Day 10: Gokyo to Phortse

Big day today as we made our way all the way down the valley to Phortse. We knew it would take hours so we got an early start, which wasn’t hard because neither Anne nor I slept well last night. I only finally got to sleep at around 3am, and I have no idea about Anne.

It was also possibly the coldest morning yet. The room seemed noticeably colder than previous mornings probably due to the clouds last night. The frost was thick on the window and the water in the water bottle was slushy, the first time we’ve had problems not keeping the water in the sleeping bag.

We rolled out just after breakfast, around 8:20am or so and started slowly down the trail we came up just three days prior. Crossing the river just after the first lake, we made our way quickly down and crossed the river again on a small wooden bridge that was still slippery from the nights frost. Along the way, we crossed over braids of the river several times, finally making our way down the valley following a “contour” which lead us higher and higher above the river falling away in the valley below us. Despite this “contour,” there were still numerous short and steep sections where the trail would fall just to gain back the elevation, some apparently made on what appear to be the whim of whatever yak first walked the path.

We ate lunch at around 12:30pm in Thore, which looked across the valley and down on Dole. Given the long hike thus far, lunch was both well timed and tasty (probably all the more for the appetite we’d worked up going up and down so much). It was also plentiful and Anne and I were both stuffed. Which is exactly the point at which Dorje brought out a whole plate full of boiled potatoes! Anne and I were both touched by the gesture but at the same time horrified that we couldn’t possibly eat a bite of it! In the end, I took the plate back to Dorje, thanking him profusely for the offer and explaining that we were both far too full from the food we ordered to be able to eat any more.

Before leaving I went to go use the toilet. This is relevant because it was possibly the most horrifying toilet I’ve ever used. To get to it, you first had to head around the lodge and down the hill into the yak pasture. There was a small wooden hut with a small square door about the size of a Hobbit. After squeezing through the door, you were greeted with a wooden floor that looked more like my grandfather’s attic than something safe to stand on. Some of the boards were loose, threatening to either give way or fly up and whack you in the shin. Of course the toilet was really just a hole in the floor that meant navigating all the rest of these dangers. Even by standards on the trek it was a little bleak.

Barring mishap in the outhouse, we got under way after a longish rest in the sun. We’d hoped the rest of the way would be downhill to Phortse, but sadly that was not the case. Not more than 10 minutes out of town we again ran into a steep 50m descent followed by an immediate ascent of the same order. Three or four times we rounded corners only to see some steep descent followed immediately by a steep climb to a pass. Anne’s reaction: “Oh God!” It summed up the feeling perfectly and I couldn’t help but chuckle and share the same emotion.

We finally got to Phortse around 4pm, spent some time looking for a lodge and finally found the “Peaceful Lodge.” The name was only partially apt. We picked a comfortable and well-appointed room, unpacked, and then found that there was no key for the door lock. We found the key and found that the door lock didn’t actually work. Finally, we changed rooms moving from room 5 to room 4. We also took some time to do some mundane chores like minimal laundry, trimming nails, and washing up.

Tomorrow we’re off to Dingboche and then Lobuche, though as Dorje is starting to understand better, we’ll change the schedule as desired to fit our needs!

Stats for the day:
Miles: 9.96
Ascent: 505m
Descent: 1389m
Total Time: 7:38
Moving Time: 4:52