From Lukla we began our journey on foot through the Khumbu Valley to Phat Ding, we stayed the night before heading out to Namchee Bazaar.
The eight hour hike to Namchee marked the start of our trek for real. Spirits were high and our expedition team has really started to bond. Resulting in some form friendships and even some naked male bonding under a waterfall.
We crossed incredible bridges made from ropes of steel. They swung with every step, increasing the feeling of elation and mild vertigo. There were some impressive displays of courage as with support from Mark Wood and the rest of the team, members of our party faced down their fears.
In the Khumbu Valley, Sagmartha National Park covers about 1,200km all above 3,000m altitude.
Mountain ridges higher than 5,700m surround the Khumbu. On the north the park shares a border with Tibet along the crest of the Himalayan peaks. Three rivers drain the area the Dudh Kosi, Imja Khola and Bhote Kosi.
The area conserves subtropical jungles with tigers and rhinoceros on the low Terai plains to glacier covered peaks and alpine valleys in the high mountains.
To the first Sherpas, the Khumbu Valley was unique and special as a ‘beyul’ a sacred valley that was set aside by Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Buddhism, to be a refuge in times of trouble.
Politics and climate change played a part in Sherpa migration to the area 400 years ago. As the snow and ice here has receded year on year, settlements have developed higher up the mountains.
However evidence suggests that people were visiting this valley well before the Sherpa people. Pollen analysis and C14 dating of buried charcoal reveals cereal grains mixed with the pollen and that some areas of the forests had been disturbed by fire as long as 1000 years ago.
Oral traditions suggest this may have been the Rai shepherds using the areas high pastures.
Our eight hours of trekking took us rapidly up over 1000m to a high altitude of 3,440m. It was crucial to move at a steady pace to limit the effects of altitude mountain sickness (AMS).
When Namchee Bazaar appears out of the mist as you round a bend in the trail, it looks like a lost city. Nestled in a bowl of the mountains, the carefully built grey brick buildings represent civilisation in the wilderness.
Namchee is a Mecca for mountaineers and trekkers with many of the worlds most famous climbers and explorers using the town as a launch pad for Himalayan adventures. As a result it is quite well developed with provisions to refresh and restock kit and provisions.
From here we will head deeper into the Khumbu Valley, heading into what is classified as very high altitude, over 3,500m above sea level. Our next destination is Tengboche at 3,870m hosting the largest Buddhist monastery of the region.