Day 9 was another long one – there’s no rest for the weary in Nepal! Although the hike was mostly downhill, in true Nepal fashion we had lots of uphill to accompany our down.
Day 9: Lumde to Namche Bazaar
- Distance: about 15 km / 9.3 miles
- Starting Elevation: 4368 m / 14,331 ft
- Ending Elevation: 3440 m / 11,286 ft
- Net Elevation Gain/Loss: loss of 928 m / 3045 ft (with lots of up and down…)
- Time: a little over 7 hours (with a very long lunch)
Sudip informed us that we couldn’t wait until the sun hit the trail, so we’d have to bundle up and make do with the shivering temperatures for the early part of the morning. We headed down, down, down, following the river for a long time. We passed by an old abandoned-looking village with more traditional houses, which Sudip told us are only occupied in summer nowadays. In one of the villages we passed through, there was a pack of Himalayan tahr just hanging out in someone’s field, right off the trail! We snapped lots of photos, hoping they wouldn’t decide to charge us and eat our faces (that’s what tahr do, right?).
For lunch we stopped at a lodge that had only re-opened the previous day, so they needed lots of time to prep materials. We entertained ourselves watching an incredibly poorly edited Animal Planet show on seals, which the family’s toddler was not terribly interested in either (COME ON ANIMAL PLANET, DO BETTER).
A while later, we passed through another town and finally saw the national bird of Nepal, the Himalayan monal! A few males were hanging out in a field right next to a big ol’ stupa, flashing their brilliant colors. I got some very sub-par photos (darn you, non-zoomy lens!).
As we finally hiked in to Namche, the group decided they wanted to go to the Sagarmatha National Park museum, which is on top of a hill on the other side of town. This required quite a bit of uphill climbing which I was not particularly keen on doing after walking for 7 hours, but up we went! After wheezing up the hill (why was I still wheezing at 11,000 feet!?!?!) we got to the museum and found out they were closing in 10 minutes! I definitely didn’t want to kill Kim/Glenn/Sudip, who definitely could be reading this post right now (HI GUYS 😀 ).
After our museum fail we hiked back down into the center of town, back to the Comfort Inn (still not affiliated with any other Comfort Inn). We’d had boiling hot showers at the Comfort Inn a week prior, but the temperature in Namche was quite a bit colder than it had been on our way up, and the pipes were frozen so NO SHOWERS (DID I MENTION WE HADN’T BATHED IN A WEEK?). Defeated and filthy, I bought some very overpriced baby wipes (and very overpriced cough syrup, which I couldn’t take because it contained dangerous ingredients – thanks for saving my life by checking those ingredients, Dr. Glenn!). The frozen pipes also meant the toilet situation was… non-optimal. The Comfort Inn was one of the few accommodations with western toilets, but when the toilets can’t flush I think I’d much prefer a squat toilet…
Day 10: Namche Bazaar to Lukla
- Distance: ~19 km / 11.8 miles
- Starting Elevation: 3440 m / 11,286 ft
- Ending Elevation: 2840 m / 9318 ft
- Net Elevation Gain/Loss: loss of 960 m / 3150 ft, but lots of up and down and a climb of 200 m / 656 ft at the end!
- Time: 6.5 hours including an hour for lunch
This was it! Only 19 km stood in the way of me and finishing the trek! Instead of stopping in Phakding as we did on the way up, we’d plow straight through to Lukla in our longest day, distance-wise (certainly not pain- or time-wise 😀 ). This was also the only day on our trek where it actually snowed in earnest, but luckily it was rather intermittent and didn’t accumulate too much!
Leaving Namche, we started our descent down the incredibly long staircase we had to ascend on our way in. We made some dog friends that stayed with us for quite some time, and I wondered how long a dog had to follow you until you could call it yours 😉 . While descending, everyone was kicking up copious amounts of dust on the trail and I was really regretting not bringing a buff (my lungs are probably permanently coated in a fine layer of Nepalese dust).
After the giant staircase down, the trail was more up and down and up and down and up and down. We climbed a decently sized hill up to the official entrance of Sagarmatha National park and got stamped out (err, or whatever they do with the park passes, Sudip carried them the entire time so I’m honestly not 100% sure!). We continued our journey out and arrived back in Phakding for lunch. We ate at the same teahouse we had stayed in over a week ago, though I didn’t have very good memories of it since I had spent that entire day barfing / in bed 🙂 .
On the final few miles from Phakding to Lukla, we mostly had to go up. Because of course we did. Nepal treks always make you pay in blood, sweat, and tears! Of course I shouldn’t complain, as we passed many, many, porters ferrying all manner of heavy supplies up to Namche, including one man carrying a REFRIGERATOR on his back. Sufficed to say I felt like a lazy, complaining, layabout after that.
The final 30 minutes or so of the trek was a straight-up staircase ascending into Lukla, which I was definitely very cranky for – apparently finishing strong is not my forte! Arriving back in Lukla, Sudip gave us all high-fives and congratulated us on a job well done (or for me, more like a job done…).
That night we stayed in an aggressively mediocre teahouse with no showers (IT’S COOL, IT’S NOT LIKE WE HADN’T SHOWERED FOR OVER A WEEK). A very large group of young women had also completed a trek and were staying in the same hotel, and decided to have a dance party late into the evening, despite everyone having to wake up very early for the flights out the next day. I didn’t want to murder them at all! At any rate, I was very happy not to walk anymore! That night we also said goodbye to Pasang and Prakesh, as they live in the Khumbu region and thus weren’t flying down to Kathmandu with us. We had a “family dinner” and parted ways, providing them with tips that we hoped were generous (it’s a bit difficult to ascertain the proper tipping amount if you’re in a group?!?).
The next day we got up before the sun and headed to the Lukla airport (and saw Pasang and Prakesh one last time, as they carried our backpacking bags to the airport – entirely too generous!). We watched the sun rise from the terminal with oodles of other smelly trekkers eager for a shower. After the sun rose, we watched the twin otter planes arrive from Kathmandu one after the other, four in total. Everyone was loaded onto their planes and we had the harrowing experience of hurtling towards a cliff and hoping the plane got in the air before the end of the runway (it did!).
Arriving back to the madness and smog of Kathmandu, I washed my hair about 500 times (I’m not sure it will ever be the same!?!?) and drank sugary beverages from the rooftop of our swanky hotel. Ah, civilization! After that we had a few days in Kathmandu before departing, and I was very happy to lazily stroll the streets of Thamel, purchasing candies and knick-knacks. `
Welp folks, that just about wraps up my series of Renjo La Pass trekking blogs. In the following blog posts I’ll be providing lots of general information about winter trekking in Nepal, and comparing the two different trekking regions I’ve been in. I hope y’all enjoyed (or were at least entertained by) hearing about my trials and tribulations on the Renjo La Pass trek …at least the pictures are nice!??!
See you next week!