21 March 2012
Namche Bazaar – Tengboche (3,870m/12,694ft)
The day’s trek to Tengbouche had been quite a journey. The first lag had been relatively easy, with only a few ups and downs. After some two hours, we had reached Phunki, a small settlement with a few teahouses and lodges, and we had a relaxed lunch at the river again.
Mindu had used the hand gesture of an upward-facing to let us know there would be a steep climb after lunch—but he had tempered his warning by saying that it would be easier than the trek to Namche had been. Why, then, was I finding it tougher?
The answer to that question was the altitude. We were now more than 1000 ft. higher than Namche, and, even though the climb was less steep, the air was getting thinner, and so the climbing felt more strenuous. The trek had taken us several hours.
It was still hard for us to believe that we were in the Himalayas. It was three o’clock in the afternoon on day five of our trek, and we were sitting in an incredibly serene place: inside a Buddhist monastery, at Tengbouche. We quietly waited for the Lamas to arrive to give us their blessings for a safe journey, as they did for all trekkers about to embark on their climb.
On the way to Tengbouche, Mindu, our sherpa, had told us that this monastery was one of the largest, most popular monasteries in the Khumbu region. Indeed, this was the one I read about, in all the guidebooks and travel blogs, the one at which all trekkers and climbers stopped.
The monastery was surrounded by Ama Dablam and Mt. Thamserku, and it provided spectacular direct views of the Mt. Nuptse, Mt. Lhotse, and Mt. Everest. We took a brief walk in the area of the monastery, took some pictures, and then returned to our lodge in Tengbouche, where we gathered by the fireplace again. We had started to notice a pattern in the daily weather, of clouds’ rolling in a little after about 3:00 p.m., after which it would begin to get cooler.
I ordered a bucket of hot water for bathing. Mindu had cautioned that, after Namche, the facilities would get less and less comfortable. We would now be sharing bathrooms and toilets, and might even have to share rooms as we climbed farther up.
I was quite happy about my level of fitness; I thought I was doing very well despite not having had any high-altitude training. My brother, Anil, felt the same. He had decided to join the trek only two months before and hadn’t had a chance to train as much as he would have liked—only a few short treks and some workouts on the treadmill and Stairmaster.
Dharmesh, on the other hand, had some natural resilience. I had seen him taking challenges without proper training before and, surprisingly, performing better than most others. I wasn’t surprised to see him doing well.
Delle, the only one in our team who was a trained athlete, had considerably higher endurance and had great deal of high-altitude trekking experience. We were grateful that she didn’t seem to mind maintaining a slower pace than she was capable of, with us.
After dinner, Anil and Dharmesh walked outside the teahouse to look at the bright stars in the clear, dark night. I went with them, but found it so cold that I ran back to my cozy seat by the fireplace.