[RD] The Everest Basecamp Trek

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by warpus, May 18, 2020.

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  1. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    A Yak, a Yak, a Female Yak..



    There were many yak caravans travelling in both directions on this part of the trail, so you had to be careful to not get caught by any of the horns.. Yak are big powerful animals who move forward no matter what.. and parts of the trail were somewhat narrow..
     
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  2. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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  4. tjs282

    tjs282 Stone \ Cold / Fish

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    Given the juxtaposition, I have to ask: do they really take the yak-caravans across those rope bridges as well...?
     
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  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yep! All the yak and donkey caravans follow the exact same route, including all the bridges along the way. Each time you arrived at a bridge like this you had to stop and make sure there was nothing coming from the other side that might ruin your day. Edit: This was also the guide's job by the way, so we didn't have to think about it

    I don't know the proper terminology here, but all these bridges were tied down and supported with metal guywires. They seemed really sturdy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
  6. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Last Suspension Bridge of the Day

    but definitely not the least..



    This is a popular spot for a break not only because of the photo op, but also because of the upcoming change in elevation. On the first day we descended a bit, and now finally we would be heading up to altitudes we haven't been at yet.. Most people take a short break here to catch their breath and prepare themselves for the hike up to the bridge and the subsequent push up to Namche Bazaar. It's all uphill from here on pretty much, and at this point your body is not yet used to drastic altitude changes.

    One of the reasons why high altitude hiking is more challenging is because there is less oxygen in the atmosphere the higher up you go. Your body needs oxygen to burn the fuel for its cells, so if there's less oxygen coming in via your lungs, this process will be less efficient and you will get less energy in your muscles and the rest of your body.

    At sea level the atmosphere is composed of about 20.9% oxygen. At 2,610m (Phakding) you are down to about 15% oxygen, meaning that each breath you take yields about 1/4 less oxygen than it would have at sea level.

    At 4,000m it's down below 13% and at 5,364m (Basecamp) it's under 11%. At the highest point on the trail it goes down to 10.2% or so.

    Here's a bit more detail in chart form, including a conversion to feet

    At the summit of Mt. Everest there is about 6.9% oxygen in the atmosphere. For minimal oxygen concentrations like that most people will wear supplementary oxygen masks. For what we were doing such masks were not needed.. but you did have to make sure you acclimatized properly along the way.

    This uphill push up to Namche Bazaar was the first real test on the trail.. Looking up to that bridge, it didn't seem that bad, but there was a lot more uphill hiking after that..
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
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  7. tjs282

    tjs282 Stone \ Cold / Fish

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    Aaaaahh... my inner scuba-diving retentive is objecting to this statement: the percentage of O2 in the atmosphere stays the same, regardless of altitude.

    What drops as you climb is the atmospheric pressure, and hence the partial pressure of O2 (pO2), the (fixed) fraction of O2 in the atmosphere (FO2 = 0.209) multiplied by the (decreasing) atmospheric pressure. But since all our body's oxygen-uptake mechanisms are driven by pO2, not FO2, the effect is indeed essentially as you describe: not enough available O2 per breath.

    Medically speaking, 'hypoxia' starts at pO2 = 0.16 ata (that's what's in our normal exhalations, at sea level, where total pressure = 1.0 ata), and gets increasingly uncomfortable below that. Unacclimatised people will generally black out at around pO2 = 0.12 ata, i.e. when total atmospheric pressure = 0.12/0.21 = 0.57 ata, give or take (this is encountered at about 4500 m a.s.l.).

    (For comparison, passenger jets are held at a cabin pressure equivalent to 2100 m a.s.l., roughly 0.772 ata, so pO2 is still relatively comfortable at just above 0.16 ata)
     
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  8. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    Did you speak to enough of the people traveling around you to have a sense of where most of them were from?
     
  9. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    I see at least four in your group and maybe four more. How many did you know before you started and did the women have a harder or easier time with the altitude? Ah and do tell us more about the women. :) No secrets now!
     
  10. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Ahh, good thing we have an expert in the house. I was going by the many simple charts you see about this both on and off the trail.. They all show you altitude in one column and Oxygen % in the other, and don't provide much other information.. I googled this briefly before posting, but I guess the subject is more nuanced than a simple chart

    There were only four of us in our group - our porter, me, and my two friends. You might be looking at the four people posing to the left - I don't know them :D

    Technically our porter was in our group too (making five), but he was usually hiking well ahead and out of view.

    Most people you see on the trail are hiking with a larger group of 10-15 or more. You can find a lot packages online that make this hike easier to figure out and book (than what we did).. They will usually include all logistics and accommodations for the trail, transportation, permits, hotels in Kathmandu, other tours, etc. You end up being put up in nicer hotels in Kathmandu, maybe some lodges on the trail, they take you on tours here and there, you get taken to nicer restaurants, and the whole experience is custom tailored to that price point.. but there is a large overhead and it's significantly more expensive. You also end up having to hike with a whole bunch of random people. Which for me was an amazing experience in Peru, but this time around I cut out the middleman and hired the guide directly. This allowed us to do this hike with a small company of 4 (plus the porter), which gave us better access and use of the guide, and just made everything better (and a lot cheaper). You end up connecting more with everybody in your group when there's only 4 of you walking together every day.

    The packaged deal is much easier to book though, so you will run into many such groups, especially during these first stages of the hike... Especially at popular resting spots like this. And unfortunately it also seems that hiking clothes, fashions, and colours tend to be similar whether you're from Germany or Canada or wherever.

    We talked to assorted people on the trail and in the teahouses, and it was the general mish-mash of travellers from all over the place. We ran into Poles, Czechs, Canadians, Americans, Germans, and possibly Australians and Swedes.. and I think somebody from France. At one point we shared a teahouse with a large group of Italians. You see flags from all sorts of countries at various teahouses too, especially when you get closer to Basecamp.. Those are left behind by groups who have done this hike or climbed a mountain in the area.. The flags were from all over the place. I think I remember Taiwan and Malaysia, but there were a lot more. People also leave flags behind right at Basecamp. I think I saw a Mexican flag there.

    edit: Forgot about the crazy Romanian guy who took off his shirt at Basecamp and started singing songs while lifting up the Romanian flag and crests from his club

    You don't really get a chance to chat up many people on the trail though. You don't even talk to your walking mates much either, as you're usually trying to make efficient use of each breath. When I was wearing my Toronto FC sunhat though, two or three people said hi to me. A girl walking in the other direction said hi and said she was from Montreal, and I remember talking to some guy for a bit who lived near Toronto.

    Since most people follow the same route to Basecamp, you will start recognizing the same people here and there hiking in the same direction.. but people stay at different teahouses, leave at different hours, hike at different speeds.. There is barely any time to talk on the trail, and in the teahouses there is some time to mingle in the common room.. but at first everyone's into dinner and sharing that with their own group.. and afterwards most people sort of chill out and many just go to bed.. Having said that, there was a bit of a communal atmosphere in the teahouse common rooms a couple hours after dinner.. It wasn't uncommon to see groups join tables for a game of cards or what not.. but most people were tired so it never really got very crazy.. The one exception to that being the teahouse that's closest to Basecamp itself, which was always packed and full of emotion.

    On those first couple nights on the trail there was always the option of a nearby pool hall or something similar.. Those first couple towns and villages were large enough to support some sort of a nightlife.. I never went out to explore myself, on day one I took a nap right after the day's hike.. and after that things got more and more intense and I was focusing on resting rather than seeking out people to talk to. One of my friends checked out a pool hall in Phakding, which played "decent Reggae".. and we were all going to do more of that sort of thing later on in the hike, but soon enough we were all more or less focusing on resting after each day's hike was complete.. We actually did try to all "go out" at the end of day 2 in Namche Bazaar, and we sort of did, but it didn't last long either
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
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  11. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    I would agree that small custom groups would be a much better experience. And yes, I did think that the group of four in the picture was your group. :)
     
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  12. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    A video of the bridge crossing

    This was the first time I took out my goPro, so I have the 125m high bridge crossing on video



    The bridge you see closer to the valley floor is the old bridge, which is no longer in use. You can see both bridges in the last photo I posted.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
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  13. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    I can see getting a yak across a bridge. I can't see getting one across a bridge that narrow. The bridge looks pretty substantial. But there's not a lot of room.
     
  14. Samson

    Samson Deity

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    I reckon the yaks could do it more easily than me
     
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  15. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    Great bridge video! The prayer flags seem to be ubiquitous but only attached to man made objects rather than trees and such.
     
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  16. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I believe these suspension bridges have actually been designed with the yaks in mind, in terms of the width at least. They would have been useless if the yaks couldn't make it through; the yaks need to be able to access all the same villages that the hikers can.

    There is also a weight limit on each bridge, and the Sherpa guides make sure that these limits are enforced. There is usually a brief waiting period as you arrive, since there is usually already somebody crossing the bridge from one direction or the other.

    I think they are usually attached to structures that are considered sacred in some way. Stupas and bridges seem to quailty.. Mountain peaks do as well, though
     
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  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Dudh Koshi Valley

    This shot is looking back at the valley we walked through to get here. You can see that sandy spot in the distance where everyone stops for a break before the climb up begins.

    This is the point where the Dudh Koshi river meets with the Imja Khola tributary. This is also where the trail departs from the river, heading uphill towards Namche Bazaar.

     
  18. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Arrival at Namche Bazaar
    At the end of day two

    After crossing that long suspension bridge it's pretty much all uphill all the way to Namche Bazaar. It's gradual, but I had to stop every couple minutes to sit down and take a short break during this last push.. My body was not yet used to these altitudes and I would just run out of energy.. I had to sit down, take several deep breaths, take a moment to refocus my energy reserves.. then get up and walk as far as I could again..

    It was the last hour of hiking or so that was the toughest, pushing you to new altitudes.. Namche Bazaar is at 3,440m, and it feels incredibly satisfying when you arrive there.. even though I was really hurting and just wanted to collapse on a bed.. So each building ahead I saw I'd hope was our destination.. But nope, we actually walked up the steep streets of Namche Bazaar for a couple minutes before we finally arrived at our teahouse..

    I actually ended up not taking any photos at all with my camera after that suspension bridge, not even after we arrived in Namche Bazaar.. Looks like I only have camera snapshots, including this one..



    On the walk into town we noticed a sign outside of a bakery that was going to be showing a free movie later on that night.. So after getting settled and eating dinner we went there to check it out.. The deal was that you had to buy something and could then stick around for the screening.. I think I opted for a beer and a light snack.

    The movie ended up being an IMAX feature focusing on a failed ascent of the summit of Mt. Everest in the 1980s (IIRC). It ended up being a particularly unsuccessful mission, and many parts of the documentary focused on the high altitude effects on the crew.. such as the Japanease photographer who broke her bribs caughing so much..

    Some of the things mentioned in the movie were things we were already experiencing (slight headaches, nausea, lethargy, lightheadedness, the coughing).. although to be sure on a much lesser scale than what anyone climbing Everest might be feeling.. but this documentary definitely sort of "hit home".. We walked back to our teahouse (which was more like a guest house or hostel), and I remember walking uphill through the dark streets of Namche Bazaar with what I saw in the documentary still fresh in my mind.. Beforehand we had ideas to hit up a pool hall and/or explore the town a bit.. but in the end we just ended up back at the common area of our teahouse playing cards..

    The card game we were playing was the most popular card game played at the teahouses on the trail.. Although the forum's rules prevent me from typing the full name of the game, it is something like "poohead". We saw everyone playing the same game and we didn't know what it was.. Eventually my friend chatted up a couple Irish guys and learned the rules and so we started playing on a regular basis as well, eventually also teaching our guide and porter.

    Namche Bazaar is milestone in several ways.. and there are many reasons why it's so exciting to finally arrive here.. It feels like you conquered the first challenge of the trail! It also feels sort of epic to arrive at a relatively large town that's built in such an interesting spot (as you will see in the next day's photos).. It's also a place where you sleep twice, so it feels a bit more final than some of the other destinations. It's also our first foray into the high mountains, whereas on the first two days we spent most of the time hiking in the foothills..

    The rest of the hike was now going to be a bit different.. and it all was due to begin with a scheduled "Rest Day"..
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020
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  19. Samson

    Samson Deity

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    That is one of my favourite games (though the URL is auto-censored, it is a word for poo), especially for 2 or 3 people. Do you play that you have to lay a card if you can, or do you play that you always have the choice of picking up? I think most people play that you have to play if you can, but I much prefer it where you are always free to pick up. This is partially as it adds an extra element of skill to the game, and also that "have to play" is a very hard rule to enforce.
     
  20. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    Is your teahouse in the picture?
     

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