trip, this time to Nepal (via Dubai) for 3.5 weeks of trekking and exploring! The current plan (which is flexible) is to fly to Kathmandu for a few days, then fly to Lukla (the world’s most dangerous airport according the the History channel — hence not true). From Lukla trek up to Namche and acclimatize for a day before trekking to Everest base camp (EBC) and beyond! I will do what I can to update the world on my progress, but communications may be slow and unreliable. Figuring trekking to EBC was a somewhat challenging enterprise, a dry-run was in order, an overnight trek up Mt. Evans, which, as a 14er is about as high as you can get in the CONUS. I convinced my friend and colleague Mark to tag along by promising many photo ops, which at 6AM might have been the only thing motivating him out of bed.

After a filling meal of waffles, eggs and pancakes, Mark and I drove up to Echo Lake (~10,000′), parked and got hiking. I was lugging more stuff than strictly needed for such a short jaunt, but in the aims of prepping for a longer trip, it was good exercise. Past Echo Lake and down over a stream we passed the Idaho Springs reservoir and crossed into the ‘Wilderness’. Hiking through coloring aspen groves, Mark dropped behind to take some pictures, and I was alone for a mile or so, just my thoughts and the numerous birds and small animals. Imagining 3.5 weeks of solitude of solo trekking is very exciting so these small moments were wonderful.

Reaching the Chicago lakes, we regrouped and trekked on, up a short but very steep section to reach Upper Chicago lake, where a break and more photos were in order. We had heard from a hiker coming down the path that a mud slide had damaged part of the next section of trail (which was going to be the hardest bit of the day’s hike already) and to be careful. Mark and I reached the mudslide and saw to our dismay there was no trail anymore, replaced by a steep section of loose gravel and rocks that would slide given a stern look. “Suck it up cupcake” I mused as I set about hauling my over-packed bag up a mudslide at 12,000′, gasping for breath and fighting to keep the world from spinning.

After the slide, and a half mile more of slow going, our trip into the wilderness was very quickly ended as we arrived at a road-accessible overlook complete with crying babies, loud tourists and no semblance of ‘being out there’.

A quick water stop at Summit Lake (12,900′) and Mark and I hightailed it out of there, feeling the massive, snow-covered ridge above us press down as a constant reminder that the hard part was still to come. Back in the Wilderness area, we set about looking for a camp site, trying to balance all the rules and guidelines of back-country camping: 100′ from water, 100′ from trail, and don’t go off the trail. We picked the first two to follow, and carefully wound our way to a boulder field out of the wind as a surprise snow squall came ripping over the ridge (thanks for a 0% chance of precip.). A quick meal of cous-cous and salmon and we tried to sleep on a slanted, uneven ground surrounded by echoing coyote calls and strong gusts of wind. In our altitude-addled (13,250′) state, every gust of wind flapping the tent sounded like someone (or something) just outside. It was a long night, with minimal sleep, but Mark took that to mean more time for photos:

At 3:38AM, we stiffly rose and packed our camp, I was feeling the altitude and lack of sleep, a splitting headache and nausea was my breakfast on the go. Stashing our overnight gear and switching to summit bags, we trekked up onto the ridge, now with full exposure to the freezing wind. Walking along the ridge was an incredible experience, the moon was bright, causing the rocks to glow in a lunar light, we commented that we had left the terrestrial confines and were on another plane (or planet), or so our hypoxic minds thought.

After a number of false summits, and rough rock-hopping, the summit was reached at a few minutes before 7 (and a few minutes after sunrise). Time for more photos, some trail mix and jubilation, we had the morning and summit to ourselves, basking in the sun and seeing Denver slowly wake up far below us. My second 14er had been hiked (I’ve biked up Pike’s Peak) and I was one step closer to Nepal.
Peace and chow,
NB: All photos (C) 2013 Mark Bridgman
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