Five must haves for trekking in Nepal

Below are five things I was most grateful to have in Nepal. There were dozens of other necessities that I was happy to have along the way, but these stood out most upon reflection.

  1. CLIF bars. When I got sick, they were the only thing I could eat without the risk of getting sicker. They were my breakfast and lunch. For dinner, I’d opt for steaming hot, well-boiled plain soup or French fries when available.
  2. iPhone 7 plus. I know it seems a little counter to trekking culture to have a piece of technology like an iPhone on the trail, but it was my camera and when on airplane mode, the battery was solid even in the freezing temperatures. It was lightweight, convenient to store in a jacket or pants pocket, and access quickly even with frozen fingers. When I happened to have wifi coverage in a village, it was easy enough to connect, send short texts to friends and family to let them know where I was, how things were going, etc. It also had a wealth of other uses, weather and temperature forecasts, access to social media, compass, calculator for currency conversion, a place to capture thoughts or ideas in an instant, and much more.
  3. Moleskine notebook. Most of the time I was too cold to write. I had to bury myself into my sleeping bag and position a flashlight just right so I could see the pen hit the page. Even then, my writing was barely legible because I’d be shivering and shaking so violently. Regardless, I was happy to have a journal, albeit mostly abridged, of my travels, my thoughts and feelings at the time, and descriptions of what happened along the trek.
  4. Antibiotics. Enough said. Word to the wise, do not go to Nepal without them and a lightweight, yet respectable first aid kit.
  5. Hard candy. These came in handy many times on the trek. They helped ease some of the mild altitude sickness and relieved dry mouth that comes with all the dirt along the lower part of the trek. Hard candy was also optimal treats to share with your sherpa, guide, porter, or other trekkers on the path. In addition, I often left a couple of them as small tokens of appreciation to the women who brought me a hot water bag for my sleeping bag.

I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve trekked in the mountains, what was on your must have list?


Kathmandu to Namche Bazaar

Namche Bazaar

After a day in Kathmandu, we flew on a single engine, fixed-wing plane into Lukla’s Tenzing-Hillary Airport, one of the most dangerous in the world. Busy, bustling, and situated at 9,383 feet, it’s the gateway to the Everest region. There is one runway for planes to take off and land. And they only get one shot at either.

Lukla airport runway

The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is not for the faint of heart. Like soaring on the wings of a bird, the aircraft reacts to every bump, gust, and air bubble along the way. Sit on the left side of the plane for the best view of the mountains including an ephemeral glimpse of Everest.

Once safely in Lukla, we started the trek thirty minutes after landing. The journey took about six hours to Monjo. If you didn’t break in your boots sufficiently before arriving in Sargamatha National Park, you’ll know it. This initial leg was where I realized my boots were not tied tight enough. Both feet sustained blisters, which required care for the remaining nineteen days.

The first two to three hours of the trek was mostly down hill. The road was comprised of stone, large rocks, boulders, and zho scat. It was also extremely dusty. Most of the porters wore bandanas or light buffs over their mouths to keep the crap out.

We spent the night in Monjo, and awoke to the sounds of roosters cawing and dogs barking.

The next day we trekked over several suspension bridges. There is no other way around so if you have a fear of heights, you’ll want to close your eyes and hold on. Or keep them open, feel the fear and do it anyway.

This is a shot of the Hillary Bridge, named after Edmund Hillary, downriver.

This is also a shot of the Edmund Bridge. My turn.

After a grueling trek of switchbacks and hot, dusty roads, we reached Namche Bazaar. Hotels, hostels, and rooms were plentiful in Namche, along with stores, restaurants, even a bar that played the old Everest documentary on certain nights. When I arrived in Namche, there was a grand opening for a bona fide The North Face store. (There are a ton of knockoffs, so buyer beware.) Anything you might have forgotten or could need for the trek ahead, you can probably find in Namche. I forgot nail clippers and was able to pick up one up with an intricate Chinese dragon soldered to it for a few bucks.

About an hour before sunset, we did a short but steep climb up seven or eight hundred steps to the Tenzing Norgay statue. From this vantage point you can see Mount Everest in the background with the sun’s golden rays illuminating the summit. Well worth the short excursion.

Most people recommend two nights in Namche for acclimatization. It’s definitely an easy place to hang out and spend time with many wifi-enabled bakeries and cafes.

My guide wanted me to see more of the Everest region, so in the morning, after a quick breakfast of porridge, toast and cheese, we set out for Tashinga. It was a relatively flat, quick trek and I did my acclimatization night there. The climb out of Namche was as beautiful as the climb in.


Packing list for trekking the Himalayas

cubshat

The Chicago Cubs have won the 2016 World Series. What a delight to be alive right now.

While the ticker tape parade was assembled, five million fans gathered in the streets of Chicago for the celebration. I only wish I could have been there. Instead I spent that time packing for the trek in the Himalayas. But rest assured, my Cubs hats and hoody will accompany me to Nepal.

Packing for a twenty-two day trip is a bit of a tricky thing. It warrants a lot of thought, research, and a little intuition. Who knows exactly what you’ll be encountering at 18,000 feet, be it weather, altitude sickness or a blistered foot. It might, perhaps, be all three. There are weight limits and space limits, not to mention my own physical limits for how much I can conceptually carry while trekking on the highest mountain on the planet for sixteen days.

Things find a way of working out. Hopefully, this is enough and not too much. For anyone curious about what I packed, I assembled it below.

  • soft duffle bag (for trek) and carryon to leave in Kathmandu
  • daypack
  • 3 padlocks and keys
  • insurance info
  • 2 sets of passport photos (visa and trekking pass)
  • passport
  • US cash in smaller bills
  • coloring books, pencils, stickers, markets for children
  • ibuprofen, Imodium
  • ziplock with toilet paper and hand sanitizer
  • toothbrush, floss and paste
  • Acetazolamide(altitude) and Z-pack (antibiotics)
  • jolly ranchers and cough drops
  • sunscreen and insect repellent
  • wet/dry shower wipes
  • hand/feet warmers
  • waterproof matches, rope and iodine tablets
  • 1 liter water bottle and camelback bladder
  • moleskin, bandaids, first aid kit
  • swiss army knife and whistle/thermometer/compass
  • emergenC
  • rugged camera + batteries + memory card
  • international plug
  • extra ziplock bags
  • 5 packets of laundry detergent
  • body soap and shampoo
  • quick dry towel and washcloth
  • rubber ring band
  • sunglasses
  • sleeping bag, liner, and stuff sacks
  • Cubs baseball cap
  • gaiters
  • raincoat and pants
  • beanie hat
  • fleece jacket and pants
  • balaclava and buff
  • down jacket
  • thermal under layers (2 sets)
  • 20 pairs of underwear
  • 5 warm wool socks; 6 lighter wool socks
  • 3 long sleeve smart wool shirts
  • 2 pairs of hiking pants
  • jeans
  • hiking boots, sneakers and sandals
  • light and warm gloves
  • Cubs hoody for sleeping

While in Kathmandu I will pick up trekking poles and anything else I’ve forgotten before departing for Lukla.


Two days and counting

china-southern-airlines-a380-cc-by-sa-3-0-sergey-kustov

In two days I depart to Kathmandu, Nepal. The training has been, how should I say, less than ideal. But my spirit is up to the challenge. As many of you know, I’ve been struggling for the past year with hip, leg, and back issues. This has hindered my walking, running, and undoubtedly trekking activities. However, for the past couple of weeks I’ve really felt an improvement in part due to reading and following the doctor’s orders detailed in the book Healing Back Pain by John Sarno. It talks about how pain, the kind I had, can be caused by repressed emotions. It’s not a fluffy, new age book either. This is a western medical doctor with over twenty years of experience seeing back, hip, and leg patients. It’s not a sales pitch, but if you’re suffering with pain in those areas and you can’t seem to shake or figure out, it’s worth the read.

Besides my lack of consistent training, I’m still figuring out what to pack so I don’t freeze or starve on my way up to Everest base camp. I’ve checked out dozens of blogs and consulted with a handful of incredible people who have done this or a similar trek, and opinions all vary. It really boils down to what do I think I need. Mind you, there are the basics, sleeping bag, warm jacket, boots, backpack that can hold water. These things everyone agrees on. But the rest is kind of up to me. It’s perfectly terrifying. All on me.

The reason I resurrected this blog is to be able to share photos of the trek along with contextual information like location or the story behind the picture. Opinions will likely make their way out here too. But, mostly I wanted to journal the experience. It’s rare someone gets to do this once in a lifetime, if at all, and I want to share with those who may never get the chance. Hope you enjoy it.