Everest Base Camp Trekking in Nepal – Part One

These posts are reflections and images from my trek to Kalla Patthar in Nepal February 2017.

I had some work in India along the coast and was looking for a side trip afterwards for photography.  I thought about the Maldives but decided that would be depressing to be the single guy amongst all the honeymooning couples.  Sri Lanka also came up but didn’t really move me.  A friend suggested I head up to Nepal and do the trek to Everest Base Camp.  So I looked into it.

Looking into tour operators is like walking out of the arrivals hall in a third world airport. Everyone wants to be your friend.  Following lots of research and emails, I started working with Gopal at Himalayan Nepal Trek.  Questions led to more questions, a gear list came together and a rough itinerary.  I explained that my main reason to go would be photography and this was factored into the route and timing.

Honestly, when I finished my work in India, I was ready for home.  Instead, I headed for Kathmandu.  Gopal met me at the airport and got me set up at a hotel in Thamel.  I met my guide, Badri, got in some time for local photography and ate a lot of MoMo, a local version of pot stickers.  Smooth going so far, I began to see myself hiking in and amongst the peaks of the Himalayas.

The finicky nature of getting to Lukla, the start of my trek soon revealed itself, however.  Weather cancelled our flight for two days.  With a fixed exit date, this was becoming concerning.  On day two, we decided to get a helicopter and get there by that means instead.  Our helicopter was met in Lukla by a group of Australians equally eager to leave but unable.  We swapped seats and my trek began.

trekking nepal, himalayas, helicopter, lukla

Swapping Helicopters Near Lukla

Our original porter we had planned on engaging was hung over from New Years, so we hired another and set off up the trail.  Our plan was an easy acclimatization schedule with slow going and a set plan of overnights to get me used to the elevation.  In Lukla, we were at 2800 meters and our goal, Kalla Patthar, was about 5600 meters.

Wandering up the dusty trail was a revelation of life in Nepal.  Teams of yaks and mules carrying propane and hay, other porters with huge loads balanced on their backs, groups of trekkers.  Stretches of trail broken up by little settlements.  Teahouses, homes, dusty trail, businesses selling supplies to trekkers.  We were gaining slowly in elevation, nothing too intense.  That would come later.

nepal, trekking, everest base camp, kitchen, teahouse, phakding

Teahouse Kitchen in Phakding

Our first overnight was in Phakding, a small hamlet about 4 hours up the trail from Lukla. Here I had my first teahouse experience.  Ordering from a menu I would see similar variations of throughout the trip, sleeping in a typical teahouse room, etc.  We were the only guests, its still the slow season coming out of winter.  The meals were excellent.  The room was seriously cold however.  I started to realize that I had made a wise choice in bringing my Mountain Hardwear Phantom Zero degrees F bag.  It was only going to get colder.  Speaking of gear, I was starting to work out what I would wear while trekking vs what I wore around the teahouse.  Trekking wear were light layers.  Arcteryx Rampart pants, base layer, windstopper pullover or light down jacket.  in the evening off the trail, I would slip into my Arcteryx Firebee parka for warmth around the teahouse.  I had been very happy with my Arcteryx Bora2 GTX boots and saw no reason not to bring them along.  The liners made nice teahouse booties at each stop along the way.  In the end, I hiked for two weeks with no foot issues, so my choice worked out.

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Nepali Boy near Phakding Nepal

By the second day, I had worked out a plan for photography.  The good light was of course in the morning and evening.  But sights still presented themselves along the way during the day.  I had brought two cameras, Sony a7r and a7r2, with four lenses:  Voigtlander 10mm, Zeiss 28mm Otus, Zeiss 55mm and Zeiss 100-300mm.  The 55 would be my walkaround, with iphone ready for quick snaps.  I didnt use the 10mm, with most of my shots spread around the other three focal lengths.  Badri did a great job of carrying my a7r2 with the 55 at ready.  I swapped on the 28 or 100-300 as scenes presented themselves.

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Morning in Namche – Taking photos

Our first major climb was the ascent into Namche the next day.  It began with a climb to the second of two suspension bridges to cross the Dudh Koshi Nadi river, which for most of the trip we were on one side or the other or crossing over it via suspension bridge.  I had been hydrating well, and adding Endurox R4 to my bottle for additional recovery support.  This first climb really wrung me out.  I began to see this was going to be a bit more intense than I thought.  Badri helped me slow down as my instinct was to get up the trail as fast as possible so I could rest at the top.  The length of some of these stretches plus the altitude was going to conspire against me quickly.  Donkey steps I began to call them. Slow and easy.  The people who got in trouble with the altitude were the gung-ho crossfit types who tried to go too fast.  I saw this happen to others later on.

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One of the Many Suspension Bridges to Namche – Yaks Have the Right of Way

Namche revealed itself soon enough and we settled in for two days there to acclimatize to the altitude.  I had my first hot shower in a few days which was mostly a warm trickle, teasing me but wonderful none the less.  I also finally had some choice of time and location for photos and got some nice sunrise/sunset shots of surrounding peaks, the town itself and of Ama Dablam in the distance.  Our teahouse accommodations had other guests as well and I began to get to know other trekkers who I would see again and again along the trail.  I found a local beer, Sherpa Ale to be quite refreshing, although Badri advised no more ale after this stop since it would mess with our acclimatization plan. More Sherpa would have to wait until we came back this way on the route down.

View of Namche and Kongde Peak in the Morning

View of Namche and Kongde Peak in the Morning

In Namche, I also began to learn how to evaluate teahouses.  Where was my room in relation to bathrooms? How was the food, ie. what was on the menu vs. what actually appeared?  How could I charge my phone and was the wireless free or not?  These were important questions and I learned to quickly assess.  Related to food, the menus were a mix of western and local favorites.  Ordering local was not a guarantee of good eats however.  As we got further up the trail, the freshness of ingredients waned.  It was obvious to me to stay away from the pizza and hamburgers however even from the start.  I remember drinking a lot of tea, eating a lot of momo, fried rice and french toast.  Oat porridge eventually became a mainstay with a wide variety of condiments, and on the last day, I had finally figured out to order toast, with peanut butter and honey, which I made into a great sandwich.

Next:  Part 2 – Onward and Upward to Tengboche and Dingboche

My Friday the 13th Adventure – Rainier Icy Cloudscape Reflections

So I got back from going down to Rainier Friday night to see how the lakes were thawing.  Turns out they are amazing so I will be going back down next week early for some sunrise.  Highlights of the Friday the 13th trip:

– Leaving at 1pm wasn’t early enough – still bad traffic down 167

– Lots of people in the park

– I get to Reflection Lakes and they appear mostly frozen but a few thawed spots.  I hike out to one and get some nice shots.  I see this guy watching me and sure enough once I get back to the road he pounces with all these questions ie Is it safe? (maybe)  Did you get a reflection? (yes).  You can tell he’s been studying this situation for about an hour or more.

– I drive down to the Snow Lake trailhead and two guys are parked there happily smoking.  Turns out they are from the South.  Of course, who else smokes in the park?  🙂

– I hike out to the lake in my Sorels.  There is no trail but some faint bootprints.  I eventually find my way and the lake is gorgeous.  I stay til sunset and get some great shots. I wander over through the brush to this 1000 foot sheer drop and get some nice shots but kinda regret the risk.  I also manage to butt dial my sister which is surprising that I got cell reception and hearing her voice from my pocket was funny.

– I decide to hike back before its pitch black even though I have my headlamp.  My route goes straight up this steep hill but I find my way.  I punch through some snow and land in a creek but am still dry.  I find this steep trail down to the road and it works.

– Driving back down out of the park I run into these two kids hiking back in darkness.  The girl has made a crutch out of a stick since she sprained her ankle.  I gave them a ride to their car at Longmire.

– Driving past Alder at 60-ish mph, a deer wanders onto the road.  I manage to swerve and miss it.

– Driving through Spanaway and Parkland – what  a twilight zone of crushed dreams 🙂

 

whew…home at 1130

 

Mike

 

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Seattle Foggy Sunrise Timelapse Video

I woke up early and noticed that the Space Needle was covered in fog so I got up and headed to Kerry park.  I set up my Sony a7r2 and Zeiss 85 Otus for a time lapse video.  I also took some stills with my other Sony a7r.  #timelapse #video #zeiss

Sony a7r and Canon 11-24mm Lens Seattle Timelapse Sunset Video

I was very eager to test Canon’s 11-24mm at the Sky View Observatory. I wanted to see what 11mm meant as far as pov goes and aside from taking a number of random photos, I also made a timelapse video. I had adapted the lens onto my Sony a7r using a Metabones III adapter which allows for electronic control and eventual AF.  I can tell you that the protruding lens shade petals and front element make blocking out internal reflections against the Observatory’s windows challenging.  But I think I made a decent go of it.  I returned the lens this morning and felt ok about letting it go.  For me, 11mm is cool but a rare requirement and my Sony 16-35mm makes me very happy.  It certainly weighs a lot less, has OSS and of course doesn’t need a Metabones adapter.

http://www.mikereidphotography.com #a7r #canon #sony #mirrorless

11mm Seattle from the Sky View Observatory

…and now a nice timelapse made with the Canon 11-24mm lens:

Mount Rainier Sunrise Reflection Timelapse Video

Timelapse video of sunrise at Mount Rainier reflected in a small lake. I think I’ve spent two days now cleaning all the mosquitoes out of the 1900 shots that make up this video. Of course I left a few in to give it a real feel.  Sony a7r and Zeiss 16-35mm at 16mm.  Thanks ‪#‎lightroom‬ and ‪#‎photoshop‬ www.mikereidphotography.com

Burning Seattle Sunset Timelapse Video from the Columbia Center’s Sky View Observatory

This gets really good towards the end.  So glad I stayed a little past when the sun went down.  Zeiss 16-35mm and Sony a7r camera. www.mikereidphotography.com

One of the still shots from the 1500 images used for this timelapse:

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