Trip Highlights Everest Home Home

DAY THREE 11,500 ft. -- Acclimatization Day -- Day Hike
"Would you like hot coffee or hot tea?" I glance over at my thermometer. At 6:30 a.m. it is 29 degrees. Hot anything sounds good at this moment. The sherpa also leaves some hot washing water. It takes me the entire hour before breakfast to get myself organized.

It's like buying a backyard barbecue which fits beautifully into its box, but just try unpacking it and putting it back in that same box, it's impossible. This is the situation with which I am faced. It all came out of the duffel bag . . . the challenge is to get it all back in.

Today is a rest day, an acclimatization day. In order for us to make it to the base camp at 18,500 ft. we must acclimatize to the thin air. When we reach base camp the amount of oxygen will be less than 50% of what it is at sea level. The goal is to ascend no more than 3,000 ft. and then stay at that altitude for a second night, and essentially repeat that process every 3,000 ft. Other than minor headaches and restless sleep, no one in our group displays any sign of altitude sickness.

Prior to leaving for the trek I needed a new pair of boots, sturdier with better soles for gripping rock trails. The week before we were due to leave I found myself still without a boot that fit me satisfactorily. Particularly for a trek of this nature you should walk a minimum of 10 to 20 miles to break the boots in. The boots I would depart for the trek with had less than three miles in them. I knew the old boots fit me like bedroom slippers so for insurance I threw them in my duffel bag.

Three days into the trek the new boots were terrific, not one blister. I decided to make a gift of the old boots to a young sherpa wearing no shoes whose feet seemed to be similar in size to mine. The incredible smile on his face as he accepted the boots and clutched them to his chest is a picture that will remain forever in my mind. He strutted around the camp with the greatest look of pride on his face. One has great status when one has a pair of boots.

After a delicious breakfast, we take a trip down into Namche Bazar to look at the wares of all the people who had come from miles around -- Nepal, Tibet, India, China -- to display their goods at the big market on Saturday.

The Tibetans are perhaps the most interesting in that they never bathe and never cut their hair . . . never. We make a point of staying downwind from them. They prominently display their beautiful carpets and silks with distinctive rich colors in an area about the size of a football field.

After lunch we prepare for a short afternoon acclimatization trek where we will climb from our current altitude of 11,500 ft. to a little over 12,700 ft. and then return. The goal here is to walk high but sleep low. If you follow the Everest climbs you will note that they establish base camp and then climb beyond to camps one, two, three, four, and sometimes five, each time returning to base camp to continue their acclimatization process. Climb high -- sleep low.

This trip takes us through two beautiful towns, Khunde (koon day) and Khumjung (kum jung). Khunde is where Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb Mt. Everest in 1953, built a school for grades one through twelve. Children come from communities all over to attend, sometimes walking as much as 5-7 miles each way.

The next stop is Khumjung and the highest bakery in the world. How does this sound after four hours of hiking? Sitting out on a deck, surrounded by towering mountains, including Mt. Everest, drinking hot tea and eating homemade apple pie. Doesn't get any better!

From there we walk to the Everest View Hotel. This is a hotel built 20 years ago by the Japanese with the intention of flying people in to an airport located in Syangboche (shang bo shay), about a quarter of a mile from the hotel.

Because the hotel is situated at 12,100 ft., those who flew in from Kathmandu at 4,200 ft. developed altitude sickness within 24 hours. To counteract this they placed oxygen bottles in the room, but they had very little effect on the acclimatization process. Then to top it off the government shut down the airport at Syangboche, meaning that the well-heeled Japanese would now be forced to fly into Lukla at 9,200 ft. and then walk for a minimum of three days to the hotel.

Disaster strikes -- the shutter on my camera breaks, a camera with multiple-lens capability of 35mm to 300mm. I go into Namche looking for the impossible -- a store that can rent me a camera. Talk about luck, the third store I enter the owner has a personal camera of his own exactly like mine, no I take that back, it's the newer version of mine. Talk about remarkably unselfish people -- he rents it to me for 200 rupies (Rs) a day, or about $2.50 a day.

Next begins the organization process, getting my stuff ready for night. And then it's outside to perform a magic show for the porters, sherpas, and children who had assembled in the area. I also brought some pictures of my family from home which they are delighted to see. Then it's another sumptuous dinner and off to bed to await what is to come tomorrow.