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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
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.