Day 11: Phortse to Dingboche

Today we “turned the corner” from the valley that goes to Gokyo to the valley that goes to Everest. It was a long day, the elevation gains were supposed to be around 200m and 300m before and after lunch, respectively. However, even before we hit Pangboche for lunch, we’d already racked up around 400m gain. Again, this was along a trail that followed a contour line between the two towns that was more like an up and down squiggle. The most interesting part of the trail was a section we named “The Wiggles” after the famous section of trail in Zion leading up to Angel’s Landing. This little section of trail switched back tightly, gaining 70 feet or so in the process. Once at the top, it was possible to look nearly straight down on those coming up inviting vertigo for the faint of heart.

Once in Pangboche, we stopped at the gompa to take pictures. Gompas are fantastically interesting places, with lots of detail to shoot. I broke out the tripod (since they are also very dark inside) and started snapping away. You don’t wear shoes when you’re in the temple, and given the altitude, seasons, and closed space the floor was exceptionally cold! I quickly reached my limit and headed outside into the sun to warm up (feeling a little like a lizard looking for a hot rock to bask on). Anne took her time, meticulously working over the inside of the temple and doing some HDR.

After spending maybe 30 minutes wandering around the gompa, we headed just up the small hill to grab a bite before heading on towards Dingboche. At lunch, we met two folks from Canada who were trekking together. The gentleman was from Kelowna, BC and the woman was from Winnipeg. Anne engaged them in conversation during lunch, and we talked about Gorek Shep and the EBC and Kala Patthar hikes.

After lunch we set off for Dingboche, another two to three hours walk away. Surprisingly, there were few steep grades, most of it a gradual uphill that took us through a nice plain with expansive views of Ama Dablam and Lhotse along the way, the river below us to our right. The final grunt up a hill was immediately after a bridge crossing, which then leveled out to 4400m as we crested another small hill and Dingboche sprang into view.

It was near 4pm when we got into town, trying to follow Dorje as closely as possible to ensure that we got a lodge that was adequate. Sure enough, just as in Namche, Dorje went for the lodge that was clear across town, the highest up the path we would take the following morning. Having learned from some previous night’s sleep that you should mind the foam pads on the bed, we protested the poor quality and nearly non-existent padding. This prompted the addition of 3 more foam pads for each bed, which provided more than enough padding.

I’d also determined to try and wash a couple things, having not done a proper wash of any clothing for several days. I mustered some hot water and quickly got to work. However, it wasn’t fast enough and just as soon as I’d hung my items to dry on the line, the sun set behind the hills. In about 10 minutes my wet clothing was completely frozen, resembling cardboard more than merino wool. I brought the stiff clothing into the dining room, where by now the stove was warm and proceeded to start drying it all that way. It took several hours, but by the end of the night I had clothing that was both clean and dry.

The most interesting part of the night was teh impromptu steam treatment that Dorje brought out for Anne. He’d gotten a large bowl of hot water, added some Tiger Balm, and brought the whole thing out with a large towel. Since Anne had started suffering from congestion at Gokyo, Dorje had been somewhat insistent on minor local treatments like Tiget Balm, garlic soup, and hot water to drink. Tonight, it hit a whole new level. The Tiger Balm laced steam was enough to make you cough at a distance. Anne gave it a go for a while and then I stepped in (now also starting to have my own sinus issues). I’ll tell you that I’ve never been cleared up so fast in my life, it was like detonating an A-bomb in your sinuses. We both went to bed clear as newly forged bells.

Tomorrow we’ll head out of town and aim for Lobuche. That will set us up for Gorek Shep on the following day assuming all goes well.

Stats for the day:
Miles: 7.96
Ascent: 948m
Descent: 471m
Total Time: 7:16
Moving Time: 4:24