Nepal 1991


17th March 1991


Left Gatwick at 8.20p.m. Stopped at Frankfurt for 1hr. 40 mins, disembarking into transit lounge. Airport very stark. Second stop at Dubai which had a very affluent look – apparently, cheapest ‘duty free’ anywhere. Finally, arrived in Kathmandu, with a very rough landing at 3.45p.m. after a 14 hours flight.  Arrival lounge reasonably smart but baggage collection area fairy seedy.  My ice axe, which had been separated from the main baggage in Gatwick could not be traced.  We left the airport in Mr. Shati’s minibus and down through rush hour to my house guest home in Thamel. Roads full of all sorts of vehicles – bicycles, tricycles, motorbikes, cars, lorries and buses.  Most vehicles were dilapidated and all making frequent use of their horns and bells. Pedestrian crossings seemed to be ignored by traffic. (On arrival outside the airport had been surrounded by boys offering to carry bags and obtain taxis and ask for English coins)

‘My home’, a new guest house, was smart. Two twin rooms, one with bathroom and roof area for drinking tea was 32 NP = $1.00 56NP = $1.00

Evening meal of soup, chicken kiev and 2 beers cost NP 889 for 4 people. The beer cost as much as the food; about NP 50 per 650 ml bottle.

Numerous second hand climbing gear shops selling second hand goods; e.g. titanium ice screws at £3.00, friends at £8.00


MONDAY 18th March, 1991.


Got up about 8.00a.m. after good night’s sleep using just cotton sleeping bag liner for most of the time.Breakfast of two very soft fried eggs, toast and butter and banana was eaten on the roof. Tea came in pot with milk already added!

JB came to collect us and lead us to Mr.. Shatis’s office, a short distance away. His office was very neat with a tidy wooden desk and display cabinet. Footballing trophies and a photo of Japanese ascent of Island Peak adorned the walls. We filled in peak and trekking permit forms then went to the immigration office to hand them in. However, the queue was very long so we went to the bank instead (Grindleys). This again, involved a queue of about half and hour- myself for NS9000 by Visa and the rest for NS8000 by travellers cheque.  The bank receipt had to be displayed at our next stop, the immigration office for the acquisition of the trekking permits.  This involved a queue of about one and a half hours and the invitation to return at 4.00p.m. to collect passports which also had to be left.


After this, we felt in need of drink, food and a sit down.  Mr. Shati treated us to a very good ‘Neralesse dinner; for NS45 plus coke and beer.


TUESDAY 19th March, 1991


The day started lazily with breakfast of 2 fried eggs, toast and orange followed by reading and lazing on the roof of ‘My Home’. We eventually set out in search of the post office to buy stamps for post cards. This was eventually found – it consisted of a hole in the wall, close to lots of street vendors selling brass vases, decorative knives etc.  Elsewhere, many vendors were offering tiger balm, flutes, jewellery, carvings, taxi rides, changing money etc. Most of the streets were narrow and dusty, with pedestrians and vehicles vying for space.  Shops were mostly very small, opening directly onto the stret and piled high with goods. There were distinct areas selling different goods, e.g. climbing gear shops in one area, kerosene stoves/pots and pans in another, fresh food in another.  Meat was left in the open to the air where it attracted many flies.


WEDNESDAY 20th March, 1991.


We had breakfast early at 6.30a.m. ready for our departure, by minibus, for the airport at 7.25a.m. The traffic was a lot lighter than when we arrived. At baggage check-in we were founf to be 15kg overweight so had to pay NS170 excess (about £6.00).  Mr. Shati eased our passage through check-in. The search consisted of individual cubicles (separate male and female) where a brief body search was executed. We had a cup of tea in the departure lounge and watched the planes take-off and land.  Finally, we walked across the tarmac and boarded our twin Otter 20 seater plane at about 9.00a.m.

Its sister was being boarded at the same time. The plane had a single row of seats down one side and a twin over the other with the cockpit open to the rest of the plane. Take-off was fairly smooth.  However, after about 40 minutes, fairly violent turbulence commenced just as we were getting good views of snow capped peaks. This continued, intermittently, until we started our rapid descent to the snowy, short, uphill runway.  Just before touch-down, the ground seemed to be approaching very fast.  We then watched the sister plane land before carrying our bags the short distance to the K2 guest house in Cupla.  Here, we ordered tea and vegetable fried rice with egg (NS35). JB gathered 3 porters who took most of our gear.  One carried  2 large rucksacks strapped together and the other 2 used wicker baskets. Charge - £5.00 per day with food)  Other porters used Hessian sacks or metal frames lined with cardboard. The weigh was usually carried in a single strap onto the head. footwear was flip flops, plimsolls or trainers.


After the meal, we set off on the trek, passing an array of yaks (like small cows with short horns) and young children who gave us flowers.  The people here have very Chinese features. The trek from Cupla to Phaplang*****  was generally downhill on a well used rocky track. There was a long steep drop to the fast flowing Dutch Kosi**** below.  We stopped for a Fanta (NS40) on the way and waited for the porters to catch up. Immediately before Phaplang**** we crossed the river by a suspension bridge.  Long after we arrived, a group of yaks crossed the bridge, with first one running then falling about half way across.  It had to be helped on its way by its minder pushing it upright by climbing on the outside of the bridge. Apparently, a yak costs twice as much as a porter and carries twice as much.


THURSDAY 21st March, 1991.


Had poor nights sleep at Phapland****, partly because of smoke permeating the building from the kitchen and partly because of the heat (used sleeping bag). We all played safe and had porridge for breakfast.


We got up at 7.00a.m. and left about 8.00a.m. Most people left shortly before us. The hut had an outside toilet consisting of a wooden hut with a hole in the floor. There was no running water available for the use of guests.


The trek continued to follow the Dutch Kosi**** and crossed it by means of suspension bridges. There always had wooden planks to walk on so were not too difficult to cross evening in strong winds. The river had had evidence of large floodwaters in the past probably when avalanches and snow melts – there were very high river banks.


As on the first day, we passed rhododendron bushes, pine trees, fir trees and spiky bushes.  The temperature seemed very high and the sun was strong. Myself and Mal*** felt rough so could only eat some of the chips for lunch.  The remainder were polished off by the other two.


We finally entered the Sagamartha **** National Park at Jossale**** and paid our fees of NS250 each.  From here, there was a big drop back down to river level before the final 3000 ft. climb up to Nombre Bazaar****.  On this stage, we had our first view of Mt. Everest in the distance.  It looked impressive although it did not have much snow on it as the other peaks.


We were glad to reach Numbre Bazaar****, a large settlement on the steep hillside.  J. B. led us to our tea house which first impressions led us to think that was more up-market than the one in Phalpang****. There were fluorescent lights in the dormitory of 12 beds, apparently supplied by hydro-electric power installed about 9 years ago. The outside toilet had a note saying that it had been ‘used by many famous and not so famous people and that whilst not a national monument, it should be treated with respect and careful aim should be taken’.


FRIDAY 22nd March, 1991.


Had another fitfull night’s sleep in the Tramserku View**** Hotel although the absence of smoke, due to the fact that the wood cooking range had a chimney going through the wall was an improvement.  The others had Tibetan bread with jam and porridge for breakfast whilst I just had the bread.  This came in the form of a very heavy, doughy but tasty roll.


We had a lazy time wandering round the shops.  It seemed that there was a fairly good range of new and used mountaineering equipment for sale or hire.  Nothing is priced in the shops but the storekeeper will quote a price immediately.  We stocked up with 6 Mars Bars, 6 Dairy Milk 8 toilet rolls, 2 more gas bottles and 2 disposable lighters. The chocolate bars were NS40 each but we shall probably be glad of them later.


After shopping, we walked up to Everest View Hotel, at about 13,000ft (3850) for acclimatization purposes. We passed rock paintings, created by monks on the way. We also passed the air strip which could be used only by very full planes and K????


I was feeling the altitude, with a pulse rate of about 144 and a throbbing headache. Andy was feeling fit running back to collect Mal’s wallet (13 minutes) and the length of the air strip (300m).  I felt better as we descended after eating a plate of chips!


SATURDAY 23rd March, 1991


After breakfast of porridge and ordinary toast and jam, washed in hot water in a metal bowl, ladelled out of a cistern attached to the cooking range. Then used the same water to wash a few clothes.


After this we walked round the market which started at 6.00am. All sorts of fresh food and other produce were being traded on the street.  We also exchanged our10 litre kerosene voucher.  However, we decided that this would probably be too much as we took only 3 litres with us.


Finally, we set off on the trek at about 9.40a.m.. The path wound steadily upwards and provided views of Ama Dublan**** (very steep on all sides) and Nuprek **** (to the left).


The porters think that they would prefer not to stay at Phortse**** (rather than the planned Dole) and we agreed. The tent at Phortse**** was very small and smokey so we decided to camp just outside.  We were later joined by a party of Americans who were also heding for Island Peak.  JB cooked for us a meal of noodles with soup.  The snow began to fall as we opened a bottle of rum, purchased at the last hut for about £2.00. We toasted the GMC, the day of the club dinner. Soon we retreated to Mal’s tent to finish the rum.


SUNDAY 24th March, 1991.


A lot of snow fell during the night (about 4”) which made the tent very dark inside before we cleared it. It was obviously a day for the ????  boots, although the porters continued, without complaint, in their trainers. The wind was also quite strong, creating quite bad visibility later on.  It seemed a long hard struggle up to Dole with JB leading, setting a tough pace.  He explained that he liked to go faster higher up.  JB has 2 daughters and one son (aged 1) and he rents his house in Kathmandu for 11000 rupees per month.  Only rich people buy their homes in the city but in the country they tend to buy them. He hopes to open a restaurant in Kathmandu soon and run it with the help of his wife and cousin. On the trek he pointed out deer sleeping in the steep slopes of the deciduous forest.  They were very dark in colour.


The weather was deteriorating  so we agreed to stay in the hut at Dole.  This had a separate dormitory and kitchen so it looked OK.  We had spicy tomato soup and cheese omelette for lunch wearing our duvets jackets as it was about 0’C inside.


After lunch Andy, Mal and myself venture outside in duvet jackets fully done up etc, in order to warm up. However, the powder snow is being blown making it very cold and near white out.  We do not want to get lost so we head back after about 10 minutes.


MONDAY 25th March, 1991


I wake up at about 11.00p.m with very high pulse rate (120) rapid heavy breathing and uncontrollable shivering. Andy does a very good of calming me down and eliminating the shivering and reducing the heavy breathing.  Mike give me a Diamox pill and I return to sleep.  However,  wake up with the same symptoms, only worse, at about 12.00am. . After about 10 minutes, I conclude that I am not going to be able to control it again and ask to descent.


All the friends are awake at this stage and Mal wakes JB.  Everyone offers to go with me (I learn of this later) but eventually Mike and JB fulfil the role. It takes about half an hour to sort out gear etc. whilst Andy keeps talking to me.


We eventually set off at about 12.40a.m. into snow which is now about 1 ft deep.  However, ithas stopped snowing and it is a clear night, with the outlines of the mountains outside.  Mike leads the way and I follow, supported by JB on one side and a ski stick on the other. Mike did an excellent job of route finding.  This could not have been easy in the near darkness.


Our head torches were very useful.  However, it was a long and arduous journey, taking about 3 hours to Phortse.This included many pauses for me to rest briefly.  We pass a police checkpoint about half an hour before Phortse – they were alerted to our torches and enquired about our reason for passing.  They offered us a room on learning of our predicament and I was very tempted toaccept. However, JB said it would not be comfortable so we pushed on. I was very relieved when we finally reached Phortse.


Here Mike and JB pitched Mal’s Quacar**** tent very efficiently and I was bundled inside. Garlic soup ***** followed which I managed to drink. After this, I fell asleep almost immediately, totally exhausted.


The rest of the team, Mal, Andy and porters arrived at about 8.00am.taking one and half hours for the same journey.  At this time, the skies very crystal clear and it was a beautiful day. Mike and I stayed in bed for porridge and lemon tea.  JB had concocted some garlic noodles for me (apparently garlic has good effect upon altitude sickness). However,my appetite had not returned and I could only eat a few.


I eventually got up, feeling better and relieved to be alive but still very weak.  I set off carrying my day pack as usual but it soon became apparent that even this was too much strain for me.  Mal took if for the rest of the day. 


It was a long and painful trip to Kunde**** with frequent stops for me to rest.  Every ten yards seemed like the ascent of Elridge Wawr****. We thought that we must be nearly there when we saw Kunde on the hillside.  However, the town stretched for a long way, with the hospital on the very far ridge.


The hospital was run by a Canadian and his wife with a local helper.  After a short wait of about 10 minutes the doctor took me inside. He asked about my progress through the hills and my symptoms., making notes as I talked.  He then put a sensor on my index finger attached to an electronic device which displayed my blood oxygen level.  This was 53% compared to about 90% for a normal person.


He concluded that I had acute mountain sickness in a bad way (cerebal odema) and that my recovery would be speeded by an hour in his hyper**** bay.  This was a cigar shaped device made of thick plastic with clear patches for windows and a zip to allow access. Once zipped up inside, the device was pumped up by a foot pump.  It was topped up with a few more pumps every 10 cm or so to maintain the circulation.


My friends were shown round the hospital whilst I was inside the bay.  Apparently there were a few in-patients but* most Nepalese porters to go home as soon as possible after treatment.* Obtaining drugs is a great problem with India being the only ??? allowed ?? (all other ?? having been contaminated by the Chynobyl fall-out)  The doctor and his wife are there on a two year contract, finishing in June.


The day in the bay brought my oxygen level up to about 61%. The doctor gave me drugs for altitude (?) bacterial dysentery and to reduce the swelling in the brain.


I felt significantly better on the descent to Nambe Bazaar***, where we all returned to the ??? View Lodge.  I still had little appetite so I struggled with my spring rolls before halfway.  I slept well.


TUESDAY 26th March, 1991/


Mal had offered to continue descending with me with our porter, (Nina) carrying a rather large load.  Therefore, after breakfast, we parted company wishing each other all the best. We paced ourselves? On the descent to Phakding and I could feel my strength returning, although very slowly.  There were still a few ascents to be made, the longest being up the park entrance to Jopale***.


I’ve returned to the same lodge in Phakding, finding it nearly empty when we arrived. However, it soon filled up with a large party from Oxford University, a group of 3 from Scunthorpe, Croydon etc. (whom were good company) and a large camping group. All except ourselves, were ascending.  About a third of the Oxford party seemed to be afflicted some form of ailment.


We ate the usual tomato soup, omelette and chips for tea, my appetite having retuned.  We also had 5 teas between us (at NS90 each – compared to NS5 for accommodation).  We retired to bed at about 8.00pm. – after a lot of people.  We arose at about 6.10a.m. and were away by 7.10a.m.


WEDNESDAY 27th March, 1991.


The ascent to Lukla*** was not at all bad, taking us 3 hours.  Nima led us to the hotel where our flight tickets were being kept for the return to Kathmandu. We handed over a letter from JB to the proprietor (who himself appears to have been an accomplished ??) We gathered that the letter explained our predicament in Ner** and our desire for a flight as soon as possible.


He suggested that we should spend the night in this hotel and he would see about what he could do for tomorrow.  In the meantime, we ordered lunch at his hotel.  However, he soon returned with the news that, weather permitting, we would be able to fly back on an extra plane currently flying for Kathmandu.  We therefore left straight away for the airport, just ten minutes away.  Mal gave generous tips to ? NS300 and Nima (400).


We were soon aboard the plane with extra baggage charges waived.. There was only one other passenger aboard, a local.  The take-off was very dramatic, with high acceleration and a very short distance needed.


After landing in Kathmandu, we were whisked off in a taxi and taken back to My Home (NS200 + 50 tip).  We were back at about  12.00 after an amazingly smooth journey.  After a quick shower and change, we asked Mr. Shati to explain our predicament and desire for an early flight home. Then we made phone calls home about 1.30p.m.and went for lunch at the Balcony restaurant.