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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
Green Man
24th November 2018 - 4th January 2019

40 days alone in the Nepal Himalaya.
Walk in from Shivalaya - Namche - Chukkhung - Kongma La - Everest Base Camp - Gokyo Valley - Gokyo Ri - 4th Lake - Renjo La - Namche - Walk out to Paphlu.    About 220 miles
Highest point: Kala Patthar 5644m (18,500ft)

See also - Himalaya preparation diary and Himalayan Expedition 2018

Three weeks later and my legs were still recovering from this mammoth expedition.  Two months later and my mind is still in the mountains. From beginning to end the whole trek was incredible. I spent most days walking almost entirely alone, in glorious weather and the Nepalese people were kind, generous and a true inspiration in so many ways. The culture is so exotic and strange that you are either constantly learning something new or standing with your mouth open, gawping at something you've never seen before.
My only companion was our 1st Crawley scout mascot 'Shackleton', who became a bit of a favourite among the hundreds of people who followed our journey on WhatsApp. He came from a Teddy Tombola at Pulborough church, West Sussex that the troop visited on a hike a couple of weeks before my expedition.

Despite being crowded and terribly polluted, Kathmandu has a wonderful charm and I fell completely in love with it. The people are so good-natured and polite, they help each other out and there is a real community spirit. Nowhere is this more evident than on the roads. Everyone pulls out in front of everyone else, the traffic all meets head on at intersections, no one uses indicators or hand signals, everyone is on the phone and people travel at night with no lights on. Even so there is no road rage or even descriptive hand signals. Everything just keeps rolling along somehow, through the throng of road users which includes: cows, pedestrians, packs of dogs, rickshaws, trucks, pushbikes and millions of small motorbikes. Everyone in Kathmandu has a motorbike and they travel everywhere - footpaths, parks, alleyways, courtyards... if a bike can get down there, then there will be bikes there. They only very slightly follow any type of Highway Code or law, which makes tearing around the city at 40mph about as exciting and dangerous as racing at the Isle of Man TT.

My trek started with an 8 day walk from Shivalaya to Namche Bazaar and every part of it was beautiful with wildlife everywhere, fruit orchards, large valleys, suspension bridges, terraced hills and welcoming places to stay in small villages. There are a lot of mule trains running back and forth supplying all of the villages and moving things up to Namche and they are a bit smelly. The trail is difficult and is either going straight up or straight down, it is mostly over rock and it is completely covered in mule poo. Roads (mud tracks) are being built to supply the villages but this does not ruin the walk and you do not have to walk very far on the roads.

The higher places after Namche, are extremely cold (I went in winter and some nights were -30C) and you need to be prepared with proper clothing and a really good sleeping bag. A plan for acclimatising to the altitude is essential and as of 2019 you will need about 20 a day to live up there (in the middle hills things are a bit cheaper and in Kathmandu food and accommodation are very cheap). All of the teahouses dish up huge plates of food and you will need to eat all of it to get enough calories for the next day's walk. Purifying your own water is the best way to go as it saves money and the environment. I used a Steripen and found it worked perfectly for the whole 6 weeks.

I acclimatised by taking a rest at Namche and another at Dengboche and by climbing part of the way up Nangkart Shang and then Chhukhung Ri.  Both climbs went well but every move you make is such hard work at those altitudes. The mountains and the mountain trails are literally breath-taking - you need to learn to go at Himalaya speed (very slowly) and breathe faster (usually through a buff) to cope with the altitude and the freezing cold, dry air. Failure to do so leads to gasping and giddiness! I trained very hard to do this trek and was very glad that I did as it made things far easier, as did a pack that weighed about 8kg.

 

 


My first view of the Himalaya - from the plane.


I arrived early evening at the Thamel district of Kathmandu - disorientated, tired and confused.


The Three Passes Trek. But before that I was going to walk to Namche Bazaar from Shivalaya


About 8 days walk and it was fascinating the whole way. So quiet and beautiful.


Milk tea at the top of Paiya La. The word 'La' means high mountain pass and I had about 11 of them to get over during this trip.


Earthquake damage was evident all along this early route. It bore the brunt of it.


Mules. These ones had decided to leave their porters and find their own way home.


Lots of calories are needed for mountain trekking!


Momos for dinner at the village of Jumbesi.


The monastery at Thubtan Cholin where I was mesmerised by the chanting of the monks.
I've never heard anything so amazing in my life and I could have lived there for months.


In the kitchen at a guest house for 'pig soup'.

 


I walked for a while with a group of Nepali lads who were on holiday and wanted to see Everest for the first time.
This is Subigya and Jewel. They were carrying far too much kit and were going very very slowly so I left them to it.


A Musk Deer on the trail. It seemed as interested in me, as I was in it.


There are plenty of high suspension bridges to cross and this famous one is the last before Namche.


The Sherpa burn Juniper every morning as part of their Buddhist rituals.


Namche Bazaar - the capital of the Khumbu region. The air is already very thin by the time you get here.
I still had 2km to go: straight up!


I gave myself 3 days at Namche to rest up, clean up and acclimatise.
I also took the opportunity to buy some down-filled leggings which proved to be essential.


My teahouse in Namche. I was the only guest for my entire stay.


Tengboche monastery which is stunning and in an incredible spot.


Shackleton meditating on Nangkart Shang near Chhukhung. Climbing up here was part of my acclimatisation plan.


After a difficult climb I gain the Kongma La and have someone to share my lunch with.


At the Kongma La looking down to the Khumbu glacier with the village of Lobuche beyond.


The moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. It's much bigger than it looks and I was already worn out by the time I got to it.


On the glacier and I needed all my experience to get through here safely, as the path was gone!


A very dangerous place to get lost or hurt.


I made it to Lobuche with very little energy left. I didn't know it but I was coming down with a cold.


Gorak Shep - The highest place I slept on the journey. Behind is Black Hill or Kalla Pattar in Nepali.
It looks like a little hill but at this altitude all hills are arduous.


Everest and the much prettier Nuptse from the top of Kala Pattar. If you get a tear in your eye it's likely to freeze.


Shackleton and I at 5,644m (18,500 ft) with a great view of Everest.
Although it is very hard work trekking at such altitudes you tend to forget about the hardship every time you stop and look at the views.


The environment around Base Camp is lifeless, barren, very cold and with not quite enough oxygen.
It could be the moon if it wasn't for the huge glacier.


Everest Base Camp at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall.
I had always wanted to see the icefall and even at a distance it is very impressive. An ambition achieved!


You should take every opportunity to sit down and take it all in. Wow!


The next destination is Dzongla via a small rugged trail with a long tumble if you trip.


Fresh snowfall at Dzongla stopped me from crossing the perilous Chola Pass so I needed to drop 1.5km vertically down to Pheriche
and then back up the Gokyo valley to Gokyo to continue on my route.


Heading back down to Pheriche.


After a day's hike through the snow, ice and white-outs, myself and two other escapees from Dzongla were happy to be safe and drinking tea.


I leave my temporary companions at Pheriche...


...and restart my solo trek up the utterly gorgeous Gokyo Valley.


The village of Gokyo with Cho Oyu behind it. Four days detour but I'm back on my planned route again.


The views from Gokyo Ri are mind-blowing.
You can see the village of Gokyo between the frozen lake and the Ngzumba Glacier.


The view from the other way


There are 5 sacred lakes in the Gokyo area. I made it the first 4.


Sacred lake #4


After about a month of trekking and looking rather weather-beaten.


Leaving Gokyo and heading up to the Renjo La, the last of the Three Passes.


It's up there somewhere!


Made it! It's all downhill back to Namche now.


Night was falling and it was getting extremely cold by the time I got to Lungde.
There was only one place open.


As it turned out, this part of the trek was beyond beautiful. It was out of this world and I walked through it in a dream-like state.


Finally making it back down to Namche Bazaar for Christmas eve.


Now a three day walk to a place called Paphlu to get a jeep to Kathmandu.


A typical menu for the area.


Yaks!


Even when you are going down in Nepal you seem to still go up a lot.


Back down onto the smelly and dusty mule trail


Further and further south


After walking back from Namche to Paphlu I took a 12 hour jeep ride back to Kathmandu which was very uncomfortable.
We started off at 3.30am and it was bitterly cold.


At Kathmandu I met up again with Subigya and he kindly invited me to stay in his family home.

 


I got clean and warm for the first time in over a month.


Then we went out exploring the town on motorbike and also met Deekshya. She was to become a real friend.


The Great Stupa at Boudah, near Kathmandu.


The Monkey Temple at dusk.


The Buddha in 'earth witness' pose.


Deekshya and Subigya who took such special care of me in Kathmandu.
Love to you, my friends. XX


 


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