Everest/First Ascents: Teahouses and the Trek to Deboche

Viesturs, Hahn, Whittaker, and the First Ascent teams down meal after meal while on the way to Everest Base Camp
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Viesturs, Hahn, Whittaker, and the First Ascent teams down meal after meal while on the way to Everest Base Camp

This spring, superstar mountaineers Ed Viesturs, Dave Hahn, and Peter Whittaker will tackle Everest as the First Ascent team. Joined by some of climbing’s best and brightest young talent, this Eddie Bauer-sponsored group of all-stars will chronicle their trek to the top of the world right here on BACKPACKER.com with daily blog updates, videos, photos, and more.

In this blog and video entry, Hahn, Seth Waterfall, Whittaker, Melissa Arnot, and crew discuss the merits of of a high-altitude diet while on their long trek to Everest Base Camp.

Our guest house in Namche was packed to the gills with other trekkers and climbers last night. But as it was our third night in the same place, we felt pretty much like we owned the place anyway. We packed away the chapattis, the “thak tok soup”, and the “chicken chilly” (yes it is spelled that way), as if we’d been living above 11,000 feet for weeks. Erica pretty much won the eating contest by knocking back a plate of veggie chow mein, two boiled eggs AND macaroni and cheese. The kid can eat… and that is a good thing, since that particular skill, or the lack thereof, has made a huge difference in climber success at altitude over the years.

Some folks wither away as they go higher. The reasons aren’t complicated; we all burn calories faster up high since everything is more work in the thin air, and of course life in a cold place tends to burn extra calories anyway. One of the troubles with simply eating more to compensate is that most people don’t feel like doing it. The human gut gets overwhelmed fast when the blood it depends on is poorly oxygenated. So eating becomes a chore and –this being a trip full of mountain guides- we tend to nag each other a lot to do our chores.

Erica has discovered that the path of least resistance is to say “Yes please” when the momo plate comes around again. (Perhaps it helps that Melissa bet her a fancy Kathmandu dinner post-trip that she wouldn’t be able to maintain her weight for the next sixty days).

We were up, breakfasted and on the trail out of Namche by 7:30 AM. For the first hour or so, we wound our way along on a traverse across a steep hillside. Far below us, the Dudh Khosi was making plenty of noise as the waters crashed through continuous and ridiculous rapids. Far above one could watch eagles and hawks soaring –provided that one didn’t look up for so long that one walked off the edge and fell down to the Dudh Khosi. The trail was busy with yak trains coming and going. This was actually our first dealing with true Yaks as they don’t generally live below Namche.

We’ve so far seen plenty of dzokials carrying loads –and while dzokial is not an acceptable scrabble word, it is none-the-less a sturdy animal representing the cross between a low-land cow and a high altitude Yak. Now it is mostly yaks carrying loads to and from Everest Basecamp. They are strong, sure-footed, surprisingly feisty and a little tough to pass when they want the whole trail to themselves.

By 10 AM we’d descended a few hundred meters back down to the Dudh Khosi and found our place in the sun. We sat at the tables outside a couple of teahouses drinking milk-coffee, milk-tea and hot lemon. This rest break was a nice time to collect our various camera teams, to make a head count, to people-watch (we watched Ed Viesturs head out at flank speed for his workout on the big hill to Thyangboche) and to eat another plate or two of fried rice.

Eventually, we pried ourselves out of our comfortable sidewalk cafes and got busy on the hot and dusty trail going up to Thyangboche. The hillside was mostly covered in pine and rhododendron forests but there were also enough clearings to get a dose of strong sun. Typically, the day had begun clear and bright but was clouding up some as we approached noon. Thyangboche Hill, like a lot of the hills in this part of the world, goes on forever, but our entire group made it up the thing in about 90 minutes. Then it was time for another sit-down for snacks on the majestic hilltop.

The place is famous for its elaborate and somber monastery, but also these days for having another last-chance internet café which Peter Whittaker took advantage of to connect once again with his family. We’d begun our hilltop break with views of Ama Dablam, Kangtega, Lhotse and Everest but after a couple more milk-teas the clouds won their battle and concealed everything.

Now wrapped up in cozy First Ascent jackets and sweaters, the whole gang trouped on down the shady side of the Thyangboche Hill through a thick rhododendron forest to Deboche… our home for the next two nights.

—Dave Hahn


The content of this blog has been provided by Born Out There, the First Ascents blog. For more on the expedition, go tohttp://blog.firstascent.com. And for more climber footage, watch our video interview with Viesturs, Hahn, Whittaker, and more.