This morning's freezing cold, pre-dawn lecture explored the long history and basic tenants of Zen Buddhism. If you would like to experience what I went through, then all you need to do is wake up at 4am and grab a "North Faux" sleeping bag. Take it into a walk-in freezer along with your therma-rest. Now get inside your bag with all your clothes on, curl up into a ball, and put your tangled earbuds in so that you can listen to Alan Watts pontificate on the nature of emptiness until you are able to doze off. Also make sure there is significantly less oxygen available for you to breathe. Now you know what my mornings on the trek are like.
Hiking through the snow.
After a breakfast of oatmeal and black tea (hold the milk) we packed up and hit the trail early. The snow from the day before had dissipated and we wound our way through the trees and gradually uphill until the great Ama Dablan peak came into view. Yak trains were coming and going in both directions and several times we were forced over to the edge of the trail to let them pass by. Most yak trains consist of "Zhou" which are a hybrid between a yak and a cow. However, pure bred yaks are up here too with their long matted hairdo's and their extra long horns. You can always hear their bells before you see them so you have enough time to find a safe space on the narrow trail to let them go by. The yak drivers are also constantly yelling out commands like, "Hey! Sho! Pshh!" which doesn't seem to have any effect on the yaks whatsoever. One guy even got his whip out and cracked it on his poor yaks, who continued to plod onwards as if nothing had happened.
HEY! PSHHH! SHO!
We walked slowly up and up, struggling against the altitude with every step. The narrow trail ran alongside the edge of a steep cliff of a beautiful river valley. The rivers here are all glacial runoff which gives them a surreal light blue color. Everest peak once again came into view along with Lohtse, but this walk was all about the views of Ama Dablan. According to the locals, the mountain looks like a giant eagle with its wings spread, but I don't know- I can't really see it. My guide told me that I have to use my imagination and I explained to him that, tragically, I was born without an imagination. I'm not sure if he understands my sarcasm or not.
On and on we hiked until we made it up above the tree line. Without any trees to get in the way, the wind really picked up. The landscape changed drastically into a barren, windswept grassland. We finally climbed up to our next lodge in Dingboche, the Good Luck Hotel- elevation 14,500ft. My brother was not coping well with the all the exertion at high elevation and when we entered our room he got into bed and passed out within the space of about thirty seconds. Geoff, Dave, and I were still feeling strong so we decided to take a walk around the town. Walking anywhere this high up means that you move really slowly, almost like you are going in slow motion. We found a bakery and I had my first sweet treat since the hike began. After hanging out in the lodge around the yak dung stove and eating dinner, we went to bed. A bed, I might mention, which comes equipped with a giant, puffy blanket. Very exciting.