Day one on the trail from the drop off point at Lukla is deceiving as the challenges to come do not yet reveal themselves. Notwithstanding the fact that the altitude gain from Kathmandu is one mile to over 9,000 feet, the net elevation gain on the trail the first day is negligible. On day two the trail bounces from one side to the other of the Dudh Koshi Nadi (river) via a series of cable suspension bridges, the last of which is some 300-400 feet above the river. It is at the point of this last bridge that a severe uphill hike begins. After several hours of switchbacks through a forested mountainside you reach Namche Bazaar at just over 11,000 feet. By this time you are tired and breathing a little heavy.
Namche, as shown in the photo, is nestled in a bowl with an open side to the west that drops steeply into a river valley. Across the valley towers snow-covered Kongde at just under 15,000 feet. To the south, east and north of Namche rise the biggest of the Himalaya Mountains, and where on the trial a meal and a roof over your head is what you can expect. This makes this growing town the last chance to find the things you may need as you continue your journey. Complete with a vibrant market, restaurants, pubs and lodging, Namche is a place of anticipation and celebrations depending on which direction you are traveling.
Many trekkers will spend a few nights in Namche to acclimatize. It is common to day hike another 1000 feet plus higher to the Everest View Hotel with great views of Mt. Everest, Lohtse, and Ama Dablam. Completing a loop before returning to Namche is a hike to Khunde, a village with a school that was largely constructed with funds from the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation. The return to Namche makes one realize the severity of the hillsides that descend into the town. This short stay in Namche provides respite and a chance to prepare for higher altitudes beyond.