2002 Island Peak Cybercast

Dispatch #11:  11/4/02, 1:30pm, Kathmandu, Nepal
Hello everyone from the Yak n' Yeti Hotel in Kathmandu.

Wow. What a great time last night and a chaotic Khumbu exit this morning. We arrived in Kathmandu around 9 a.m., Monday November 4th. We had our celebration last night in Lukla after a nice but long walk from Namche Bazaar. It was a grand affair, Sherpa style. After our dinner we invited all of our staff into the dining area of the Namaste Lodge. Robert offered some kind words to our staff thanking them for their unrelenting help and kindness. I know they appreciated his obvious gratitude. I then expressed how indebted I was to their help on a trip such as this. The staff is really the backbone to a trek or expedition in the Nepal Himalaya.

After passing out tips for the staff we started the party. Lhakpa Rita and Gopal became the de facto ringleaders with Lhakpa as the DJ and Gopal the dance king. Gopal looks as though he were born on the dance floor with his traditional meets modern Nepali style. As a Magar, dancing and music are an integral part of growing up. Lhakpa was mixing up the Western and Nepali selections while everyone got into the dancing. Despite the close quarters (we had to kick out another trekking group to utilize the space- they were too boring anyway) we almost had the entire group dancing at one time. Everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly with plenty of chaang flowing freely. Our group was amused by Kumar and Lhakpa Nuru constantly walking around with a warm pot of chaang asking "more Sherpa juice? more Sherpa juice?" Krystof and Robert were particularly enthusiastic and brought out some old school dance moves with a 'Nepali twist'. Lhakpa Rita had a hard time keeping his butt in a chair also. He was dancing so much he started to slack on his DJ duties. At one point Dave Strine 'treated' us with a solo dance routine on top of a table to the 80's Cure classic "In Between Days". Without a doubt a good time was had by all.

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and we all got ready from the send off. The Lukla airport was particularly busy as many people are ending their treks at this time and returning to Kathmandu. The domestic flights are going through a major push towards more security screening yet the terminals were not built in anticipation of this. The result is certain chaos with many groups trying to get their bags and bodies through the screening in time to make their flight. The last of us made it out to the tarmac with a minute or two to spare. The flight was beautiful as we had clear skies the whole way back.

Everyone spent the afternoon doing some shopping and emailing or calling home. Tonight we are heading to Fire and Ice for some excellent Italian pizza. We will have our final celebration dinner tomorrow night along with Jiban, Lhakpa Rita and Gopal. Then most travel home on the 6th.

It has been a wonderful trip for myself and the entire group. It is an absolute treat to be able to work and guide with Lhakpa Rita Sherpa who is always conscientious, considerate, and of course very strong. The members of this group were also a pleasure to trek and climb with. I believe everyone will have great laughs, highs and lows, new friends and beautiful sights to recall. The Khumbu is a special place and we'll all have special memories. I'll certainly remember Phil's laughter, Martin's sarcasm, Krystof's jokes, Ben's wit, Susan's perkiness, Robert's knowledge, Doug's patience, Scott's drive, Dave's even keel, Kurt's calmness, and Fred's grouchy smile.

Thanks again to our Nepali staff and everyone who helped on our trip. The group will be seeing all of you friends and family shortly.

Goodbye from Nepal, Dave Morton and the Group

Dispatch #10:  11/2/02, 1:30pm, Namche, Nepal
Namaste from Namche Bazaar. The group arrived Saturday afternoon in Namche around 1:30 pm. Everyone feels that we're back in the big city after being higher in the Khumbu! The trip from Deboche this morning was a relaxing walk as everyone was taking lots of photos and stopping to look at views we know we won't be seeing from some time. Deboche turned out to be one of the favorites for a couple of the group. It doesn't get much attention being nestled up against the famous Tengboche monastery but it is a beautiful spot. Deboche is the home of the 'Quiet Gompa' which is the only all female monastery or nunnery in the region. In the early 1900's demand for a monastic life for females increased and this Gompa was founded as a sort of sister Gompa to Tengboche in 1928. The compound itself is nestled among the rhododendron forests and easy to miss if you don't know to look. It has an unassuming yet very pretty main prayer hall.

We spent some time in Tengboche this morning as well, photographing angles we thought we missed the first time around. Many of the group also walked out behind the monastery to a spot well known for it's views into the Gokyo Valley. The climb back up towards Namche felt to everyone as if we were at sea level again. Lhakpa and I had a hard time keeping up!

It definitely feels as though we are getting near the end of our time here in the Himalaya. I know how fast the return to our "normal lives" happens. The city quickly becomes familiar and the feel of simple days on a trek in the mountains gets lost. I know everyone is looking forward to returning to those important people and roles in their respective lives but we are all planning on making the most of the last couple of days and nights. Tomorrow night in Lukla we will have a celebration with and for the Sherpa and Nepali staff that have been with us throughout the trip. There will be plenty of chaang, beer, and the famous (or infamous) Everest Whisky. Chaang is a local "beer" made from rice. It is a sort of thick and frothy fermented rice drink. Everyone will have the chance to try some and the opportunity to have too much along with the staff.

Everyone in the group has been shown the well-known hospitality of the people here. I've heard the remark "what are they laughing at now?" over and over from our group. Whether or not it is 12:00 a.m. and we are getting an early climbing start or late on a cold night cleaning up, our new Nepali friends are always smiling or laughing. The group was totally impressed with the two 'cook boys' who came up to the edge of the glacier at nearly 19,000 ft. to greet us after our summit with juice and hot water. There is no question that the locals here live a difficult life with certain hardships that most westerners aren't accustomed to. Romantic notions of people living high in the mountains and off of the land is an unfortunate way of viewing people whose needs for development are just as important as ours. Fortunately there are many organizations working to build the infrastructure and schools that the Sherpa people want while keeping a healthy respect for Sherpa history and culture. Regardless of the changing realities for the people of these regions nearly everyone who comes here notices the warmth and compassion that the Sherpa and Nepali people show.

Among our staff we have three different castes. The Hindu-based caste system of the dominant people of Nepal classified the different ethnicities from the mountains as castes. Therefore the Sherpa are considered their own caste. We also have Rai and Magars with us on this trip. Rai and Magars are both middle and low hill people and together represent a significant part of the Nepali population. Over time Rai and Magars have come to include both Buddhist and Hindu worshippers. I'm going to take the opportunity in this cybercast to mention and thank all of the staff who helped on this trek.

As you already know our lead Sherpa or Sirdar was Lhakpa Rita Sherpa. Mingma Chirri Sherpa worked as a climbing Sherpa. We also had Pemba Nuru Sherpa, Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa and Kumar Rai working as trekking guides. (Gopal) Dilbahdur Thapa Magar was the head cook on this trip as he is on many of our treks and expeditions. Mingma Lamu Sherpa, Mingma Phurti Sherpa and Ang Sona Sherpa all helped serve us and assist cooking. The rest of the staff helped in the kitchen and acted as porters for food and kitchen equipment: Indra Limbu, Kubi Rai, Arjun Rai, Milan Rai, Tika Raj Rai, and Raam Kumar Magar. All of the Sherpa also acted as yak drivers for our procession of yaks. Thank you all.

Tomorrow we will descend to Lukla and spend the night. We will have an early flight on Monday with hopefully not too many hangovers. I will try to get another message off tomorrow. If not we'll touch base upon returning to Kathmandu.

All our best, Dave and the rest of the group

Dispatch #9:  11/1/02, 3:30pm, Pangboche, Nepal
Hello once again everyone, Today is Friday November 1st, right now we are in the village of Pangboche en route to Deboche for the night.  We've had quite an eventful last couple of days.  On Tuesday Night we arrived at our base camp at the base of Island Peak.  Island Peak's local name is Imja Tse and the Valley is the Imja Valley.  It is surrounded by peaks on all sides with the only outlet being to trace one's steps or pass over the Amphu-Lapsta Pass at 19,000 feet into the Hinku Valley, you would then be in the Makalu region.

We spent the first evening settling in and getting used to the colder temps.  We had fairly windy conditions for the duration of our time on Island Peak.  On Wednesday we had a lazy morning waiting for the sun to hit our tents before we stirred.  After our late breakfast we spent the morning reviewing fixed line use and other skills.  After that it was an afternoon spent milling around camp, meeting the other teams and wandering the moraines around camp.  We hit the tents early after a quick dinner.  Our alarm consisted of the kitchen crew cranking the stoves up at about 12:30.  We were up and moving out of camp at around quarter to two.  

Scott unfortunately got a stomach bug Wednesday afternoon and Doug decided to stay with him to help out.  Martin also had been battling a Khumbu cough which has taken its toll on his energy levels.  About 45 minutes outside of camp Robert was having a hard time with his traction and balance so Mingma and I stopped in to look at his boots and found one sole was gone and the other was peeling off. They both came clean off to my total dismay and to Mingma's total amusement.  They had been fine the day before and we couldn't figure out a solution so Robert ended up retreating back to camp. The kitchen crew back at Base Camp didn't find it amusing they found it hilarious.  Martin's throat got the best of him up high on the glacier and he descended with Mingma.  The rest of us continued up the first fixed lines and were treated to a major blast of wind on the summit ridge.  That was the downside, the upside was the clear views of Makalu's West face and a view of Lhotse's face so close we thought we could touch it.  We ascended the beautiful summit ridge past a couple more steep sections to arrive on the summit.  Fred and Kurt remained  just below the actual summit out of the wind, while Krystof, Phil Dave Lhakpa and myself took a round of photos up top at almost 20,500 feet.  We all headed down for the long walk back to base camp and arrived at around 3:00pm.  It was a beautifully clear day despite the strong winds and everyone was asleep before 8:00pm.  

Tonight we'll be spending the night in the thick air of Deboche at around 12,000 feet.  Everyone is a bit tired from the past days and looking forward to the Panorama Lodge tomorrow night in Namche Bazaar.  We'll call again tomorrow afternoon.  Everyone wishes their best to all out there and Phil wishes Connor a belated Happy Halloween.  All the best, Dave.

Dispatch #8:  10/29/02, 12:30pm, Chukkung, Nepal
Good morning everyone. Its October 29th and our group is waking up in the village of Chukkung at the base of Lhotse's south face. Today we will head up to our base camp for Island Peak. On Sunday we spent our last evening with Ben & Susan in Dingboche before they started back down towards Lukla & eventually Kathmandu. At this point they, along with Jiban, should be in Namche. On Sunday we opened a couple of bottles of cabernet from the states and had a couple of toasts to a great journey. Ben & Susan had a tremendous time & made their destinations of the summit of Kala Pattar & Everest Base Camp. Susan had the special treat of being in charge of driving our 12 yaks from Dugla to Dingboche for an hour or so while our Yak drivers ate lunch. She looked as through she had been doing it all of her life. The yak drivers caught up and commended her on a job well done. She was so affected she's working on memorizing all 12 of their names!

Monday morning we woke up late, took some group photos, said goodbye to our friend Sona Hisi at Sonam friendship lodge, and headed out to Chukkung. It was a short day for us as we arrived in Chukkung in time for lunch. There are awesome views of the northern aspect of Ama Dablam en route to Chukkung

We spent another clear night out in tents while enjoying the warmth of the lodges for sitting, eating & talking. Everyone had a good chance to size up Island Peak as we have had good views of the peak for the last two days

Island Peak sits in a spectacular location with the backdrop of the snowy Shartse I II, the pyramidal cone of the Cho Polu, and the immense south face of Lhotse.

The excitement is building for our climb which should happen on October 31, weather permitting. Today we move on to base camp with a rest and review tomorrow. The following day we will head for the summit and probably arrive on top at the same time Ben, Susan & Jiban fly out to Lukla. Lhakpa Rita & Mingma Chiri will join myself and the rest of the group on the climb. On the 1st we will start our return to Lukla, seeing more friends along the way and time to see more of the monasteries and village gompas. We will talk to you soon. All the best, Dave

Dispatch #7:  10/27/02, 10:20am, Dingboche, Nepal
Namaste it's Sunday October 27th and we're en route from Gorak Shep to Dingboche.  It's another spectacular day in the Khumbu.  Yesterday went really well and everyone was more than ready for bed t an early hour.  The group that went to Everest Base Camp was treated to great stories of Everest climbing by Lhakpa Rita as well as explanations of the chortens and prayer flags still remaining from this Fall's Everest expeditions.  Lhakpa became the resident teacher as every Western group showed up with guides knowing little of Everest and climbing.  There apparently was a good impromptu question and answer session.  The group that went up Kala Pattar again had a great time borrowing and exchanging lenses for more photos at a different time of day than previously.  I wanted to get out a few belated personal messages today before saying goodbye;

First off Fred says, "To Deb, words cannot express the beauty and how much I miss you.  P.S. Tell Magda to watch the cybercast."

Krystof says, "Same as Fred, I love you, Krystof."

Dave Strine says, " To friends, family and Miss Horan's class, this is a remarkable experience, staying healthy, I can't wait to tell you about it."

From Doug to Barb: "It's amazing we're sitting in the tent listening to Copeland in the shadow of Mt. Everest, life is good, Love Doug."

Susan says to the Throndrud Family: "Great trip, great guys, all 11, I just finished In Harm's Way and I'm bringing it home to you Dad, see you soon, Love Susan."

Phil says: "To Tammy and Connor and family and friends, having an amazing time, love you and miss you. P.S. Connor, Phil has a couple of Yak stories for you." 

So that's all for messages, we'll talk to you tomorrow or the next day, look for a message in the next couple of days, we'll be in Dingboche tonight and we want to send all of our best wishes to everyone out there, bye bye.

Dispatch #6:  10/26/02, 2:00pm, Gorak Shep, Nepal
Howdy from Gorak Shep on the 26th of October, I'm sitting in my tent looking out the open vestibule at Nuptse and the very top of Mt. Everest.  It's 2:00pm and still perfectly clear, we've been blessed with absolutely stellar weather here in Gorak Shep both yesterday and today.  Gorak Shep is the closest point marked on a map to Everest Base Camp.  It is named for the ever-present Goraks which inhabit these upper regions, Everest Base Camp in particular, they are large scavenging crows really.  Fred, Krystof, Doug, Martin and I are waiting for the rest of the group to return from Base Camp.  

Today Fred, Martin and I went up to Kala Pattar once more while Mingma Tseri took Doug and Krystof on a Khumbu Glacier mini-tour.  Lhakpa Rita is with the rest of the group touring Base Camp I'm sure he is doing a bit of story-telling as well from his many Everest expedition and five Mount Everest summits.  

Yesterday the whole group left Lobuche early in the morning and we made our way up to Gorak Shep for an early lunch before heading up Kala Pattar.  Kala Pattar is a prominent point which sits at the base of the South Face of Pumori and has phenomenal views of Everest Lhotse, and Nuptse, not to mention many other high peaks in this part of the Himalaya.  Lhakpa Rita and I had a fun time pointing out many important features of Mt. Everest, including the South Col, Southwest Face, South Pillar, Hornbein Couloir, the South Summit, West Ridge and Shoulder and many more.  We also all talked about a bit about the  Great American ascent of the West Ridge in 1963 by Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld.  It was the third ascent of the mountain and it was done in a bold style.  You can see much of the upper part of that route from Kala Pattar.  At 18,200 feet it was the high point for many in our group which was exciting.  Everyone is safe and feeling good today.  

Last night we had a great time in tight quarters, there are few lodges in Gorak Shep and so everyone gets cozy and we pack the dining areas.  We all had a good laugh seeing how much people we could pack into a small room which was already filled with smoke from the heating stove.  We'll do it again tonight and in the morning head out and descend to the village of Dingboche.  We'll be there Sunday night and have a grand farewell to Susan and Ben as they head down towards Lukla to fly back to Kathmandu on October 31st.  Jiban will be accompanying them on heir last few days.  That's all for now and we'll give you a call tomorrow on Sunday the 27th.  Everyone here sends their love and thoughts to family and friends, bye bye.   

Dispatch #5:  10/24/02, 4:20pm, Lobuche, Nepal
Namaste from Lobuche, it is October 24th and it is a beautiful day in the Khumbu Valley.  This afternoon we are enjoying some tea and hors d'oeuvres prepared by our wonderful cook Gopal.  The views over the past few days have been phenomenal due to the excellent weather.  We've been having clear skies until late in the afternoon.  We spent two nights in Pheriche nestled below Kalache peak and the north side of Ama Dablam.  Yesterday in Pheriche we took a nice walk up higher and had our first clear view of Island Peak.  Everybody was extremely excited to see the summit of Island and are looking forward to getting over there just a few days from now.  We also had great views of the village of Dingboche  where we'll be on Sunday.  We also visited yesterday the Himalayan Rescue Association's Clinic and listened to the daily talk regarding altitude related illness.  This year they're conducting research on how Gingko Biloba affects acclimatization.  There have been small studies in the past stating that Gingko helps acclimatization, but this year they are attempting to do a larger more definitive study with the goal of 600 participants.  Two of our group have volunteered to help out with this including Jiban our trekking agent in Nepal.  

Jiban has joined our trek this year and is now one day away from getting up Kala Pattar, this is Jiban's first time up this high in the Khumbu and we arte having a great time with him.  This morning we left Pheriche about 8am and had an enjoyable slow hike up to Lobuche, stopped for a quick bite to eat at Dukla which sits right at the base of the old terminal moraine of the Khumbu Glacier.  We are finally close to Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar.  From our lunch spot in Dukla we also had spectacular views of Lobuche peak as well as the north faces of Cholatse and Palache. 

Our hike from Dukla to Lobuche took us past the famous Sherpa memorial which is an area that has many chortens built as memorials to climbers who have passed away in these high mountains.  It is both a sobering reminder of the power of nature in the mountain as well as a great memorial to many people who have lived full lives with a spirit of adventure and a love of the mountains. We reached Lobuche at around 2:30 pm and nestled in  here at the Eco-Lodge.  The whole team is amazed at how nice we have it after hearing stories of how miserable Lobuche can be.  Tomorrow morning we will depart early in order to arrive at the top of Kala Pattar at around noon.  We hope to get to the summit before the afternoon clouds cover our views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Pumori.  After Kala Pattar we'll descend to Gorak Shep for a late lunch and to spend the night out at 5300m.   The following day many of us will go to Everest Base Camp while others go up to Kala Pattar again for more photos at a different time of day,  All the Everest expeditions have already come and gone for the season but we'll still get a closer view of the famous Khumbu Ice Fall. Everyone here is well and is anticipating the next couple of days.  We'll talk to you soon, all our best Dave and everyone else.  

Dispatch #4:  10/21/02, 1:15pm, Thame, Nepal
Hello again from the Khumbu today is October 21st, and I'm calling from Deboche, just twenty minutes from the famous Tengboche Monastery.  We woke up this morning to a gloriously clear day in Kunde.  We spent the night in tents last night and ate dinner in a very cozy Sherpa home.  Traditional Sherpa homes are called Sherpa khangba.  Most have a main square or rectangular room which has bench-type seating lining each wall.  In the center nowadays there is some type of stove to heat the room with.  Last night we stayed up later than usual in this type of room.  We stayed up later in the usual in the event that we made it to 9:30 though.  This morning we left Kunde by way of the Kunde Hospital.  The hospital is staffed year-round by Canadian and Kiwi doctors who volunteer for a two-year position. Soon there will be a full-time Sherpa Doctor who is training abroad.  His name is Kami Sherpa from Thame and previously he was medical assistant at the hospital for many years.  It was an interesting visit especially for our two doctors, Fred and Chris.

We did hike on to Tengboche Monastery where we spent the afternoon.  Tengboche was founded early in the 20th Century, around 1920 and has become one of the most successful important monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism.  Much of that success has been due to the monastery support of Western Tourism and the help of the American Himalayan Foundation. The support has helped keep the monastery thriving and able to give excellent education to the many young monks who live here in the Monastery.

It was the beginning of the yearly Mani Rimdu festival at Tengboche.  We were able to watch the practice for the ritual dances which take place4 two days from now.  These are the same dances just without the elaborate costumes that they wear on the day of the actual dances.  These dances depict the symbolic triumph of Buddhism as well as other dances depicting other mythologies of Buddhism.  Tomorrow there will be blessing through out the day in the courtyard of the temple.  Tengboche is also important in the history of Everest expeditions.  Ever since Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay summited Everest from the South in 1953, expeditions have come here to receive blessings from the Rinpoche for success and protection on the expedition.

Our camp here in Deboche is situated for a perfect view of the top of Everest and also Ama Dablam and Lhotse's south face.  We've been lucky to have very low cloud cover all throughout the afternoon.  Usually by this time of the day it's been cloudy and we've had clear mornings.  It is usually cloudy in the afternoon this time of year.  Tomorrow we'll be making the trek to Pheriche where we will be spending the next few nights in order to acclimatize more before heading on the Kala Pattar.  Everyone is feeling extremely well. and next time we'll try to do some personal messages.  So we'll speak with you tomorrow or the following day from Pheriche.  Wishing everyone the best, Dave.

Dispatch #3:  10/20/02, 8:15am, Thame, Nepal
Namaste everyone. It is Sunday, October 20th in Nepal. We are currently on our way from Thame to Khunde in clear skies and a very pleasant temperature. Last night we spent the night in Thame, Lhakpa's hometown. The route from Namche to Thame is a very gradual incline through some of the nicest forests of the trip. Along the way we passed the Phurte Nursery which is a one of the many projects funded by the Hillary Foundation. At this nursery they are in part working to reforest much of the Khumbu Valley which was devastated by deforestation in the 70's when tourism outpaced the ability to sustain the forests. Wood has been the primary heating and cooking fuel source in this region. When the need to service to tourism added to the local needs, deforestation began. Once the Sagarmatha National Park was established cutting wood in many areas was banned. Many people now use kerosene and wood which is brought in from other regions able to handle the demand. There is also the ever present yak dung fuel which is effective and quite inexpensive!

This morning we went to visit the Thame Monastery. It was a beautiful morning- we couldn't have asked for better weather. As we walked from our lodge up to the Monastery (or Gompa) we had a perfect view up the Thame valley towards the Nangpa La. The Nangpa La is the pass which acts as a border and separates Nepal from Tibet. It's elevation is 5,700 meters and it has long been used as a trade route between the Sherpa and Tibetan people. In the 1500's it was this pass which the present day Sherpas crossed to come into the Khumbu Valley and become the Sherpa people of today. This area survived without tourism for 450 years before Nepal was opened to tourism in the 1950s. We arrived early at the Monastery and were able to have a blessing from the Rinpoche or head lama of the Gompa. He came from the Rowaling valley which butts up against the Khumbu Valley. In fact, Thame sits at the point where two valleys meet: one is the one which was just described as having come from Tibet and the other comes from the Rowaling Valley.

After our meeting with the Rinpoche we left with our blessed khatas (scarves) around our necks and headed to Lhakpa Rita's family home for tea. We spent some time with Lhakpa's mother and then headed out for Khunde. It was a wonderful time and everyone really enjoyed the experience.  We will be in Khunde tonight which is an important village that sits above Namche Bazaar and next to the village of Khumjung. Khumjung was the site of the first school built in the area by the Hillary Foundation. Lhakpa Rita attended this school before finishing his schooling in Kathmandu.

Everyone is having a great time and doing exceptionally well. Doug, Scott, Dave, Susan, Robert, Kurt, Martin, Ben, Phil, Krys and Fred all say hi to their loved ones. I think we will be able to send out a couple of personalized messages on our next cybercast. Tomorrow we will move on to Tengboche and see a bit of the Mani Rimdu festival there. We'll tell you about it tomorrow or early the next day!
All our best,
Dave and the Group!

Dispatch #2:  10/18/02, 7:00am, Namche, Nepal
Hello from Namche Bazaar. Today is the morning of Oct. 18th in Nepal. We have had a pleasant journey from Kathmandu to Namche over the past two days. It started with a spectacular flight from Kathmandu to Lukla - an exceptionally clear day. We had great views of the Langtang Himal including the peaks of Langtang Lirung and Langtang Ri, both over 7,000 meters. We then passed closely by Guari Shankar which was a treat. Guari Shankar is a massive hulk of sheer faces and walls with sharp ridges. We could see the peaks of the Rowaling Valley as well. After landing in Lukla we spent some time organizing all of our porter loads and pack animal loads. Instead of using Yaks between Lukla and Namche Bazaar we use Dzopkyos. Dzopkyos are male cross breeds of a yak and a cow. They are used at lower elevations where yaks have difficulties. As we get higher we will use both yaks and dzopkyos for our loads. 

We left Lukla with our students from the Dorji School in tow and headed to Phakding. We spent the night there, on the edge of the Dudh Kosi river. Everyone was excited to be on the trail and in the crisp air of the mountains. We broke our camp early yesterday morning and began the walk up up up to Namche Bazaar. After a leisurely lunch in the small village of Monju we finally entered the Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park. After a few more crossings of the Dudh Kosi we arrived at the point which marks the beginning of the true hill to Namche. We were lucky to have thick cloud cover for the climb. Everyone did exceptionally well and we arrived in Namche early in the afternoon. 

Namche is the central hub of the Khumbu region and serves as a commercial center for all of the Sherpa villages above. Later this afternoon the weekly market ('haat' or 'bazaar' in Nepali) begins. Most of the buying and selling occurs tomorrow morning and by afternoon it will be finished. We will visit the market in the morning and then make a relaxing 2-3 hour walk to Thame, Lhakpa Rita's hometown. Namche Bazaar is also the birthplace and hometown of Gyaltsen Nawang Tenzing, the Rinpoche of Tengboche monastery which we will visit in a few days time. He was the first of the Sherpa clan discovered to be a reincarnate Tibetan Buddhist Lama after the first Tibetan Rinpoche passed away. 

This morning our group is going to do an acclimatization hike up to the Everest View Hotel near Syangboche. It looks as though we will have superbly clear skies for our first views of Tengboche, Mt. Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. Later this afternoon we'll deliver a package of supplies to our friend at the Namche dental clinic which we brought up from Kathmandu. Tomorrow evening we'll be calling in from Thame after having dinner with Lhakpa Rita's family. All our best from Dave and the rest of the group.

Dispatch #1:  10/16/02, 7:56am, Kathmandu, Nepal
Hello and Namaste everyone, this is Dave Morton with the Alpine Ascents 2002 Autumn Everest Base Camp Trek and Island Peak climb.  On Monday Everyone flew safely into Kathmandu.  The arrival coincided with an important day of the Hindu Dasain Festival.  Many sacrifices were made to the Hindu God Kali as part of the standard tradition this day of Dasain.  This tradition then includes adorning vehicles with flowers and a bit of blood from the sacrifices for protection and of course our transport was included in this so we had a safe ride to the beautiful Yak & Yeti Hotel.

Yesterday we had an interesting tour through three important Kathmandu Temples, Pashupatinath, Bodnath, and Swayambunath. We used some circuitous routes to these temples due to the continuing Dasain Festival. Yesterday many people lined the streets outside of the hotel to wait in line for a Royal Tika, or blessing, from the King.   Most people are at home this day giving Tikas to each other, the elders give Tikas to the younger people in the family, but those people without families usually go to get their blessings from the King.

Because of that we had a few detours, also yesterday a famous Nepali painter died early in the morning.  At the important Hindu temple Pashupatinath, then there were many admirers paying their last respects, he was cremated today in the temple on the edge of the Bagmati River.  So afterwards we continued on to the impressive Tibetan Buddhist Stupa, Bodnath, Evening prayers were just beginning so there was much to see and enjoy.  We also visited Dorji school, where the Alpine Ascents Foundation sponsors eight students at full board and today we're lucky enough to be traveling with these students to Lukla, they're returning to their homes in the Khumbu for the holidays. 

Then after Bodnath, we made it over to Swayambunath, or "the monkey temple" just before sunset and we ended up catching not only the sunset, but just before setting it began to drizzle and a large rainbow spanned almost the whole width of Kathmandu and you have a perfect view of Kathmandu from the monkey temple.  So everyone is excited to get to the Khumbu this morning, we have a 10:00 flight and after a quick lunch in Lukla we'll continue on to Phakding to spend our first night so we will be in touch soon. Bye bye.

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