Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Starting to acclimate

I didn't sleep much last night. Probably a combination of jet lag and the altitude. And maybe that nap I took late yesterday.  I awoke with a small headache but felt pretty good overall given the rapid ascent to this elevation. After a breakfast of pancakes with honey and more milk tea, my guide Conan and I set out for an acclimatization hike above the village of Dingbouche. When I arrived the night before I failed to realize I was in the midst of some of the most famous peaks in the Himalayas - Ama Dablam, Island Peak, and Lohtse are all visible. It was clear in the morning for our hike. We set out at a slow pace and only gained 1000 feet to ensure I didn't over do it. I felt really good. No headache. One person on the trip already went home due to not being able to acclimate to the altitude.

I should explain that I am doing this on a much shortened schedule and will be the last person in my group to reach base camp, maybe the last climber on the mountain period. I could not take 2 months off from work so am doing this within my vacation.  The program involves sleeping in a hypoxic tent for 45 days prior, simulating towards the end being at 14,000 feet right in my bedroom. (Side note: Lauri loved the tent and really wanted to join me in it but somehow never did.) In addition I am skipping much of the trek in to base camp that the rest of the team experienced. Together this will cut in half the time it normally takes, assuming I can acclimate.  This has been done before so hopefully I will acclimate OK. 

This is at roughly 15,500 feet with Ama Dablam, elevation 22,349, prominent in the background. It looks like two separate mountains but both are really part of the same and are connected by a ridge we cannot see from this angle. 

The adventure starts now

Today was another travel day getting closer to the mountain. After a few hours of sleep I met Rajan, my driver in Kathmandu, to head for the airport a little before 6:00am. I flew to Lukla next via helicopter. The Lukla airport is named the Tenzing - Hillary airport but also is nicknamed the scariest airport in the world due to its angled approach and short mountain runway. The elevation there is 9,334 feet.  All of this definitely made me feel like the adventure was really starting as the comforts of home gradually faded behind me with each leg of the journey. Another sign of adventure, I had to start using my Steripen, an ultraviolet device used to make water drinkable.

Here you can see an airplane approaching the runway.

This is from the internet but gives a good perspective of the runway.

After an hour layover in Lukla airport, where I enjoyed my first cup of steaming milk tea, I continued on to Dingbouche, evelation 14,469.  I definitely felt the elevation. It's like flying directly to the top of Mount Rainier and getting out.