After a stunning, challenging, exciting and just mind-blowingly spectacular (going great guns with the superlatives, I know) 10 days trekking in Tibet, we have returned to something approximating civilisation - a weirdo border town between Tibet and Nepal.
We have spent the last ten days walking a 150km circuit that took us from a tiny village called Yuba to the Kanshung (east) face of Mt Everest, accompanied by 12 yaks, four yakbas (yak wranglers), three Nepali crew, our Tibetan guide and our amazing Nepali guide Ang Tsering. We spent nine of those days above 4000m above sea level, and three of them above 5000m. Thankfully none of us suffered too badly from altitude beyond the occasional headache, major breathlessness and some very strange sleep breathing habits.
But I finally got to see Mt Everest with my own eyes, and it felt a bit like the culmination of a pilgrimage. We got close to the east face, and walked to base camp at the north face, from where Hillary and Tensing launched their historic climb.
The trek was physically very challenging, not just because of the altitude, so we're both a little leaner and a little browner. While we were very lucky with the weather and had clear skies almost the entire time (which meant getting dressed in -12C degrees INSIDE the tent). We even had an unplanned adventure when a unexpectedly heavy snow cover on Langma La pass (5300m above sea level) forced our yaks back but five of us kept going, got separated from our guide, spent a whole day floundering through waist-deep snow and weren't reunited with our guide, tents or food until after dark! All a little scary at the time but we made it OK.
The crew were amazing. We got woken up each morning with a cup of tea and a bowl of warm washing water, followed by two course breakfast. They were masters at getting our little tent city (4 sleeping tents, one mess tent, one kitchen tent and a toilet tent) set up and dismantled with lightning speed). Dinner was always three courses and the amazing cook Nawang even produced two cakes complete with detailed icing writing on two occasions!
Anyway, there is so much more to write and lots of news to tell, but I'll spare you all until we have some nice piccies to load up. We'll be in Kathmandu tomorrow night and for a few days before we head off towards the Annapurna trekking circuit for another dose of high altitude walking. Hope all's well!