May 22, 2003 – Early risers cherish their coffee

It’s May 22 and I’m calling you just past 6am on a beautiful, absolutely clear morning from Pheriche at 14,000 feet. Yesterday, May 21, was not clear at all. The weather seemed to be very unsettled at all elevations. But today seems to be a beautiful day.

Since my last dispatch, we left Khunde and went to Tengboche, stayed at the lodge that is run by Ang Temba and his wife, one of my favourite lodges in the area. From our private rooms, we enjoyed visiting with people in the Tengboche area, including the trekkers who are moving towards base camp in this anniversary season of the first ascent of Everest.

We’ve seen an interesting group of folks from all over the world. As we approached Tengboche from Khunde, we ran across Peter Hillary and his daughter Amelia again. They had been trekking all morning. Just as we took some tea together, some monks showed up with a couple of ponies from up the hill at Tengboche.

The Rinpoche, the abbot of the Tengboche monastery who is a reincarnate lama, was born in the 1930s in Namche and has been in residence at the Tengboche monastery since the late ’30s, lives up there. This venerable lama has been a presence in this valley and has blessed generations of climbers as they approach Everest and the other great peaks of this region.

Peter was a bit self-conscious and I agreed not to take pictures. I told Peter that having recently reached the summit of Everest for the second time the year before, he certainly shouldn’t worry about taking a pony ride up the hill to meet the Rinpoche and Amelia was all for it. So we saw them saddle up and take off up the hill above us.

I also told Peter that over the years I’ve had a number of pony rides in this area but I had never ridden the Rinpoche’s horse, which would be quite an honor and not one I would turn down.

Upon arriving here at Pheriche yesterday, Lloyd and Peter went to the lecture on high altitude medicine and acclimatization. I can tell they really enjoyed it. They came back reassured that our slow, conservative pace, as we ascend the valley towards base camp, is a wise one. And also, I think they were reassured that their bodies are adapting quite well.

Everyone is affected by altitude as they approach Everest. Learning about the symptoms one might encounter and how you are doing compared to everyone else, and getting some reassurance that it’s wise to go slow, always helps. These guys are doing very well. They are healthy. We have a good trekking life.

Now, at 6 am, I’ve already seen both guys. All three of us take our thermal bottles of coffee – made by the Sherpas in the kitchen – with us to bed each evening. We’re all early risers, so we get up and sip coffee in the morning, often just past 5 am.

And then, the Sherpas bring our traditional morning bed tea, which for this group is bed coffee, fresh brewed coffee that is Starbucks and Seattle’s Best and Lloyd has brought some special Kona coffee from friends of his in Hawaii. We drink fresh brewed coffee just past 6 am when the Sherpas give us our wake-up call.

As I mentioned, the three of us are always up earlier, just sitting in our bags and reflecting.

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