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Table of Contents "On the road to Kabul and other short stories of treks"

Crossing the Trashi Labtse (5856 m), from Rolwaling to the Everest Region. October 2000.

View at Parchamo Peak (6250 m) from the Trashi Labtse Pass (5856 m).

Tsho Rolpa Lake (4800 m) [1] - Noisy Knob Camp (4980 m)

Today we walk along and across the Tsho Rolpa glacier. The path quickly takes us up as this the only way through the rocky and mountainous terrain. During a tiring climb I collect moss to be analyzed for heavy metals in this pristine area. During the oil fires of Khuweit in the early nineties, some of the snow of the Himalayas was reported to be black and I am curious how much polution there is in the area. In the Canadian High Arctic near Eureka I was surprised to see so much plastic, rope and wood and other human waste from down south along the beach, an area covered in sea ice for ten months of the year.

We have a nice view at the Tsho Rolpa lake to the West [1] and Tsho Rolpa glacier to the East [1]. We go down again across boulders, often sliding down, and start crossing the rocky glacier [1]. The track is almost non-existent, up and down all the time, often consisting of loose rocks and very tiring for walking.

After several hours and often grasping for air at this altitude of 4800 - 4900 meters, we finally arrive at the top of the Tsho Rolpa Glacier, enclosed by high mountains and glaciers [1]. We witness an avalanche [1] and somewhere on the left side of the 200 meters high glacier and rock faces, there should be a track towards the Trashi Labtse Pass but I can't spot it.

Our camp is set up on top of rocky ground where even walking is difficult due to numerous large, loose boulders [1][2][3].

Noisy Knob Camp (4980 m) - Trashi Labtse (5856 m) - Tengpo (4300 m)

Last night was not cold but again sleepless and with headaches. I consult Phurba and we decide that Ron, Paul and I will cross the pass to Tengpo at 4300 m and not sleep at 5856 meters on the Trashi Labtse Pass to avoid the risk of altitude sickness. First I take a full Diamox to ensure that my body will not collapse half-way and drink two liters of warm water. We have breakfast together with the kitchen crew in a crowded tent. I only have rice for breakfast and was not feeling like having eggs now.

The nearly invisible track takes us to a rock face with a steep (4a) traverse secured by ropes. For us it is relatively easy but for the porters with their 25 kg loads this is more difficult [1]. We move up along a steep rocky trail and we are amazed how easily the porters cross the difficult spots. Finally we reach a relatively flat glacier [1] and this time the ice is visible but the surface uneven and in part rocky which, combined with the 5400 meter altitude, make it tiring.

At 11.30 we have lunch on the glacier and can now see the lower part of the Trashi Labtse Pass 400 meters up along a steep glacier, dotted with several porters and trekkers moving up slowly and stopping constantly. This will not be an easy traverse.

I get restless and want to cut the lunch short trying to reach the pass no later than 2 PM otherwise we couldn't descent to Tengpo as arranged. However, I now sense that Phurba expects us to stay on the pass by delaying the schedule as this would make his organization easier. I don't feel like it as I would risk being ill for several weeks after coming home when spending another night at high altitude.

Soon Ron, Paul and I move up and this is very hard. Steep, slippery and tiring, even when following old tracks. In a steep spot there is a fixed rope. Without a ski pole, it is impossible to ascent and the small six-point crampons would be very useful but these are packed. Only a few tourists use their crampons. Higher up, one of the kitchen boys passes us [1], using an aluminum snow bar as ice axe.

This is a steep area and one should not slide down; the experience is a bit frightening. However, the panoramic view of the valley glaciers [1] is rewarding for the hard and tricky route. I overtake an older German trekker wearing crampons going up steadily. Near the pass [1] Migma comes down to help us. He offers to carry my rucksack but I decline. Jaco is coming up in a steady pace and never takes a rest, a true lead top climber.

At 2 PM we are on top of the pass and can now see the Parchamo Peak [1] on one side and High Camp near the huge rock face with small dots of tents at its base [1]. This is a relief as we are now at 5856 meters and we (Paul, Ron and I) reached the pass safely. We have another four hours to go down from 5856 to 4300 meters before it gets dark near 6 PM.

We quickly move down. The porters with our bags are to follow later but haven't reached the pass yet which is worrying. First there is a fixed rope at a steep glacial slope and we can now see the route down [1].

We meet the Australian group leader Paul and my smiling young porter of two weeks ago. They took one of the Australians down to Thame and had him picked up by rescue helicopter because he developed severe lung eodema, a build up of fluids in the lungs which causes severe coughing and can be deadly when not going down. They point us the track and tell us to aim for two big rocks in the far distance. Most of the route is marked with stone signs ("Steinmanchen").

We move down across loose rocks while a few rocks up to half a meter across come tumbling down from above every few minutes. This feels like war but at least you can see the "bullets" coming. Going down 1500 meters along the glacier takes much longer than expected due to the long, rough, up and down going track, at times invisible and we are getting very tired.

After 3 hours, around 5 PM we finally leave the glacier and the moraines and follow a comfortable path. Tengpo must be somewhere over here. Will it have shelter? Our porters, if they followed us are nowhere to be seen in the far distance and we get a feeling that we may have to spent the night in the open. Paul is not worried as he carries his sleeping bag, he announces proudly. "Always carry your sleeping bag".

The next 45 minutes at a high pace seem to take forever and we are getting extremely tired. Just before it gets dark, at 5.45 PM, we finally spot several tents of a tourist group and a few shepherds houses of Tengpo, one with a tea house sign [1][2]. Food and shelter for the night!!!

When we take off our pack it is pitch dark and we are happy that we rushed down as walking at night is not to be recommended for tourists. The teahouse offers us a meal and shelter but we wonder where we will sleep. There is only a single room with an open fire in the middle and are enjoying the local culture.

Two hours later our three porters arrive in the dark night. They are extremely tired, shaken and unhappy. They only carry our bags and have no tents. They must have had a rough time in the last 2 hours in the dark on the moraine field. A meal, tea and bottles of Nepali rum make up for the rough day and we are all smiling now. Together with the owner, his wife and baby we will spent the night on the floor of the room occupying every flat space. This is the best sleep I have had for the last few days and I wake up waiting for the warm sun to appear above the mountains visible through the open door as it is still freezing cold outside. One of our porters lies very close to the fireplace and keeps his feet bent not to touch the hot ashes.

Tengpo (4300 m) - Thame (3800 m)

The trekkers group camping here is from San Francisco and they are all above 55 year old, moving slowly but steadily. Their cook and Sirdar are from the same village as our cook. Cooky tells us he lives in San Francisco for part of the year, working illegally in an Indian Restaurant. I write down his address.

We make our way to Thame and soon overtake the slow Americans. One of them has a solar panel on his pack to power a video camera. We are in high spirits, feel as if we escaped and are of course very strong after spending ten days above 3000 meters.

Thame [1][2][3] appears already after one hour and has a beautiful monastery [1][2][3][4] 100 meters up the hill. The houses and stone walls surrounding the fields are very pronounced in the morning sun and on the far side we can see the hydro-electric water basin used for generating power for the region of Namche Bazaar.

We check into the Everest Summit Lodge [1] of Appa Sherpa and have French Fries for lunch. Welcome to the world of tourism but, for the first time in weeks we will sleep on a level bed, walk on level floors and sit in a heated room at night. The toilet is still an outhouse 100 meters down a path but has a flush consisting of a can of water. The first body wash in 10 days using a big bowl of warm water feels good but at this altitude and temperature you don't really need it.

During lunch Migma arrives as arranged and asked us not to go to Khumjung and Tengboche the next day as planned, as the other five group members will join us tomorrow. He only took 3.5 hours to go down to Thame and doesn't look tired but we would have needed 4.5 hours at top pace.

Thame gets some 50-100 tourists a day, usually on a day hike from Namche Bazaar, visiting the monastery. We talk to several tourists. A man on his own with his typical Andes woolen head has been on the road for months. He knows all the places for meditation in Nepal and Thailand. There is also an international group of dentists who visit the various villages a few times a year for dental care.

On the second day in Thame the ceiling drops to the village level. Is this the beginning of the common heavy snowfall in the second half of October? Late in the afternoon our group arrives and they all look fine. Jaco, Meinhard and Reinhard made it to the top of Parchamo and this was hard due to the steep track [1]. Standing on top must be a sensation and a relief at the same time [1][2][3].