Mt Everest Trek: Day twelve

By Ian Connellan 7 November 2013
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Our editor partakes in sports and snowballs with the local children of a school started by Sir Edmund Hillary.
Read more about the AG Society supported Ama Dablam Everest Trek in Nepal, run by World Expeditions.

We awake to the sound of gongs at Tengboche Monastery – the call to prayer. It’s a soft and comforting sound. After breakfast, I join trekkers Alistair, Ray Blumgart and Stewart Doig in climbing the ridge that runs uphill to the east from camp, from which there are wonderfully wide views of the monastery and its Khumbu Valley surrounds. It’s a still morning, and the massed prayer flags on the ridge are barely stirring. We descend and join the other trekkers to commence the 600 m vertical descent from Tengboche to Phunki Tenga a real knee-burner.

There’s a lot of porter traffic on the way, and we see some quite extraordinary loads: multiple sheets of plywood (1 x 2 m), apparently huge loads of chaff (although Sherpa guide Lakpa says chaff loads are bulky but not heavy – about 15kg) and, most remarkable, a group of young porters resting with loads of steel pipe and railings that look destined for a new bridge. Manoj asks the porter carrying the heaviest load – three long pipes – what they weigh, and he says 130 kg. The Khumbu Valley is the kingdom of burden; nothing gets in or out that isn’t carried on someone’s back, or a yak’s or a mule’s. We stop for lunch at Sanasa — it’s been uphill all the way from Phunki Tenga — and then continue briefly upwards to the village of Khumjung, which — with its neighbouring village of Khunde — is the main sherpa settlement in the Khumbu.

We stop at the Khumjung High School, which Sir Edmund Hillary helped establish in 1961. There’s a statue of Hillary in the middle of the school; apparently the mountaineer wanted it removed, but it endures. The school has 300 students, boys and girls, who come from the surrounding area. Most stay at the school in boarding halls during the school week (Sunday to Friday afternoon). The academically inclined that wish to go on to university must move to Kathmandu. We continue uphill (slightly) to Khunde, passing some of the largest and most elaborate Mani walls we’ve seen. The stonewalled fields here are neat and orderly and most are either piled with yak manure ready to dig in, or are ploughed or dug and ready to go. The planting season is here — it’s a busy time.

Our camp becomes a magnet for the local children when trekkers Adrian and Linda Weedon and Marty Doolan start a soccer game; then it starts snowing pretty solidly and the soccer becomes a spirited snowball fight involving the locals and just about everyone in camp. There’s a lot of laughter and cold hands.