Since there's zero chance of me producing proper dispatches of the Nepal trek until after I've finished this little series of books I'm working on, herewith a few highlight photos (republished, i.e. rescued, from facebook which the two people I'm most keen, perhaps, to share these with, Mark & Tim, ain't on). All images expand (a lot) when clicked.
Three Passes of Everest Trek Day -2: It's precisely as if I've been buying kit my whole life. Twenty-four hours from departure, and I'm still not done.
Day -1: Heathrow Terminal 5, baby! Next stop, Delhi.
Day 1: World's Most Dangerous Airport, caught on home video. (Lukla, where the runway slopes 28 degrees because otherwise it would be too short for anything to land on or take off from.) Told this was an exceptionally smooth landing, with almost no winds.
Day 2: Best suspension bridge(s) so far. And deepest river gorge I've ever seen never mind had to climb up out of…
Day 3: Namche Bazaar, 3440m. Last bit of civilisation before the high elevations, the passes, and Everest Base Camp. (Our "light acclimatisation day," by the way, involved climbing up out of that bowl to 3,880m…)
Day 4: Up the Bhoti Khossi River valley to Thame birthplace of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, as well as Apa Sherpa, who broke the world record for Everest Summits with 15 then broke his own record six times, and still holds it. Photo taken from hike up to Buddhist monastery that overlooks the village and the valley.
Day 6: The first pass, Renjo La, 5360m. Glowering over Gokyo Lake there are Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu the 1st, 4th, and 5th highest peaks in the world. Getting up here involved a nearly unbroken 1,000-meter/5-hour ascent starting in subzero temperatures and, by the end, in air with about half the oxygen content you might be used to followed by another 3 hours to get down the other side. Now, luckily, I'm far too tired to roll over and die… but if I could I'd die happy. :)
Day 7: Day hike out to 4th & 5th (hidden) of Gokyo's sacred lakes. Glorious, but a bit of a death march, and too ambitious after yesterday. Morale issues. Have decided to take an extra day in Gokyo to recover physically, recharge emotionally, and just sleep another night at 4800m (i.e. acclimatise).
Day 8: Summit of Gokyo Ri, 5300m. This was always the crown jewel of the trip for me, and is said by some to be a contender for best view in the world. (And well-earned, Josh basically a steep and rocky 500m ascent straight up. Thanks also for teaching me to ask the right question.) That's Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu again, over my right shoulder, but closer, as well as some peaks actually in Tibet, the Ngojumba glacier and the first three sacred lakes of the Gokyo valley. And a lot of lovely prayer flags.
Darby, looking back on the ascent to Cho La, the second pass.
Obligatory Everest Base Camp trophy photo. Getting here involved crossing a moraine a vast lunar wastescape of boulders and dust, left after a glacier blasts through in a freezing howling wind, then out onto the ice fell, which is like some Nordic conception of hell done in ice rather than fire. To come here is folly. "Behold, I have seen all things that are done underneath the sun, and all is vanity and chase after the wind." Ecclesiastes 2:11
There she is: the mountain with four names: Everest to us Westerners; before that, briefly, Peak XV; in Nepali, it's Sagarmatha "head in the sky"; and, sacred to the Sherpa people, she's Chomalungma "Goddess Mother of the Earth".
This one's brought to you live from the summit of Kala Patthar, by the way, 5545m (18,192 feet) certainly the highest I will ever get outside a pressurised cabin.
The last 150 metres of ascent (that invisible dot of coloured roofs over Darby's shoulder is Leboche, where we started the day), as well as the view over the other side of… Kongma-La (5470m or 17,946 feet), the third & final pass!!!
Now we are officially *descending*, which means: drinking, showers, and no more getting winded pulling on a pair of socks! In this ascent, we actually had to pick our way up a frozen mountain stream nothing takes your mind off a crushing high-elevation climb like trying not to die…
The Imja River Valley on the other side of the pass is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. A crushingly long and hard pass-crossing day. But also, perhaps, my best day.
Drinking, yay, with Darby & Aakash… so much more than our guide and group leader the third member of our trek, and our great friend.
Spent my last day in Nepal visiting the amazing Olgapuri Children's Village home to 75 boys & girls, as young as two-and-a-half, all of whom are orphans or from homes/parents unable to care for them, and some of whom are disabled.
Here they have housing, dining, play & study areas, a library, a basketball court, dogs & puppies, and a large sustainable vegetable garden that provides much of their food. They only moved in in September the culmination of 2.5 years of work & dreams but here they will have a safe & happy home all the way through high school.
The kids, & staff, were all just totally lovely, and it was such a privilege to get to visit.
It turned out, after the fact, that in addition to keeping us alive, performing mountain medicine, leading us through the wilderness, explaining the culture and religions of Nepal, and basically taking care of every single thing (and being hilarious and fantastic all day long), Aakash was masterfully photo-documenting our trip, too. Naturally.
Dispatch from the Razor's Edge is owned and operated by novelist, technologist, vegan, exercise junkie, classical liberal, rambler, and Londoner Michael Stephen Fuchs.
Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)
Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some verylongwalks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.
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