Nepal Trekking Days 15-16: Chhukhung-Ri and Pangboche

Day 15 turned out to be my favourite day of the entire trek, I think. We started early in the morning with a crystal clear day, and did a day-trip up Chhukhung-Ri, which at 5545m was also the highest point I reached. The views from the top are literally (more on that in a second!) breath-taking. We shared them with a lone Spanish trekker and a Slovenian couple, one of whom had climbed Lhotse twenty years ago! The panorama from the top is a full 360 degrees (I accidentally included half of Shyam's head too, I'm sorry!): the massive feature on the left is the North face of Nuptse (hiding Everest), while over one the right Ama Dablam (6812m) is quite prominent, although not quite as prominent as in the first panorama, which was taken from outside our lodge! In the middle you can also just make out the lake next to the Island Peak base camp from the day before.

The ascent was slightly curious; it was a lot of fun as it turned into a semi-exposed rock-scramble over slate under nice sun, but for some reason Paul and I simultaneously hit a wall. We didn't feel any other effects, but literally needed to stop to catch our breath every twenty steps or so! Whether we had simply gone a bit fast to that point, or if we had just hit the point of our current acclimatisation (it wasn't that much higher than Kala Patthar where we didn't have any trouble), who knows. It was certainly worth-while how-ever.

The next morning we were again greeted with perfect trekking weather, as we commenced our descent towards Panboche. The plume of cloud from the summit of Ama Dablam was present every morning, so I assume there must be a jet-stream at that altitude. We quickly made it down below the tree-line for the first time in about ten days.

Pangboche itself turns out to be in two parts. We stayed in the lower part with all the lodges which is pleasantly situated, however after a break we went for a five-minute walk into the obscured upper-Pangboche. This is quite a traditional village still, and was very pretty. (Including the dung disks you can see drying on a wall! These are used for both fuel and fertiliser; every lodge has a communal dining hall, with a dung-fueled heater in the centre. Presumably, these stoves are also carried in by porters...).

Mark Hepburn 27 December 2010
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