Day 2: Lukla to Namche Bazaar

Namche Bazaar, Nepal
10,308 feet above sea level; 64% oxygen

My toes woke up tingling this morning.

To counteract the effects of high altitude, many of us are taking Diamox, a prescription drug that increases acidity in the blood. In turn, this forces the body to increase respiration and hydration, both of which help mitigate some of the most frequent problems associated with acclimating: headaches, loss of appetite and sleeplessness.

But it’s not without side effects: tingling extremities and frequent urination. Neither of which are much fun but when balanced with the benefits, make sense.

We set out this morning after a breakfast of toast, jam and black tea. The trail crossed the river on a long, swaying bridge that then led us along the smooth-stoned river bed to Benkar. From here, we crossed the Dudh Kosi again to its east bank on another suspension bridge and then had a short climb through the forests to Monjo.

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The trail then banked steeply for an exhausting climb. Here, ascending over 1,000 feet an hour, we began to feel the effects of altitude. The walking turned slow and steady — any faster and we were left sucking air on the side of the trail.

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Strangely, during our frequent breaks, we were quick to recover. Literally, within 30 seconds, we were breathing normally again. Clearly, it wasn’t the physical exertion but the lack of oxygen that was making us pant.

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Six miles later, we arrived in Namche, the administrative capital of the region. Most of us were absolutely beat. The altitude was starting to take a particularly hard toll on me. I’d developed an uncomfortable headache that even several liters of water failed to calm.

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Our teahouse, Camp de Base, was basic yet comfortable with private rooms and running water (a real luxury, we would learn).

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Later, lying in my sleeping bag with a splitting headache — unable to get down dinner and with the smell of the squat toilet wafting into my room — the inevitable question popped into my head.

Why the hell were we doing this?

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