Day 9 - Pheriche, Nepal
Day 9, May 7th, 2018. Deboche to Pheriche, 5.7 miles hiking, elevation 13,840 ft.
After breakfast and goodbyes at Rivendell, we make our way up, around and along the mountainside to the town of Pangboche, where we stop in to try again at a Buddhist blessing. Just our luck! The lama is in. Oh wait — no? He’s out getting lunch. We order tea outside and rest in the sunshine while we wait for his return.
Many Buddhist temples partially collapsed during the 2015 Nepal earthquake, and this one is no exception. The monks are in the process of renovations, but work is slow due to both being so high in the mountains and the dependance on donations for repairs. We purchase white scarves at the gift shop and Alok shows us how to fold them in the traditional way.
When it is our turn, we present them with both hands to the seated lama (with our additional 100 rupee donation neatly folded on top), and each in turn, receive a blessing from him. We kneel beside him as he pours holy water in our open palms (which we are either supposed to drink or splash on our faces - I can’t quite tell), then bow our heads as he ties a yellow and red necklace around our necks, places the scarves around us and wishes us good fortune along the rest of our journey. The ceremony at this temple is done in a simple room, full of colorful statues of deities, candles and incense. I feel again like I should have done more research on the customs and traditions of the Buddhist and Nepalese people prior to my arrival, but I am learning as I go.
The afternoon’s hike is a short one, but we gain a lot in terms of elevation. The best way to prevent AMS (acute mountain sickness) over 10,000 feet is to keep elevation gain limited to around 1500 feet per day. That helps ensure that our bodies will have time to catch up to the lack of oxygen density. We rise above the tree line and the views of snow-capped peaks explode in front of us — until the late afternoon clouds roll in, that is. We move along a bit quicker during our last hour or so until we reach Pheriche and our home for the night, The Edielweiss.
The air temps have gotten colder and our rooms aren’t heated in the teahouses we stay at, so the bulk of us spend the late afternoon and evening in the dining room, huddled at times near and other times farther away from the heating stove in the middle of the room, writing, reading and chatting. I watch as the proprietors fill the stove with dried yak dung for heat. It is the main source of heating fuel as there is no wood available now that we are above tree line. Surprisingly, it doesn’t smell bad!
Sari (the friendliest of our team) starts chatting it up with some fellow guests, including Roman Romancini from Brazil who is on an Everest summit attempt but just down in lower elevations for the night to relax and rest his body. He is with two friends, Raphael Duarte, a Brazilian photographer and director who is making a documentary of Roman’s story, and a Frenchman (who’s name I can’t remember), who will be summiting with Roman. I can’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation because, one, it is an incredibly fascinating story of trial and redemption and two, Roman is the definition of strength and fitness (not to mention easy on the eyes too). Even William and Danny talk about how they’d like to look like him!
After dinner I find myself near the stove again, joining in on the Everest Q&A. Sari and I ask Roman ask if it’s hard to be away from his family for so long (a typical summit attempt will take close to two months). While he has loads of adventures behind him, he’s said this trip was especially tough because his son turned 11 while he has been away and is itching for his dad to get home. Roman seems humbled by the mountain and all the people who have helped get him here, which by all accounts, is the approach one should take when visiting the roof of the world.