By Chad Peele
I celebrated my 37th birthday in Dingboche while on my way to guide Ama Dablam, and yes, I have several new gray hairs! This is my second trip to Nepal this year.
We had a rough start to the trip, as the weather was somewhat “rocky” preventing flights from leaving Kathmandu. After waiting several days, we finally decided that we had to pull the trigger on a getting out of Kathmandu and hired a helicopter to fly us into Lukla. Due to their power and speed, helicopters have the ability to fly around, below and above the clouds, which enabled us to arrive in Lukla and start our trek on time.
The trek into Ama Dablam base camp is almost identical to the trail into Everest base camp, and it was a great pleasure to revisit villages and people that I met this previous spring. Our weather has been stupendous, and I have enjoyed getting to know my client and the group we are traveling with during the last week or so.
I had a great surprise when Adrian Ballinger, owner of Alpenglow Expeditions, got out his camera, and Lochhu, base camp manager and head cook, brought out a beautiful birthday cake with flaming candles!
I’ve never been one to enjoy surprises, and I felt quite embarrassed as everybody sang “Happy Birthday” in the dining room of the Friendship Lodge. We followed this with whiskey and milk tea, which tasted somewhat like a hot White Russian (Hey, don’t laugh. Sometimes you just have to make do!).
The next day we had an early start from Dingboche as we traveled over to the village of Chukhung where we climbed to the top of Chukhung Ri, which tops out at 18,200 feet. This is one of the beauties of Himalayan travel in that you can get to such amazing altitudes and views with little more than trail shoes, a wind-jacket and a daypack!
Currently we are spending our second day in base camp at 15,000 feet, enjoying the warm weather and sun. We participated in our Puja ceremony today, followed by some fixed line travel, and tomorrow we will “touch” our interim camp at 17,000 feet for acclimatization purposes. After this, we will begin our acclimatization run followed by a final summit push.
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