24
Feb

Back to Lukla

By: muttler

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26/01/2018 – Chumoa (2750m) to Lukla (2830m)

Done!

Another relatively short day today to get us back to where it all began in the mountains, Lukla. Interesting we would start and end at basically the same altitude. 5 hours of “Nepali Flat” awaited and then we would be back for our final night in the Himalayas.

I was feeling great but there was the sense in the group that we were all keen to be done. Not that we were struggling or had enough, but having reached our goal, and with Kathmandu (and running water!) so close we just wanted to get there. So off we hoofed it.

 

last views of everest

last views of everest

 

During the way back we got to our last view of Everest, back where we saw her first. I’m not sure how everyone else was, but for me it was quite sad to think I may not ever see Mount Everest again with my own eyes. Who knows though hey? I had certainly loved the hiking and could easily see myself back to explore more of the Himalayas.

 

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The only real breaks were for some tea in Phakding (the location of our first night in the mountains) and a bit of lunch along the way too. At about 1:45pm we were back in Lukla. Wow. We were back… what a strange feeling. It was hard to imagine we were back from having been to Base Camp. We all celebrated with a drink, most of downing an Everest beer (when in Rome). It was fine, but boy was it gone quick!

I decided to go for a wander during the afternoon, but like Namche, the town was very quiet due to the low season. My highlight was having some fun with some of the local kids, my soccer practice from the night before coming in very handy.

It was our last night with the porters, so we all had dinner together and made our appreciation known. Pasang gave a lovely speech, as tomorrow we would all be in Kathmandu and beginning to go our own ways. Our 3 porters were amazing… the hard workers behind the scenes getting our bags where they needed to be. If this trip contributed to their livelihoods a little then I was very happy to do my small part.

24
Feb

Football Training

By: muttler

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25/01/2018 – Kenjuma (3570m) to Chumoa (2750m)

Not a lot to report for this day. It was a fairly easy day, with both regard to terrain and hiking time. The snowing was no more and we were back to nice blue skies, with just the dusting of white on the trees and trail reminding us of the previous day.

 

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back in namche

 

We left the puppy house and started making our way down. The snow had iced up a little making some of the steps a little precarious, but nothing too difficult. It was a different kind of morning than usual, with just a 2 hour walk until our first stop, which was back in Namche Bazaar. Hard to believe we were back.

 

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It was actually a lazy 3 hours or so of chilling out there and relaxing. Most of us just relaxed back at the cafe we did on the way up, enjoying some decent coffee. We were actually pretty keen to keep going, but the length of the hike back meant we had to break it up in this way, and it was better to relax in a warm cafe with coffee and wi-fi than get to our guest house at about lunch time with little to do. I got back about the town, but like the way up it was very quiet and not much open, so really it was just time to rest (and caffeinate) up. The streets were amazingly icy too meany getting about was more dangerous than it was worth!

 

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After some lunch we headed off on a fairly easy few hours. Down to the river and along the banks until we reached Chumoa, our home for the night. As luck would have it we had a makeshift football pitch next to us, and the whole crew was up for a game. So 5 a side it was, with team Australia and Ireland facing off against Pasang, Mingma and the porters. A couple of the local kids also jumped in when they could which was ace. Even though we weren’t that high up (now under 3000m) you could tell you were running at altitude. 10 paces and you were gasping for breath! After a bit of time we got used to it, and we played for an hour, every now and then having to retrieve the ball from the riverside. So much fun.

Other than that, it was dinner and a lot more cards before bed.

24
Feb

Snow Day

By: muttler
pasang enjoying the snow!

pasang enjoying the snow!

 

24/01/18 – Pheriche (4200m) to Kenjuma (3570m)

After yesterday’s epic day we were happy enough to just have 7 hours of mostly down ahead of us. As had been the whole trip I was still feeling fresh and enjoying the hiking, so again woke up at my usual early time, got warm in the dining room and prepared for the day. And what a day it turned out to be.

 

first clouds of the trip!

first clouds of the trip!

 

Pasang had advised us the previous night not to worry about having down jackets handy today, as once we were in the sun, it would be nice and (relatively) warm, and we would be powering down at a fair rate. We had enjoyed bright blue, cloudless skies to that point so there was no reason to doubt him. Looking outside though as we ate breakfast we saw something we had not seen to this point… clouds! We didn’t think much of it and got our gear together and headed out the door.

After about half an hour though we realised it would be a very different day. The clouds had settled in, which meant that the temperature stayed nice and cool. Then the unexpected happened… it started snowing! Yes!

 

 

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We were all pretty excited. Personally, I had dreamed of being in snow in the Himalayas, and to this point it hadn’t happened. I was disappointed, as our weather had been perfect, but seeing the snow start to fall made me realise how much I had been hoping for it. And for a couple of our group, they had never seen snow before, so you can imagine what it was like for them! Beautiful, dry, fluffy powder snow. At home, any snow falling would be cold and wet and mean a likely miserable experience. This was the exact opposite. The snow was so dry and light, that it just brushed off, meaning there would be plenty of snow being thrown around throughout the course of the day.

 

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We dropped into a tea house to adjust our gear. Even though it was dry, the temperature was still quite cold so the down jackets were retrieved.  Layered up, we headed down at a fair speed. The snow wasn’t slowing us down at all. The odd part of the trail would become a little more slippery, but otherwise it was magical. Every now and then you would cop a snowball in the back of the head from cheeky Pasang, or find Mingma up a tree ready to shake snow on to you. They sound like simple trivial things, but being in the beauty of the Himalayas with your great hiking crew meant these things would be etched into the memory banks for a long time.

It was surreal to compare our landscape with that from just a few days ago. Gone were the dusty brown trails, and now we had glorious white everywhere. Getting to the treeline made it even more spectacular.

 

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We arrived back in Tengboche (home of the monastery), now looking like a completely different village. We settled in for lunch, chatting with another traveller who was on his way up, lamenting the snow and the delay it was likely to cause him. We just let him know that it was making for spectacular trails and not to let it slow him down.

 

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The snow was steady as we left. 3 hours of hiking awaited in the falling snow… the first half downward, and then the last 1.5hr back up. Again, the snow was gorgeous and not holding us up at all… it was just making an amazing trip even more special.

Around 4pm we arrived at our tea house in Kenjuma. This was one we had popped in to on the way up, happily for us the one with the puppies. Only one puppy remained, with the other having gone off to different owners, but that still meant we had some puppy fun throughout the night. A perfect way to end a pretty perfect day.

24
Feb

Conquering Kala Patthar

By: muttler

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23/01/2018 – Gorakshep (5180m) to Pheriche (4200m) with a visit to Kala Patthar (5600m)

Oh my. What a day. Quite easily the toughest day of the trip and thankfully the toughest one there would be.

It all started at 5am. Yep, 5am.The plan was to hike to the top of Kala Patthar (also spelled Kala Pather), a mere 5600m and 250m higher than Base Camp. It was a 5am start so that we could get to the top to experience sunrise over the mountains, including Everest.

So off we went. Damn, it was cold. Pasang said it was a brisk minus 16 degrees, but this was really the only time during the trip when we really felt the cold deeply. It was also steep, the steepest we had encountered. That all made for a challenging morning! It was VERY slow going. Even those of us that were feeling pretty good were struggling with all the conditions. I was OK, just very short of breath and could feel my heart rate going pretty high. But I was warm enough and never felt as if I wouldn’t be able to do it.

 

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At about 7:45am we made it, just as the sun was starting to pop over the peaks of the mountains. It was actually pretty emotional, just like Base Camp. We were all exhausted and it dawned on us that we had made the epic trip together so were all super proud of each other. At the top we had 360 degree views of everything, including a picturesque Everest.We thought we may not spend too much time at the top but the conditions were pleasant now the sun was up so we hung about longer, like yesterday getting as many photos as we could. We were all just happy to rest too!

 

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Exhausted or not, with Kala Patthar conquered, it was time to head down. This morning had only just scratched the surface of what we had to achieve for the day, so we couldn’t delay much more. We had a LONG way to head down, so it was back to Gorakshep to rest (it only took us 45 minutes to get back down!) and have some breakfast.

 

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Everyone was in various states of exhaustion. Even though I was doing pretty well, it took a fait bit of mental fortitude to summon up the energy to get the backpack back on the back and start the descent. We still had 6 hours of hiking for the day to go and that messed with everyone’s heads. Before we left Pasang got us all to sign a shirt which we tacked up onto the room of the tea house. It seemed many of the groups were leaving mementos in the tea house, so who were we to break with tradition?

But eventually we all got going and begrudgingly headed downward. Most of us had music in our ears to spur us on. It was mostly the same track as the earlier days, being able to stop in Lobuche for a brief lunch and then keep going. Down was going well, and when we were headed downward everyone was doing OK. But when we had to head back up it was a killer.

 

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Eventually we took a turn from our previous path… instead of back from Dingboche, we headed down into a chilly valley to make our way to Pheriche. The sun was creeping below the mountaintops meaning we started to feel the cold. But the terrain was nice and flat and we all felt great powering along on it, and in what felt like no time we made it to our evening accomodation. For the last hour a friendly local doggo wandered along with us, ensuring that we intrepid travellers made it to our destination.

 

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In the village, just outside our guest house, was a monument for all who had died on Everest. Sadly the list of names was long, and my friend Maria was up on there which was quite a sobering end to the day. Her amazing feats had been at the forefront of many of my days in the Himalayas and I made sure to leave prayer flags here and there in her memory.

All of us were exhausted and after dinner there wasn’t too many hours of cards before we all had a well earned nights sleep.

24
Feb

Base Camp!

By: muttler

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22/01/2018 – Lobuche (4930m) to Gorakshep (5180m) with a trip to Everest Base Camp (5364m)

Mission accomplished! But I will get to that soon.

The day started at Lobuche with our earliest start since day one. A 6am rise and out the door by 7am meant no mucking around. It was off to Gorakshep, our base for the evening. It was a fairly standard climb like the other days, with moments of up, but otherwise fairly gradual.

 

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We arrived at Gorakshep nice and early at about 9:30am. Believe it or not it was time to order lunch… yep it would be a long day. With the early lunch in our bellies and a bit of a rest it was time for the final push… getting to Everest Base Camp. Off we went!

 

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This was quite challenging. There were a few factors in the mix. It was quite warm, we had been up quite early, we were now well and truly over 5000m, and there was a bit of scrambling over rocks to do with our hiking. Early on we got to see the classic “This Way To EBC” sign.

During the hike, we could actually spy base camp. There was really not anything to see as such, given it was not climbing season. There were a couple of lonely tents there. Apparently a couple were planning on summiting for Valentines Day (I wonder if they made it?!), but otherwise base camp was not the tent city it is come April and May.

 

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almost there…

 

It was a couple of hours of hiking, but we rounded a corner and over a rise and there it was! Everest Base Camp!

It was quite funny to see actually. Base camp moves a little each year as it is on the glacier, so there is no “official” sign or marker. Rather, one gets set up each year, and at this point the welcome to Base Camp was a pile of rocks, some prayer flags, and a makeshift sign. But it was Base Camp alright!

 

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We spent the next half an hour getting photos and goofing off. There was the odd fellow hiker that would make their way up but overall it was very quiet. In peak season I don’t doubt you would wait in line for your 30 seconds of glory. Instead we got to take as many photos as we liked and soak up our achievement. Me, I had a few ways to celebrate. First of all, and most importantly, the Ron Swanston flag that had travelled to Kilimanjaro with CC and I, and then to Base Camp with CC, emerged. Ron was my lucky charm and I was honoured to have him celebrate at base camp. Next, a celebratory Kit Kat, bought in Namche, was the order of the day. It was just perfect for devouring and celebrating! Finally, I also celebrated with a sneaky Hendricks gin that CC had provided me before leaving. Some fellow hikers, coincidentally from Scotland, the home of Hendricks, spied it and were very envious!

 

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We also had time to get photos leaping in the air and all kinds of shenanigans. Pasang had a perfect trigger finger to get maximum height!

 

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Eventually it was time to head back. While it was downhill, it was quite tough. Many of the team were struggling. I was feeling pretty good all things considered, and just contended with a minor headache coming and going. Nothing nearly as bad as summit day on Kili. After about an hour and half we were back, all still glowing from our achievement. Exhausted, and with an early morning ahead, it was a quiet night, one of managing the altitude and recounting our successes.

24
Feb

Getting Closer

By: muttler

 

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21/01/2018 – Dingboche (4350m) to Lobuche (4930m)

We were getting tantalisingly close! Today was a fair climb, getting close to sleeping at the magic 5000m mark. Even though Kilimanjaro is higher than base camp, we never slept that high. Exciting!

What was striking me about the base camp hike was that there was much less “straight up” than I was expecting. I knew it would be more gradual, but if I had thought about it I probably should have predicted that it would be more gradual and up and down, given it was hiking through a mountain range, and not just up the side of a mountain. Today was no exception.

We had a slightly late start due to a couple of team members feeling a little ordinary, but we got away with plenty of time and set off at a nice pace. We began to head back the way we headed yesterday for our acclimatisation hike, in the shade and over the hill. Except for that initial 30 minutes, it was a fairly gentle path upward. This went for a little while, skirting around the side of a mountain, alongside streams. We were now in a valley which meant that at some point we needed to head up.

 

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The upwards was not too tough and in no time we had reached our lunch break. We stayed for a while, letting everyone rest before we had our steep last hour and a half. Eventually we took off along a fairly steep switchback. This was easily the toughest part of the day and by the top everyone was spent.

 

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At the top we were greeted by the memorial area for all those climbers who had perished on the mountain. This was climbers and their guides and the whole area was covered in monuments, both simple and elaborate. It was quite emotional to wander the site. I left some prayer flags on the main stupa and with a tear in the eye headed off.

 

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The last half hour was Nepali flat, and we arrived into Lobuche. Everyone was pretty tired, so we didn’t do our planned short acclimatisation walk, instead deciding to relax and get ready for our epic day tomorrow.

 

24
Feb

The Air Gets Thin

By: muttler

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20/01/2018 – Acclimatisation in Dingboche (4350m)

Our second and last acclimatisation day heading up. We were getting precariously close to hitting the 5000m mark, so the plan is to get close to that, but then to head back down for bodies to rest up and have another good nights sleep before the few days pushing to base camp.

Even though it was a more relaxed day we still go going fairly early. Why? Well, in yesterday’s post I waxed lyrical about sunrise, so if there was another opportunity to see something spectacular, then we did it. Given sunrise is not actually that early (around 7:30am or so, depending on what peak it was poking above), we were all up and ready to go. As we got a bit above Dingboche we took some time to look back and see the sun come up directly behind Aba Dablam. Sun rising on Everest was one thing, but seeing the sun come up directly behind this stunning peak was something else. It was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen.

 

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Upwards we went, passing stupas, prayer flags and yaks, eventually getting to 4900m. I was feeling pretty great, although you definitely felt quite different being the extra 500m up. I considered myself pretty lucky with how I was feeling, but to my credit I was being pretty vigilant with my water intake of 3-4 litres a day. Much of the crew was starting to feel the effects a little as well, so we were enjoying our rest and lemon, honey and ginger tea. There was a great small peak at our stop where we had an amazing view from Everest around to Ama Dablam. I doubt I would ever get tired of staring at these peaks.

We sat for a while soaking it in before heading back down at a pretty brisk pace. In no time we were back at the tea house, just in time for lunch and to relax the day away.

24
Feb

Above the Treeline

By: muttler
sun hits everest

sun hits everest

 

19/01/2018 – Tengboche (3880m) to Dingboche (4350m)

Early riser at home, and it seemed I was an early riser in Nepal too. Most of us were typically heading to bed fairly early which would mean that invariably I would be up before sunrise. Some mornings it was a good thing, and this morning it was amazing. Without leaving the comfort of my room (well, the room was cold so I guess the comfort of my sleeping bag) I watched sunrise over Everest. Yep, just think about that… sunrise on Mount Everest. One of those things that is likely once in a lifetime and something most people don’t get to see. One of a few emotional moments on the trip.

 

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Today we were heading above 4000m for the first time. Even though we were rising 400+m, it wasn’t going to be too strenuous as it was being done over 11km. We headed off at our usual 8am and had a gentle downward hike for a start. We were heading through what would be the last of the trees, as the treeline ended at around the 4000m mark. We headed down a little and then on our way back up. Nothing major, with a fairly gentle trek upward.

In no time at all we were at tea break, at around the 4000m mark, and from there just a short gentle upward hour or so (with just the odd set of steep steps) until lunch.

The landscape had well and truly changed by now. No trees, just the side of a mountain, and quite reminiscent of climbing Kilimanjaro at times (well, except for seeing the many other peaks surrounding us). At around 2pm we arrived at Dingboche. This was to be another two nighter, so that we could do some more acclimatisation tomorrow.

 

being greeted by one of the locals

being greeted by one of the locals

 

Once we settled in a few of us decided to explore town. Like everywhere so far, given it was low season the village was very quiet. In this case it was even quieter than the previous villages, with nothing open for us. It didn’t matter too much, although it made for a short walk. We did get to meet one of the lovely furry locals though! I am actually legitimately surprised there are so few hikers this time of year. Yes, it is meant to be the coldest time of the year, but outside of some slightly chilly evenings, we had experienced nothing but beautiful weather. Temperature through the day could get a little chilly at times, but given most the time is spent raising a sweat hiking, I would think it is the perfect time to go. Take note anyone who chances upon this blog!

Not much else to report for the rest of the day… dinner and more cards (yep, a lot of cards being played on this trip!) before rest.

 

24
Feb

Om Mani Padme Hum (aka Oh Mama Take Me Home)

By: muttler

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18/01/2018 – Namche Bazaar (3440m) to Tengboche (3880m)

Today we departed Namche to weave our way further through the Himalayas. The plan was to descend and then ascend… in part because that was the main trail, but also to help some more with acclimatisation. So at 8am it was out the door and a little bit up before heading down a bit of a ways. Today was particularly spectacular as we had frequent amazing views of gorgeous peaks. Ama Dablam was a constant friend as well as Everest poking her head out quite often too. Sigh.

 

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At an early peak we arrived at a stupa dedicated to all the Sherpas who had fallen foul of the mountains, and dedicated in the name of Tenzing Norgay. With views of Everest behind, it was simply stunning.

 

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From there it was down a valley for a couple of hours until it was time for tea (how civilised we are each day!). We stopped at the Ama Dablam tea house in Kenjuma (approx 3570m), where the highlight was not the amazing view of Ama Dablam, rather the two puppers we could play with. These doggos were fast become a highlight of the trip.

 

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An easy hour of hiking later and it was time of lunch. An odd but delicious veggie spring roll (almost more like a sausage roll) hit the spot, ready for what was to come… basically 2 hours of straight up. Alrighty then.

The first hour was pretty steep stairs that just kept going and going. I was feeling pretty good still, something I was super happy about. Neither the altitude nor the exercise was getting to me really. A combination of luck and training I think. I would get a bit puffed for sure, but nothing too bad. The last hour was more gentle, but still a fairly steep switch back.

 

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We were happy to reach Tengboche, a nice small village where the cold was becoming more apparent, especially as the sun crept below a peak. As soon as we stopped we all felt the chill. Tengboche is also home to a nice vibrant Buddhist temple dominating the village. After dropping all our things off we popped in to be lulled into a nice relaxed state by a local monk. “Om Mani Padme Hum”, a typical mantra featured heavily, although by this point in the trip it had become affectionally known as “Oh Mama Take Me Home”. A couple of hours into steep uphill and that often sprang to mind!

The mantra was a nice way to end the day. After dinner once the sun was well and truly down a bunch of ventured out into the cold to stargaze. Crystal clear skies meant the stars were bright and the Milky Way was nice and vibrant. Was this real? Yep.

24
Feb

Hanging Out In Namche

By: muttler

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17/01/2018 – Acclimatisation in Namche Bazaar (3440m)

Today was our first acclimatisation day. When heading upward, while you can gain many hundreds of meters (or more), you are not meant to sleep more than a few hundred higher than the previous night, especially as you go 3000+m. The added benefit of acclimatisation days is simply spending more time getting your body used to the altitude, so today was a day of hanging out in Namche Bazaar, with a nice hike in the morning to get our bodies feeling good.

 

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So a later brekky meant heading out the door at about 8:30am to get used to the altitude. Plan was to hike to Syangboche, a point above Namche at 3860m, where nice clear views of Everest and more would await. Up we began to hike, a quite challenging 2hr trek of fairly steep stairs. As we got up the views got even more spectacular and we were greeted by the odd yak or two just hanging about. The views of Everest were nice and crystal clear, but it was Ama Dablam that really shone, it’s two peaks presenting spectacularly.

 

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the gang

 

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everest!

 

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ama dablam

 

We eventually reached a tea house at Syangboche, with a small peak nearby that afforded amazing 360 degree views. Soaking those views in we settled in for a (now typical) lemong, ginger and honey drink before heading down. 2 hours up, 40 minutes down 🙂

The rest of the day was for free time in Namche. Like mentioned yesterday, the town was quite quiet, but I had the opportunity to pick up a handful of small souvenirs (an EBC beanie, map, patch and some prayer flags), as well as (most importantly) load up on some chocolate for the coming week. Most of us then hung out at a coffee shop, having some decent coffee and hot chocolate while watching a doco of the Sherpas that help get people to the summit of Everest. I had seen quite similar docos before but their commitment never fails to amaze me.

With a long day tomorrow, it was another low key evening of dinner, cards and sleep.