Everest / Alpine Expeditions

Keith Cowing Everest Update: Awestruck in Namche

By Keith Cowing
Keith Cowing
April 18, 2009
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Keith Cowing Everest Update: Awestruck in Namche
Mt. Everest is left of the center of this image
Keith Cowing

This morning I woke up rather sore and stiff. But it was the kind of sore and stiff that goes away with some Advil, a big breakfast, and movement.

Around 7:30 am Tashi and I set off. First stop was the Saturday market. People come from quite a distance – one or two day’s walk to buy and/or sell. What is for sale looked rather familiar: it was what I had seen on porter’s backs and in tea lodges. But there was more: fresh vegetables (including big bags of hot chili peppers), clothing (including t-shirts featuring U.S. television wrestlers), and other household items.

Being a predominantly Buddhist area, killing of animals for meat is forbidden. But you can buy already slaughtered meat here inside a special building. The nature of transport was obvious to me as I walked around that building: two porter’s bamboo baskets – each with half of a pig – one with the front, the other with the back.

Saturday market at Namche Bazar

The rest of Namche has much more of a tourist town look and feel to it. Lots of shops selling cold weather gear, Nepali and Tibetan crafts, and Internet services. If you walk around the music varies from local tunes to “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles. Its more interesting after dark. Last night I sat in the middle of town waiting for a call on my Iridium phone. As I did a cow quietly walked up the stairs, a young boy poured some curried soup in a drain, a group of children outfitted in colorful fleece ran around, and shops featuring electronics hawked their wares.

Keith with Mt. Everest just over his left shoulder

Add in the smells (there are many of them) the clashing music styles and this place becomes a strange mash up between Aspen (or Chamonix), parts of Los Angles (present day and as depicted in Blade Runner) and something out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Namche is seated in a large natural amphitheatre. It was once a trading crossroads that otherwise relied upon agriculture. With the increase in tourism the agrarian way of life is giving away to consumerism. New structures are going up all around. Indeed, as I sit here in the large dining room at the Khumbu Lodge, below me are half a dozen stone masons patiently shaping local rocks into building stones with hammer and chisel.

it is one thing to approach Namche from below – but quite another to see if form above. After we visited the saturday market, Tashi and I headed up on a short hike (my aching legs). I decided to put off the longer version of the hike (up to the Hillary School) until tomorrow. Instead we went up to the Sagarmatha National Park Headquarters.

As we approached the park headquarters, there was suddenly a lot of barbed wire. A few minutes later, fox holes and trenches – remnants of the now concluded civil strife between the former Nepali government and the Maoists. Already you can see evidence of attempts to remove the barbed wire and replant natural plants.

Namche from above as we head out

As we reached the top of the ridge I found myself awestruck. I was totally surrounded my mountains that dwarf anything I have seen in Colorado or the Alps. Clearly visible were Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, and the steep spire of Ama Dablam. With the exception of the guy running the coffee/bakery shop, Tashi and I had the entire ridge summit to ourselves. If such a place existed in the Alps or the Rockies, there’d be a string of hotels, cafes, paragliding outfitters, and stores. on this ridge. Instead, there were only the three of us.

There is a hotel over a nearby ridge with a similar view, the “Everest View”, built by Japanese investors. We’ll probably walk past it tomorrow. I am not sure how it is doing financially given the fact that tourism in this region is down (even though lodge construction is up).

The rest of today will be spent doing updates, relaxing, wandering around the shops and getting ready for tomorrow’s much more arduous hike tomorrow. After that, more resting before we push off for Tengboche.




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) 🖖🏻