Some people know firsthand that life doesn't stand still. This means leaving the past behind and immersing yourself in the future, savoring the present. I mean, while there's a brief pause, it's time to write the report, upload photos, and say thank you to Nepal for being our destination during the New Year holidays.

We actually bought the tickets back in October, just on a whim. We decided to get them for the New Year holidays plus an extra week. I remember from the past that the weather should be good until mid-January, although it will be cold. Turkish Airlines seemed like a decent option.

Turkish AL
Airbus A330 is quite a comfortable aircraft, very spacious!

A bit later, we started thinking about what to do during these two weeks in Nepal. We had ideas of exploring some places, and I even came up with a couple of options not far from Namche Bazaar. Also, on the Winckelmann forum, I found a report from a man about a trek between Makalu-Barun and the Everest region. The trek sounded extremely challenging. There are 3 passes in a row, two of them are above 6,000 meters. Plus, the Makalu region itself is quite wild.

After giving it some serious thought and calculating the number of days, we realized that there was no way we could complete such a trek. But then it occurred to us that there was a middle-ground option - crossing over from Khumbu to the Makalu region and then returning to Khumbu via a couple of passes. It seemed like a perfect adventure for around 10 days.

Distance: kilometer
Elevation (loss): meter
Elevation (gain): meter

Once the plan was finalized, we bought tickets on Yeti Airlines - by the way, the tickets were ridiculously expensive - 150 euros for just half an hour of flight. That means a round trip cost us 300 euros.

Time flew by unnoticed until departure, and here we were, barely recovering from some virus, landing in Kathmandu. Apparently, time erases all the negativity, and every time you come here, you expect some kind of miracle - but instead, you get crowds of buzzing motorcyclists and honking taxi drivers. There are so many of them that panic sets in. There's no air in Kathmandu. Instead, there's a hellish mix of exhaust fumes, dust, and smoke from stoves. In addition to all this, the earthquake didn't bring anything good, and the architecture suffered greatly. Many roads are dug up. No one cares about ecology and cleanliness - you really feel like you're in a dump. I say this with all my love for this city!

Kathmande swayambu
Kathmandu from the Monkey Temple. And we took a lot of pictures! The view was truly breathtaking!
Swayambu stupa
The stupa on the hill is magnificent!

To avoid traumatizing our psyche too much, the next day, we flew to Lukla on the very first flight. I had never arrived there so early before. Most lodges were closed, and we had to knock and break on doors until we finally found one open, although it was extremely expensive.

Lukla Airport
The famous airport in Lukla!

After setting our expectations (porter and tea), we relaxed while waiting. We didn't have to wait long. Very soon, Om appeared before us. Judging by his card, he was a certified all-purpose guide, but since we only needed to move a bag of stuff from point A to point B, we ignored his credentials.

Porter Om
Our porter busy with his tasks.

So, hooray, we're on the trail! We barely started moving our bewildered legs when people in uniforms appeared - we needed to register. Their checkpoint, as they called it. We continued walking. Since I've explored this area thoroughly, I'm pointing out to Anna what we would see if it weren't so cloudy. Anna finds this slightly amusing. We stopped for lunch at a lodge. It turned out we were about 20 minutes away from Monjo (where we were planning to stay for the night). However, we met two guides from St. Petersburg. They told us a bit about the Ampulapcha Pass.

Around Lukla
Lower slopes
Small Monastery
This little monastery clings to the cliff above the trail in Phakding.

We arrived in Monjo. Went to get our tickets for the National Park - 33 bucks per person. Prices are insane. By the way, food prices increased by about 50 cents every day. In the end, we figured out that on average, we were spending 20 bucks per person per day. Not cheap at all!

Anna and Mani wall
These boulders should be bypassed on the left, meaning on the right-hand side)
Mani walls
Somewhere along the way to Monjo.

So, here we are, Monjo. We always stop here. And we always pass by the monastery without going inside once. Because it's always in the morning. But now, there's still an hour of daylight left - nothing else to do - so we decided to finally visit. I'm not a fan of wandering around monasteries, but I can stroll around and play the drums. We climbed up the trail to the hill. Yes, there is a monastery, but it seems to have suffered a bit from the earthquake. It's standing, slightly patched up, but it has character. We wandered around, climbed higher on the hill. And back home for dinner.

It seems like our Om isn't too stressed out
Namche Bridge
Anya crossing the Namche Bazaar bridge with determination

Overall, food on the trek becomes the main entertainment. Since electricity costs a pretty penny and we're reluctant to spend, Nepali TV isn't appealing, and reading in the dark is not an option - eating is all that's left. And we love it. We even dream about food. Mmm…

Everest view point
And here, the mountains just pop out from every crevice!
The stupa on the trail

The story would get boring overall, so I'll start cutting it short. The essence of our progress was this: until lunchtime, we moved our bodies to the next lodge. Then we indulged in various forms of entertainment - meaning, we ate. And then, we embarked on an acclimatization walk somewhere up into the clouds. Into the clouds because after lunch, everyone usually felt sluggish.

Way to Mongo La 4000m
Gradual evening's acclimatization. Heading towards Mera La (4000m).
Mongo La
On the way to Mera La. The weather, as always, is unpredictable
This is where we stayed overnight. Kyangjuma (3600m)
Ama Dablam view from Tengboche (3800m)
Tengboche Monastery
The monastery in Tengboche
Ama Dablam seen from the bridge before Pangboche

For example, from Kyangjuma (3600), we hiked to the pass called Mongo La (4000), from Pangboche (4000), we descended to the base of Ama Dablam (4600), and from Chukung (4700), we climbed to Chukung Peak (5300). Everyone was afraid they would have headaches and sleep poorly at night due to the altitude. Overall, we did have some headaches, but they were manageable.

Ama-Dablam BC
Back for acclimatization. This time at Ama Dablam Base Camp.
Freezing on the way back from Ama Dablam Base Camp!
Taboche - a substantial six-thousander right by the trail. Oh, and here's me with a horse. Dingboche (4300m)

In Chuukung, we sent the porter home, also handing him the extra gear we finally found after the 10th rummage through our stuff. Quite a bit - about 3 kilograms lightened our load.

Solar heater
A cartoonish yak
Chhukung Ri
Acclimatization again - climbed up to Chukhung (5350m)

The next item on our entertainment agenda was the Amphu Lapcha Pass (5800 meters). Frowning in concentration, we started thinking about how to cross it easily and gracefully, especially considering I had never been there before. And it's not exactly a straightforward pass - they say you even need to do a bit of climbing. After some thought, we decided to stash all our gear, food, and gas below the pass. The next day, we would ascend light, load up under the pass, and without losing momentum, conquer it.

Lhotze South Face
Anya seems to be hinting at something

Everything was going well, except there was no visible trail due to the snow. Eventually, we somehow managed to follow animal tracks - for some reason, animals always walk on a good path. So, we followed some kind of paired/quadrupedal tracks. We made it up to 5300 meters. We didn't go all the way to the pass - Anna started feeling the storm coming. Generally, you have to be careful with the participants. They seem fine one minute, and the next, they're struggling.

Amphu Labsta
Amphu Lapcha Pass (5800 meters). Scary as hell! But we managed to slip through somehow.

The next day, we wanted to start early, but the folks in Chukung overslept at the lodge - we had to make some noise, wake them up, and urge them to prepare breakfast quickly. So instead of leaving at 7:30, we set off at 8. We seemed to be traveling light, but we still took about the same amount of time to reach our stash point. Maybe 10 minutes faster. We had a quick tea, loaded up swiftly to maintain the momentum, and headed towards the pass.

At first, it seemed fine, walking briskly on the trail. Then the trail started taking the shape of a steep snow slope with elements of cliffs on the sides. We had to take measures using the 8mm rope, crampons, and other jingling equipment we brought along. After securing ourselves, we continued, bolder but not faster, as the vertical meters ticked away at 5-10 meters per minute. Breathing was heavy. Plus, our backpacks, almost at their maximum weight (15-20 kg), didn't help with lightness. The snow was manageable, thankfully. We traversed under a rocky pinnacle, to the right of which we had to climb up. The closer we got, the more we encountered ropes, loops, and snow hooks. Right under the rocky climb, we found railings. It's hard to say how old they were, so we used them as decoration and somehow crawled onto the saddle. By the time we finished dealing with it, it was 4:00 PM. We had an hour and a half before dark, but there was still a descent ahead.

Descending from the pass. Some ice penises on the slope)
Steps. Bivouac.
Tent at 5650m
On a freezing battery, I managed to take one photo with the tent.

The other side of the pass featured steps resembling a frozen waterfall, covered in ice cauliflower formations. They looked like a dog's bristling fur. Uncomfortable and awkward, but overall not too steep. We managed to navigate them, spotting traces of previous groups here and there. Once, we even managed to go about 5 meters without using ropes. To our luck, we found a spot to set up camp. And among all things, we could pitch our tent. Which we did quickly - we were terribly exhausted, it was getting dark, and really, how much longer could we wander along these icy boulders?

Peak, can't remember the name. Ukrainian guys made the first ascent this fall!

Then, it was essentially two days of wandering along the Hunku Valley, past lakes and moraines. You keep walking, descending all day, and yet the altitude remains above 5,000 meters. It felt like being on Mars: just ice and rocks. We kept going, intending to reach some structures marked on the map, but what we thought were buildings turned out to be just shelters under big rocks. As long as there was water nearby, we weren't too concerned. On the second day, we climbed up Mera La Pass (5400 meters). We gained altitude throughout the day. Snow covered the slopes again, with no visible trail. We followed the tracks of the animals we had come to love. We reached the pass before 4 PM, but the wind was blowing so fiercely at the pass that any thoughts of crossing it were postponed until the next morning. We pitched our tent in some sheltered spot without a roof almost right on the pass. It was calm as we set it up. As soon as we got inside, the wind started howling. And it continued all night.

Ice lakes
5300 meters lakes, frozen of course. And the wind!
I don't know the name of the mountain, but the frozen waterfalls are amazing!)
Ice River
Yeah - water appeared. It was all ice, ice, and more ice.
Cool ceirn
It's cloudy again!
Lunch place
We love these little houses! Too bad we didn't make it here - we would have had a great night's stay in the mountains!

In the morning, the wind was just as strong, but we had to move. We gathered our belongings, put on every layer we had, and started walking. My head felt like a square. All night, the tent walls had been pounding against my head. Not a pleasant feeling. We put on crampons, freezing while we did so. We managed to shake off the cold, rubbing our limbs. But as soon as we crossed to the other side of the saddle, or more precisely, the ice plateau, the wind immediately died down, the sun warmed us, and life started to get better. We found tracks, quite fresh ones. Someone had apparently attempted to climb Mera Peak. We descended slowly along the trail to the village of Kharka. We found some locals there. They were just closing the lodge and heading down. It turned out there had been some German expedition here. They had already descended to Kote, and everyone else was leaving too. Everything was closing down. There wouldn't be anyone here until spring.

Mera La
Lenticular clouds! We're heading to the mountain pass.
Mera Peak (january)
Evening at the mountain pass overlooking Mera Peak (6430 m). I thought we would climb it, but we're quite tired and short on time!
Mera Peak BC
Spending the night in a wind tunnel
Uhh. Made it to solid ground. Heading downhill now.

One way or another, we trudged down the damn gorge all day and only reached Kote in the dark. Not because we were slow, but simply because we got a bit lost. A discrepancy in the GPS map. Only the old trail, which used to go along the ridge, was marked, while the new one follows the riverbed directly. So, we got a bit tangled there. But eventually, everything worked out, and we made it to the village. We had a sip of the local alcohol. Good times!

There's quite a lot of snow... and it's chilly...

So, it seemed like our trek was nearing its end. All that was left was to cross Zatra La Pass, and we'd be in Lukla, where croissants, coffee, and planes awaited us. As it turned out, we relaxed too soon. Firstly, Lukla wasn't close at all - locals mentioned something about 40 km, but according to my GPS, it was 20. Plus, there was a significant altitude difference - climb from 3400 to 4600 and then descend to 2900. All in all, it was quite a challenge.

Zatrwa La
Snowy mess in the morning!
White Lodges
It's off-season, there's no one in the lodges!

We set out in the morning with the idea that we wouldn't rush, but we wouldn't dawdle either. In principle, 20 km isn't that much - it seemed doable. But around 10 AM, it started snowing, and the slopes were already covered with snow from previous days. As we ascended, it got darker and the snow got deeper. The thought of Lukla had to be postponed until tomorrow.

Zatrala Pass at 4600 meters

In the morning, as usual, it was clear and cold, especially at 4400 meters. We didn't hurry, letting all the escaping foreigners and Sherpas pass us. We trailed behind, but in the end, we still managed to overtake them. They stopped for tea and lunch quite frequently.

Another descent
Descending now. The path is well-trodden, perfect for crampons!

We descended from the pass, sometimes even rolling down. I hit my head on a rock, worried about a concussion, but it seemed to be fine. The trail stretched out long and tedious, but eventually, around 3 PM, we made it.

There are some more lodges on the way down. Still empty, no one around.
Lukla again
We're at Lukla Airport - getting ready for takeoff.

The day in Kathmandu passed as usual, with quick stops at cafes, shops, and a brief visit to the sights.

Kathmandu streets
Walking around in Kathmandu, with GPS in hand
After Earthquake 2015
There was a serious tremor here. Many temples are completely destroyed.
Earthquake damage
Reconstruction is underway, but progress is slow. It will be a while before we see results...
But there are resilient structures!
Kathmandu corners
We kept walking, entered through the gates, and there was some kind of temple.
Old city
The houses here really look like not real!