After waiting for 4 days for the rescue helicopter to evacuate Passang's body and again a no show due to cloudy weather we decided to walk to Lukla, a 3 or 4 day trip.
The 5800 m Ambu Labtse Pass and the easy trail through Chukung, Tengboche and Namche would normally be the best choice but all the rope for save crossing using a rappel was in the high camps.
Also, only a month ago a climbing Sherpa of another group fell down 100 m and lost his life going down on crampons unsecured. His body is covered with stones at the base of the pass till his family picks it up. He did not need to share a rope with another group as he boosted, ''I have been on top of Everest twice''.
With two death in a single month and Passang's ghost visiting the kitchen tent at night I did not want to take yet another risk as everybody was nervous.
We would now take the shorter but more difficult Mera La route as the trail is not as good but porters like it because the food is cheaper. The first night we would join the Mera Peak group, Bram and Ron, who left a day earlier.
The first day we left late, at 10 AM. This was my deadline for the helicopter. We kept on walking in a fast pace, Lokendra carrying 30 kg, my big bag and his own stuff. For the first time on our trip we met a group and they had seen our Mera Peak Group at noon so we thought we would catch up with them at 2 PM.
We reached a nice grassy camp site at 2 PM after 4 h and feeling tired, expecting our group to be there as planned but there was nobody. They must have gone higher up to Mera La, a 800 m climb.
After 2.5 long hours climbing we reached a camp site at a lake, below Mera La, but still no group. Did we miss them? It was now 4.30 PM and the next tea house in Khare at least another 2 h. We followed a poorly visible steep rocky trail to Mera La that you do not want to take in the dark. Our fast pace in the morning paid off.
At 5.30 PM close to dawn we reached Mera La and were relieved, it would only one more hour to a tea house in Khare across a bright glacier and down a good trail as we did not think our group would be here.
Two groups were camping here and I was about to ask them for tea as we heard shouting. Our group was here) they welcomed us. Bram and Ron were surprised. How did we get here so fast?
Bram decided to skip a camp so we had to walk in 1 day what was planned for 3 days. Problem was not the distance but because of the expected helicopter we left 3 h late, else we would have done the route in 9-10 hours.
Crossing Mera La, to Khare and Tagnag is an easy stroll down from 5400 m to 4300 m. Near Tagnag is a glacial lake of which the dam broke in Sept 1998, releasing 25 mln m3 of water at a rate of 2000 m3 per second.
In Tagnag most groups have a rest day and the crew of porters and guides meet their trekking colleagues and friends. Parties can be loud and go on till midnight.
One of the two porters, Baj or younger brother, partied heavily spending two days of salary on raksi and at midnight wasn't sure what lodge room he was suppose to be sleeping. He entered my room and unable to find his bed must have panicked and vomited a big pile of acid rice on my duffel bag and shoes. I initially did not notice this as I was using ear plugs to keep the nightly party noise and I kept the window open to get rid of the smoke of the kitchen down-stairs that entered my room through floor planks.
The next morning the embarrassment and shame was enormous. Baj quickly cleaned my room, duffel bag and shoes, and was very silent and shy for the rest of the day, such that we had to cheer him up.
In 3 hours we walked down to Koche, a Maoist stronghold and check post for the passage fee, 3000 Rupees going up and 1000 Rupees going down.
Some groups suggested you could easily avoid the fee by quickly passing the village but I did not like this as this could give us a lot of trouble, 'You should always pay your taxes'.
We sat down for lunch in Koche and within 5 minutes a Maoist with a black handkerchief around his neck visited us. He looked well-educated and started a tense conversation with our guide Lokendra. After a few minutes he leaned back and relaxed. We did not have a receipt of the Rs 4000 payment in the Arun valley as we only had two copies for the two main groups but our hand-written copy of the original was accepted.
relieves and full after a lunch of fried rice and momo's we continued going up
the Zatre La for two hours. The first reed tea house in the jungle looked very
good for spending the night. Spacious with large sleeping places and a separate
kitchen to avoid the smoke.
We had an excellent meal and a long comfortable
sleep. Ron was woken up by a field mouse tiptoeing across his head but he was
sleeping next to the rice storage.
We had an excellent meal and a long comfortable sleep. Ron was woken up by a field mouse tiptoeing across his head but he was sleeping next to the rice storage.
The next day we left at 7 AM. This would be a long day.
At 10.30 we
arrived at Thuli Kharka
and at 11.30 at the pass at 4500 m. Here we had lunch
in a tea house and warmed up under the blankets. Outside it was 5 degrees
and at 11.30 at the pass at 4500 m. Here we had lunch in a tea house and warmed up under the blankets. Outside it was 5 degrees Celsius.
At 1.15 PM we left the tea house and had to hurry reaching Lukla. The curfew starts at 6 PM but worse, you do not want to walk on rocky trails in the dark and the army is allowed to shoot at anyone after 6 PM.
For the next 4 hours we walked straight down at a high pace without a rest. We got in at 5.15 PM, relieved, a luxurious hotel and cold beer was waiting for us.