This morning we woke to frost… on the inside of our room’s windows! I never thought I’d need an ice scraper just to look outside, but once we did clear the ice, our reward was a clear blue sky and a view of Everest! Since it had snowed the previous evening, it was quite icy outside, a bit breezy, and very cold. Thus, it was time to plan the various clothing we would wear and the extra items we would carry in our packs. As described in the “Day 6: “Wow!!”” post, the weather can change quite a lot throughout the day, so we need to plan for a variety of conditions.
For most of us we chose a middle of the road set-up which included several layers on the upper body, heavy gloves, wool hats, buffs, and a single layer on the lower body. We also carried our rain gear, which doubles as a windbreaker, and our down jackets… just in case.
The Day 7 trek was a 6.5 mile, 7 hour hike from Tengboche to Dingboche (a small farming village at 14,150’ elevation). Now, some of you may be thinking “how in the world does it take 7 hours to hike 6.5 miles?” Well first, we are at very high altitudes, so this is very much a journey rather than a sprint. The slow pace has a few benefits, namely that we can maintain the pace without breathing too heavily, which helps to prevent respiratory issues. Oftentimes on the trail, we will see other trekkers who had passed us with a faster pace, only to see them again due to their need for more frequent stops to catch their breath. The slow pace also allows us to enjoy the stunning scenery all around us, and take pictures of what may be a once in a lifetime experience.
Today’s hike actually started with a downhill section on an icy trail through a beautiful juniper and rhododendron forest. The trail was quite busy considering it was only 7:30 in the morning. It felt as if we were on the main artery of the “Himalayan Highway,” sharing the trail with other trekkers, numerous porters, and several large groups of yaks and jupje (a hybrid between a yak and a cow). We continued our descent until we once again crossed the Dudh Koshi river using a high suspension bridge. We then began a gradual climb that would last the rest of the day.
Along the way we were once again surrounded by high and rugged mountains, with an added bonus of some wildlife and dramatic animal moments. Early in the day a yak somehow got stuck when it’s cargo got tangled in a tree branch. When the handler finally freed it by breaking the branch, the loud crack spooked the animal and it began to run uncontrolled through the trees until its cargo slipped to the side and again got stuck, causing this large, fast moving animal to come to a sudden stop, seemingly stunned. Later in the day we got a close view of two wild mountain goats grazing in the hillside above the trail. But, perhaps the most dramatic moment came as we were approaching Dingboche.
On the outskirts of town we could see a large pack of dogs harassing a couple of yaks grazing in their pen. Another dog, which had been following our group since our lunch stop several hours earlier, began to bark. Immediately the pack turned their attention from the yaks to this new threat, and sped directly toward our group. What ensued was a frenzy of dogs running all around us, while our companion dog stood her ground, fearless amongst the threatening pack. It was certainly a unexpected sight, but we arrived safely in Dingboche where we will be spending the next two nights with another acclimation day in between.