Thursday, June 16, 2016

An attempt at 3 passes - Day 3, Acclimatization

The guide assigned on us this trip is actually a climbing guide and he was a bit strict compared to the other trek guides. I had to negotiate hard on the start time for the acclimatization hike. He wanted us to start at 7:30 am and I wanted to sleep in - so after much haggling, we settled for an 8 am start.
It was to be an easy day - no backpack, with only water and a warm jacket we were good to go. After a hearty breakfast we started the hike to Everest View Hotel in Khunjung (3780m). Namche is at 3440 m - this meant a climb of approximately 1100 ft in 2 hours. One of the fellow hikers kept asking me the need for this acclimatization hike. He was wondering why didn't we simply proceed to Thame (our next destination) which at 3750 m is at similar height to Khumjung. I am not sure I did a good job of explaining it that time, so I will try again:
The most important precondition and best way of avoiding altitude sickness whilst trekking in Nepal is to increase altitude gradually and systematically. In Nepal a safe altitude to which you can climb rapidly and straight away is: 2,700 – 3000 metres. The most popular mountain airports in Nepal are located in this altitude range: Lukla and Jomsom. On the day of your arrival, you must definitely spend the night at the same altitude. And that is why we spent the night at Phakding (slightly lower than Lukla)
Thereafter you must stick to a set climbing regime: 300 – 400 altitude metres a day. Accordingly, every overnight stay must be at an altitude of 300 – 400 metres higher than your previous overnight accommodation. Having climbed a total of 1,000 altitude metres, you must devote one whole day to altitude acclimatization and stay overnight at the same altitude. It is advisable to spend the day of altitude acclimatization doing a little trekking leading up to a short stay at a greater altitude (300 – 400 m) before returning and staying overnight at the previous altitude.
We had landed at 2860 m (Lukla) and spent first night at 2610 m (Phakding) and then we reached 3440 m (Namche) - this gain of 2400 ft definitely demands an acclimatization day - especially because leaving for Thame would mean entering very high altitude range the very next day. There are three altitude ranges and one should spend acclimatizing well in previous one before entering the next zone:
  • High Altitude   (1500m-3500m/ 4921-11,483 ft)  
  • Very High Altitude  (3500m-5500m/ 11,483 – 18,045) 
  • Extreme Altitude  (>5500m/ >18,045ft)
Well enough gyan for now, back at the hike we were having an amazing day...we reached the Everest View Hotel and found an amazing view of the whole range awaiting us. It was a bright sunny and clear day. Last  time all we saw was clouds...but this time entire range was visible. We spent some time at the hotel enjoying the view, drinking hot chocolate and exchanging some good natured banter.
At Everest View Hotel
As expected some spots brought the memories of the last time I was here, including where my friend had twisted her ankle on the way down that made the rest of the hike really painful for her. Hence, I kept reminding everyone to walk back down slowly and carefully. And thankfully we made it down without any incident. On the way back we even met some climbers who were planning to climb Amadablam - a mountain I hope to climb some day.
All in all it had turned out to be a great day so far and I was very excited about getting back on trail to Renjo La. But as luck would have it, this time instead of an ankle injury, one of us fell prey to stomach upset. While it wasn't a case of altitude sickness and given an extra day of rest, he could have resumed the hike but his heart was no longer in it.
So it was decided that tomorrow, as 3 of us proceed to Thame, he would make his descent back to Lukla. Our guide made plans for a porter to accompany him to Lukla and on this sad note ended the day that had started so bright and happy!

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