Himalayas Days 17 and 18, still in Lukla

So having decided not to fill blog posts up with boring days in Kathmandu, I have now skipped through to Sunday 6th November. Since I last wrote, which was Friday, my third day in Lukla, I spent all of Saturday and all of Sunday doing pretty much exactly what I had done on the three days before. Mornings were waiting for helicopters which never came, afternoons in Fakebucks getting a bit of wifi and catching up with the outside world (if very very very slowly, the connection was slower than any old dial-up I ever remember.

The weather however has been exactly the same, and it has rained with low cloud both days, which means that no aeroplanes whatsoever have landed here now for six days now.

The odd break in the clouds offers a bit of a glimpse of the runway.

This plane (the only one here) has been here since last Tuesday and not moved.

Then a few beers in the ‘Irish Pub’, and then back to base for the evening of sitting and listening to everyone else’s tales of how near and yet so far the helicopter that never came really was.

A good thing happened mid afternoon today (Sunday) however, in that the rest of the Island Peak Group made it down the mountain. I had already heard their summit news from Val, the excellent Exodus guide who had made it down to Lukla a day before them. So basically, my huge congratulations to each of Tony, Rob and Dave, who all successfully submitted Island Peak, all 6,189m of her, on 3rd November at about 7am. I am really looking forward to seeing their photographs from the top.

Of the others, Stefan had tried but had to turn back, and each of Bruce and Ben had decided that it would be too much, and did not set out. They all made it to high camp though at 5,600m, and the photos look stunning from there even. As I look back now and reflect, there was no way I would have made it to the top, not feeling the way that I did, and so I did the right thing with hindsight in coming down early. I feel much better for some days rest, despite the tedium of not getting out of Lukla. The mountain will still be there should I decide upon some later occasion to try again, so there is nothing lost for me.

So anyway, each of them, having picked Mo up where I had left her in Tengboche five days ago, made it down the mountain, somewhat wet due to the rain, and settled in to the North Face Resort for the night. They had already heard that Lukla was a.) full, and b.) closed to air traffic, so there were no surprises in store for them really when they got there. They unfortunately had to stay in tents too, which made me feel a little guilty as I still had my room, although my room was by now so damp that I wondered if a tent would actually be a much dryer place.

The view down the mountain from Lukla, the tents in the foreground the sleeping quarters for the Island Peak returnees.

We celebrated everyone’s ‘coming down the moutnain’ in the Irish Pub, and then back at the Lodge in the evening we did the tipping ceremony. It is customary on these trips to pay your porters and guides to thank them for their support whilst out on the mountain. Each of us put in approximately US$100, and so they all seemed pretty happy with their share of the spoils, presented to them with appropriate aplomb by Bruce. We also bought them two bottles of the local rum, Kukira, which they duly despatched between them inside about an hour. Bruce and I had some of this noxious fluid also in a hot chocolate, and that was sufficient to give me rather a thumping head in the morning – I thought it was AMS all over again for an instant!

The forecast is much better for tomorrow, and so there are hopes of getting some of us out of here. There were significant gaps in the clouds at times today for the first time, and tomorrow could apparently even be a sunny day. Here’s hoping………

Nine weeks to go – woop!

This weekend I was booking three forthcoming trips through work to Cannes, Paris and also Dallas when I began to look at the calendar. It then dawned on me that I have all of a sudden just nine weeks to go until Island Peak. Where did that come from? Through a combination of other things that I also have going on, I have also worked out that I am actually at home for just three weekends before I head out to the Himalayas. And that is downright scary, especially when you are a bad planner and procrastinator like I am!

Here was me thinking that October is a million miles away, and then all of a sudden, boom, I’m now worried that I don’t have enough time to do what I need to do, i.e. get mountain fit, buy new kit, and just be prepared without panicking, but then that’s me – I know what I’m like – and that’s why I’m worried. If I can do anything, anything at all, tomorrow, instead of today and get away with it, I will 🙂

I duly therefore started having a look at the Exodus (the travel company that I am going with) website to see what I might need. I also registered for their forums to see if I could meet some fellow travellers there. Success! The site has a ‘departure lounge’ forum and I managed to introduce myself to two of the fellow travellers (not sure how many are going in total yet) via a post I put up there. There is a guy called Dave and his wife Maureen, and also Martin and his wife too. One of them mentioned being somewhat nervous about the flight to Lukla, which I have to say is preying on my mind too. More about that one in another post.

I checked first as to what I need to start thinking about, and the first two I came across were vaccinations and visas. It seems I can get my visas for Nepal (two required – one for immigration, and one for trekking – the Nepalese collect fees from trekkers too) upon arrival in the country, so that is a tick off the list, although I’ll need four passport photos too it seems. The vaccinations are more vague – looks like I need Polio, Tetanus, Hep A and Typhoid. I may need Meningitis too as apparently there was an outbreak of it in Kathmandu a few years ago – will need to delve deeper. Then there is the Diamox question – I took it on Kili, but who knows if it helped or not?

Then I have the problem (and it is a big one) of kit, and it is twofold:

1. Getting hold of the right kit in the first place.
2. How to limit what I take, as the luggage allowance is just 15kg.

1. The ‘right’ kit.

So I need to take, as a minimum:

4/5 season sleeping bag
Thermarest
4/5 season down jacket
Walking boots
Gaiters
Walking trousers
Waterproofs
Trainers
Windproof gloves
Fleeces and mid layers
Base layers
Rucksack – 40 litres
Ice axe
Plastic climbing boots
Crampons
Down mitts
Harness
Karabiners
Prussic loops
Slings
Helmet
Jumar
Figure of Eight

This list is obviously before any ‘normal’ clothes that I might need. There are at least 14 of those items above that I do not even possess.

2. 15kg Weight limit

15kg – really? Are they serious! I reckon that two pairs of boots, a down sleeping bag, thermarest and rucksack come to about 10kg alone. That’s before toiletries, suntan lotion, snacks, climbing equipment, and whatever bag I take to put it all in. Oh yes and clothes. Ridiculous!

When I went to Kilimanjaro I took the bare minumum on the 7 day climb itself, and my duffel bag weighed 18kg. That was not including my boots or rucksack, and there was no climbing equipment whatsoever then.

I am told however that the 15kg is a strict limit, enforced by the flight to Lukla in the Twin Otter. This is really going to be a nightmare of massive proportions! Meantime I suppose I should start to try to get hold of some of the equipment itself. First 5 season sleeping bag that I googled retails at £600. You can hire them apparently for £75, but would you want to sleep in someone else’s sleeping bag? Not me!

Oh and finally I got a reminder today that I had to pay for my trip. It just occurred to me that if I look at all the holidays I have ever taken in my lifetime, this is by far and away the most expensive of them all, and that is before I spend a fortune on the above missing items. Holiday – did I really say holiday?