Namaste! I hope you are all well. We are near the end of day 5 of KCC. Our weather has changed a bit as we had a skiff of snow over night. The skies were mostly clear this morning but clouds and fog have rolled in this afternoon,, the wind has picked up, and it feels cold. Those of us already in the guest house can hardly wait for the yak dung stove to get lit to warm the room. I think we have close to another hour yet to wait.
Phortse Village is located in the Khumbu Valley, about 15 or so miles from Everest Base Camp. Phortse was chosen as the site for KCC more than ten years ago as it is large enough to feed and house the 100 or so students and instructors, has multiple ice climbs within about an hour’s walk, and has a long history of Everest climbers. Notching an Everest summit for a young man in Phortse is not such a big deal. You don’t really get a lot of notice until you have 5 or more. Danuru, one of our lead instructors and perhaps the strongest man I’ve ever known, has 17 Everest summits. He’s only 36 years old so could easily add another 10 or more if he decides to stay in the game. It is not unusual for successful Everest Sherpas to use their salaries to get started with owning their own guest houses, a safer and easier way to make a living.
Phortse sits at about 12,500′ above sea level on an old river terrace well above the valley floor. The Himalayas are uplifting faster than anywhere else on earth (according to Rob) and the rivers have cut deep valleys. It’s amazing that the river once ran at the same elevation as Phortse. The latitude here is about 27 degrees north, about the same as southern Florida. The winter temperatures are not as cold as back home in Montana but we all have central heating and hot showers. Not so much here.
Our location here is spectacular with several 20,000′ peaks easily visible from town. There are mountains in all directions and the scenery is indescribable. The area has a fair amount of wildlife with snow leopards being the most elusive. They are generally at higher elevations during the summers but not so far from the villages during the winter months. I have seen their tracks in the snow in years past but none so far this year.
There is a local, fairly small musk deer that is common around Phortse. Like elk, they have a vestigial upper canine tooth that in the males actually protrude from their mouths. The deer are quite small, eat leaves from the very common rhododendron trees, and actually will climb up onto trees whose trunks are mostly horizontal on the steep hillsides. Their coloration perfectly matches their surroundings.
The most stunning of the local fauna are the danphes, or impeyan pheasants, the national bird of Nepal. While the musk deer blend in, the danphe does anything but that, seeming to glow a brilliant blue. They feed mostly on the ground and frequent the slopes on the edge of Phortse so are commonly seen. I swear, though, that they respond to the sound of a camera being switched on and run off immediately. Good photos are not easy to come by.
Rob and his crew had a Himalayan eagle fly closely overhead yesterday, a real treat. Crows are also common and frequent groups of people as they’ll scavenge any scraps available, including lunch if you aren’t looking. The birds are smart, too, and I watched one unzip the side of my pack last year after my lunch.
All the best,