Sunday, September 24

Learning ones limits...and setting new goals

Sorry for the long blog...
Its amazing to be such and old goat (mountain??) and still to be able to learn so much! I think about the paradigm shift mentioned by S Covey. "A man gets on a train with his two young children. They make a terrible racket and can't seem sit still. The man looks upset, head in hands, but does not do anything. Another passenger says excuse me but can't you control your children. The man looks up, says Oh so sorry, but we have just come from their mothers funeral!"
Does that not make you change your perspective about the situtation.

So to have the opportunity to learn about the (mountain) environment and oneself is amazing. One can read, one can listen and one can watch (videos etc), but to actually be there is another thing. An amazing an experience. And just like the change experienced after hearing about the funeral, ones percention by being on the mountain changes imensely.

And time adds to this, ones mind digests and works this new information over...

So where am I going with all this............................

I am off the mountain!

Shisha disappeared into the "white" - first snows at ABC

My load from Depot to ABC - luckily Walter and Clive were with me to keep me motivated

Back at Depot camp

Bit of a white out on way down - not that helpfull considering the crevasses that are around

I mentioned in the last blog that I have some questions to answer. It was quite something to be alone at 6400m at camp 1. One has plenty of time. The view down the valley was amazing. Seeing the route one had climbed gave you a sense of real achievement.

So being there, allowed me to take the information that I had just learned and analyse it. Man alive I can tell you that 8000m is along way up. I was still 1600m away and at the time this seemed like a long way. As you know, my objective was to do this without:
1. Oxygen
2. Sherpa support
so hence the Yak comments in previous blogs...

I became concerned about being able to get all the required logistics in the right place at the right time. Camp 1 was stocked for 3/4 days. But to be able to continue to "stock" camps 2 & 3 seemed impossible - this without any assistance. Although I was improving in health (from the Zhangmu hell), being at altitude one does not neccessarily gain in fitness and ability. The higher one gets the more one deteriorates. So to carry on going up and down to stock all the required camps on ones own, I don't believe was a feasible option any more. I think it would slowly grind one to a halt.

I therefore thought about moving my camp 1 up to camp 2. This would mean I would have depot camp and camp 2 on the mountain. It was also imply some BIG days. This initial stint on the mountain was to aclimatise. Plan thereafter would be to go back down to ABC, eat up a storm and rest, and wait for a good weather window. The summit attemp would then be launched.
But following the Depot camp, Camp 2 and summit bid plan I was worried about the following:

  • Long days to get to each position - although not carrying loads (just intraday clothes, equipment and food) is demanding
  • Ability to eat sufficiently - even though one knows one has to, it very difficult to actually eat - somehow the altitude supressses this
  • Ability to drink sufficiently - I was convinced I could do this well - but again very difficult to actually do - much easier just lying in the tent (wasting away)
  • Would I have enough gear in the right camps - for example where do I leave the Down Jacket - depot or camp 2. I had already experienced leaving the down suit at the stash (between depot and camp 1) for one night and having to move my but to assemble the tent before I froze. Alternatively one could have more gear (duplicates) but then this all needs to be carried up!
  • Would I have enough food and gas at the camps - more a concern if weather chnages for the worse - so again does one carry extra?

I think the above IS possible to coordinate - but everything has to go according to plan. Unfortunately though, one can't make that assumption on the mountains. The weather is the big unknown.

Another factor is ones mental state - can one keep the motivation on ones own - I was disapointed that I was not stronger. As I mentioned, as one is not eating or drinking there is plenty of time to think - the pull to more pleasant environs is strong. Being alone too does not help - I think by sharing the experience with a partner these "negative" emmotions could be coutered. With all the good intentions in the world, Gromit still prefers reading to talking!

So as mentioned I'm off the mountain. I decided to drop down from camp 1 to ABC and not return. At the same time, and this was not the reason for descending, the weather reports were poor. The monsoon had definately not ended, and in-fact for the first section (6400 to about 6100) I descended in a white out. I cleared all my gear, but left the tent and food I had carried up - possibly useful for other climbers.

I am going to have to re-appraise my approach, take all the information I have now learned and perhaps set new objectives for the future. I had set such finite goals, that as soon as I realised that I would not achieve them, it was very easy to go down. I think that this surprised the other two summit teams - why not climb a 7000m peak which was almost on route or why not join Jamie's team (which was supported by Dawa and Namgyal - climbing Sherpas). But I was so focussed on doing it on my own, that although very kindly offerred by Jamie, they were not really options. I needed to completely reappraise.

Answers - Objectives:

  • Go high - I was really chuffed to have got to 6400m on my own, and importantly that my body felt good from an aclimitisation point of view
  • Experience the freedom of the hills - Being in this environment is pure freedom. It is my main motivation for climbing. I will never forget the feeling when Claire & I were dropped by helicopter at the base of Mt Aspiring in NZ, and we were completely alone - heaven
  • See the curvature of the earth from land - still outstanding! I think there is still time
  • Get to an 8000m summit - Still outstanding
  • Sleep above 8000m - This was to cater for a South side attempt on Everest - the South col is at 8000m - still outsatnding, but possibly not so importantant now - more why later
  • “Enjoy life” as Mallory said - Boy did I enjoy the trip, Mallory, Tilman, Shipton certainly were on to a good thing(I won't mention Zhangmu again)
  • “Dare Mighty Things” as Theodore Roosevelt said - I did try, and beleive that I have some great information for the future. I'm certainly not stopping to "dare".

Answers - Questions:

  • Do I have the organisational skills? - Yes I believe I do
  • Do I have the physical ability to get to & above 8,000m? - Although I only got to 6400m I certainly believe I can get to 8000m
  • Is it really all worth it? - Considering the freedom of the hills, the experiencing of something not many people do or understand and the challenges one faces, I do believe it is worth it
  • Is it possible to build a camp infrastructure on my own? Probably not, especially without risking too much - I must return (the top is only half way), so will always measure the risk profile of each stage.
  • What are the affects of the climb on heart rate? - More analysis later, but I always stayed at 130/140 beats per minute - perhaps was a little slow in ascending, but always had energy for the next day!
  • Will I be affected by AMS? - Minor headache along the early parts of drive and at BC, but think this was due to the Zhangmu bug - Overall always felt good and comfortable regarding the altitude gains
  • What rate of ascent is feasible? - Will analyse my stored data and report back in a later blog
  • Is Mount Everest a possibility? - For me definately not without Sherpa support and probably not without oxygen - I'm not sure if it is an objective for me any more - but hearing Bob from New York's experience, I certainly get exited!!!
  • Am I able to climb to 8,000m without oxygen? - I believe I can and probaly still want to - I like the idea that it could be harder than Everest with Oxygen
  • Am I able to climb to 8000m, without Sherpa support? - Probably not, but what about with a partner instead

Photos will be published in next blog there are gsome goodies...

Thank you all for all your support, sms's and emails - amazing to get a "text" while sitting on a slope of a big mountain...

Saturday, September 23

Reminder - Objectives of "8000m and above"

My achievements versus my objectives will also be evaluated in the next
couple of days...

Herewith a reminder of what my objectives were:

• Go high
• Experience the freedom of the hills
• See the curvature of the earth from land
• Get to an 8000m summit
• Sleep above 8000m
• “Enjoy life” as Mallory said
• “Dare Mighty Things” as Theodore Roosevelt said

Reminder - Questions the trip will answer

These questions will be answered in the next couple of days, but
herewith reminder of what was stated earlier...

• Do I have the organisational skills?
• Do I have the physical ability to get to & above 8,000m?
• Is it really all worth it?
• Is it possible to build a camp infrastructure on my own?
• What are the affects of the climb on heart rate?
• Will I be affected by AMS?
• What rate of ascent is feasible?
• Is Mount Everest a possibility?
• Am I able to climb to 8,000m without oxygen?
• Am I able to climb to 8000, without Sherpa support?

20th September - to Camp 1

Left ABC early and arrived at Depot camp feeling good. Food: decided to
take up 4 dinners, 4 breakfasts, 5 drinks for intra day and 4
teas/coffees. This would allow enough days/nights to acclimatise and to
get up to camp 2. Regarding gear, took Quasar Ultra tent, Mountain
Hardwear Ghost sleeping bag, Exped mattress, 3 gas canisters, stove,
water & P bottles, spare socks, gloves, bask high altitude suit.
I would leave my approach boots at Depot and change into the Millet
boots. Also would have/wear crampons ice Axe and leki pole.

It was extremely hot going through the penitentes. My boots felt great.
Crampons necessary to grip on the very undulating slopes of each
penitentes. Took an hour & 8 mins to get through. Route fairly easy to
follow - footprints and flags.

Now I was on the mountain! Beautiful... Mack from another team was very
helpful - verbal support. The route now moved upwards through some
crevasses. At about 6100m I decided to leave half the load. - Did not
want to get to Camp 1 too late. Stashed it with some wands so that I
could easily find it. One is faced with a typical mountain problem -
false summits - it never seems to end - even using the count down
method. I arrived at camp 1 (5h 15 including time in penitentes) and
found Jamie's tents - there are quite a few locations where tents can
physically be located. (4h14 to climb 530m) It was important to quickly
make a platform and get the tent up. A Sherpa from a nearby tent offered
me a very welcome and needed hot drink. Soon the tent was up and I was
in my sleeping bag. Big mistake was leaving the suit in the stash at
6100m. The night was fine - boiling water, eating dinner and in fact I
slept ok. During the night reheated the water for hot water bottles.

Next morning left at 8:30 to get the balance of my gear - 21 mins down
and then 2 hours back up. By now I had heard that the weather forecasts
were not good.

I decided though to stay another night at camp 1 - firstly to get more
acclimatised and secondly to do the balance of the planning. It was
becoming apparent that there were some interesting logistical challenges
to overcome.

Health wise, I was feeling stronger and stronger. The niggling pain in
my right lower chest (from coughing) and felt when coughing and
twisting, was now only a dull ache. Thumb now bending so just a sprain.
But importantly cardio vascular and legs strong. Oxygen saturation
levels were what I called average. But importantly I did not get any
headaches at 6400m.

Next blog will cover:

Eating ability;
Drinking ability;
Carrying ability;
Having the right gear in right camps;
Having food in the right camps;
Coping with the solitude;
Maintaining my motivation;

....all of this at 6400m and above...

Felt great at Camp 1

Ready to tumble?

Scene of another groups tents at Camp 1

Closer shot of Depot camp and Penitentes

How is this for a view (out of your tent). This is Camp 1 (6400m) and view back down showing Depot and ABC camps

Wednesday, September 20

3 Carries & 1 day rest

So 17th and 18th were also Yak days. Very chuffed that my gear and food
is now all at Depot camp (5860m). The route does have stages so one can
"count down" - something for me that is very much part of my approach.
There was one nasty mudslide which would slowly build up and then
release - so any attempt to bridge it is washed away. Mack & Kevin
helped find a route and we were soon safely over (that time). 17th carry
was slowest -is approx 5.5km each way and had taken me 2h45 up. But
17th was at least an extra hour...
Maybe I knew that I was not returning on same day, but rather sleeping
at Depot camp. Found a perfect flat sandy tent site - masses of time
saved not having to chop out a spot out of the rocky icy moraine. Think
it had been made the night before by Clive & Sirke - thanks guys!

Did snow most of the night which was not ideal as I don't want to be
first out on the "new" route. Did sleep well though and Jetboil worked
well - Gromit had forgotten the spoon and lighter (again) so thank
goodness the Jetboil has its owner igniter.

Due to snow decided to return to ABC on the 18th and take one day rest -
hopefully while the sun is clear on the route - so it compacts - and
hopefully that other climbers re-establish the trail.

Snowed again on 18th - not ideal...

Iñaki (see is going up today with his client Bob, and Jamie's team are
coming down after a couple of nights at camp 1.

Plan 20th, 21st, 23rd
My plan is to go up to Camp 1 tomorrow (from ABC) - so will be a long
day. Have worked out what I need to have a proper camp 1 established so
it will be a long day. Hold thumbs for clear conditions and a good
route. After arriving at Depot, I will pack and then go through
penitentes (approx 1 hour). Then a slog directly up to camp 1 (6400m).
That is likely to equal my altitude record. I must say from what I
remember from the Western China trip (Koskulak) this seems to be much
more difficult. But I know I can do the altitude - its all just a matter
of time to see how I am feeling right now...

Enjoy your warm double beds and Mrs H is now enjoying pausing the new Sky HD

This is Mac on the route to Camp 1 - a great guy who helped make my load lighter with a double expresso at Depot camp

View of climbers on glacier after Penitentes - photo by Jamie

Which way? First run through Penitentes took an hour, return trip 20 minutes - great when you get used to the environment and hence more efficient

Saturday, September 16

Carry to Depot camp

Have just finished 2 tasty fried eggs at ABC - Saturday (16th) morning.
I must say that the food on the expedition has been great (BC & ABC).

Yesterday we had our Puja, run by Dawa with Jamie, Namgyal and Sirke
playing supporting roles. Weather was clear albeit a little crisp. Great
that now the "door" to the mountain has now been opened.

I then set off with my first load - from now on I'm going to be a Yak,
which consisted of a Terra Nova Quasar tent (will stay at camp 1),
Grivel crampons, Ice Axe, all food for nights/mornings at camp 1, Millet
climbing boots and a dive bag for storage if I'm not putting the tent up.

This is where the psychology gets interesting - Jamie's team have Dawa
and Namgyl to build the camps and carry the loads - all my big talk of
doing it myself is coming "home". Still feeling positive about it though!

From ABC the walk is along an ablation valley and climbs gently to
5900m, where depot camp sits on some moraine. To the left are some
fantastic penitentes - in fact along the entire route - I would like to
do some ice climbing on them if I have time. The closer one gets to
Depot camp (Google earth N28.40328, E85.74986) the more of the route on
the mountain one sees. The route should not present too much of a
problem - unless there is a white out - but we have bamboo wands to mark
the route and I have my gps which will have the route "bread crumbed".

Now plan is to carry on being a Yak. I want to get all camp 1,2 & 3 gear
and food firstly to Depot, then camp 1, then camp 2. This I will be
doing over the next week. It will include some sleeps at the higher
camps. "Sleeps" might be the wrong word as from 6500m it is likely that
I will not be sleeping much at all - focus will then be to keep warm and
hydrated and just sit the nights out - not sure when one is meant to
sleep, perhaps when one drops back down to lower camps - we shall see.

Jamie's group are going to be spending the next 4 nights at depot, camp
1 and perhaps camp 2 - so this means NO communication from me as I can't
use his laptop. Unfortunately my Thuraya phone has stopped being able to
send emails - big pity - but I will try satellite audioblogging for any
major news.

Thanks for all the sms messages - they are great to receive, especially
when its 2:30am and I'm lying awake waiting for the sun to rise - bits
of news all help keep the brain active....

For pictures do look at Jamie's web site, although I might not feature
much, the scenery is exactly what I'm seeing. .....or follow the 8000m peaks and
look for Shishapangma dispatches from his home page....
Jamie has a new camera so the shots are fantastic.

PS Zens, welcome to London

Jetboil cruising at 5800m (Depot camp) - left my spoon and matches at ABC, hence Gromit on radio. Note spoon I made out of stove component. (Luckily Jetboil has integral lighter)

Depot camp, thanks to Clive I did not need to make a flat area for my tent

Penitentes getting some shape and size, route visible in relatively smooth section in background

Thursday, September 14

Well settled at ABC

Tonight will be our second at ABC (5630m) and it is also a great spot.
It's a little cooler at nights and we lose the sun at 4:30pm - time for
the thick expedition weight down jacket. Google earth location N 28 26
28.2; E85 46 33.2. ABC is on the edge of the glacier moraine, and there
are some glacier lakes at the end of the glacier snout. We still have
good views of Shisha, but the route is a little hidden by a peak in the

I'm still not sleeping very much at night - very vivid dreams that wake
me up. But health has improved, even the coughing seems to almost have
stopped. Again tempted to sleep in the afternoons, but think this will
just make the evenings worse - probably will improve when I increase my
energy expenditure while carrying loads.

I spent most of today splitting up my food for the camps. Plenty of zip
lock bags used to organise. I have also added about 2kg of complex
carbohydrate powder to most of my packets. Its tasteless so can be added
to anything - I went for everything!.

The plan for me now has two components:
1. Acclimatise
2. Stock route for summit attempt

So initially I will be carrying loads up to camps so that I can spend
nights at higher altitudes. This will probably only be up to camp 2 at
7065m. I will also follow an approach to carry first to the new camp
site and then go back down. The day thereafter I will climb back up and
sleep over. There are also some intermediate camps - Depot camp after
ABC and camp 1.5 after camp 1. These will be used depending on weather
and probably how tired I am. A lot of decisions will be based on
information available at the time and therefore could be adjusted.

Weather has been fine, with some local winds high in Shisha. Jamie is
still waiting for the long term forecast - i.e. what is the monsoon
doing - is it over? or are we in for a big surprise and a big snow storm?

Tomorrow we hope to have our Puja - this will be performed by Dawa and
it is effectively were we get permission from the mountain gods to climb
- the theory is that one does not climb on any part of the mountain
until this has been performed - which we have not...

I must say I am a little envious of Jamie's team with their Sherpa
support - they just have to carry their personal gear, and by the time
they arrive at camp it will be set up and a cup of tea available. I know
Claire has had to explain this many times to people - why is he doing it
this way. But I will still rather have achieved the height I do achieve
on my own - It will then really give me a true sense of achievement.

Theres a chance I will add some photo's tomorrow - will discuss with

To end I will say that my platform is building slowly and surely, and
I'm confident I will have some good days on the mountain.

Face full of flour from the puja - feeling much better now and looking forward to the adventures ahead

Shot of Puja with Shisha in the backround

At ABC. Packing again, this time food and equipment supplies for the mountian

View of ABC location, penitentes and early stages of route

Onwards to ABC

Sorry to hear that the audioblogs have not worked - grrrr!
Bottom line is that I have recovered well and really now only want to
focus on going forward. Have been at base camp (BC - 5030m) for 5 days
(google earth N28.58658, E85.76197), and it has been heaven. Shisha has
been visible quite often and she is beautiful. Have done two walks over
the last two days, up to 5250m and 5450m. Although my legs have felt a
little tired, I have not over exherted myself and have returned to camp
feeling good. Today was a rest day, and I finalised inspecting and
tweaking my gear. Everything is now packed and ready for transport via
yak to ABC tomorrow. All the gear needs to be weighed and then split up
per yak - quite an ordeal sometimes...

So this is where the fun really starts and where I will making all the
decisions. Its the part I'm really looking forward to. Even if I set up
a staging point along the route and shout encouragement as the Sherpas
carry loads past me, it will be The Freedom of the Hills

Monday, September 11

Have removed the 3 Audioblogs as were inaudible

Wednesday, September 6

Reality check

Well so much for being at 3,800m before in Kyanjin Gompa! Had a seriously difficult day today. Zhangmu was not a good start - polution nearly killed me this morning, and having some leak in the jeep did not help either - more fumes! I am though being affected by the altitude. Its a little nerve racking as I'm still so relatively low. All I wanted to do was leave Zhangmu - its a real dump, but I will have to get it out of my mind.

Hopefully my throat will recover - I'm using every effort not to cough, as both my diaphram and throat could be injured. The last thing one wants is either bruised ribs or a throat infection. Its quite a different challenge to any of my past experiences (iron man, comrades, dusi etc...). Dawa and the rest of the Sherpa crew have been fabulous. Dawa says I'm not "fresh" and thats a good way to put it - very lathargic, no energy, worried about impact on entire trip, just want to sleep (but as I know already that the nights are worse, am trying to keep awake so that at least I will sleep). I'm hoping (praying) that its just a matter of time - I just have to tread very carefully, drink plenty of water and maintain a positve attitude.

On arrival at Nyalan, checked into "hotel" and tried tohave some lunch - did drink a bit. Dawa suggested a shower and yes for a fee a hot shower was avilable - it was magic. P[erhaps its just the distraction so that time passes by while ones body is working to aclimatise. Dawa then took me an a stroll up a hill above the village - again another welcome distraction. Heart rate fine, just this strange delibitating (I'm not sure if that is a word but seems to describe how I feel) feeling.

Thank goodness Nyalan is more open and the air is fresh - I had said to Dawa, that if it was the same as Zhangmu I had better get to BC sooner, otherwise the entire trip would be off due to the polution. As Zhangmu is one of the main border points millions of diesel trucks move up and down every day - quite gastly! But as the air is cleaner , and especially as I'm feeling so 5h1t, I had better stay the planned two nights.

So not a very good blog entry - but perhaps I had been too bullish before...

The blogs will also get shorter - due to using the satellite "pipeline"

All I can say is that I'm with some very good people and that hopefully with the passage of time I will start to feel better.

Shisha on the right - a magnificent sight

Checking my tents in preparation for the climb - there are always surprises

View of BC - note how relatively quite, one of the advantages of Shishapangma

Arrival at BC, thank goodness as was now able to recouperate from the Zangmu hell

Tuesday, September 5

With sherpa crew

As mentioned I am in Zhangmu after a days drive in comfortable Pajero with Sherpa crew. Have passed through the border between Nepal and Tibet (China). Very smooth operation performed by the guys especially considering the level of beaurocracy that is around!

This was after passing through Zangmu - not a happy bunny as I got sick there. The place is like being put in a 44 gallon drum, full of stinking rubbish and having the exhaust of a 100 diesel trucks pumping in

Packing with Gromit - in hotel Marshyangdi, KTM - excellent service

Yesterday went to have our prayer flags and puja goodies blessed by a Lama. Pity about the background brick cutting that was going on while the Lama was saying his mantras.

Post blessing, with blessed "packaged" mantra around neck

View of temple where we had the prayer flags blessed by a Lama - this is pre the puja ceremony

Met up with the pro card crew - Edwin, Parry and John and ended up being the last ones around in KTM at 3:00am! Really has been a great part of my trip to spend time with these guys - enjoy your rafting trip!

Parry, me, John and Edwin. These were the professional "cardies that I mentioned in my blog - had two nights in a row when we were the last people awake in KTM - I was even locked out of my hotel (main entrance)

Zhangmu is a bit of a dump so the sooner we get to the hills the better.

Zhangmu, also known as Kasa, lies on a mountainside 10km (6 miles) inland from the Friendship Bridge that spans the Bhotekoshi (the Sun Koshi) River. This small town has become a major trading post between Tibet and Nepal. The subtropical climate endows the small town with warm, humid weather and beautiful scenery throughout the year.
The town is built along a winding road that is lined with private homes, shops, restaurants and government buildings.
The booming border trade attracts merchants from inland China, Tibet and Nepal. Nepalese merchants export rice, flour, pepper, vegetables and perfumes while Chinese merchants sell wool, tea, salt and Tibetan medicine. There are also restaurants run by the Nepalese serving traditional dishes, instant noodles and beer produced in Nepal. A free trade market formed spontaneously near the Friendship Bridge about 8 years ago, which is still developing today.
According to an agreement between the Chinese and Nepalese governments, people living within 30 kilometres (18 miles) of the border may cross the border freely. Every day, hundreds of Chinese and Nepalese merchants conduct business under this agreement. Local Sherpas lease their houses to the merchants thus sharing in the profit of the border trade.
Zhangmu is going to undergo major construction to meet the demands of the booming tourism and border trade. Zhangmu Hotel, the town's only hotel, will be rebuilt and expanded. Within the next 5 years the local government plans to build a 2,220-metre (7,280 feet) roadway to improve traffic flow.

Plan for next couple of days

4th September = Mountain food and gas cannister shopping and packing for the drive to Tibet the next morning
5th September = Zhangmu - 2,300m
6th September = Nyalam - 3,850m
7th September = Nyalam
8th September = Base camp - 5,000m - A good few days there - aclimitising with rest and day treks

Langtang Summary - 500m from summit of Everest

Nothing like a punchy headline
I am currently using a Chinese computer so can't understand any of the headings. I'm also unable to add pictures at present as they won't let me load the CD that contains them! I'll try another place later...

Langtang is a wonderful valley, although is feeling the impact of the political instability in Nepal. In 10 days I only saw 3 other trekkers - professional card players - more about them later. I did not have the best weather as its still very much the monsoon season, so it was only clear for two of the ten days (the last two).
As I have the ability to track my heart rate, altitude and temperature, here are some of the stats:

Started at 708m
Highest altitude achieved = 4,998m
Gross meters climbed (i.e. measuring every meter that is an ascent = 8,490m
(hence the Everest headline - thats climbing from sea level all the way to 500m below Everests summit
Net meters climbed = 5,999m

On average gross ascent = 850m/day
On average net ascent = 600m/day

Day 5 had largest gross ascent = 1,780m
and also the largest net ascent = 1,287m

So as this is the final training that I will be doing I was very happy with altitude gains and how well I felt. I also spent three nights and Kyanjin Gomba at 3,800m which was great preparation for aclimatising at base camp (BC) at 5,000m.

There were two highlights: as Raymond has mentioned, one was watching the yak herders making butter and cheese at 4,500m in a very rough and ready stone house. I had some fresh warm yak milk which was very welcome at the time. There were infact closing down the higher "camp" and moving to a lower level in preparation for the comming winter. I some how got volunteered to help them carry some of there aparatus down

The second highlight was on the 1st of September, my last trekking day and the day I had planned to start going down. The weather was clear and the whole village moved their way up to Tsergo Ri.
Tsergo Ri sits immediately above Kyanjin Gompa, the highest settlement in the Langtang Valley, approx. 100 km north of Kathmandu.

Its the peak on the left...

The reason was that new prayer flags were to replace the old ones that had been up for a year. There was a great festive spirit in the air. Three Lama's were blessing the flags and villages. Plenty of food, Sherpa home made alcohol from rice - "chang" and "rakshi" distilled from potatoes, dancing in a clockwise direction around the flags and throwing of flour and rice into the air. I got some great video, but in the process got completely covered - it was a great occasion!

I was also chuffed as at felt fine at 5,000m, and the climb had also been relatively easy - slow constant pace not allowing my heart rate to rise above 70% of max. I then though had to beetle down to catch up on my plan as I had to get back to KTM on the 3rd. I dropped 2,400m that afternoon and ended up arriving at Rimche at 8:30pm - after two hours of solid rain and darkness...

The bus ride back was a mamoth 13hours, in a very cramped, local overloaded smelly bus - but at least I was in KTM on the 3rd.

A goup shot of some of the villagers from Kyanjin Gompa on the top of Tsergo Ri

Tentatively sipping Raksi...
(A test for good raksi is toss some of it onto a fire and see if it burns!)

This is with the Lama (red hat). They were all so welcoming

Decided to stay an extra night (bit of risk that I would not get back in time to do the shopping required for my "mountain" food, but as you can see was well worth it - this was the putting up of new prayer flags festival on Tsergo Ri (4984m)