Mt Everest Trek: Day thirteen

By Ian Connellan 7 November 2013
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Trekking the Himalayas, our editor familiarises himself with the village Khunde, and its inhabitants, as the fields are prepared for sowing.
Read more about the AG Society supported
Ama Dablam
Everest Trek in Nepal, run by World Expeditions.

After a cold night in the Khunde campsite we set off for a walk to Khunde Ri (peak). The evening’s snow has cleared to a brilliant warm morning and most trekkers are stripping off layers before they’re risen more than 100 m up the path to the peak. Our first stop is a lookout (built by local women) that affords perfect views of Khunde, Khumjung, Namche Bazaar and the Khumbu Valley, which appears unfolded, with Ama Dablam, Lhotse and Everest the key features. The lookout is directly above the Khunde airstrip — at about 3800 m and steeply sloping, surely one of the scariest mountain airstrips you’ll ever see.

A short distance up the ridge from the lookout are three whitewashed chorten/memorials. The most recent was raised in January last year to the memory of Sir Edmund Hillary, “Forever a friend of and an inspiration to the Sherpa people of Khumbu”. The other two are memorials to Ed Hillary’s wife Louise and daughter Belinda, who died in a plane crash at Kathmandu in 1975. By the time we reach Khunde Ri the wind has risen and it’s very cold — we’re at about 4200m. I celebrate our last high point by flying the kite; we all share treats like chocolate and nuts and dried fruit.

As we descend to Khunde I’m aware of the frenetic activity in the fields around the village; it seems everyone – and their children, and elderly relatives — is out preparing fields for sowing. The Sherpani who owns the field where we’re camped is peeling garlic when I pass, and I stop to talk about the next few months. Today she is preparing garlic to plant tomorrow. Only a small portion of her field is planted with garlic; the rest is given to potatoes (which her father is lifting from their winter mounds as we speak). About half of the produce the field yields is kept; the other half goes to market. The Sherpani’s family is reasonably prosperous because they keep their other field grassed for trekkers to camp. We smile warmly at each other and talk about our children, looking for things in common. It’s the best end to the morning. In the afternoon we have a short walk downhill to Namche Bazaar. We’re closer to the end of the trek with every step.

Khunde Hospital
Ian asked Doctor Rob Liddell, WE trekker and emergency doctor at St John of God Murdoch, Perth, to investigate Khunde Hospital.
The only hospital in this area, Khunde was originally set up by Edmund Hillary in 1966 and staffed by two doctors from NZ. This changed in 1975 when the Hillary Canadian Foundation took over funding the hospital and staffed it with two Canadian doctors. In 2000 the doctors became Nepali-trained, and one of those doctors has been working in the hospital since that time.

The hospital has two consulting/treatment rooms.The hospital has about 3000 people in its catchment area and locals pay Rs 20 (about 40 Australian cents) for a consultation and drugs. There is a ward area with beds for 15 patients in rooms that also have a spare bed for a sleep-in relative; there is also a patients’ kitchen that is used by patients’ relatives to prepare food.

Any patient that needs to be sent to Lukla or Kathmandu is carried by stretcher, or more usually in a standard porter basket with two holes cut in the base of the basket for the patient’s legs; the patient is carried on the back of the relative or friend. All transport costs are paid for by the patient, there is no government support for medical care in the area. The doctors also travel to four other towns in the area once a month and do an outpost clinic.

Read more from Ian’s daily
Himalayan blog.

Gallery of images from previous
Ama Dablam expeditions
Artificial glaciers in
the high Himalayan desert