Compassion and love are precious things in life. They are not complicated. They are simple, but difficult to practice.
Day 6 – Above the Tree line to Dingboche
Doing this trek at this time of year reveals one all-important fact; you must have bottles of hot water to put in your sleeping bag at night to sleep well. We settle into a routine of having 2-3 of our 1-liter Nalgene water bottles filled with hot water just before we head to bed each night. The difference in comfort if you don’t do this is night and day. This not only gives you a nice warm night’s sleep in your sleeping bag, it also means you’ll have some decent temperature water to drink in the morning. The reality at this point is that anything not inside your sleeping bag for the night is getting exposed to extreme temperatures. We weren’t able to measure the exact temp, but it was likely right around 0F / -18C this morning. Since these teahouses have only the most basic of construction and insulation materials, the indoor temps are likely not much different than the outdoor temps.
We experience a brilliant blue sky with golden sunshine hitting the highest peaks early in the sunrise. As we eat breakfast in the dining room, it turns out that the pyramid peak of a mountain we see behind the others is actually Everest! The dining room is cold with fingers and toes paying the price, but it’s uplifting to see the beautiful sunny morning and the snow-covered landscape. The stove hasn’t been lit this morning in the dining room and we keep moving around to stay warm. We find out later that we can solve the unlit stove problem easily — rupees!
We finish our breakfast and head out on the trail bundled up with too many. Even so, it still takes some time to warm up before we take of any layers of clothing. The trail from Tengboche is a beautiful walk through a snow-covered forest alongside the rushing glacial-fed river. We steadily descend through the forest trail, passing a couple of tiny villages and finally reach the river crossing. A river crossing means we look forward to another prolonged hill climb — hooray!
Today’s walk takes us to Dingboche with a couple of stops along the way in two towns. The largest town is Pangboche, where we stop for some tea. Later, we will have our lunch break at a smaller town before finally reaching our day’s final destination. During the climb after the river crossing, we observe some impressive Sherpa feats of long distance carry on their backs. One man had two full size wooden doors on his back. Since this clearly wasn’t a sufficient load for him, he also had a backpack that was lashed to back of the second door. Another man had a gigantic white package the size of three men across and one man tall. I didn’t manage to get a good picture of this spectacle as they passed us too quickly.
We reach Pangboche and see tiny puppies wandering around. It must be puppy season in this region, as we’ve seen quite a few in several villages so far. One adorable pile of a half a dozen black puppies sleep together in the midday sun. We hear a story that Buddhists believe that dogs are reincarnated monks, so they’re treated well by the Nepali people. Pangboche is also distinctive in the awe-inspiring views of Ama Dablam that they are privileged to have in their back yard. This mountain has a distinctive shape that only presents itself from this angle. We will see another face of Ama Dablam later that is still beautiful but much less distinctive. Leaving Pangboche, the rest of the afternoon’s walk is on a gradual hillside path and stays far above another glacial-fed river below us. Some parts of the trail, however, are a bit nerve-wracking for Julie with what I call “no fall zones”. Essentially, places that a fall from the trail will be unacceptable in terms of the outcome. When we finally reached Dingboche, Julie was super glad but also had a headache.
Dingboche at 14,470’ / 4,410m (59% of the oxygen at sea level) is a good-sized town and we walk for some minutes to reach our teahouse in the middle, where we wait for two yaks to decide if they also want to enter the courtyard. They finally decide to let us pass through the narrow doorway and as we settle into the teahouse, we note that this is the highest elevation that we’ve ever been in our lives.