Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nepal Trek 2009 - May 14, Lobuche to Gorak Shep

Sunrise comes late to the mountains, simply because the Himalayan peaks are so huge. Lobuche is situated in the Khumbu valley, toward the south end of the glacier. The peaks to the east include Nuptse, Lhotse, and Everest. No wonder it's a late sunrise.

We were always awake by 6:00 am with breakfast served at 7 am, and a start time for the trail around 8 am. The first few pictures of this post are from around 7 am. First, a view of our camp.

Ama Dablam with the morning sun ablaze on its summit.

Sunrise over Nuptse. I'm so glad I got to see this sight.

Our "kitchen" - even though we ate inside the tea houses, all of our food was prepared by our team staff and they did this outside or in a side shed at every camp we made.

By the time we finished breakfast, all our tents were packed and our gear was on its way up trail to Gorak Shep.

The last staff members to leave camp were our kitchen boys, cooks and servers. They had to really be fast on their feet, because they had to be at our next stop to prepare lunch before we arrived.

They're so fast that I couldn't get my camera set up to take a proper picture. They pretty much ran out of camp to hit the trail.

One of the Lobuche peaks - not sure if this is the east or west - given the lighting, I'll guess west.

This landscape is pretty much what we had up there on the Khumbu glacial moraine. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks with some patches of soft dirt.

I actually enjoyed the scenery the most of all the places we trekked.

That's Chris Marquardt, front and right. Check out his podcast - Tips from the top floor. Here's a link to the Everest Trek 2009 teaser.

You'd never think that we were walking along a glacier - it looks just like a boulder field. That's the top layer. The ice is below and that rocky ridge is the lateral moraine to the east. We're walking on the western one.

There's a well-worn path to follow - somewhat rocky in places, but easy enough to see on the flats.

As we walk north, Changtse comes into view - that's the peak in the center to the back. It's actually in Tibet, so you can see how close we are to the border.

We had a rest break at a place where there were some memorial cairns. Jon Miller is talking to Apa Sherpa there on the left. Apa has summited Everest more than any other climbing Sherpa or non-Sherpa climber and he was on his way down from Everest for a low-altitude (well, lower altitude compared to base camp) rest break. He summited Everest (his 19th) about a week after we left Nepal. I wish I had thought to have him sign my trekking journal.

I can't believe how lucky we were with the morning weather. The mountains were everything I ever dreamed of - so glorious, so pure, so beautiful, so BIG!!!!!

You don't have a sense of scale from these pictures, but the peaks you can see in them are all over 20,000 feet. The one on the left is Pumo Ri - 23,494 ft.

This is Nuptse - 25,790 feet.

A good view of the Khumbu glacier, flanked by these majestic peaks of the Himalayas.

One of my best Woodcentral sightings pictures - ever!

A glacier coming off the base of Nuptse.

A glacial cirque along one of the flanks of Nuptse.

I had brought the travel section of the Dispatch along for a photo op. We became the subject of an impromptu workshop on the proper use of a reflector. Thilo snapped the picture and a whole lot of others were involved in setting up the reflected lighting.

The birds up at this elevation were very tame. They didn't seem too bothered by humans or yaks and just kind of wandered around us as we were trekking. I need to look up this bird in my Birds of Nepal book - wherever I put that. Hmmmmm - I'm sure there are other things that are misplaced from the trip, too.

You can see where the Khumbu glacier makes the turn, lower left. Everest base camp is just at the edge of the turn.

A good view of Changtse.

The Khumbu glacier. This gives you an idea of the boulder field that caps the glacier. Where the ice has melted you have glacial lakes and erosion caves for runoff. You can see in this picture how much of the glacier has melted - it's dropped about 400 feet there from where it used to be.

Melting of the glaciers will have a severe impact on Nepal and the countries that depend on melt water for their supply of fresh water. It's a sobering reminder of what we're experiencing on a global scale, but there are dire consequences to a large population in this part of the world.

If you click on this picture, you should be able to see the tents of Everest Base camp on the left. EBC is a huge tent city with hundreds of tents from all the expeditions. We're still about a day's hike away (western pace) at this point.

Pumo Ri in all it's glory. The darker peak in front of Pumo Ri is Kala Patthar - at 18,230 feet. More on that in a later post.

Our final rest stop of the day - hot fruit drink and snacks. What a grand place for a picnic, don't you think?

It's so beautiful. The clouds start rolling in after lunch, so it won't be long before the views of the mountains disappear.

The trail becomes a bit more challenging the closer we get to Gorak Shep. Cairns mark the way.

Trekking poles are pretty handy. Steve's front right in this picture, followed by Pasang Sherpa, who is carrying my pack. I was really feeling poorly with my upper respiratory infection. I posted a bit about this day while we were in Nepal. You can read that post here: We're in Gorak Shep.

One more ridge to climb and then we're over into Gorak Shep.

The yak parking lot outside our tea house. It was so nice to come into the tea house and warm up by the yak dung stove. I don't remember much about the afternoon or turning in for the evening. I do remember there was a team of climbers down for a rest break and they were having a good time.

What I remember the most from this evening is that it was very, very cold and the yaks were restless all night. The cacophony of yak bells ringing all night was enough for me to put in ear plugs. I do remember getting a good night's sleep, despite the high elevation and the restless yaks wandering through our camp. We were at 17,000 feet at Gorak Shep - two nights of camping there and some major highlights of the trip to be had - stay tuned for my fun day of climbing Kala Patthar.

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