Today we started up to establish base camp for the climb of Kyoja Ri which took us on a route that was new to me. We climbed past the Gomba above town that I had visited early, then headed on the main trail towards Thamel. We didn’t get started until 9 for various reasons and it was a difficult steep push until it dropped to cross the river then up again sharply on the other side. Elias, Lonnie, Bridget and Furba were the climbers on this 6126 meter peak, I was planning on spending one night at base camp then heading back down and Pascale was to go as high as the advanced base camp. Dendi and the porters were turning around once they reached base camp to head back down.
As we approached a remote Gompa, the Towuda Gompa, it had become obvious to Elias and Furba that we could not reach base camp with the porters having any time to retreat back down to shelter before evening. Dendi and the porters had no sleeping bags, tents, etc for staying up high. So we pulled into the Gompa and Furba negotiated shelter and meals for us all there. For me this was a lucky break – getting to spend time at a real remote monastery and spend time with the llamas residing there. They had a six room little motel like unit below the monastery where most of us were housed and also some quarters above the colorful main building. We were to receive dinner and breakfast plus lodging for 3000 NRupees apiece ($30 US). But first things first, it was tea time at the Gompa! We all gathered in a dining room similar to those of the teahouses which was adjacent to the kitchen and enjoyed the sun filtering in as well as one of the llamas who spoke English flawlessly. As an added bonus a young Swedish woman sat down with us. She was spending 2 weeks at this remote site meditating for 7 hours each day in a cave just behind the group of buildings. Her name is Sarah and she is a Human Resource manager in her home country. Very interesting to talk with, she gave us a tour of the cave and explained some of the rituals she followed in her meditation.
The view from the Gompa yard was spectacular. I wandered the grounds then rested before dinner. We were served the traditional Dal Bhat with as many servings as you wanted. After we had had our fill, Bridget organized a game of charades with the Llama as the master of ceremonies. What a hoot! The porters, plus Dendi and Furba against us westerners. The sherpas had never heard of this game before but soon there was laughter in every corner of the room. Only Bale, one of our porters was too shy to act out his word – he ran into the other room and we were all just about rolling on the floor just watching him. A great ending to a wonderful day.
The next morning we arose early (breakfast at 7) and after omelletes and tsampa , we headed out. Just a short way up the trail we headed off on a noticeably less used path to climb up and over a couple of mountainsides to a plateau on our way to Kyajo. In Minnesota we would call this a deer trail except that here in the Khumbu everything goes sharply up and sharply down. We took a round about way to try to cut down the vertical but the porters went straight up. We soon found their path and agreed though it was very steep it was easier that fighting your way through the many wild yak trails. Finally reaching the top of this obstacle, we looked at the next mountain face just ahead. I had been keeping up fine but towards the upper part of this first climb I started to stumble and had a hard time keeping my balance. We took a rest at the top and I hoped that I would feel better after the break but found myself feeling very spacey and still unsteady. I knew I had to go down. After a conversation with Lonnie, he shared it with the whole group. Plans were being revised but I insisted that I could make my way down so Furba took me back around the corner and pointed out the landmarks to follow. It had been an emotional moment for me – when I was just a little younger I would have just written it off as a bad day. Now I think first of my age and see it as another thing that I may have to give up. I don’t do that gracefully.
I slowly made my way down the porters footprints until I reached the Gompa where I had my water bottle filled. Furba had insisted I spend the night in Thamel but I decided to make my way down to the river and see how I felt. Then I made my way with a moderate pace back to the Thawa Lodge in Namche.
Photos of climbing team on steps outside Gompa – meditation cave, inside of meditation cave and view outside Gompa