June 2017: Student Service Adventure

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June 17 – July 3, 2017

Your Guides: Himalaya Specialists, Jerry Lapp + Ang Dendi Sherpa
Tour Sketch: A trek designed specifically for high school & college students with plenty of culture, language classes, High Himalaya, interaction with local kids, and service opportunities
Adventure Rating: Medium ~ our trails lead us into the heart of the Everest area, one of the best treks in the world
Low Point: Take a deep breath in the oxygen-rich environment of the Dudh Kosi river crossing below Khari Khola at only 4,900 feet above sea level
High Point: 12,500 feet in the village of Thame . . . not particularly high by Himalayan standards and we’ll arrive acclimatized
Highlight: Interacting with local students? seeing Mt Everest? wifi? dodging yaks?
Room & Board: Comfortable homestays or hotels in Kathmandu’s best locations, basic lodges with warm dining rooms and delicious food while trekking
Cost: $3,399 covers almost all of your expenses in Nepal over 14 days, including guides; porters; daily language lessons, transfers; domestic flights (2); hotels/homestays in Kathmandu; all lodges on trek; meals throughout; double occupancy ~ international airfare not included, but expect East Coast round trip tickets to be in the range of $900 – $1,300

 

Prepping for a day of school in the Himalaya

The great secret of the Nepal Himalaya is that it has some of the friendliest people around . . . combine that with its exotic cultures and religions and art and chaos and you end up with one of the best places in the world to visit – even before you factor in the Himalaya.  The 2017 Student Service Trek has been designed to take full advantage of all of these most excellent qualities of Nepal while giving student trekkers a chance to give back even as they’re receiving.

 

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Above is a 360° pic; click and drag to look up and down and all around . . . monkeys abound at the Pashupatinath Temple, which houses cremation ghats along the banks of the holy Bagmati River

 

We’ll fly into the Everest area and be met by our team of precocious porters at the Phaplu Airport.  They’ll carry your backpack, but more importantly, are overwhelmingly optimistic, great travel companions, and tireless conversationalists, making it easy to practice your newfound Nepali language skills.  Your cultural liaison and tour designer is former Kathmandu resident, now Lancaster, PA resident, Jerry Lapp.  And, with us each step of the way will be our local Nepali language teacher who will deliver formal lessons on a daily basis.

 

thame-1
Hometown students at our service location, the Thame Village School

This is a fully supported trek with a fantastic crew of Sherpa guides and porters . . .  they’ll end up being as much a part of our team as you and I.  Because they’ll be spread out along the trail, you’re welcome to hike at your own speed, confident that a trusted staff member is always nearby.  In addition, our Nepali language teacher will trek with us and provide daily language instruction.

 

Our trek will slowly gain altitude with each day, initially undulating, then ascending more steadily over the days before we arrive in Thame.  As we arrive at our service village of Thame, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the high crossroads of old trading routes between Tibet and Nepal.  The valley corridor to Thame’s west ascends steeply to the feared Tashi Labsta Pass, while the northern corridor into Tibet crosses the highest Himalaya on the shoulder of Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth-highest peak.  We’ll spend our days in Thame teaching English in the local school.

 

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Ang Dendi Sherpa, left, leads our adventure while his sidekick, Kami Tendi, is a 52-year old porter who can walk casually around the Himalaya with a 100-lb backpack

 

FastFacts For TeenTrekkers

  • 8 days of trekking the High Himalaya
  • 14 days in Nepal
  • 16 days door-to-door from North America
  • 2 days of volunteer service at the Thame Village School
  • Sherpas speak their own Sherpa language + Nepali, and often English as well
  • Our service village, Thame, is home to many famous Everest climbers
  • Ang Dendi Sherpa, the leader of our expedition, has summitted Everest from both Nepal & Tibet

 

Thame’s exceptional situation amidst mountains rising two miles higher

Student Service Trek outline

  •      Day 1      Fly from North America to your layover city
  •      Day 2      Fly onward to Kathmandu, Nepal
  •      Day 3     Tour Kathmandu, a virtual living museum
  •      Day 4      Fly to Phaplu, trek to Junbesi
  •      Day 5      Trek to Taksindo Pass
  •      Day 6      Trek to Bupsa
  •      Day 7      Trek to Chaurikharka
  •      Day 8      Trek to Namche Bazaar
  •      Day 9      Trek to Thame
  •      Day 10     Thame service
  •      Day 11      Thame service
  •      Day 12     Trek to Monjo
  •      Day 13     Trek to Lukla
  •      Day 14     Fly to Kathmandu
  •      Day 15     Free day in Kathmandu
  •      Day 16     Fly from Kathmandu to layover city
  •      Day 17     Fly from layover city to North America

 

I felt safe every day.  I had so much fun every single day!  Each day was a new adventure.

~ Nanette, Summer 2016 Tibet Pilgrimage

 

Kids walking home from school in the Kathmandu Valley

 

The Detailed Plan of Attack (subject to change)

Day 1
Depart North America     Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fly from North America to your layover city; most major U.S. airports have high-quality, one-stop flights to Kathmandu, Nepal.  Although it’s not included in the package cost, Skychasers will arrange a group flight from Philadelphia or New York for those who would like to travel with Jerry (recommended ).  For those not near the East Coast, I’ll give you a hand with your flight arrangements as well, including getting you to the East Coast to travel with our group.

Day 2
Kathmandu Arrival     Sunday, June 18

Upon arrival at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, our group flight from the East Coast will be met by our driver who will take us directly to our hotel or homestay  near Tibetan Buddhism’s holiest site in Nepal, the Boudha Stupa, below.  If arriving in Kathmandu independently, you will be met at the airport by myself or a member of our staff.  Most international flights arrive in the evening with just enough time for dinner before bed.  Airport transfer, dinner, hotel/homestay included. 

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4,500 ft ~ 1,371m
Day 3
Tour Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital of culture and chaos     Monday, June 19

We’ll head to a high balcony overlooking the pilgrims circumambulating the Boudha Stupa, and enjoy a relaxed rooftop breakfast.  After breakfast, we’ll give our hiking legs their first minor test by taking the 45-minute walk to Pashupatinath, the Hindu cremation ghats and temple complex.  Call it a Nepali version of a religious theme park, with endless sights, sounds, and smells!  The area is home to an outrageous  amount of activity ranging from flying monkeys to sacred cows to sadhus, ie, Hindu holy men and women.  We’ll walk to lunch at a local restaurant or hotel, before returning to our base camp at Boudha for free time and dinner.  B/L/D, Pashupatinath entrance fee, hotel/homestay.

4,500 ft ~ 1,371m
Day 4
Fly to Phaplu and trek to Junbesi     7.25-mile trek     Tuesday, June 20
  • 76 miles   KTM – Phaplu flight (30 minutes)
  • 8,088 ft   Phaplu airport elevation
  • 7,780 ft   Today’s low point
  • 8,900 ft   Today’s high point
  • 8,800 ft   Finish in Junbesi

After an early breakfast above the Boudha Stupa, we’ll head to Kathmandu’s domestic airport for our soaring shuttle flight alongside the spine of the Himalaya to Phaplu, our portal to world’s highest mountains and an immersive education into Sherpa culture and Nepali language.  To be sure, the Phaplu landing is exhilarating, but it’s simply a harbinger of things to come.  With plenty of time in the day left to hike, we set off for the village of Junbesi to our north.  As we walk upvalley, the summit of Numbur Peak floats in and out of view.  Today is not a difficult day, as the trail undulates to Junbesi, along with other trekkers, yaks, lodges, and a delicious lunch stop.  B/L/D, airport transfer, trekking & TIMS permits, mountain lodge.

8,800 ft ~ 2,682m
Day 5
Trek to Taksindo Pass     7.75 miles     Wednesday, June 21
  • 8,800 ft   Start in Junbesi
  • 8,575 ft   Low point between two ridges
  • 10,080 ft   High point and finish at Taksindo Pass

Until the Tenzing-Hillary airport in Lukla became a popular gateway, Junbesi was at the center of the classic overland route to Everest Base Camp.  The airport cuts off five days of the trek, so now more travelers utilize the airport than the Junbesi trail.  After breakfast, we’ll jump on the trail, ready to tackle a minor, rolling uphill along a route that is now much more remote than in the past.  We’ll pass through small villages surrounded by subsistence farm plots and walk through warm jungles and might even have the chance to spot a stray Russian tractor or two.  We’re in the land of Sherpas throughout our trek, but here in the lowlands, other “tribes” of Buddhist and Hindu peoples make this home.  We’ll finish the day with a steady uphill to our wonderful viewpoint at Taksindo Pass.  B/L/D, mountain lodge.

Taksindo Pass is your gritty gateway to the High Himalaya
Welcome to Taksindo Pass, your gritty gateway to the High Himalaya
9,640 ft ~ 2,939m
Day 6
Trek to Bupsa     9.25 miles     Thursday, June 22
  • 10,080 ft   Start and high point
  • 4,900 ft   Low point below Khari Khola
  • 7,680 ft   Finish at Bupsa

Just below Taksindo Pass, the Taksindo Monastery is perched on the side of a great hill.  It’s just our luck today to be able to walk by the monastery and then continue to walk downhill for a very long way to the Dudh Khosi River.  The Dudh Khosi, ie, “Milk River, flows out of the Khumbu Icefall which tumbles steeply and chaotically down to the very foot of Mt Everest.  Breathe deep while crossing the long river bridge because we’re at very low elevation and this is the most oxygen you’re going to have until we get back to Kathmandu.  Climbing up out of the Dudh Khosi Valley, we come across the ridgetop village of Khari Khola before encountering our final steps of the day in the steep farming community of Bupsa.  B/L/D, mountain lodge.

7,680 ft ~ 2,341m
Day 7
Trek to Chaurikharka     9.25 miles     Friday, June 23
  • 7,680 ft   Start in Bupsa
  • 7,400 ft   Low point at Surkhe
  • 9,400 ft   High point at the Kari La Pass
  • 8,660 ft   Finish in Chaurikharka

The master trail builders of the Khumbu have tamed the rugged mountainside we traverse throughout this morning.  Weaving in and out, up and down, we eventually gain the Kari La Pass with big views to the north and west.  Maybe we’ll stop for lunch in the village of Paiya and have a chat with a ten-time Everest climber there who now runs a lodge.  Continuing on, we weave down into the village of Surke, the hometown of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali lady to climb Mt Everest.  She’s a national hero, despite succumbing to the elements on her descent.  Surke is 2,000 feet or so below Lukla . . . we won’t go into town this time around, instead staying low to find the most direct route up to our lodge on a plateau in Chaurikharka, overlooking the ever-present Dudh Khosi.  B/L/D, mountain lodge.

This is a typical scene in an Everest lodge, with trekkers ending the day eating, sipping tea, and in our case studying Nepali, all while sitting around a warm stove fueled by yak dung
8,660 ft ~ 2,640m
Day 8
Trek to Namche Bazaar     10 miles     Saturday, June 24
  • 8,660 ft   Start in Chaurikharka
  • 8,375 ft   Low point near Phakding
  • 11,300 ft   High point and finish in Namche Bazaar

Namche Bazaar’s a definite highlight of any trek in the Everest Region, but it’s going to make us work a bit to get there.  Shortly after our walk commences, we meet up with the main trail coming from the Lukla Airport.  From here on out, we’ll find ourselves walking with more trekkers, but since it’s not high season, the trails will never be crowded.   Walking through numerous small villages, we eventually get to the real town of Phakding, where we may well eat lunch in the lodge pictured above.  From there we cross the Dudh Khosi on another long bridge, pass a high waterfall at Bengkar, then wind upwards to the entrance gate of Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park.  A quick plunging trail dives once again to the river, crossing to the west side and the village of Jorsale.  Our Sherpa, Dendi, has relatives who run a teahouse there, so after a snack and a cup of tea with them, well continue up river, undulating along its banks as it roars beside us.  Our final river crossing is on a high, swinging bridge lined with prayer flags.  This bridge also signifies the start of the infamous “Namche Hill” . . . one step at a time lands you in Namche in 2 hours, but not before you get your first glimpse of Everest a few minutes above the bridge!  Spend the rest of the day visiting Namche’s bakeries, coffee shops, and internet cafes.  B/L/D, mountain lodge.

11,300 ft ~ 3,445m
Day 9
Trek to Thame     5.75 miles     Sunday, June 25
  • 11,300 ft   Start in Namche Bazaar
  • 11,250 ft   Low point near Phurte
  • 12,750 ft   High Point at Lawudo Meditation Cave
  • 12,464 ft   Finish in Thame

A hearty, hot breakfast fuels our gentle ascent westward out of Namche Bazaar.  Presently, we enter a forest where there’s a good chance to see the Himalayan tahr, the local version of the mountain goat.  Traversing the hillside, we have excellent views across the valley to the jagged peaks of Kongde.  I have a friend, Pemba Tenzing, who’s a monk at one of the high Buddhist monasteries above the trail, so we’ll stop in to see him, check out the meditation cave (below), eat a traditional Nepali lunch, and maybe even be treated to Pemba as our guide into Thame.  As we begin our afternoon hike, our destination will be visible up valley.  If we’re feeling relaxed and happy, we can take a detour to the high Thame Monastery as we roll into town.  Otherwise, we’ll head straight into Thame, enjoying its remote situation with towering peaks above.  B/L/D, mountain lodge or homestay.

Pemba Tenzing & Kaji Sherpa in conversation in front of Lawudo Gompa’s meditation cave
12,464 ft ~ 3,800m
 Day 10
Volunteer service at the Thame Village School     Monday, June 26
  • 12,464 ft   Thame

Remember Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first lady of Everest?  If you recall, she’s a national hero and so many Nepali women were given her name at birth.  It just so happens that one of them is a teacher at the Thame Village School!  She’s going to be facilitating the volunteer service portion of our journey.  The Thame School will be in session in June and has an attendance of 50 students, more or less.  Almost all Nepali schools teach English, but almost all Nepali students encounter very few situations in which they have the chance to put into practice what they’ve learned.  And so, the English they learn is often squandered for lack of opportunity to make it come alive.  In a country like Nepal whose economy is highly dependent on visitors, particularly in a “tourist” village like Thame, learning English paves the way for entry into almost any job that has interaction with travelers.  Beyond teaching English, we may have other opportunities to participate in projects for the school, TBD.  B/L/D, mountain lodge or homestay.

 

12,464 ft ~ 3,800m

Day 11
Volunteer service at the Thame Village School     Tuesday, June 27
  • 12,464 ft   Thame

We’ll again have the opportunity to spend our day at the Thame School.  There’s also a great hike above the Thame Monastery that we may have time for in the morning or evening.  The trail begins gently, crisscrossing its way up to the monastery.  From there, it traverses west, then climbs steeply, gaining the ridgeline to Sumdur Peak.  Once on the ridge, the views are full-on 360° . . . you’ll feel the altitude, but will be well acclimatized to this point to make it a reasonable hike.  Challenge your world while changing your world!  B/L/D, mountain lodge or homestay.

Thame school kids,including a couple very tiny people, playing Himalayan mountain tag at recess
12,464 ft ~ 3,800m
Day 12
Trek to Monjo     8.25 miles     Wednesday, June 28
  • 12,464 ft   Start and high point in Thame
  • 9,164 ft   Low point at the Jorsale Bridge
  • 9,348 ft   Finish in Monjo

Reversing our way back down the Thame Valley, we’ll take different trails as much as possible to avoid backtracking.   We’ll stop for lunch and a few niceties in Namche Bazaar before descending the “Namche Hill”.  Back in the land of the Dudh Khosi, we have but an hour and a half to our mountain lodge in the village of Monjo.  B/L/D, mountain lodge.

9,348 ft ~ 2,850m
Day 13
Trek to Lukla     8.25 miles     Thursday, June 29
  • 9,348 ft   Start in Monjo
  • 8,375 ft   Low point near Phakding
  • 9,365 ft   High point and finish at Lukla

I’ve always wanted to arrive early in Lukla, but have never gotten it done, and we probably won’t this time around!  It’s endlessly fascinating to watch the airplanes fly in and out of Lukla, seeing firsthand the skills of Nepal’s immensely talented pilots.  By now, we’ll be in great shape, and with a hike of only 8 miles today, we have but a minor chance at some quality time on the rooftop of the Buddha Lodge overlooking the takeoffs and landings.  But first, our trek has one final twist; our “downvalley” trek actually traverses upwards along the side of the valley, so we get to finish in grand style . . . with an uphill.  Remember though that we were downhilling all day yesterday . . . our quads and toes will be happier with a finishing ascent.  Bonus of the day?  Lukla is the proud home to a knock-off Starbucks with really great coffee and a better ambience than you’ll find anywhere around here.  B/L/D, mountain lodge.

 

9,365 ft ~ 2,855m

Day 14
Fly to Kathmandu, check into hotel or homestay     Friday, June 30
  • 84-miles   Lukla to Kathmandu flight (35 minutes)
  • 9,365 ft   Start in Lukla
  • 4,500 ft   Finish in Kathmandu

Take your pick for the highlight of the day:  the mountain flight to Kathmandu?  checking into our pristine hotel?  being propelled by something other than our legs?  These are all great, but usually pale in comparison to showering and eating.  Oh yes, our food will be delicious on trek, and there will be showers, but Kathmandu is a veritable smorgasbord for foodies, there’s endless hot water, sometimes, and you’ll be able to throw on very clean clothes at the end.  If any of you are itching to get out, I love Kathmandu and am always ready to show you a new adventure.  Most however are content to eat, shower, rinse, repeat, so there will be very little beyond that on our agenda today.  B/L/D, airport transfer, hotel.

Larke, here directing planes in and out of the airport, is our fixer in Lukla. We'll stay at his lodge overlooking the airport . . . I got to know him because his sister and her family live in my hometown in Lancaster, PA
Larke Sherpa, here directing planes in and out of the airport, is our fixer in Lukla. We’ll stay at his lodge overlooking the airport . . . I got to know him through his sister, Nima, along with her husband Thupten, daughter Zhangmu, and son Ongde who live in my hometown of Lancaster, PA
4,500 ft ~ 1,371m
Day 15
Free Day in Kathmandu     Saturday, July 1

OK, today’s not exactly free, there’s just too much to see and do in the big village of Kathmandu!  I lived in Kathmandu for five years and I will show you the best the city has to offer – with a little crazy thrown in.  Breakfast will be in the hotel garden and will be long and leisurely as we continue to come back from days on the trail.  We’ll follow up our breakfast with a morning of relaxation, before partaking of lunch, maybe at a great Mediterranean restaurant called OR2K.  From there we’ll walk into the very heart of old town Kathmandu just to test each and every one of our five senses.  Then it’s onward to Indra Chowk, the bead market, and Kathmandu Durbar Square and its collection of ancient pagoda-style temples.  As dusk approaches, we’ll taxi to Swayambhunath, aka, “The Monkey Temple”, brave its 365 ever-steepening steps to arrive at a mini-summit with a Buddhist stupa and a lot of monkeys.  This shrine shows us a phenomenal mix of Tibetan Buddhism from the north and Indian Hinduism from the south meeting and mixing in Kathmandu.  A farewell dinner ends our day with a bang!  B/L/D, hotel.

Click & drag the 360° photo below of the Thamel tourist district to look all around & up & down . . .

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Day 16
Departure Flight from Kathmandu to International Layover City     Sunday, July 2

Most international flights depart Kathmandu in the afternoon or evening, and, we’ve only just scratched the surface of this ancient city, so we’ll most likely have time to take in another eye-popping temple or plaza and do a bit of shopping before we’re due at the airport.  B/L, airport transfer.

Day 17
Fly from International Layover to North America     Monday, July 3

Generally, North America can be reached with a one-stop flight from Kathmandu.  Often arriving on the East Coast in the morning, we’ll have plenty of time to arrive on our doorstep today!

Take a look at the Khumbu Icefall and Everest Base Camp, the headwaters of the Dudh Khosi River . . .

 

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The Khumbu Icefall tumbles down into Everest Base Camp . . . its meltwater forms the Dudh Khosi River

I appreciated the fact that you showed us on Google Maps where we were going before we left . . . it made it clear in my mind that you were organized.

~  Nanette, Tibet Pilgrimage 2016

 

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