Acclimatization Day in Namche Bazaar

Pega is in Namche Bazaar where he will spend a couple of nights acclimatizing before trekking on to the next village towards Everest Base Camp. Namche Bazaar, at 3,500m (11,500ft) is built on the slope of a mountainside and is the largest village in the Himalayas. It's a prosperous market town and staging point for Mount Everest and other Himalayan Peaks in the area. If you've forgotten anything, Namche is the place to buy it.  You can find everything from toiletries and snacks to trekking and climbing equipment. It's also famous for its homemade yak cheese (it's not bad, I tried it) and yak butter. People from other villages make the weekly trek to come and stock up on food and supplies. Last year when I was trekking with Pega, one of the teahouses we would be staying at up ahead told Pega they were out of bread (mostly eaten by foreigners passing through), so Pega stocked up on bread and carried it in his backpack for the next 8 hour hike to the teahouse.

While in Namche Bazaar, day hikes to a higher elevation are the norm in order to climb high, sleep low as prescribed for altitude adjustment. The Everest Viewpoint hike is about 400m (1,300ft) above Namche and is used frequently as an acclimatization hike. General rules according to the Himalayan Rescue Association subscribe to no more than a 300m (985ft) gain per day for sleeping. When at altitude, it's important to pay attention to changes in your functioning and how you feel. Monitor how tired you are and your recovery time, paying special attention to all headaches or feelings of being unwell. If you're not doing well, don't raise your sleeping altitude until you feel better. If this doesn't work, go down to an altitude where you first noticed any symptoms.

No rate of ascent is safe for everyone. Not raising the sleeping altitude more than 300m (1,000ft) a day above 3,050m (10,000ft) is offered as a safe rate of ascent if a stopover day is thrown in every 610m to 910m (2,000ft or 3,000ft). This is a general rule and some people might even find this too fast, so if they get AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), they should slow down.

For myself, on my recent trip to the Himalayas, I gained between 400m and 500m (1,300ft and 1,640ft) per day after 3,350m (11,000ft) with a 1 to 2 day layover in each village. Living at sea level as I do can be more difficult too.  Chances of getting AMS are greater for someone living in Vancouver than say in Calgary. Excessive exertion at altitude (like carrying a heavy pack), can also predispose some people to altitude illness too.  I found this out the hard way as I carried my own pack.  Dizziness and feelings of faintness (high altitude syncope) plagued me until I swallowed my pride and hired a porter.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to acclimatization.  I’ve seen a friend who had always done well at altitude succumb to HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) when he had a bit of a cold. I met other people on my travels who at 4040 m (13,254 ft)  were fine.  By the time they got to 4470m (14,666ft), travelling at the prescribed rate of ascent, 3 out of 6 of the party were struck with HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema), HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) and ANGINA. 

Stay tuned as Pega carries on towards Mount Everest.

View of Namche Bazaar from my teahouse at the top of the village

View of Namche Bazaar from my teahouse at the top of the village

View of Mount Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam from the Everest Viewpoint hike

View of Mount Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam from the Everest Viewpoint hike

Most Dangerous Airport in the World

I've promised to blog about my friend Pemba Sherpa (Pega's) trek and climb to Mount Everest this season.  Pega has spent most of the winter guiding trekkers into the mountains and honing his rock climbing skills at a local climbing wall in Kathmandu.  Today he flies to Lukla Airport also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport for the start of his trek into Mount Everest.

Lukla Airport has the reputation of being one of the most dangerous airports in the world. And it's not just one thing that makes it so, but a combination. It's one of the shortest runways at just 527m (1729ft) long by 30m (98ft) wide. An elevation of 2,845m (9,334ft), means there's no real descent when coming in for a landing, just the dropping of the landing gear. An 11.7% slope to the runway helps with braking and getting up to speed but it also means that one end of the runways is 61m (200ft) lower than the other end. On my second trip to Lukla, a girl sitting across the aisle from me exclaimed to her husband on seeing the runway, "Holy shit, it's shorter than most of my clients' driveways. " Then the brakes are on and you hope you manage to stop before hitting the stone cliff at the other end.   One end of the runway is up against a stone cliff with the other end dropping off 609m (2,000ft) into a steep valley.  Taking off again is even more exciting with sharp acceleration and a charge down the hill akin to the sensation of a roller coaster ride.  There are no second chances or re-dos on this runway. The plane lands, or it hits a wall or drops off a cliff.  There are also no navigation aids or night operations at Lukla Airport.

The first time I tried to fly to Lukla, I was with a group that was booked for the first flight out from Kathmandu. It’s best to aim for the earliest flight possible as cloud cover and cancelled flights are more common as the day goes on.  Along with every other group trying to get to the Himalayas we sat in the airport and watched the information board flash delay across the board until finally at 2:00 p.m. all flights were cancelled for the day. We had been at the airport since 6:00 a.m.  One of our guides, however, a local Sherpa from the mountains managed to arrange helicopter flights for us.  He told us we wouldn’t be able to get all the way to Lukla because the weather wasn’t good enough for a helicopter landing. We did manage to get within a 1 1/2 hour hike though.  That was my first experience of the Himalayas. Zero visibility on the helicopter ride in and then a hike in at night with no headlamp.  

We were lucky. Delays are common with pilots using their knowledge of the area’s terrain and visual flying skills only. In 2011, thousands of trekkers were stuck for a week when bad weather struck.

Hopefully Pega makes it in without delays.  Will let you know how everything is going soon.


Lukla Airport

Raising money for a Sherpa friend

An article was written about me in the North Shore News about my trip to Nepal last year and my desire to help out a Sherpa friend, Pemba Sherpa (nickname Pega).

Pega is 22 years old and works as an assistant Sherpa guide but what he really wants is to become a full mountain guide.  I'd love to be able to help him do that and have set up a gofundme account in his name. Any donation can help - if you have $5 or $10 to spare, I'd be thrilled.

He's already climbed Mount Everest and Cho Oyu but is lacking some of the training he needs.  By bringing him to Canada, he'll be able to get the courses he needs to continue his dreams in Nepal.

In just 10 days, Pega is once again off to climb Mount Everest.  I'll be speaking with him at every opportunity on his trek in and his climb then blogging about his journey. Hope you can follow along. 



Canadian women landscape photographers

So thrilled to be writing a blog post about some amazing ladies. Here are five women who are outstanding Canadian landscape photographers. Make sure you check out the links to their sites.

Landscape photography is a male dominated area and when I first thought to feature women only, I had no idea how hard it would be. After tons of searching I managed to come up with five. I know there are lots more so please email me with your picks. The only criteria is must be Canadian, female, landscape photographer. In the meantime take a look at these women.

Dani Lefrancois lives in Banff, Alberta and loves to share her passion for the Rockies through her work, Photography by Dani and her company Banff Photo Workshops and Tours. In addition to the standard workshops her company runs,  check out the Women in the Back Country Photography Workshops series.  Dani puts her own personal spin on this frequently photographed park.

Jaclyn Tanemura is one of the co-leaders working with Dani at Banff Photo Workshops and Tours. These days you need to show the moods of a place, draw people in so that they want to get their wanderlust on and Jaclyn's work does exactly that.  You can find Jaclyn's work at Jaclyn Tanemura Photography.

Viktoria Haack hopes for more women to try landscape photography in this male dominated area.  Her own work represents the care that she takes to create every picture and transports you to a magical place where anything is possible. Viktoria is also a co-leader for Banff Photo Workshops and Tours working with Dani and Jaclyn. Viktoria's work is at Viktoria Haack Photography.

Aslinah Safar lives in Edmonton, Alberta and has a love for the outdoors and an adventurous nature.  Trying to get the shot once involved -30 degree temperatures and frostbite on her nose.  An experience she's not anxious to repeat. Have a look at Aslinah's work here.

Rebecca Simrose is from Calgary, Alberta and has a beautiful portfolio that includes other nature images as well as landscapes.  She is willing to do what it takes to get the shot even if it involves standing in icy creeks, getting swarmed by mosquitoes or crawling along the ground.  Be sure to check out Rebecca's portfolio.

Again, I know there are lots more amazing women shooting landscapes, so please be sure to point me in their direction.




Water scarcity in Nepal

When I announced my upcoming visit to Nepal on social media, I was introduced to Shree and we've been chatting back and forth ever since. Shree and his family live in rural Nepal, and like many rural Nepalese are farmers. He also studies mechanical engineering in Kathmandu and is executive director in a business he started called Green Design Consultants.  The company was started with the idea to help people with sustainable green technologies. One of these is rainwater harvesting. Putting his knowledge to work as both a farmer and engineer, Shree has developed an affordable solution to improve the water availability problem facing many in Nepal.

Shree's village, like many in rural areas, lacks water. Outside of the monsoon season, drought conditions exist. On top of that, the existing water supply (from rivers and streams mostly) lies far below the farms in the valley and are often polluted.

Collecting water in these villages can take many trips and hours a day, a job that falls primarily to the women and children.  I was floored when I considered the impact of this. Shree's mother and wife have both spent hours in the past collecting water and in fact Shree started this rainwater harvesting project with his family in mind. Three ponds have now expanded to 60 in his village.

Plastic ponds are built to collect rainwater during the monsoon season from the roof of the house using a pipe. The rainwater can then be stored and collected for use when needed, for watering the vegetable gardens, the fields, and for cooking and watering cattle.

I've linked below to videos explaining the great work Shree is doing. They're not long so please have a look. 

And another - hope this helps to explain the great work that Shree is doing.