What a lovely rest day in Namche. The purpose of rest days is… to rest, meaning to allow our bodies to acclimatize to the increasing elevations. Namche is about 11,200 feet AMSL, so if we push it too hard we could end up with headache, nausea, fatigue, etc.
Rest days rarely involve sitting around. We have a choice of activities for these days, involving hikes or walks of various levels of vigor. I was feeling fine… just fine… but wanted to take it easy. A little diarrhea, a little sore throat… all signs that it was a fine time to keep things simple.
Last time we were in Namche I hiked to the Everest View Hotel, a memorable hike in the driving snow. This meant I was not able to visit the sherpa or national park museums at the top of town, and I was eager to do so. Plus, I had to pick up some odds and ends at the shops in town. Thus, the plan was for a chill day.
On the way up to the museum we walked right past our camping site from the year before, where we stayed during the evacuation. The field where our tents had stood was beaten down, empty, and just so sad. Rather, my memories of that time were sad… Once again, it felt strange to be back.
The museums were fascinating. The national park museum contained some exhibits with facts about the mountain that were new to me, and an amazing sculpture of Tenzing Norgay.
The Sherpa museum was even more impressive. Lots of artifacts from traditional Sherpa life, and lots of artifacts from the conquest of Everest. My favorite part of the exhibit was the countless portraits of Sherpa mountaineers who have reached the summit. Many were teammates from last year, and it was so amazing to see them on the wall of fame. They are living legends, and we are so lucky to climb with them.
The best part of the day happened on the way down to lunch, when we visited the dental practice of Dr. Nawang Doka Sherpa. Nawang single-handedly runs the highest dental practice in the world. Her clinic was destroyed in the 2015 quake, and so she is temporarily practicing in the basement of the library. She has managed to do amazing things there. She has a booming practice, caring for the entire Khumbu valley. She had seen six patients the morning we met her, with problems ranging from simple cavities to broken teeth with necrotic roots requiring extraction. She has a very creative approach pediatric dentistry, with an eye towards building trust with children by cleaning with a very gentle technique, and giving them writing implements after the visit. One of my friends, the lovely Dr. Trina Seligman, gave me a box of pencils and crayons to bring on the expedition, and this seemed like the perfect place to make a donation on her behalf. Even more exciting: A brand new clinic is now under construction, built with rubble reclaimed from the destroyed clinic. Even the boards have been salvaged, each one re-planed by hand, giving the operating rooms a warm feel. She is totally impressive, and is one of the most respected people in the greater Sherpa community. And, she is completely lovely. I was humbled and delighted to meet her and learn about her many accomplishments.
The more time I spend here, the more impressed I become with the Sherpa people. They are doing amazing things, in the face of long odds, with great grace and resilience. Interacting with them is a big part of the benefit of climbing Everest.
The weather turned to garbage, with cold rain, snow, and fog. But, no worries, our spirits are warm. Tomorrow we plan to move to Tengboche… hopefully the weather will cooperate.
Word of the day: Pea Soup