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DAY SIX 14,200 ft. - 15,600 ft. - 14,200 ft. -- Acclimatization Day
Today's a rest day, an acclimatization day, but a day in which we will take a hike that I have been looking forward to since I started planning this trip over a year ago. We will hike to the town of Chukhung (choo kung), altitude 15,600 ft.

We're only an hour into the hike and I have to keep pinching myself to believe that what I'm seeing is real -- the dark, sandy tundra barren from any form of life but scrub brush . . . the milky blue river . . . the pristine, majestic mountains . . . and the rich blue sky emblazon a picture forever in my memory. I am snapping picture after picture with my camera, but no photograph will ever show the magnitude of the scene I am now witnessing.

We stop at a little teahouse for lunch. Most of these teahouses have no electricity and this one is no different. In the center of the room is a stove fueled by wood which serves not only as the main cooking source but also is the only source of heat. The room is extremely smoky as are many of the teahouses in Nepal. This stems from the misconception that if the vent above the wood stove is open, excessive heat will be lost. Hence, close the vent and retain the heat and, unfortunately, all the smoke as well.

So here we are at 15,200 ft. drinking a hot cup of chicken noodle soup surrounded by mountains, the majority of which would dwarf those in the continental United States. The temperatures today have been in the mid-forties, but with the high altitude and the sun I find myself perspiring in my short-sleeved shirt.

At 1:30 we start to head back down to camp because we know by the time we get there the sun will have gone behind the mountains and the temperature will drop into the low thirties.

It's been six days now with no shower, but the hot washing water they bring to my tent early in the evening helps create the best sponge bath I've ever enjoyed. The real challenge is to take all my clothes off in the tent, which is just a thin sheet of canvas, to enjoy the sponge bath. After all, you've got to change your underwear sometime, or at the very least turn it inside out.

Another challenge is my towels. I brought three of them, and because they are cotton they will not dry. To the contrary, they freeze. So a sponge bath using hot water at freezing temperatures, then drying with a wet, frozen towel is an interesting challenge. One lesson I have learned -- "cotton kills" -- polypropylene is the best because it wicks away the moisture and will dry. The only way to wash and dry my cotton undershorts is to hang them on the back of my pack as I walk in the sun during the day. Every time I take the pack off to rest, I vigorously rub the frozen underwear and rehang it on the pack. I repeat this procedure throughout the day at the higher, colder altitudes until they are completely dry.

Dinner is always preceded by hot soup and it never tasted so good as it did tonight. We all retire to our respective tents at 7:30 and for the next 11 hours I have the deepest sleep I've had in a long, long time.