As dawn broke in Tengboche the chanting sounds from the monastery resumed so I was up and out to capture the early morning light. I was glad to be up and moving to keep warm as it had been an uncomfortable night in the unheated room (or freezer!). Outside the air was sub zero and there was ice and snow on the ground as I climbed a small ridge behind Tengboche to hopefully get a better view of Mount Everest and a panoramic view over Tengboche. In the early morning blue light the mountains looked spectacular with Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, Lhotse Shar and Ama Dablam all standing our clearly.
The climb up the small ridge had left me absolutely breathless – at this altitude the least bit of exercise was really difficult due to the reduced oxygen. The local sherpas have a significant advantage in that their haemoglobin can carry around 50% more oxygen than other people …. I spoke to a climber heading up towards Everest Base Camp and he called it cheating! As I headed back into Tengboche the early morning light was wonderful as I took in all the mountains surrounding this area, the peaks bathed in a bright golden light as if they were on fire.
Later in the morning as the light grew stronger large trains of yaks could be seen heading through the village, past the monastery and on down the trail back to Namche Bazaar to collect more goods to bring up hill. The yaks could be differentiated from the dzo seen commonly on the trails by their heavier build and large, thick hair. Yak physiology is well adapted to high altitudes, having larger lungs and heart than cattle found at lower altitudes, as well as greater capacity for transporting oxygen through their blood. Conversely, yaks do not thrive at lower altitudes, and begin to suffer from heat exhaustion above 15 deg C. This is why we only really saw yaks from Namche Bazaar and higher. Further adaptations to the cold include a thick layer of subcutaneous fat and an almost total lack of sweat glands.
Soon it was time to start the slow return trek back down the steep gradient to the Dudh Kosi River, over the suspension bridge then back up the other side and on to Namche Bazaar … it was going to be a long and arduous day. Heading down the hill was a lot faster than the upward struggle the day before and soon we were back down at the river for a brief tea stop before crossing the river and tackling the climb back up the trail at the other side.
The climb up the trail at the other side of the river was very steep and unrelenting. Due to the lack of oxygen and the cold I had come down with the previous day I was really struggling for air and eventually had to relent and give my camera bag to the porter. He simple popped this on top of the rucksack he was already carrying and nonchalantly walked up the hill – amazing!
We stopped for lunch of noodles and a rest at a small village at the very top of the steep slope and before the relatively flat section that ran on to Namche Bazaar. I actually ordered a coke to go with my noodles – having not drunk a coke in the last ten years I was somewhat surprised but my body was apparently craving the sugar rush. By the time we were getting close to Namche Bazaar the clouds had come down and visibility was reduced. It was a welcome relief to once again stay at the Panorama hotel where a hot shower was most appreciated, some good food and a night in a good bed with an electric blanket.