Namaste Friends! Today we hiked to Pheriche and gained about 1,500 feet in elevation. We are now just shy of 14,000 feet. Again the weather was perfect but the temperature is definitely dropping with the elevation gain. During the day when it’s sunny the temperature is in the 50’s but when clouds block the sun and the wind kicks up and drops 10 degrees or more in a second. The nights are also getting much colder. This morning started off cold, but those that were awake for the sunrise were awestruck by the 365 degrees of glowing mountains that towered over us. Before breakfast we visited the second oldest monastery in the world. After breakfast we headed on the trail, accompanied by our new pet Everest, a local dog we easily won over with some turkey jerky. He followed us all the way to a suspension bridge, which didn’t look safe enough for him to cross, but we took the leap without (much) hesitation. We also stopped at the oldest monastery in the world and were blessed by a lama, saw a Yeti head and handand viewed gorgeous Buddhist paintings, sculptures and statues covering every inch of the interior. We stopped for lunch at Shomare and were presented with a lucky red string necklace by our fearless leader, Wongchu Sherpa. After all the blessings today we are all but guaranteed a safe journey. The vistas today were amazing. Ama Dabalam shadowed over us all day, and we also glimpsed Island Peak late in the day. The terrain evolved throughout the day from Pine and Rhodedendron forests, to an ascent through tundra spotted with low growing juniper, to completely barren alpine region that looked like the surface of Mars. The rest of the trek will continue to be above the tree line (alpine) so we anticipate that it will be increasing wind and decreasing temperature.
In addition to the incredible vistas, I saw the most incredible sight – a porter carrying two Yak quarters down the mountain. I no longer feel sorry for myself for halving to carry elk quarters! (Mark)
Another interesting situation occurred when we passed a Sherpa that was stumbling down the mountain in obvious discomfort because he was hurt at base camp when he fell in a crevasse. He was fortunate to encounter a group of 20 docs on the trail and was assessed, provided with some Tylenol and sent on his way. The group also came to the aid of a young female trekker that was suffering from severe GI distress.
We are also doing two medical studies on the trek, a leucine (amino acid) study and a Diamox trial. For a bunch of medical professionals (i.e., bad patients), study compliance is surprisingly good. Every morning, those participating have their morning urine checked for adequate hydration and drink a chocolate protein drink to determine if leucine will help maintain muscle mass typically lost during high altitude treks/climbs. We also take either a low dose or high dose of Diamox to see if the low dose is just as effective at preventing Acute Mountain Sickness as the high dose. Everyone has been great about taking prescribed study meds and filling out food logs, etc. Occasionally, Stacie, the leucine researcher, has to crack the whip and remind everyone to drink their leucine, but overall study participation is going well. It is nice to get daily feedback on our hydration and blood oxygenation. Of course all the type A personalities are competing for the best blood oxygen saturation level.
Our evening ended in Pheriche, where we were welcomed at a chalet style lodge, with a cozy, stove warmed dining hall serving endless tea and hot lemon. We are looking forward to a “rest” day tomorrow, which is sure to include more acclimatization hiking.
MJ, Vickie, Carrie, Danielle, Mark, Ann,