We spent an extra “rest” day in Pheriche for acclimatization. Everyone else was doing pretty well with the elevation, but I got bad headache and started taking Diamox. I stayed behind at the lodge while everyone else shot straight up the hills to the east for a day hike, sort of in the spirit of scouting out and discovering the new countryside. They had a fair impression of just how high the “hills” reached, but as they reached a new ridge they felt the next ledges up drew them on. They were gone quite a long time, all morning and into the afternoon. Their curiosity and adventure took them over 3,000 feet above Pheriche (though they claim it was more like 4,000 feet up), so they aggressively challenged their physiological dependence on oxygen. I, on the other hand, was starting to feel a little bored and lonely, with only the sound of the breeze brushing the tightly trimmed grass. It was a cloudy day, oh, and I was on some mysterious pharmaceuticals, so the whole world felt kind of sterile and subdued. I know I was wrong about anything within a few hundred miles being sterile.
So I felt in good enough shape for a minor day hike, perhaps 700 to 1,000 feet up. Gladly, I met Tashi coming back down early. I think he had had enough of the relentless pace the main group was pushing. He was a little weary but cheerful, and I was glad to have his company. Every time I heard his name, Tashi, it reminded me of the same word in Korean, which means “again”, and I finally had to tell him about it. “Tashi, Tashi, Tashi.” He thought it was pretty cool, but wondered why I was trying to teach him Korean. English, Nepali, and the Sherpa dialects were enough already. So I decided to keep quiet about German. We climbed up just a little, high enough for a great view of the barren valley, and we could see straight down to out lodge, then we turned back. There is a fairly large stupa just overlooking the neighboring village of Dingboche, and I was amazed to see there were a lot of hikers passing through the area, many stopping for a rest and the edge of this ridge.
What a coincidence, I noticed a few young Koreans, and I was intrigued to observe what kind of Korean would come out on an adventure like this. It seems logical to find some of them out in the mountains like that since hiking is practically a national hobby. Their terrain is predominantly hilly, and much of their cultural heritage and even spiritual identity are tied in with the moderate toil of climbing and the exhilaration of reaching the high ground, cooled from the sun by the verdant trees and the mountain air, and a drink of fresh spring water. That’s really part of the older generation though, and most of the younger Koreans would sooner go shopping or to computer room to get online. Tashi and I made it back down below and we waited yet longer for the group. They finally came back exhausted but thrilled by the hike they had made. They didn’t mean to reach up that high, but it was so much fun to keep going. The first distinguishable summit of Nangkar Tshang above Pheriche, at over 5,000 meters, was still only the base of the much higher 5,535 meter Kongma La. Maybe they thought they would actually reach the top of something, but with the Himalayas, a summit often only brings you to the base of the next great peak.acclimatization heritage high altitude headache hiking mountains Pheriche