It seems my train of through over the last few days has been leading to our arrival in the Khumbu village of Phortse. I’m over complaining about hiking the rugged but beautiful terrain, and I can try to bring out more details of our passage across the trails. Before we actually made our final ascent for the day up to Phortse we stopped for a relaxing moment inside a small tea house just across the river (Kohanar Khola) and nibbled on our pack lunches of nak cheese and chapati bread. I’m sure we would have ordered some lemon tea, if only the owner had stopped in to check on us. We met another couple who were also passing through this point on the map on their way more northward to Dole, Machermo, and Gokyo. The topic of their brisk pace up the trail came up, and Richard felt he should warn them of their risks of elevation sickness. Richard had an encounter with these troubles on his previous trek through the region a few years before, and the quick route to Gokyo proved to be perilous. He urged them to take an extra day or two for acclimatization, though the couple didn’t take to the idea right away. It was refreshing to at least interact with some new faces and we were invigorated to get back to our next climb for the day.
The hill up from the river wasn’t that bad after all, only three to four hundred feet up to the lower edge of the village. It’s difficult to nail down the actual elevation of Phortse since it is spread out over a gradual rise at the base of a long ridge line leading to the 20,890 ft. summit of Taboche six kilometers to the north. The village leans on a hillside and the land has been worked with terraced farming plots marked with rock pile walls. The low end sits at 12,340 feet, and across an inclined span of a kilometer the top end is up to 12,600 feet, I would guess that there are 150 villagers in Phortse with only a handful of lodge open to take visitors. Phortse, again, is not directly on the trekking trail to Mt. Everest since most people will (wisely) stay on the low path along the rivers. There are certainly enough curious hikers who will pass through the high outlook of Phortse, and Pema Dorje has been building a lodge to welcome these adventurous wanderers.
This village has a feeling of seclusion and quiet since there is much less reason for anyone to randomly wander through. There were no trendy cafes to visit, like the Mt. Everest Bakeries in Namche and Khumjung, but the luxury of Pema’s heated dining room was immensely comforting. It was fascinating and surreal to be able to look out across the valley and watch hikers treading the trail up to and down below Mong La. Phortse represents a major way point on the trek because this is when you start to get a sense of the arid landscape, the isolation, and the immense scale of the geologic formations. Phortse is in some ways the beginning of the final stage of the hike, and it sets a tone for the journey into the frigid nights and the more secluded approach to the rocky glacier landscapes.acclimatization glacier hiking lodge steep trekking