The next morning started out extremely pleasant, with clear skies and nice cool weather. Ian and I headed out at a nice clip, just lazily letting the miles go by and enjoying the scenery. The trail had a bunch of river crossings, which were made on steel bridges that had been suspended over the river and anchored into the banks with concrete. Impressive construction, and even more so when you consider that every bit of them had to be carried either on the back of a person or a yak. Many of the bridges had been designed and constructed by the Hillary foundation to replace older rope construction that had been washed out during monsoon floods many many times in the past. Modern engineering allowed the newer bridges to be built higher, avoiding this fate, not to mention just being inherently stronger. Crossing the bridges when yaks were around was always a challenge; several times we had to back up and retreat when a fully loaded train of yaks would come through setting the bridge swaying. The bridge floor had been designed to be solid enough to support the hooves, but it also had enough holes to let the worst of the yak dung fall down to the river.
After lunch, the character of the trail started to change pretty significantly. The nice gentle slope up turned into a steep ascent with lots of stone stairs. I found myself struggling more than I would have expected to at this point…being at sea level for so long had completely robbed me of my altitude acclimitazation, and this was the first time where I really felt it. I was amazed at the locals who were carrying 80 pound loads just climbing up the steps like it was flat ground…the adaptations of the Sherpas for altitude is truly amazing!
Eventually we made it up to Namche and found our accommodations for the next two nights. I went out for a wander and checked out the weekly Saturday market. That explained the large number of people and yaks we’d seen on the trail…each Saturday porters come from higher up in the valley to get their weeks supplies, and then head back up again carrying everything that all the guesthouses and locals will need for the coming weeks.
Namche is almost as touristy as Thamel, but twice as expensive. Still, its the last place to really stock up on supplies before heading out, and when you need cold medicine, or a warmer jacket it’s the best place in the world. It’s also the last reasonably priced internet service…at about a dollar for 10 minutes. Dinner was a tasty yak steak, which would be the last meat we’d have for the next two weeks.
Max elevation: 11263 ft
Total climbing: 4573 ft
Total Time: 06:45:49