After six months of preparation, the time finally came to leave. After many well wishes and sad goodbyes to my family (oh, my wife is now 6 months pregnant with boy #2), I’m set for 2.5 days of traveling. I arrive in Kathmandu and meet my teammates, 7 climbers, 1 guide, 4 Sherpas and 5 yaks.
Kathmandu is as real as a city gets – busy, dirty, colorful, full of life. We toured Hindu and Buddhist temples, but I could not keep my mind off of the climbing that I actually came to do. We finally started our adventure on day three. The Nepalese, specifically the Sherpa people, are the most gentle and truly happy people I’ve ever come across. They even out charm the Fijians. If you’ve been there, you know it hard to out-nice Fijians.
Island Peak is roughly 30 miles and 12,000 vertical feet from our starting point, Lukla. But first, we’re going to hike to Everest Base camp (17,400 ft.) and climb a bump called Kala Pattar (18,500 ft) to get the best views of Everest (29,028 ft.) and Nuptse (25,801 ft.). It takes roughly 16 days to hike this circuit, mostly due to the elevation gain and lack of oxygen. By day three, the giant peaks started to show themselves. My personal favorite was Ama Dablam (22,349 ft.). A stunning chunk of rock and snow. We followed the normal route to Everest base camp from Lukla:
- Phadking (9,000 ft.),
- Khumjung (12,100 ft.),
- Tengboche (12,350 ft.),
- Pheriche (14,000 ft.),
- Lobuche (16,100 ft.),
- Gorak Shep (16,900 ft.),
- Kala Pattar (18,500 ft.),
- down to Dingboche (14,100 ft.),
- up to Chukkung (15,000 ft.),
- finishing at Island Peak Base Camp (16,700 ft.).
The one exception to following the normal route was a detour to the small village of Thame. Thame is a special place as it’s home to some of the strongest and most famous Sherpa climbers. There we met Lapka Rita Sherpa, he’s done Everest twelve times. We were honored to have tea with his parents.
Along the way our group became great friends, stepped in yak dung, got sick, sat with chanting Buddhist monks, got a special blessing from the Lama Gieshe, played hacky sack and cards. We visited the hospital and the school built by Sir Edmond Hilary and were continually awed by sights of new peaks around every corner.