1.2.2: The Gokyo Valley

Day 41: Khumjung (3790 m) to Dole (4040 m)

This morning Bhoj went on ahead as we were concerned about getting a room in Dole as it was expected to be very busy. The morning’s walk saw us climb up to Mong La, a pass at about 4000 m. It was quite a tiring walk at this altitude. We stopped for tea at Mong, a small collection of buildings on the pass.

41.1. Looking back on the walk from Khumjung to Mong La.

We then descended to Phortse Tenga after which we climbed another 4 – 500 m or so to Dole and arrived before lunch. It was probably the most tiring walk I’d done since the crossing of the Thorung La and it was only half a day. After lunch I went to my room and slept for about 3 hours.

41.2. Heading into the Gokyo valley.

I got up and went and played cards with a German tourist and his guide. The German had suffered altitude sickness on Gokyo Ri and had separated from his group that had gone across the Cho La. I was by this time suffering with a cold and had a runny nose and a headache. In the evening I had a good meal of rice with a stew of potatoes, buff meat and carrots and at about 19:00 I went to bed. It was very cold in my room although I was warm in my sleeping bag. I didn’t get much sleep as I was still suffering with the cold and I had to get up to pee many times in the night.

Day 42: Dole (4040 m) to Machhermo (4410 m)

I woke up this morning still suffering with the cold and headache and was very dehydrated. I bought a bottle of water and drank it quickly while my bottle was being purified with iodine. I had a couple of cups of tea and some breakfast and then went back to bed. I was thinking I would stay in Dole for one more night if I didn’t show any improvement by lunchtime. I was also a bit worried because I couldn’t tell for sure whether the headache was due to the cold or mild AMS. I woke up again at about 9:30 and my headache was much better. I put the headache down to dehydration and decided to move on to Machhermo. It was a relatively easy walk but I took it very slowly and we arrived in about 3 hours.

42.1. On the walk from Dole to Machhermo (L). Cho Oyo (6th highest mountain in the world) is at the end of the valley (R).

We stopped for a tea break in Luza. During the tea break Kanchha was making movies of a young Sherpa girl with his mobile phone. I took pictures of them and she became very interested in my camera. She was very cute.

42.2. Young Sherpa girl we met at tea break in Luza.

Shortly after tea break we came to Machhermo and met Bhoj who had gone on ahead to book the room. I had some lunch and slept for a few more hours in the afternoon. At about 16:00 I took a short walk in the hills above Machhermo with Kanchha. We played some games in the evening before I had dinner and went to bed.

Day 43: Machhermo (4410 m) to Gokyo (4750 m) to Na (4400 m)

Today was rather disappointing. I woke up feeling a little better and was keen to press on to Gokyo. Bhoj went on ahead to book the room, however when Kanchha and I arrived later all the rooms were fully booked. The best we could do was the floor of the dining room at one of the lodges. Since I was feeling ill I decided against it and to head back. We therefore missed out on the view from Gokyo-Ri and the trip to the fourth and fifth lakes. We did see the first three lakes on the way up. They were very beautiful and it was at least something that I was able to see them. We had also decided earlier in the day to give up on the Cho La crossing since we had heard on the trail that all lodges were booked in Thangnak. We therefore decided to do the trek to Kala Pattar from Phortse and would rest for the night in Na.

43.1. A helicopter flies down the Gokyo valley past Cholatse (L) as we walk up (R).

43.2. Walking past the lakes up to Gokyo.

43.3. On the walk back down the valley to Na.

Na is very small with only one basic lodge but it was very quiet. There were just us and a couple of miserable Germans who appeared to have colds as well and probably missed out on Gokyo too. The night was very cold and the toilet was outside about 20 m away from the lodge. I’d brought some empty water bottles so I was glad not to have to make that trip until morning.

Day 44: Na (4400 m) to Phortse (3800 m)

The descent to Phortse began in typically Nepali style, mostly uphill. Walking was still very tiring at this altitude and I was still suffering with the cold. The east side of the Gokyo valley is much less developed than the west side with only a few small teahouses on the trail. We stopped at one in a place called Thore though there wasn’t anywhere to stop for lunch until we reached Phortse and it was nearly 14:00 by then.

44.1. Looking across the Gokyo valley on the walk down to Phortse.

44.2. Yaks block the trail as we head up to a pass.

44.3. Passing huts close to arriving in Phortse.

I went to my room to rest in the afternoon but it wasn’t very peaceful as there were lots of people coming and going from the lodge at that time. I gave up on resting and at about 15:30 went outside and met Kanchha and we decided to take a walk up to the gompa. I was feeling exhausted and it took me a long time to walk the relatively short distance. Phortse gompa is very new, about 10 years old, and on the second floor the artists were still painting the walls. It was interesting to see how the images evolve from pencil sketches to colourful paintings. Before it was built the villagers had to walk for 3 hours to Pangboche for religious ceremonies. We stopped for tea at the gompa and then walked back down. For dinner I had a yak steak and Sherpa stew and in the evening we played ludo and cards. I went to bed quite early but it took a while to get to sleep since my room was right next to the dining room.

44.4. Buddhist wall paintings at Phortse gompa.