Everest / Alpine Expeditions

Return to Everest 29 March: Scott Parazynski: Acclimatization trek above Namche up into the Clouds

By Keith Cowing
Scott Parazynski
March 29, 2009
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Return to Everest 29 March: Scott Parazynski: Acclimatization trek above Namche up into the Clouds
Scott on an acclimatization hike
Scott Parazynski

Firing on all cylinders today, we saw a bit over 13,000 feet in very good form, along with some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. Everest and neighboring Ama Dablam peaked out of the clouds for a brief period, their faces looking forbidding and their summits impossibly distant.

Strange to think that in just a few short days I’ll be in the midst that vertical world. In the meantime, its just the basics of taking care of myself (and the occasional teammate with a medical question or concern): pacing myself properly up the trail, monitoring my thermal balance (shedding clothing before I build too much of a heat load, and adding a layer at all rest stops), staying hydrated and well fed, and paying close attention to my gear.

Our loop first took us up the steep slope above Namche Bazar to the airstrip at Syanboche, where helicopters and the occasional STOL aircraft (mostly Pilatus) drop off supplies and the rare tourist en route to the Everest View Hotel — reportedly they provide very high end service, including supplemental oxygen (at a steep premium, naturally). I’d guesstimate the runway at 3000′ length, positioned at over 12,000′ altitude. Couple that with a rocky, undulating surface and you’ve got one sporty airfield… Some of the group opted to U-turn back to Namche after a trek up to the hotel, while others of us continued onward and upward to the pass above Kunde.

Along the trail we spied Everest’s West face, barren of snow, and the awe-inspiring Ama Dablam, a perfectly formed steep spire. We briefly visited the field hospital at Kunde, where they can quite impressively handle most emergencies with limited gear and supplies. Then we continued down valley to neighboring Khumjung and its famous Everest bakery for lunch. Momos (similar to Chinese pot stickers) for lunch, followed by apple strudel for dessert! We then passed by Sir Edmund Hillary’s namesake school, back in Kunde, on the way to our lodge. A shower awaits after a great little workout, probably the last such luxury for awhile…

Homesickness has set in: I especially miss playing 1-on-1 with my son Luke, and cheering on our Houston Rockets with him, but I thankfully had a nice talk with home last night. I really admire the ISS crews who spend so many months away from home, not just on their 6 month journeys to the Station, but the months and months of training away from home as they prepare for their long duration expeditions. [I’d always been a short timer, a Space Shuttle astronaut and an “extreme high altitude construction worker,” and as such only had to deal with very short separations from home].

Having some form of connectivity, via email and/or satellite phone, has made this Everest season so much easier than last year’s. Back in “the day,” when I was preparing for a long duration flight aboard the Mir space station, my on-orbit colleagues often had just one packet email from home each week. It’s a long story, but fortuitously I was too tall to fit into the Soyuz capsule in an emergency, so I never fulfilled my earlier hopes of a long duration flight. As a result of this, I earned the call-sign “Too Tall Parazynski.” I thankfully ended up flying to Mir on STS-86 as a spacewalker a year later. Too tall for Soyuz, too short for the NBA …

Scott and Ang Jangbu with Mt. Everest in the distance

Play time

Statute of Sir Edmund Hillary at the Khumjung School near Namche

Looking down at Namche



Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻