Ok, so where we left off, we had just finished up our acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar and were eager to get moving higher up. We started off early in the morning and soon after getting out of town the views opened up and we could see the majestic Ama Dablam and many other peaks off in the distance. We were still in the forest zone and hiking on flat ground, so we were both feeling good. The only downside was having to pass all the big tour groups that clog up the trail. People sign up for these tours way in advance in their home countries, pay absurdly high prices, and then get stuck in slow moving donkey trains with people that they may or may not even like. But to each their own. I know, I come off as a condescending asshole when I start talking about big tour groups, but I can’t help it!
Anyway, we passed all these groups and got near the front of the pack and virtually had the trail to ourselves after that. A couple hours in you’ve got a steep 500m climb (note: I’m using meters from now on, because everything in Nepal and everywhere else in the world is in meters) to Tengboche, which fortunately has an awesome bakery, making for the perfect rest spot. The people on the standard Everest base camp itinerary would stop here for the night, but we wanted to keep going to the next town, Pangboche, a couple hours further. As we hiked the afternoon clouds rolled in and we were happy to finish off our hiking day by 1:30 or so. It’s worth noting that it’s very difficult to put in a long days hike in the Everest region. First, you don’t want to gain too much altitude in a single day. And even if you aren’t huffing and puffing too hard, the clouds come in every day around noon or one, making it feel much colder and killing the visibility, which also kills your motivation for hiking.
The following day we hiked 800m up to a village called Chukkung, which took us off the Everest BC route, and set us up to do one of the high passes called Kungma La, which would then get us back on the Everest route, via a more scenic, much less touristed, and much more difficult route. We arrived in once again in the early afternoon, anxious to get in because of the altitude and shit weather.
So the average hiking day almost is always over by 2:00 pm. What do you after that?! Well that’s a pretty good question! It’s boring as shit! It really is a struggle to find stuff to do at these guesthouses. First of all, its freezing cold, so you’re bundled up all the time. Usually there’s not much reason to go outside because it’s even colder. Sometimes I would walk around to see if there were any photo opportunities. Almost never. The mountains aren't visible and it’s not like the Nepalis are out frolicking in the cold, (liked I’d hoped!) they’re all inside around the fire too. So photography is mostly out.
If you’ve got a decent lodge they’ll have a nice yak poo fire going in the main room, and you might be able to meet people in there. But most are in their own little groups or if they’re alone, they’ll probably have their nose in a book. In some lodges they’re a bit stingy with their yak poo, and you’ll have to wait till dinner time before they fire up the poo. So what to do until then?
Well it’s warm under the covers! Making a nice cocoon in your blanket is usually a pretty good start. From there you’ve got a couple more options, provided you did a good job packing for the trip. You can grab your headlamp and read a book. You can listen to music. You can sleep. Yes. We were big fans of the afternoon nap. And when I say big fans, I mean we were like what Beliebers are to the Canadian Pop God. We adhered to this practice with great zeal. Unfortunately at some point you wake up and it’s still too damn cold outside of the covers to do anything so you just kind of lay there in a meditative zombie state. Eventually someone will muster up the energy to get out of bed and start making noises and hitting the other guy enough times until they are forced out bed too. This usually means it’s somewhat close to dinner time. So it’s off to the common room.
We’d find a table off to ourselves and get the party started with some tea or hot chocolate. Every menu will always have variations of the main staples: pasta, roasted potatoes, vegetable stew, and even some form of pizza. Then there’s the infamous Dal Bhat, consisting of rice, lentil soup, and curried potatoes. It’s the only thing on the menu that’s all-you-can-eat, it’s reasonably priced, and eaten by the Nepalese at the majority of their meals. It’s also incredibly boring. After having one too many Dal Bhat’s on the Annapurna Circuit, the thought of eating it again made me shudder a little bit. I resolved to avoid it this time around. Pasta would be the go-to dish this time through.
Looking around there seemed to be much less independent hikers on the Everest BC trek than on the Annapurna circuit a few years ago. My theory is that most independent hikers are young, broke backpackers, so the flights in and out of Lukla drives them towards other hikes. With most hikers in their own groups we’d just have to enjoy our own company. I packed a deck of cards, but I really don’t know many 2 player games. Jesper admitted he wasn’t much of a card player, so War seemed like our best choice. After dominating him both technically and psychologically in our first match and emerging victorious after only an hour, we needed something more exciting. We needed to get some money involved.
The game would be Between the Sheets. I think its more commonly known as Acey Deucey, but that’s not what we call it back home. I haven’t played it in years but its super fun and super easy. Everyone antes up to start and two cards are flipped up. If it’s your turn you can bet any amount, up to the size of the pot if the next card will be in between the two upturned cards (or you can opt not to bet at all and it moves to the next person). If the next card comes in between the two upturned, you win the pot, and the game starts over again with the antes. If it’s not in between you have to pay what you bet. If it’s the exact same card as either of the upturned cards you pay double what you bet. Yes, yes, yes, such a simple game! We would bet with paper balls in increments of 10 rupees (10cents), it would just be a friendly game. Excellent...
The first night I managed to win 1,000 rupees ($10) off Jesper, which seemed like a pretty big amount, as we were basically playing with dimes. The next night Jesper was up between $5 and $10 on me for most of the night when things got interesting. He wanted to go to bed, and I said once we got up to a 200 rupee ($2) pot, regardless of who wins, we’ll call it a night. We bet recklessly and soon enough it was over 200. Jesper had a something like K 4 and lost. From that point on both of us kept getting f’ked over and the pot swelled pretty big. Jesper potted it with A (low) and Q. King comes. I’m laughing my ass off. Now the pot is huge! It’s around $50, much much bigger than we’ve ever seen it. We’re using everything on the table, from silverware to ketchup bottles, as designations for higher value amounts, because our little 10 rupee paper balls can’t keep up.
Eventually Jesper gets K and 2. Has to pot it. He says if a King or two comes I’m going to kill myself. Next card: 2!! $100 to the pot! We both die laughing! Everyone is looking at us. I love this game. 15,000 rupees in the pot! Lol. Jesper gets some back by betting big in marginal spots. Then I got A (low) and Q and pot it. 10 comes and I ship the cheddar! USA, USA! Denmark finishes down $80 in a game that began with 10 cent bets. Good stuff. So if you’re ever bored and looking for a good game to spice things up a little bit, I highly recommend Between the Sheets. Well after that fiasco we were off to climb the Kongma La pass and get our butts to Everest Base Camp! So I'll leave you with this poorly done, extremely cliche photograph a random mountain reflected by sun glasses.