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TREK TO GOKYO RI

Khumbu, Nepal
Nov 2006

Our trek to Gokyo was planned around the lunar calendar with the hope that at our high camp at Gokyo lake, we'd see the November moon. We were not disappointed. It shone like a giant silver dollar in the sky. At one time or another during the night, all of us stood outside and marvelled at the beauty of the universe. The surrounding mountains were illuminated in a blue light the lake reflected moon beams dark shadows slipped up the sides of village buildings. Gokyo Ri, towered over us and awaited our climb to the summit (17,622') early the following morning.

Six of us departed Vancouver late in October bound for Hong Kong and Kathmandu. Following two relaxing days in the Kathmandu valley, we flew to the airstrip at Lukla to begin our trek to the high Khumbu. To climb high, we moved slowly and drank copious amounts of water spending 2 days at Namche Bazar (11,300') to acclimatize. Namche is one of the most unique mountain villages in the world. It is the Sherpa capital of Nepal and is the major trading centre in eastern Nepal. Each week, trading takes place between the local Sherpa population and Tibetans who have come over the Nangpa la with literally tons of clothing, shoes, jewelry and carpets carried by yak trains. From lower Nepal come Indian goods and household staples carried by porters with loads as much as 90kg. To climb the Namche hill on a Friday afternoon, one becomes part of a human chain of sweating, tobacco smoking porters. We couldn't help but feel insignificant amongst this parade of men of steel.

The Sherpas of Namche are a sterling example of self-sufficient mountain people. They have lived on a steep mountain side for 500 years and have carved out a culture that is prosperous and civil. The surrounding peaks of Kongde Ri, Ama Dablam and Thamserku have always been the spiritual centre of their being. The recent drive by westerners to climb and conquor was viewed in earlier days by the Sherpas as 'curious'. But prosperity brought by trekkers and climbers is now clearly part of the entrepreneurial nature of the new generation .The Khumbu jumped into the 20th C when the Austrian Government built a hydro plant ten years ago. Now, electric heaters mean that trees are left uncut, and water for taps and kitchens can now be pumped uphill instead of being carried on someone's back. Dental and medical clinics have been built.

We stayed in the comfort of the Hotel Namche (showers and flush toilets!) operated by Dorje and Ang Maya Sherpa.

We were greeted by a cloudy sky the morning we left for our 9 days in the high Khumbu. Was the moon going to hide from us? Three days later, the sky had cleared on our arrival in Gokyo. As we sat on a stone terrace with bowls of hot soup in our hands, we knew were in luck!

The following morning, we awoke at 4:30 for an early start up the 2,000' climb to the summit. The spectacle from the top was breathtaking four of the top ten mountains in the world were before our eyes. Below us lay Gokyo lake, a tiny jewel and the Ngozumpa glacier, the largest of its kind in Nepal.

Visits to the Pangboche and Tengboche monasteries provided colour and excitement. Following the seldom used precipitous trail down the north side of the Dudh Kosi gorge, we traveled north to Phortse and Pangboche high above the Imje Khola river. The last day of the Mani Rimdu festival was in full swing at the Tengboche Monastery.

Tashi Sherpa organized a seamless trek beginning and ending at the Kathamndu domestic airport. We trekked with 3 cook staff, 3 Sherpa guides, 4 porters, and 6 yaks. The animals were managed by a beautiful 'yak pilot', a young Sherpa woman dressed in jeans and ski jacket who mastered the moves of the yaks up and down the Himalayan trails. She brightened our every day!

The political climate of Nepal took a decided turn for the better in November with the signing of a peace accord between the 7 party Alliance and the Maoists. Both sides agreed to lock up arms under the supervision of the UN. In addition, they will decide on the make-up of a new parliamentary assembly, end Maoist extortion, and prepare the country for a national election in 2007. This is a huge step ahead for Nepal and it will be interesting to follow developments this year. We recommend two web sites in Nepal;

www.nepalnews.com
www.kantipuronline.com

Participants:
Gord Konantz, leaderVancouver
Mike RocheVancouver
Mike RileyWinnipeg
Garth MerkeleyWinnipeg
Doug MacLeanCanmore
Duncan MacLeanCanmore
Ang Nuri, SherpaSirdar
Jiri Maila, Cook

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