Tag Archives: Adventures

Trekking to Pheriche…

After eight days in Kathmandu, we woke early on Sunday 8th March for our flight to Lukla. The taxi was scheduled for 5am Рafter several days of the main runway being closed at Tribhuvan Airport, the HRA had ensured we would be on the first flight out to the mountains. Sure enough, we arrived to a queue for entry into the domestic terminal Рlots of intrepid trekkers waiting to start their Himalayan adventure. Once through security (a very small X-ray machine and quick check of our ticket) we had our luggage weighed and hand luggage checked and within 30 minutes we were in the tiny departure terminal. No sooner had Reuben and I managed to drink an overpriced cup of Nescafé, our flight with Goma Air was called and we were rushed onto the departure bus and in the air for 0627! The aircraft was a new design Рquite plush by the usual standards and a very comfortable flight, landing to my surprise in 35 minutes. With relief to be back on Himalayan soil, we were able to start the first leg of our trek to Pheriche. Their was certainly excitement in the air!!

Safely in Lukla, breakfast down the hatch….time to trek…

Our first stop was for a hearty breakfast in Lukla. Well, hearty for some – after three treks in Nepal and three months living in the mountains, all I could muster was the heart to order chapatti with peanut butter and a milk coffee. It was no surprise really – breakfast has never been my favourite trekking meal and why would it be any different today? We set off not long after 9am and made our way through lush green valleys and trails to the tiny village of Phakding for lunch. It felt great to be back in the mountains with new friends on their first visit to Nepal and living out an ambition to volunteer with the HRA. Andy is an ER physician from Salt Lake City, Utah and Renee is another ER maestro who currently works in Boston, Massachussets. Together, the four of us nattered and told tales of adventures past and to come as we made it to our first overnight stop in Monjo. Renee was feeling pretty tired after the 4am start and a bit of a leaving present from Kathmandu so opted for an early night as Reuben, Andy and I sat down for dinner at 7pm. By 8.30pm it was lights out and time to rest and dream of exciting times ahead…..that and hoping we didn’t wake with headaches or other signs of AMS the next morning.

“Do I really have to get up now……?!” Probably the worst thing about having a Rab Andes 1000 sleeping bag is having to get out of it in the morning – it was pretty chilly as we rushed to get ready and pack our bags for the Porters who were keen to make a head start to Namche Bazar. I was surprised just how cold it was – though I have plenty of layers with me this season, it felt much colder than December. We set off just after 8am for the big climb to Namche at 3440m. The trails were pretty quiet save for a number of yak trains and donkeys laiden with kerosene, propane gas or sacks of rice. We did pass trekkers on their descent back to Lukla – many having failed to reach Everest Base Camp as the trails have been hit with heavy snow over the last two weeks rendering many parts of the trails impassable to the uninitiated.

Taking in the awesome view of Namche

It was a long day up to Namche – 4 hours trekking in all but over 600m of ascent and out of the shade it was very hot. Great to feel the sun on our backs but it made the climb harder – I was waiting for the lungs to really feel the thin air but it soon became apparent that Reuben and I had retained some of our acclimatisation as we recovered quickly with each rest stop. Along the river and up through trails that wound through the forest, we came to a rest stop which if we looked hard enough, revealed our first glimpse of Sagamartha for the season. After some trail snacks and a quick reshuffle of rucksacks, we were on our way again, arriving at Panorama Lodge ready for lunch! Reuben and I had stayed there in December on the way back from Island Peak so when we were sure it was the owners greeting us, we were able to say “Tapaai laai sanchai chha?” and receive a familiar warmth as they greeted us on our return.

Approaching Khumjung – we were in for a surprise…

Everest in the background....what a view...

Everest in the background….what a view…

The remote Himalayan village of Khunde…

Meeting Dr Kami Sherpa…

The rest of the day was spent unwinding with an essential visit to Namche bakery for a slice of apple pie and coffee with free wifi on the side. You’d think we’d been away for weeks on end as most of us connected to the ether to see what we’d missed in the last 48 hours….. A second day in Namche allowed us to acclimatise to the altitude and take the opportunity to visit Dr Kami at Khunde Hospital. Renee stayed back to rest her knee which had been giving some jip on the descents. It was a pleasant hike first to Khumjung, following the trail of slush and mud that had been carved through the recent snowfall. In places it was very muddy but it was worth it as we rounded a stupa and looked upon a magnificent winters vista of Everest, Lhotse, Nupste and Ama Dablam in the distance. Arriving into Khumjung, we pointed out the school built by Sir Edmund Hillary as we heard giddy children shouting out from the playground and then left the green village for nearby Khunde. As we arrived at the hospital, I recognised Dr Kami and managed to ask him if indeed it was him whilst introducing the three of us and our jobs and plans to head for Pheriche all in Nepali! Although convinced I had jumbled my new verbs and words, he did reply in Nepali – to which I quickly reverted into English! We had a tour of the facilities and then headed on our way as the locals were called in for their consultation. It felt more real as we walked back – maybe as I had put a face to the name having sent many patients to Dr Kami last season. The positive vibes were quickly dashed however on our return to Namche as we negotiated slippery mud trails the whole way down; twice I pirouetted and landed on my arse, covered in mud! I was not impressed! Having befriended a puppy with a quick “Namaste”, Andy disappeared – either a case of hitting the trails and not looking back or being very aware of the chimp!

We found Andy in the Namche bakery enjoying a slice of warmed apple pie whilst chatting to the Machermo volunteers. We ordered some chocolate cake and a warmed fresh sesame roll knowing these would be rare treats over the next ten weeks. The afternoon was then spent in the 8848 Cafe watching the film Everest which tells a tale of the Sherpas involved in one particular Swiss climbing expedition a few years ago. It was brilliant to see the work they undertake – a very eye opening account; and yet so sad to see the risks taken for a wage of $5000 USD in the short climbing season; all to get wealthy westerners up the mountain. That evening we all sat down to a hot towel and amazing daal bhat before it was time to turn in and get some sleep before the alarm sounded early the next morning.

Hiking out of Namche…

Prayers to the heavens above…..another Mani wall…

As we left the Panorama Lodge the next morning, the trail rose steeply and sighs could be heard from our weary selves. Having trekked this section of the trail three times before – most recently in the dark coming back from Chhukung and Island Peak in December, Reuben and I both knew it was a beautiful section of trail. The path winds around the hillsides for kilometres – up and down in places but mostly flat – with a fair amount of ‘Himalayan flat’. We passed Stupas on the way and in places hopped throug slush and mud as the sun melted the trail ahead of us. Dropping down to the river by lunch, it was a steep and slow climb up to Tengboche – made more tough by the heat of the afternoon sun. Finally, sapped of energy we arrived onto the plateau of the tiny, but historically important village of Tengboche and its Monastery. We headed over to see the sacred site and were lucky enough to see inside the chambers where the Monks are called to prayer for several hours at a time. It was stunning inside – so colourful with Thangkas decorating the room and a giant golden Bhudda statue sitting magnificently at the head of the room.The views of Everest and Ama Dablam were spectacular – made even more special as we watched the sunset over the magnificent mountain vista.

Reuben spinning the Mani wheels at Tengboche Monastery....

Reuben spinning the Mani wheels at Tengboche Monastery….

Sunset over Everest, Lhotse and Nupste…

It was an early start for Pheriche as Gobi had emailed to say the trail ahead had the potential to be very muddy and best to get a head start on the sun. We were up at 0530 though breakfast was a little late and not the best….. Just after 0700 we were walking down towards Deboche through the rhododendron forest. It was so different to the trail we stamped up in December – this time we were delicately hopping from frozen mud to frozen snow in an attempt to avoid the slippery ice that had yet to thaw under the heat of the sun. We made good progress and were up at the small holding of Orsho by 11am. After a quick hot juice, we were keen to press on for our final destination of Pheriche. It was snowy and muddy as we trekked up and out of our rest stop…..Reuben and I meandered ahead recounting the last time we had made this journey towards Dingboche at the end of last season. We passed two Yakbees (baby Yaks) as we veered left and up towards the trail for Pheriche. It was heavy with snow but shortly before 1pm we had the village in sight and hastily made our way to the HRA Rescue Post to find Gobi and our cook, Jeet smiling away at our arrival.

Ready and raring to go...."how early is it...?!"

Ready and raring to go….”how early is it…?!”

Renee and Andy taking in the sights...

Renee and Andy taking in the sights…

Arriving at Pheriche...."home for the season'...

Arriving at Pheriche….”home for the season’…

After nearly 4 years, I was finally here at Pheriche ready to volunteer as a HRA Rescue Doctor. And what an awesome team – this was already going to be a brilliant season!


Secret Weekend…….of Adventures

“Shorts, flip flops and a down jacket….??!!”….I read out loud. All week, the list of items needed for the mystery weekend had started to materialise. Reuben could see my little cogs turning as I tried to guess the location for our secret weekend and the activities he had planned. It was a source of much amusement……much to my mock frustration and boundless excitement….

By Friday morning I was still pretty clueless…..so I figured I would pack anyway and imagine I was spending the weekend on a desert island. The penny dropped when I noticed both mountain bikes were in the garden…..

Just after 3.30pm, we rolled down the street for our first bikepacking adventure. I was grinning from ear to ear as we cycled along the roads with people looking onwards in amusement. I felt alive – not knowing where we would be sleeping nor how we would be getting there……you can imagine the excitement flowing through me.

We arrived at the train station in time to board a train destined for Manchester Airport. Cogs still turning, I figured Scotland was out of the running and I was pretty sure my passport was still in the top drawer at home…. So options….. The Lakes looked like a good contender…..quick change at Manchester Piccadilly perhaps…. But then Reuben started to look worried….the train was stuck……we had another two trains to catch……

In true British Rail fashion, we arrived at Darlington 30 minutes late which had a knock-on effect for the rest of the evening. We wouldn’t be heading for the Lakes alongside hundreds of other tourists……but I was starting to feel a little bewildered as we arrived in Middlesborough! Still, my sense of adventure was alight and a decision was made to pedal rather than wait for the next train some 3 hours later.

And so we headed out 14 miles into the countryside and to our first adventures in the North York Moors……

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful evening….. It was warm and sunny, brilliant blue skies and barely a cloud in sight…. Having navigated out of the town, we were soon moving at speed along country roads with marvellous views out to Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook’s monument. As with any microadventure of this kind, we were able to shape the evening as it unfolded and so a decision was made to source some fish and chips in Great Ayton, boyhood home of Captain Cook.

Once on the bikes again, we moved further away from civilisation, heading down bridleways and past farms and cottages until the path rose steeply and rockily onto the moors, and the sunset threw a magical glow over the countryside. By now, that feeling of adventure and excitement was going into overdrive. Years of growing up reading novels by Enid Blyton….timeless stories of the Famous Five and the Adventure series….and here I was living my own little adventure. It was magic.

This was unlike any other weekend where we might have walked or biked…..or even hit the trails at a steady pace, running across the hilltops. There was no van, no security from the elements and no certainty as to where we might find food and water. It was simplistic in its form and I could not imagine a more perfect way to spend a weekend with someone who means the world to me….


As it turned dark, we reached the top of the incline and started to think about setting up camp for the night. Plans might have changed, but thoughts now turned to the perfect location for the evening….not what could have been had we spent the night drinking and laughing in The Lion Inn. With the distant glow of lights from Middlesborough shining in the distance, we made out the shapes in the heather and guided by the moonlight, found a grouse buttress to shelter by. The tent was up in no time and the bikes sheltered in the hide……it was time to turn in for the evening. But not before my own little surprise…….I’d pedalled the distance with two cheeky cans of Gordon’s Gin and Tonic…….cheers, Reuben!



It was a windy night but the tent held strong……we woke to the sounds of grouse calling across the moor, oblivious to the slumber we had been enjoying for several hours. The blue skies were magnificent as we emerged from the tent….although they soon folded to the overcast shadows and clouds that settled in for the duration of the day. A quick breakfast of coffee and bacon (expertly fired on my pocket rocket and miniature frying pan) was followed by a speedy pack up as it threatened to pour down with rain. We were passed by three walkers as the bikes were readied for the day ahead and once we had loaded up our steeds, we were ready to hit the trails….



I had only visited the North York Moors once before however as we started pedalling, I knew instantly that it was somewhere I could connect with……a place of mystery and wild enchantment – waiting to be explored. We cycled along old railway tracks, roads and sections of singletrack, balancing the heavy bikes between the heather verges as we crossed the moors.



The laughter and sense of freedom as we journeyed into the wilderness was blissful – for me, it was perfection. Even when I did fall off the bike as my concentration lapsed on a section of singletrack……


The day passed by with a renewed outlook……we were so close to home and yet it felt like we could have been a million miles away from our everyday routines. It was a perfect time to reflect and to soul-search as we pedalled along the trails, making our way from place to place through the valleys of Farndale, Fryupdale, Rosedale and Glazedale…..


The rains started to pour as we arrived into Glazedale and so we made for a railway bridge and sheltered with a cup of hot soup and various snacks that had been crammed into our bags. It had been a long day and thoughts now turned to hot food and setting up camp for the night. We cycled back uphill and re-traced our route, headed for the Board Inn at Lealholm. By now it was 4pm – a time to sit and reflect on the days adventures whilst enjoying some hearty food. Only there was no room at the Inn! And so after a swift half of Black Sheep ale, we set off once again into the pouring rain and made for an evening at The Jolly Sailor…..

It was a decision well made as we crossed the moors yet again and hit more singletrack with the views of the surrounding countryside sweeping by in a purple haze. After detouring off the track and almost disappearing in the green ferns, we made our way past Scaling Dam and set up the tent in a field about 7 miles from Reuben’s family home. Some might think how crazy, but for me it couldn’t have been more perfect.

IMG_4647 IMG_4651

The evening was spent gorging on the most delicious food – both of us hitting a heady slumber as we pulled away from The Jolly Sailor, yet again in a downpour. This time, headtorches revealed the way ahead as we made our way through the moorland – frogs hopping out of the way as we slid along the muddy tracks. Back on the road, we sped at pace through large puddles, soaking ourselves to the skin, as we raced for our tent and shelter for the evening.

IMG_4661 IMG_4671

It was a beautiful Sunday morning……bright blue skies, the sun bearing down and birds singing. ¬†Despite my roll mat self-defalting overnight (had Reuben forgotten to inflate it one wonders….?), we woke after 9am and had a leisurely start to the day – packing and heading for a coffee nearer Boulby, sitting high on some scaffolding to drink our brews and take in the magnificent surroundings.

Back at Boulby, we spent a few hours with Reuben’s family, recalling the weekends adventures and enjoying Sunday lunch round the table. It was so comforting and such a nice way to finish the weekend and yet the journey was still not over. I didn’t want the weekend to end – I wanted to lose myself in the moment – to savour it and think ahead to many more adventures to come. So as we pulled away on our bikes, we headed along the coast to Saltburn and the train home. A brilliant last leg, smiles on our faces and the sea breeze bristling through our helmets as we pedalled along taking in the coastline and pondering the future.

IMG_4686 IMG_4689

A brilliant weekend and a brilliant first microadventure – I can’t wait until the next installment!