Alpine Ascents International's
Days 1-3: USA-Bangkok-Kathmandu. Upon arrival check into the renowned Yak and Yeti Hotel, a cornerstone of the Kathmandu scene, and attend a welcome dinner with other trekkers and climbers. (Most trekkers use Thai airways via LA/Bangkok/Kathmandu).
Day 4: Kathmandu. From the centrally located Yak and Yeti we begin our exploration of Kathmandu. While modern by Nepalese standards, Kathmandu is a sacred city to both Hindus and Buddhists. Our tour is an important introduction to understanding the cultures which lay ahead. Kathmandu is prominently featured in both Buddhist scriptures and Hindu texts such as the Ramayana. Our tour includes the 3000-year-old Swamayabhu (monkey temple), the great Stupa of Bodnath and the chaotic Hindu temple complex of Pashupatineth. This temple is home to many Hindu aesthetics or Sadhus.
Day 5: After final administration requirements, we fly via Twin Otter STOL or Russian M-17 Helicopter to the dirt landing strip in Lukla. Weather permitting, this flight offers outstanding views of the eastern Himalayas. In Lukla, we meet and join our Sherpa staff, load the yaks and begin the ascent to Base Camp. Our first day is an easy walk to lush environs of Phakding, located on the Dudh Kosi river.
Day 6: We follow the Dudh Kosi, ascending 2,300' through Himalayan pine and Doedar cedar forests, to the celebrated village of Namche Bazaar (11,300'). The village of Namche is a historic trading post where Nepalese and Tibetan traders exchange salt, dried meat, gold and textiles. Besides being a superb place to shop for traditional crafts, Namche remains the central trading post in the Khumbu, attracting Himalayan and lowland merchants. Our group spends two days in Namche affording us the opportunity to acclimate, visit local markets and spend time with friends in town. Our camp is perched high above the city and we make our way to nearby high points to capture our first glimpses of Everest and neighboring peaks.
Day 7: Visit sights in Namche Bazaar including the Sherpa museum and local marketplace.
Day 8: Perhaps one of the most fascinating days of the trek, we travel to the village of Thame (12,464'). We spend the evening visiting the home and dining with the family of Lhakpa Rita Sherpa, our Sirdar (lead Sherpa). His family has been a mainstay of this small community, raising yaks and farming. This gives us an intimate view of Sherpa culture while visiting a traditional home. Interestingly enough a number of famous climbing Sherpas have come from Thame. The 'Thame' experience is one rarely afforded to trekkers.
Day 9: Waking early we climb to the Thame monastery and further explore local Buddhism. We tour this 400-year-old gompa and learn about its inner workings and the lives of its monks. As we tour the monastery we discuss the wall paintings and artifacts that are central to Buddhist practice. Before departure we will hopefully have the opportunity to meet and receive a blessing from the Thame Rinpoche (head priest). From Thame we walk to the beautiful village of Khunde, one of the largest villages in the Khumbu. The day's walk is moderate and rather pretty, winding through thick cedar forest. This is also the home of Sir Edmund Hillary's hospital and school.
Day 10: We continue on and climb to the village of Thyangboche (12,683'), the cultural and religious center of the Khumbu. At the monastery we attend Buddhist ceremonies and rituals performed by local monks. Vistas from Thyangboche are spectacular. The jagged peaks of Thamserku and Kangtega stand to our south as Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Ama Dablam are visible to the north. The Monastery at Thyangboche is one of the most well-known in the world as the Rinpoche is revered throughout the Buddhist community and has authored a number of books and essays. In the past our groups have had an audience with the Rinpoche and received his blessing. This is often a moving and intense experience. Views from this locale (one of the finest on earth), include Kwangde 20,293' , Tawachee 21,457', Nuptse 25,843', Lhotse 27,883', Everest 29,021', Ama Dablam 22,487', Kantega 22,235', Thamserku 21,674'.
Day 11: With the Rinpoche's blessing we travel on to Dingboche (14,450') via the Imja valley. The trail is gradually sloped for most of the morning as we make our way past the nunnery at Devuche. Dingpoche is a stunning village of stone huts known as the summer village for local herders. The mountain views are outstanding from this valley as Makalu stands in the distance.
Day 12: We remain in Dingboche for another night to better acclimatize. We take a four-hour walk to Chukkung which offers exquisite views of Island Peak and the North Face of Lhotse.
Day 13: From Dingboche we continue through this high alpine region to the settlement of Lobuje (16,174'), where we spend one night. This trail passes through a famous Sherpa memorial. Our lodging in Lobuje is the Italian Research Center. This not only allows us a glimpse into long-term high altitude research but gives us a night indoors and some relief from the harsh environs.
Day 14: The trail winds through the high tundra and glacial moraine to Gorak Shep (16,924'), the last inhabited area before Everest Base Camp. While our Sherpas are setting up camp we make an ascent of Kala Patar (18,300'), a small peak with excellent views of Everest, Nuptse and nearby Pumori. Many Everest photos are taken from the summit of Kala Patar. Gorak Shep presents a rougher environment and gives the trekker the true flavor of the nighttime rigors of mountaineering.
Day 15: We leave Gorak Shep and cross the moraine of the great Khumbu glacier to reach Base Camp, which lies beneath the sweeping ridges of Everest and Nuptse. Everest Base Camp at 17,300' is a sprawling tent city set amidst glacial debris. Here the climbers begin final preparations for their ascent of Mt. Everest. We spend a few hours at base getting a sense of the community and meeting climbers before returning to Gorak Shep. During our visit to camp we venture to the edge of the notorious Khumbu Ice Fall. From here, we see climbers en route as they negotiate this complex maze of ice.
Day 16: We begin our return to lower altitudes and quickly feel the difference in our lungs. This night is spent in the village of Pheriche (13,907') which is not far from Dingboche. Pheriche has become famous for its high altitude research center. The center attracts world renown physicians who acquire data to analyze the effects of high altitude on human physiology. During our stay we visit the research center and have time to chat with staff physicians.
Day 17: Enjoying the downhill walks we take our time and return to Thyangboche by early afternoon. By this time many of the rhododendron forests have come into bloom. It is a spectacular sight!
Day 18: From Thyangboche we easily walk back to Namche Bazaar. This seemingly remote village is suddenly a center of commerce where we spend two days shopping, drinking coffee, getting shaves, sampling food and enjoying all the thrills of "urban" life.
Day 19: Rest day in Namche where we attend current cultural events. Our 1998 expedition was lucky enough to attend the first Sherpa play, which dealt with both modern and traditional themes.
Day 20: Our final walk (a long one) to Lukla takes most of the day. From Lukla we prepare for the flight back to Kathmandu. For our last night in the Khumbu, we have a celebration and learn traditional dance from our Sherpa friends and staff. It is a memorable night with much laughter and general merriment.
Day 21: Early morning flight to KTM (weather permitting) and we spend much of the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the deluxe services of the Yak and Yeti hotel.
Day 22: Walking tour of the city including the temples and sites of Durbar Square and the Thamel section. Here we assist trekkers with their final shopping needs followed by a farewell dinner.
Days 23-24: Early morning departure for Bangkok. Arrive USA.