Day 16: Pheriche to Tengboche

It was cold when we woke up this morning, as predicted by virtually everyone we talked to. Pheriche is in a valley and doesn’t get early light. As well, something about the way the wind and the clouds form up makes this part of the valley particularly cold. We did our best to get out of bed and stay warm, but even the dining room wasn’t really warm and the hot tea only did so much to warm the extremities. After an extended breakfast to try and stall as much as possible to allow the sun to poke out, we took off.

Pheriche pass was the first destination, we dropped down briefly, crossed over the river, and then enjoyed a quick climb out of town that crossed into the sunlight and helped us warm up. The trek back to Pangboche was uneventful and we stopped for tea at a great little spot in town that was warm and sunny. There we met a couple from Tennessee who were on their way up to Gorek Shep, the southern accent seeming somehow out of place in the Khumbu valley.

We left Pangboche and made our way towards Deboche, which is a short climb below Tengboche. Personally, I found this part of the trail to be inspiring. Before crossing the river over a high suspension bridge, we passed many mane stone walls and chortens with incredible views up the valley towards Ama Dablam and down the valley to the gompa at Tengboche. The trail was full of people engaging in the daily walk of life, old men and women hauling huge loads of wood up the steep path towards villages higher up the valley. Crossing the river high above a water cut gorge, we then passed into rhododendron forests on a nice and mostly flat trail to Deboche.

In Deboche, we stopped for lunch at a nice looking lodge that was unfortunately really cold inside. Anne noticed a post card of Mount Rainier and eagerly explained to Renche and Dorje that she’d climbed it. Dorje seemed impressed, both of the climb but more so seemingly about the fact that there were no fixed ropes! Proud, Dorje passed along the accomplishment to the lady working the kitchen, who was also impressed.

Climbing out of Deboche, the trail headed uphill sharply following an old “paved” road. Dorje had told us the hike up to Tengboche would take about 40 minutes. Anne put on a tear and made short work of the steep section, topping out in Tengboche a short 20 minutes later where we checked into the Tengboche Guest House. Most of the land here is owned by the gompa, and so our lodge was actually part of the monastery. We landed our bags, went outside and warmed ourselves in the sun a little, and went for tea while waiting for the monastery to open at 3pm for pictures. While grabbing tea in the dining room, we were shocked to find Natang, the owner of the Moonlight lodge that we stayed at in Namche, sitting right beside us. When asked what he was doing there he casually replied “Sherpa trekking.” In reality, the Tengboche Guest House was owned by his brother in law. More than a friendly family visit, we later found out that people from all over the valley were converging on Deboche for the funeral of a lama the following day. Natang asked us about our trip and we told him how it had been going, also telling him that we’d be back in Namche at his lodge the following day.

At 3pm we went to the gompa for pictures. We had really hoped for chanting, but that didn’t happen. So we resigned ourselves to the pictures we could take, wandering inside and out taking pictures of anything and everything that inspired and making plans to come back at night and try and do a little night photography of the place (one of the very few things that was lit at night in the valley).

Just before dinner, a large group of the owners friends showed up from Namche transforming the dining room into a bustling hub of activity. This group too was in town for the funeral. Beers and wine were broken out and all of them chatted vigorously for the rest of the evening. Dorje sat off to the side, clearly an outside to this party and seemed in some ways frustrated that he wasn’t the center of attention. We ate our dinner and watched the show before us, wondering how much of this was “normal” life when us westerners weren’t around. Dinner itself was again excellent. Anne wolfed down a vegetable curry with rice (though not as good as the previous night’s egg curry) and I helped myself to a couple helpings of dal bhat.

After dinner we made our way outside, tripods in hand, and did some night shots of the gompa. I stayed out a little past Anne, tromping around the sloping fields to try and find some better angles from which to photograph the gompa and stars. It’s clear my night photography skills need honing as I didn’t really come away with any keepers, but just the experience of being outside and being able to look up into the night sky where there is so little atmosphere above you and virtually no light pollution is incredible. I took as much as I could in, and made my way back to the warmth of my sleeping bag.

Stats for the day:
Miles: 5.5
Ascent: 347m
Descent: 727m
Total Time: 5.01