EBC Day 17 – Lungden to Namche Bazaar

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Leaving Lungden

Despite the ferocious wind that was blowing up the valley from the south, it only took 30 minutes to hike from Lungden (Nepali : लुन्देन) (elevation : 4375m) to Marulen (elevation : 4210m). At first, Marulen was akin to a ghost town, as all the houses were bolted from the outside and there was not a single person in sight. I did however end up seeing three people right at the end of the town, which struck me as somewhat odd for a fairly large town (at least by Nepalese mountain standards) of about 12 houses. The days were getting much colder and the nights were getting much shorter, so the scarcity of people was most likely due to the coming of winter.

Lungden Prayer flags, chortens

Lungden Mani stones

Prayer flags, chortens, and mani stones

A metal prayer flag-lined bridge lay just after Marulung, and crossing it brought me to the west bank of the Bhote Koshi (भोटे कोशी). Just south of the sprawling village of Tarnga, the Bhote Koshi was then met by the Langmuche Khola, which drains the Langmuche glacier and Dig Tsho to the west. I found it interesting that the icy streams that had trickled by me just days before had grown bigger and bigger as they merged with other bodies of water, before meeting these torrential rivers that shaped the ancient valleys.

Lungden Marulung Bridge

The bridge that straddles the Bhote Koshi at Dingjung/Marulung

I found it strange that there were no checkpoints of any kind as I made my way down. I had heard that the security was supposed to be a little tighter since the glacier pass of Nangpa La (elevation : 5716m) lay at the head of this valley. The Nangpa La is a well-established trade route between Tibet and Nepal, so much so that the Tibetans know it as 'Khumbu Kang La', or 'snowy pass into the Khumbu'. The pass was used by the Sherpa when they migrated over to Nepal over 500 years ago, and was also used by some Tibetans who were fleeing from Chinese rule.

Thame Teng (Upper Thame)

Looking south towards Thame Teng (Upper Thame)

It was around that time when I encountered the treeline once again. The last time I had been below 4000 metres was just before I reached the town of Dingboche, which had been well over a week ago. I was struck by how much I reacted to the sight of the Himalayan Junipers (Juniperus recurva), the scarcity of which, when up in the mountains, must have affected me on a very fundamental level. In this region, the branches of the junipers (which are known as 'Shugpa' in Sherpa) are mixed with the leaves of the perennial dwarf rhododendron (Rhododendron anthopogon), and are commonly burnt as incense after having been dried in the sun.

Treelines have also been found to shift with the changing of temperatures. The past 100 years has seen the average temperature increase by more than a full degree, and the effects tend to be far more pronounced at both high altitudes as well as high latitudes. In Pangboche (the town that lies just north-east of the Tengbouche Monastery) for instance, the treeline of east Himalayan firs (Abies spectabilis) was found to increase by 2.61m a year [Bhuju et al. (2010)]!

Next (Day 17) : Lungden to Namche Bazaar (Part 2)
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Trains of yaks began to appear on the stone steps that lead up to the junction to the Kerok Gompa (monastery). Shortly after, I noticed signs that were propped up along the side of the path in an attempt to raise awareness about the overabundance of plastic waste and the need to decrease the consumption of single-use plastics. The signs not only mentioned the detrimental effects of plastic water bottles, but also contained information regarding chortens and mani stones. This was a great initiative as the environmental awareness in the hiking community is sorely lacking.

Thame Teng chorten

The Thame Teng chorten

From here the trail continued south to Thame Teng and Thame (Nepali : थमे) (elevation : 3820m) shortly after. Thame was a very scenic and fairly large town that was situated where the Bhote Kosi and Thame Khola valleys met. The sprawling town was filled with gompas and houses that were scattered around, with their respective plots demarcated by windy stone walls. The whole scene was made so much more alluring by the dense cloud-cover and the crepuscular rays that managed to find their way through. The area is the home of Apa Sherpa (nicknamed 'Super Sherpa'), a very well-known mountaineer who holds the record for the highest number of times to reach the summit of Mount Everest : 21; and is also the childhood home of Tenzing Norgay, who was one of the first to have climbed Mount Everest (elevation : 8848m) back in 1953.

The valley that Thame is cosily nestled in is surrounded by towering peaks. Heading west up the Thame Khola valley towards its head-wall will bring you to the Tyangbo glacier and the high-altitude pass of Tesi Labcha (elevation : 5755m) just after. The pass lies just under the trekking peak of Pachermo (elevation : 6273m) and crossing it will bring you to the Rolwaling Himal range on the other side. The southern wall of the Thame Khola valley, on the other hand, is made up of the Lumding Himal which consists of the peaks of Kongde Ri (elevation : 6186m), Tyangmoche (elevation : 6500m), and Paniyotapa (elevation : 6696m).


Thame with the ridge that leads up to Kongde Ri (elevation : 6186m) on the left

The Lumding Himal is what forces the Bhote Kosi river (and the trail) to swerve south-east and down the valley towards the town of Namche Bazaar. The river descended into a canyon of sorts as it approached the next town, Thamo (Nepali : थमु) (elevation : 3480m). Thamo was a nice little town, albeit a little too religious for my liking. The town had a big monastery up on the hill, whilst the rest of the town was basically made up of chortens, prayer tablets, and a water-powered prayer wheel. Monks and nuns were absolutely everywhere, with some walking up the path and not looking where they were going as they were just too engrossed in their prayer beads and their unabating mantras. Children started to prop up everywhere lower down the valley, and they all seemed to speak a little bit of English. Cries of “Namaste! Where are you going?”, “What is your name?”, and “You want to play football?” seemed to follow me as I continued on, surely a clear indicator to the other locals that a foreigner was approaching.

It became dark quite quickly as I was making my final approach to Namche Bazaar, and I was forced to take extra care whenever I took a step. Just before Namche, I came upon an area that looked like an army camp that had gone through a war. There were dug out pits scattered everywhere and the whole compound was completely surrounded by barbed wire. The moonlight and the fading colours of a quickly disappearing twilight also cast an eerie glow on the whole scene. I looked up at the almost full moon as I walked into Namche Bazaar (Nepali : नाम्चे बजार) (elevation : 3440m), and recalled that it had been a new moon the last time I had stepped foot in the town, just short of two weeks ago.

The closer I got to Namche the more I realised that the trip was coming to an end. A part of me was looking forward to all the comforts of home (clean clothes, a shower!) and the rest and recuperation that would inevitably follow, but a significant part of me did not want to head back at all and would have been perfectly content to have just kept on wandering.

Costs: charging (NPR150); internet usage (NPR500); dhal bhat (NPR490); 3 cups of hot lemon (NPR180)

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Day 17 Expenditure

Next (Day 18) : Namche Bazaar to Lukla
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