Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ama Dablam: In Pangboche

In Pangboche
20 October 2014

Greetings from the Ama team,
Tina and Fiona with one of the many Chortens along
the path with Ama in the background

I write this dispatch from the inside of Phutashi Sherpa's small tea house in upper Pangboche. A stove in the centre of the room pumps out heat and the pheromones of juniper and yak dung, as a kettle sits on top heating what soon will become our next glass of tea. Trekkers and hikers from around the world share the warmth and trade stories while the afternoon clouds are billowing across the peaks above. Idyllic would be an inappropriate adjective to describe just how pleasant this situation is.

We departed a chilly Namche around 8am, traversing across the slopes under Khumjung. Thamserku remained on our right all morning, with its hanging glacier pouring dramatically off its north face, like a river frozen in time. Ama Dablam and Everest captured our view straight ahead, taunting us as we travelled along the dirt and stone path.

Numerous chortens dotted the trail, memorials for individuals who have played significant roles in the Khumbu, such as Sherpa Tenzing. We passed a man chanting prayers on the trail, asking for donations. His name is Pasang Lama Sherpa, and his whole life's goal for the last 50+ years has been to "build, mend, and maintain the main trail to Everest Base Camp with high spirit and solemn determination." He started on his own, but over the years has enlisted the help of three or four more Sherpa who are the sole caretakers of the trail. As the trail is not a government funded project, his work has been entirely funded by donations.

We stopped for tea along the way in Phunki Tega (or what we like to call funky town), a chance for us to hydrate and prepare for the hills ahead. We are getting to the point where the altitude can really be felt, so we downshifted and paced ourselves up the hill to Tangboche. In Tangboche we stopped to enjoy an excellent bakery item, and allow the acclimatisation process to continue. Even though we could perhaps move along more quickly, it is wise to travel slowly and never work until we are out of breath. Everyone on the team is doing quite well, which means our relaxing pace shall continue!

Descending from Tangboche to the river below Pangboche took us through a wooded dirt path, shaded with rhododendron trees and soft from decomposing leaves. We trekked alongside the river for sometime, with small Sherpa villages popping up from time to time. The smell of wood burning from their kitchens mixed with the cold alpine air and soggy ground created an intoxicating autumnal aroma, one that suggests winter is coming. Along this section of trail we passed Sangay Dorje, one of our climbing sherpa, who had picked up four young yaks to take to his home in Khumjung.

We arrived here in Pangboche just after 4pm, in time for the clouds to roll in and the temperature to drop. Currently our dinner order has been placed and we look forward to quiet rest tonight. Tomorrow our goal is to further acclimatise by going for a hike and remaining up high as long as we can. Hopefully we can find a nice vista to pause at, as they can be challenging to find here in the Himalaya... I do hope sarcasm translates.

Until tomorrow - cheers from the Ama Dablam team.

Andrew Yasso

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