In early April, National Geographic Traveller Aus/NZ editor Geordie Torr and competition winner Laura Waters joined a group of Kathmandu Summit Club members for a 14-day ‘Rebuild Nepal’ trek through the foothills of the Himalaya. Having raised funds for the Australian Himalayan Foundation (AHF) as a way of giving back to the communities that they would visit, the group visited schools in the Solukhumbu district to see first-hand some of the work that’s being carried out by rural education and environment NGO REED Nepal, with support from the AHF and Kathmandu, before joining the ‘tourist circuit’ for views of Mount Everest and other famous Himalayan peaks.
Several of us had trouble sleeping last night – almost certainly a result of the higher altitude and consequent lower oxygen content in the air. I was awake at 4am, which meant I was ready and waiting for the scheduled knock on the door and mug of tea at 6am. Not long after, we all began to make our way up to the lookout and memorial that are conveniently located just up the hill from our hotel.
I was quietly excited because this was my first proper chance to see Mount Everest. In my previous jobs as deputy editor and editor of Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, I was heavily involved in the production of special editions to mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the first ascent of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, and ever since I had harboured a secret desire to see the mountain for myself (but not climb it – I had read enough to know that reaching the summit was not something I ever needed to do).
Sadly, however, when we got to the top of the hill, the world’s tallest mountain was again shrouded in cloud. But any disappointment we felt was swept away by the awe inspired by the other mountains that surrounded us, including 5,761-metre Khumbila, the distinctive double peak of 6,812-metre Ama Dablam and Everest’s close neighbour, Lhotse, at 8,516 metres, the world’s fourth highest mountain. The cloud over Everest looked to be staying where it was and the morning air had a definite nip in it, so before long we all headed back down the hill.
Today was a rest day, and after breakfast back at the hotel, we all split up, making our way down to do some sightseeing/souvenir shopping in Namche Bazaar. The village was fairly quiet, and I spent some time browsing my way through the shops, which mostly sold either knick-knacks, trekking gear or groceries. Namche itself is a maze of narrow alleys and steep stairways, with the shops, bars and teahouses arranged in tiers in a horseshoe shape around the hillside. Here and there yaks and jopkyos laze around in the sun.
Over lunch I did some mental calculations and realised that I needed more cash, so after the meal, I made my way back down to Namche and visited one of the two ATMs. As I made my way back up the hill to the hotel, stopping regularly to catch my breath, it started to rain lightly, and later, it began to fall more heavily, turning into sleet at times – and falling as snow higher up, dusting the lower slopes of the surrounding mountains.
At 6pm, a few of us made our way back up to the lookout, where we were treated to tantalising glimpses of Everest’s summit pyramid. The mountain was, once more, hidden by cloud, but way up there at the top of the world there was clearly a stiff wind blowing, and every now and then, the clouds would part to reveal a ridge or two, and we all vowed to get up extra early tomorrow in the hope of getting a proper view.
Australian Himalayan Foundation
Kathmandu community partnerships
Kathmandu Summit Club treks