Friday, 1 June 2012

The Trek Down

One of the things that amazes me most about the Himalaya is the shear size and distance of things. Of course there are a number of the World's 8,000 m peaks and a bunch in the 7,000 m range (remember our home for the past few weeks at 5,000 m is a kilometre higher than the highest point in the Canadian Rockies and 5,000 m higher than anywhere in Holland!), but the distances are something to be admired as well. We sat around (clearly and understatement) for 3 weeks doing relatively little exercise. However, on our way down we covered about 65 km in 3 days! Plus we lost 4,000 m in elevation (although it still always seemed like we were going uphill).

Day one was from the Pyramid to Pangboche, which is a place we stayed on the way up. A relatively good day and relatively short. My knee was pretty sore, but no choice to go on the next day. Day two was from Pangboche to Namche, where there was a Sherpa Festival. Kurt and I walked together and I did surprisingly well- relatively no knee pain and we made a good pace. A few of us spent the afternoon in a coffee shop and checking out the festival. It was a little hard to understand and it was also the first festival (something about celebrating the end of the trekking and climbing season). After dinner a few of the lads went back down to the festival and celebrated with the Sherpas (our guides included). I think things went well as they were moving slowly the next day. The music went into the late evening and we could hear the 'disco' beats and North American pop in our guest house... you can't escape Beiber no matter where you go! Day three was huge. Namche to Lukla. You have to go down for about an hour when you leave Namche and it feels like you make it all back coming into Lukla. It was hot and humid and my knee hated every minute!

When we came over the ridge to Lukla things were different. The weather was not as nice and the town felt depressed. Apparently there hadn't been a flight out for 5+ days. This presented an interesting problem to us- sit and wait (and maybe miss our international flight home) or find some helicopters to take us down at a premium cost. We spent the night and talked a little about it. The next morning we were up at 5:30 (we had a first out ticket, so if planes were flying we'd leave early). By 10:00 nothing was moving and it appeared as though the weather was only going to get worse. I felt like I could afford a few days, but didn't want to be stuck for a week. The decision was made to try to charter some helicopters for 20 people and 750 kg of gear. We felt that if we stayed we'd spend a hundred or two on food and additional lodging as well as the costs to change our international flights, plus we would still have to figure out a way to get our gear down as the backlog in travellers would have affected it's transport and if it would have had to been shipped back to Canada it would have cost huge dollars. As our fearless leader said many times... "What could go wrong". Needless to say, a little disheartening after such a successful trip.

Now for the adventure:
3 B3 Helicopter trips to get bodies and "most" gear to an airfield in the middle of nowhere- Lamidada. Hang out for a couple of hours waiting for a different helicopter (some big Kawasaki) to come get us and the gear. Realize that 750 kg of gear is not a problem, but the volume of the Pelican cases is! Dump all the gear out of the helicopter and leave it in the middle of nowhere, while the helicopter takes us 45 min to Kathmandu. No gear the next day. Finally a fixed wing is able to get into Lamidada to get the gear, which arrives at Kathmandu Guest House the morning of our international flight! Cost to Phil and the research grant- let's guess $15,000. Cost to each member $500. Flying through the Himalaya in a helicopter- PRICELESS. It was too cool and I was able to snag the front seat for the long flight, so definitely a highlight. Cue "Highway to the Danger Zone", by Kenny Loggins... "Talk to me Goose". (A boy can dream, even if it is about F14's rather than cargo helicopters!)

It was an all day adventure and we were back at the guest house in late afternoon. The plan was for a little rest and shopping over the next day and then off to home late Friday night. As usual the airport in Kathmandu was crazy, although we're used to it by now. We got on the plane and had a night flight to Hong Kong. Am now sitting in the lounge typing away, but Kathmandu wouldn't let me go without a fight, and what would an update be without a sickness comment from me... again the GI has set in :(
I've won the name sick note as I've always seemed to be a little bit ill, so fitting I suppose.

Watch in the coming days as I settle back in to life in Canada- FAMILY, work, fun as I'll do a bit of a photo essay as the pictures have been few and far between as a result of slow internet. I've managed to grab everyone's photos, so I have over 100 GB of images to go through. Hopefully there will be one good one in there!

Also, if you're in the Okanagan there will be some speaking engagements that I will keep you updated on.

1 comment:

  1. Trip of a lifetime Greg. Thanks for sharing it with us through your blogs. Looking forward to seeing the pictures! (Linda L.)