Valerio Massimo Everest Expedition 2009

Me on the summit of Cho Oyu with Everest in the background

Shaky Landings and First Steps

April 24th, 2009 by Alix

After several unexpected adventures, my mother and I are enjoying our first rest day in Namche Bazaar, the gorgeous capital of the region. 

To start at the beginning, my mother was meant to arrive in Kathmandu (directly from a wedding on the Isle of Wight) Tuesday afternoon for a leisurely dinner and last chance to shop before we set off for Lukla and the beginning of our two week trek to EBC.  All seemed well as her plane descended towards the runway despite strong winds, but at the very last minute the plane violently shuddered and the pilot revved the jets and took off again without any explanation. They eventually landed at Dhaka, an hour away, fairly rattled and still unsure why the plane had failed to land. Kathmandu meanwhile was plunged into darkness during a massive power cut so I ended up saying goodbye to civilisation with a lonely candlelit dinner in a rainsoaked cafe as I waited to see if she would make it in time. Luckily she finally made it by midnight and had just enough time to shower, repack and catnap before the rude awakening at 4am for our plane to Lukla.

The flight to Lukla is exactly as Valerio described- nasty, brutish and short (but with some excellent views along the way):

Lukla: Taken from the end of the runway

Lukla: Taken from the end of the (very short!) runway

We quickly met up with our lovely guide, Anu Dawa, and got ready to go as we watched the plane we had just landed in taxi off with a new load of trekkers heading back to Kathmandu. New passengers- and, it turned out, old luggage. They had unfortunately forgotten to unload my bags and so they made the trip back to the city and back again while we waited in a local teahouse for several hours with a group of disgruntled doctors; they had been waiting for spaces on a plane for three days, having missed theirs due to fog. Not a great sign for our return trip!

However, reunited with my bags and away from the angry medics we set off on our trek and were immediately plunged into the glory of the mountains- it’s difficult, especially as at this stage we’re just following in Valerio’s speedy footsteps, to express how gorgeous and dramatic the scenery is without sounding trite but I think it’s important to note that we managed to make the seven hour hike in.. half an hour.  Honestly…

The first day boasts no less than six Indiana Jones-style bridges spanning vast gorges and enlivened by a bouncy-castle feel as yaks and heavily-laden porters cross ahead of you. The constant stream of human traffic is astounding- much has been made of the Sherpas and their amazing abilities already in this blog but in the flesh their strength and stamina is truly amazing. . This man was walking backwards down the steps at the end of a bridge as his load of seven-foot planks for building would obviously not allow him to walk down normally:

A porter descending with wood for building

A porter descending with wood for building

[Ah! Traveller’s delight- the computer crashed just as I was finishing so I am going to have to try to rewrite my post. ]

I’ve attached a few photos of our trip so far at the bottom although we are still very much following in Valerio’s footsteps.  From now on, however, we’ll be diverging as we head up to Gokyo Ri , meant to be one of the most beautiful views in the Himalayas, with three of the world’s highest lakes and a view of all the area’s great mountains. We’ll then head off across Asia’s biggest glacier to rejoin the main trekking trail at Lobuche (the town built on sewage for followers of this blog-yummy) and then up to EBC and Valerio. And his beard. (Has anyone thought to mention that when he does shave he will be half tanned and half pasty white? Nice.)

Before I sign off  I thought I’d add a couple of choice facts I’ve gleaned from the blogs of others on the expedition: Someone has brought up a giant Scalextric (sp?) set, so the floor of the Pod has now been transformed into a giant electric train set, to the immense delight of Sherpa and climber alike. Also, Valerio’s Team 1, the ‘Lions’ (who came up with the name? I suppose ‘Guinea Pigs’ was a little less magnificent) has been dubbed ‘Team Testosterone’ by the female climbers.

So, a few photos, and until next time.

Our last glimpse of civilisation before we head into the real Himalaya

Namche Bazaar and its stunning backdrop


Our first glimpse of Everest this morning: the tiny peak directly above my mother's head. On the right is Ama Dablam

Our first glimpse of Everest this morning: the tiny peak directly above my mother's head. On the right is Ama Dablam

Enjoying a 'late' lie in at 6:30am; it's still pretty cold even at this altitude.

Enjoying a 'late' lie in at 6:30am; it's still pretty cold even at this altitude.

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