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The High Passes of Everest Trek: Lukla to Namche – Days 1 – 3

Table of Contents:

Previous Post: The High Passes of Everest: Planning The World’s #1 Trek

Next Post: Namche to Chhukung Days 4 – 7

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For most trekkers, The High Passes of Everest Trek begins at Lukla after a thirty-minute flight from Kathmandu. The local Exodus-hired team took care of all the details – bussing us to the airport at 6 a.m., tickets, all the duffel bags, one for each of the 14 clients on the trek, all but me from the U.K.

Good weather meant no problems with take-off, and we were in Luckla by 7:30.

Exodus duffel bags at the airport check-in...common bag helps to keep things together

Exodus duffel bags at the airport check-in…the bags are only available to U.K. customers, so my red North Face duffel kinda stood out!

Lukla Airport is reputedly one of the most dangerous in the world! Our flight would be uneventful, though it did seem weird to land at an airstrip that sloped upward!

Shangri-La Air! Our 18-seater airplane getting loaded- I can see the baggage handler with my red North Face duffel!

the airport, Lukla village, and the start of the trekking trail to the Khumbu

Lukla Airport- supposedly one of the least safe airports in the world

Lukla Airport’s single landing strip is 460 meters long and slopes a bit upward

Mera Lodge- a Lukla landmark and one of the many lodges with rooms available

We relaxed at a Lukla Lodge, got to walk around town a bit in the morning, and had lunch before setting off for our short Day 1 objective, the nearby village of Phakding. It was an easy walk that included a 250-meter loss in altitude!

Cultivated fields just west of Lukla airport

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Lukla to Namche Bazaar  

The Trail From Lukla (A) to Phakding (B) to Namche (C)…click here for a “live” Google view of the clearly visible trekking route

Day 1 – From Lukla to Phakding

  • distance: 9 kilometers
  • altitude change: from Lukla 2860m to Phakding 2610m
  • time: three hours

Lukla to Phakding – satellite view

Lukla – Phakding…Himalayan Maphouse map…hard copies available in Kathmandu

the Dudh Kosi as we come down the trail from Lukla

Sherpas with their straw cone baskets (dokos) full. Each man has a tokma, a walking stick with a T-Shaped handle

A Mani wall on the trail…a common sight

Phakding lodge/teahouse, where we stopped for the night

Our first day was a pretty easy one. The morning was spent in Lukla while the sirdar got everything organized- the food, the tents, the fuel, the porters and the rest of the crew who would be walking with us for the next three weeks. There may have been as many locals as clients on the trek!

Exodus Tents up behind the Phakding lodge

Mornings began with a cup of hot tea delivered to the tent door by one of the assistant guides. This would be followed a few minutes later by a bowl of hot water for washing purposes.

Main street Phakding with a porter coming by

the other side of the Dudh Kosi from Phakding- notice the yellow trekking tents!

Phakding rooftops at dusk

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Day 2 – Phakding to Namche

  • distance: 8 km.
  • altitude: from Phakding 2610m to Namche 3340m
  • time: 5 hours (2.5 hrs. from Monjo)

welcome sign from the local Maoists-  and then came  the “shake-down.”

The Maoist Insurgency – mid-2000s

My visit in November of 2006 was when the civil war between government forces and the Nepalese Communist Party (Maoist) was still going on. The trek leaders had to pay a tax or entry fee to Maoist representatives for each foreign trekker in the party.

We’d enter the official park boundaries a few kilometres later and pay the government-mandated trekker’s entry fee. (In 2022, that would be about $30. U.S.)  By the time I left Nepal in late November, a peace accord had been signed by the Prime Minister and the Maoist leader Prachandra (1954- ). here is a brief intro to his life story –

Prachanda, byname of Pushpa Kamal Dahal … Nepali rebel leader and politician who headed the Maoist insurgency that ended Nepal’s monarchy and established the country as a democratic republic, which he served as its first prime minister (2008–09); he later was returned to that office (2016–17).  See here for the full encyclopedia entry

Since my trek, worries about Maoists have been replaced by the impact of the 2015 Gorka Earthquakes on the region’s tourist infrastructure. The Maoist tax issue was followed in 2017 by the decision of the Khumbu municipal government to impose its own tourist tax (N.R. 2000 per visitor) since it rightly argued that it received little of the money taken by the national government’s compulsory Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) fee.

The 2020-2022 COVID pandemic has not helped the local economy of the Khumbu, which has become very reliant on foreign trekkers.

Getting the paperwork done- and paying the “tax”

Looking up the Dudh Kosi Valley to the next teahouse

Brass incense burner at teahouse stop

Monjo at 2835m is halfway between Phakding and Namche. By this point, we had gained 215 meters since Phakding and were back at the same altitude as Lukla. The bulk of the day’s ascent was up ahead – the 600 meters up to Namche. Just north of Monjo is the entrance to Sagarmatha National Park.

Monjo Satellite view

amassed trekkers at Monjo

“What are all these people doing here?”

One of the things that took me a day or two to understand was that this is not a wilderness trek. Once I realized that I was on a pilgrimage and not on a voyage of exploration, things went much better.

The answer to the question- “What are all these people doing here?” is very obvious- “Exactly why you are here! For the stunning scenery,  the chance to be up close to Mount Everest, and to finally walk a trail you’ve dreamt about for years….”

A porter’s traditional backpack made of pelts  at rest on the trail to Namche

more trail traffic on the approach to Namche

Instead of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, we’re all pilgrims heading for one mountain peak or another, with Mount Everest attracting the most devotion.

I should also add that the two crowd-scene photos are from Monjo, not far from the entrance gate to Sagarmatha Park. That would explain the large numbers of trekkers, some probably waiting as their guides dealt with the permits at the park entry gate or just setting off after getting them. Nowhere else did we experience anything like this!  The higher up the trail you go, the fewer people you will see. Above Namche, we seemed to have the trail to ourselves.

Namche – the Khumbu capital

The satellite image below gives a view of the final stretch from the confluence of the Dudh Kosi and Bhote Kosi up to the village of Namche,  the administrative capital of the Khumbu region.

the steep climb up to Namche from the Bhote-Dudh confluence

Namche is nestled in a bowl;  the downtown area where the bazaar area is located is at 3440m. Also visible on the satellite image is the start of the trail to Everest Base Camp, which heads from Namche to the top right side of the image.

the covered entrance to Namche Bazaar with the stupa up ahead

Since my visit, the local government has spent some tax money upgrading the central market area and paving more of the streets. Compare the image above with the one below for a sample of the changes –

See here for the image source and an informative Nepali Times article from 2019

The ready availability of hydroelectricity means that vast amounts of wood do not need to be burned to provide trekkers with hot water. Higher up, though, yak dung patties and wood are still used as energy sources. Our trekking crew brought cans of  fuel along for cooking purposes.

Namche’s bazaar area- the market

main street Namche

the view from our tenting grounds above the town

my first shot of the Mount Everest peak was taken from near our tent site in Namche

Namche at night

Day 3 – Acclimatization Day

Acclimatization hike above Namche

An extra night in Namche aids in the acclimatization process. The various trekking companies have worked out a schedule that seems to fit most trekkers. If they didn’t, they would have to continually deal with sick clients on top of all the other logistical challenges that running a trek entails.

During our “rest” day, we did a day hike above the town on a pleasant route which took us to the Everest View Hotel, where we stopped for a bite to eat and admired Ama Dablam. Then it was through Khumjung village and past the airport and down to Namche. The mountaineer’s advice had been followed- “Walk high, sleep low”!

yak grazing in fields above Namche

walking up to the Everest View Hotel with Ama Dablam in the background

Everest View Hotel menu

a view of Ama Dablam from the terrace of the Everest View Hotel above Namche Bazaar

walking above Namche towards Khumjung  as a part of our acclimatization-day hike

Stupas and prayer flags in the village of Khumjung above Namche Bazaar

yak dung patties drying in the sun above Namche

In this satellite view of Khumjung village, the red-cloured monastery building is clearly visible amid all the green roofs! We stepped inside the monastery’s main hall for a quick look at the statuary and thangkas.

the pre-2015 Khumjung monastery front

Also displayed in a small glass-paned box was what some locals still believe is a Yeti scalp. Since our visit, the 2015 earthquakes did some damage to the building. However, given the monastery’s importance to the Sherpa community, a reconstructed building was opened within two years. The image below shows what it looks like after the rebuild.

the Khumjung Monastery post-2015 Earthquake reconstruction

overview of the temple interior

Buddha figure close-up

We looped back to the Namche bowl- our blue tents are visible on the upper left. The market area can be seen on the bottom right.

The Trek leader takes us to his father’s home…

where a picture of him as a young man as a part of Hillary’s Sherpa team makes the rounds

men playing a game of chance in the market area of Namche

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Next Post: Namche to Chhukung Days 4 – 7

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The High Passes of Everest: Planning The World’s #1 Trek

Previous Post: Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit – Is It Still Worth Doing?

Table of Contents:

How To Do The Trek

1. The Trekking Agency Option

2. Doing It On Your Own (Or With Porter/Guide)

The Permits You’ll Need To Get

From Kathmandu To Lukla

A View of Mount Everest from Renzo La with Buddhist Prayer Flags in the foreground

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The World’s #1 Long-Distance Trek

There is no way that everyone will agree on a list of the top ten must-do treks in the world. Google the topic and you’ll come up with an incredible range of choices – and be left disagreeing with some of them.

The people behind the  Wiki Explora website came up with a novel idea – Why not check out a number of books that contain such lists and on the basis of a trek’s appearance in more or fewer books, come up with a ranking? Almost sounds scientific! In the end, it is still subjective, however, no matter how well-travelled were the writers of the various books.

The above site, for example, has as its goal the promotion of outdoor activities in Latin America. This could explain why Torres del Paine ended up as the #1 hiking destination and the Inca Trail as #2 and why they’ve provided write-ups (highlighted in blue)  only for the South American entries.

Over the past few years (from 2000 to 2019), I’ve done the four treks ranked above the Everest B.C. trek and the other South American hikes on the list below. There is a wide range in trek durations:

  • the Inca Trail trek takes 4 days,
  • the TDP trek and the Kilimanjaro hike take a week, and
  • the Tour de Mont Blanc takes 10 days.
  • The Everest Base Camp trek is the longest at 12 to 14 days

Having walked all of the five treks, the Everest B.C. trek is, to me, the clear  #1 trek and should be at the top of the list!

The Top 5 treks in the world – Wiki Explora list

While Everest B.C. is at the top of the list, there is an even greater trek – the true #1  – of which the Everest B.C. Trek is only a part.

map of Nepal and surrounding territories with Sagarmatha N.P. highlighted

The interactive Google map will allow you to zoom in or out on.

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One Trek To Rule Them All:

The High Passes of Everest Trek

The trek I have in mind is what the Lonely Planet guidebook Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya (10th Ed. 2016 – next Ed. due March 2023) describes as

“an epic journey that will take you over some of the highest mountain passes  in the world. It stitches together the best of the Everest Base Camp and Gokyo treks and two of the most rewarding side treks of the lower Khumbu.”

Called The Three Passes Trek by the LP writers,  during the twenty days or so of your adventure, you cross three 5300m+  passes –

  • Kongma La 5535
  • Cho La 5420
  • Renjo La 5335

as you traverse from valley to valley and glacier to glacier. [If you’re wondering, the word “La” is Tibetan for “pass”!]

Included in the trek are three non-technical peaks that most choose to walk up for yet more incredible views:

  • Chhukung Ri   5546    18196′
  • Kala Pathar   5645   18,519′ 
  • Gokyo Ri    5357 m   17,575′ 

This puts the Three Passes of Everest Trek in a category all of its own.

  • Not to discount the wonder of Machu Picchu and the four-day hike to get there,
  • not to disparage the fine views of glacial lakes and of Siula Grande on the Huayhuash trek,
  • not to dismiss the six-day walk around the iconic towers at Torres del Paine Park or
  • three or four days doing day hikes at Fitz Roy,

However, the High Passes of Everest trek offers all of this and more on an epic scale that the Andes or the Alps cannot match. In the twenty days of the High Passes trek, you could do any three of the South American hikes without rushing!

The High Passes of Everest Trek has everything a trekker could want –

  • the stunning physical landscape of the Himalayas
  • the fascinating, vibrant local culture of the Sherpa people infused with their Tibetan Buddhist religion, which becomes a part of your journey,  and
  • the physical challenge of staying healthy and acclimatizing to the demands of the high altitude over a three-week period.

Take a look at Radek Kucharski’s collection of Everest region panoramas for a sample of the iconic peaks that make up your journey! Along with Kev Reynolds, Kucharski authored Cicerone’s Everest: A Trekker’s Guide (2018).

The High Passes of Everest Trek

The Khumbu region above Lukla is defined by three great river valleys. From west to east, they are the Bhote Kosi, the Dudh Kosi, and the Imja Khola.

The High Passes of Everest Trek has you walk up or down all three of these river valleys and hike up and down the Khumbu Glacier to Kala Pathar above Everest Base Camp.

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A Google Earth View of The High Passes Route:

If you want a Google-Earth 3D view of the High Passes of Everest route, download this internet-accessed kml file of the route from my Dropbox folder.  Just click on the download prompt in the top left-hand corner and then open the file in Google Earth.

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Himalayan Maphouse Everest Region map

Paper copies of the map are available in Kathmandu shops. This digital copy will help you visualize the route and the waypoints along the way until you get yours. Click here or on the map itself to access the interactive webpage –

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How To Do The Trek

1. The Trekking Agency Option

A. Exodus Travels

I did not do the trek on my own; rather, I booked the trek with Exodus, a UK adventure travel company that I have used on a number of occasions, always quite satisfied with their service and attention to detail and with the quality Nepalese guides and support staff it has on the ground running the tours.

Other trekking companies offer a similar package, and I am sure most of them do a pretty good job. A bit of research on your part should lead you to a good match.

What the Lonely Planet called The Three Passes Trek was originally named the High Passes of Everest by the Exodus marketing department. Then it was repackaged as High Passes To Everest Base Camp. Perhaps having “Base Camp” in the title made it seem more marketable.

And post-COVID?  The Three Passes trek does not exist at all in the Exodus catalogue. Click here to see the details of the 19-day teahouse trek that is now the most ambitious trek Exodus offers in the Khumbu region.

While the Exodus-organized trek I did make use of yaks who carried all the supplies and camp infrastructure, the High Passes Trek is offered by most as a teahouse trek these days The agencies below are just two of them.

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B. Mountain Kingdoms

Mk is the UK adventure travel company with which I did Bolivia’s Cordillera Real Trek. I was quite impressed with their local crew: an excellent guide, top-notch tent and other camp shelters, vehicles that were always on time, food that even this vegan was enthusiastic about…excellent value.

Like Bolivia, the on-the-ground crew on the Everest trek will be Nepalese, undoubtedly hired by MK on the basis of excellent reviews from previous trips.

The High Passes trek is offered on the UK’s Mountain Kingdoms website. My one hesitation is that it does the trip clockwise, which is unusual. The itinerary has allocated a number of acclimatization days to lessen potential problems, and the post-trip comments are quite positive, so perhaps my fears are unwarranted. In 2022 the cost of the MK trek is £2350 (US2770.), starting and finishing in Kathmandu.

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C. KE Adventure Travel

Another UK-based company that also offers a clockwise version of the Three Passes Trek is K.E. Adventure Travel.  Maybe the thought is that arriving at Everest Base Camp near the end of the trek is more dramatic than visiting at the halfway point.

The KE price is £2475. (US2995.), Like the MK package, it begins and ends in Kathmandu. Airfare and other costs to get there will be extra.

D. Other U.K., European,  or North American-based agencies

Some googling may turn up other non-Nepalese-based agencies offering variations of the High Passes of Everest trek in 2022. You do pay a premium for using a U.K., European,  or North American-based trekking agency, sometimes up to 20%.  In the end, they all are required to hire local guides and support teams, so it can be cheaper just to eliminate them and go with a Nepalese company. On the other hand, the guides and support teams used by the big foreign agencies tend to be the best locals available and have been hired based on reviews of previous trips they have done for the agency.

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E. Kathmandu-based Agencies

The Lonely Planet guidebook has been a reliable source of information in a search for Kathmandu-based trekking agencies able to meet your expectations. The current edition dates back to January 2016; the 11th edition is slated for release in early 2023. Two and half years into the Covid era,  the trekking agency industry in Nepal has surely been rattled. I wonder how valid the LP reviews done in 2015 still are.

Cicerone has the 5th Edition of its Everest: A Trekker’s Guide. It dates to November 2018.  It also has recommendations for Kathmandu-based trekking agencies that offer the High Passes trek.

TripAdvisor will also have reviews of local agencies. Scanning the various topics in the Nepal Forum will turn up threads like this one from April 2022 – Everest Base Camp Trek or this one from 2019. Beware of the responses from people clearly self-promoting their businesses. Their comments are sometimes not deleted. On the other hand, some excellent forum contributors have been offering free solid advice for years!  See comments by scoodly, into-thin-air, or arkienkeli. for three examples.

You should be able to glean the names of some reliable local trekking companies that can arrange your Three Passes Trek. Depending on how many are in your trekking group, you may save 20% or more if you go local instead of via the UK or other foreign agencies I mentioned above. 

on our way to Kongma La from Chhukung and the Imja Khola valley

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2. Doing It On Your Own (Or With Porter/Guide)

Since it was my first time, I had no idea what to expect before I went to Nepal. I’ll admit that letting a trusted trekking agency take care of all the details about

  • internal flights
  • accommodation
  • food
  • health and safety issues
  • route-finding (such as it was!)

while I focused on interesting camera angles had its attractions!  However, had I been 25 instead of 55, my bank account may have encouraged me to do more of the above myself!

I will say that the Exodus crew added value to my experience thanks to the fact that they were born in the Khumbu and had countless contacts in Namche, at Thyangboche (i.e. Tengboche), and all along the way that truly enriched our trek. Organized group or independent trekker – a good guide will make a difference.

If you are up to the challenge of taking full charge, the next step would be hiring your own porter/guide once you get to Nepal.  Check out this informative and up-to-date BestHike webpage with its emphasis on the do-it-yourself alternative.

Click on the header to access the Best Hike webpage.

However, having done it once in an organized group, I would feel comfortable doing it alone a second time. I might still be tempted to get a guide/porter that I would hire once I got to Kathmandu. A good guide can add to your experience by explaining things that you see or pointing out things you don’t. Your people back home will also appreciate the added safety factor!

A bad guide, of course, would be a disaster that could ruin the trip! The BestHike website points out some of them:

Certainly, trekkers regularly have trouble with guides:

  • some can be insistent on where they want you to stop each night. This sometimes leads to conflict.

  • they may ask for more money, or gear they “forgot” to bring

  • they may want to change/shorten the itinerary

  • they may ask you hire an additional porter once you get on the trail

There is also the insurance issue for guides/porters and getting them to Lukla from Kathmandu and then back again.  Somehow setting off as an independent trekker and not having to deal with all of the above has its attractions.

I like the idea of hiring a guide for certain sections of the trek where potential trouble may occur – i.e. the Chhukhung to Lobuche over Kongma La hike.  In the end, you certainly will not be the only one doing the Three Passes Trek on your own and may find a trekking companion when you are on the trail.

TripAdvisor Trip Report – August 22, 2022

The following TripAdvisor post in the Nepal Forum by PeterMorley contains up-to-date information on doing the High Passes Trek on your own. Tips on accommodation, route finding, and more make it a useful source as you plan your own trip.

Click here to access the thread.

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The Permits You’ll Need To Get:

When I did the Three Passes Trek, the Maoist Insurgency was still going on. Since I was part of an organized group, our guide/leader took care of all the permits and form submissions. Three different permits were required:

  1. a TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System) card issued in Kathmandu
  2. a Sagarmatha National Park Entrance Permit
  3. a “tax” collected by the Maoists just north of Phakding on Day 2 of the trek

These days the Maoist tax is no more – the leader of the group actually served as Nepal’s Prime Minister in the 2010s!

The TIMS fee is also no more, having been replaced by a 2000 rupee (about $20.) Khumbu entrance fee levied by the municipal government of the Khumbu. This permit can be obtained in Lukla or at the Park Entrance gate at Monjo.

internet-sourced example of the Khumbu municipal government entrance fee permit

The other fee is for the 3000-rupee Sagarmatha National Park entrance permit.  You can get it in Monjo at the official park entrance gate.

internet-sourced example of the park entrance permit

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Getting From Kathmandu To Lukla

1. The Classic Approach from Jiri to Lukla  – six days

Himalayan Maphouse map – paper copies available in Kathmandu – see here for digital source

Jiri (and now Shivalaya) are the starting points for a walking trail that takes you up to Lukla over a six-day period. The main attraction of this route is the fact that in the 1950s, this was Hillary’s approach to Lukla and the Everest Region.  Do note that the villages along the route were heavily damaged in the 2015 earthquakes.

Over the six days, you gain less than 1000 meters in altitude (1950 to 2840), so it has very limited value as an acclimatization exercise.

If you see the trail as a way to get into shape before you get to Lukla, the question is – what were you doing at home in the three months before your arrival to improve your fitness level?

However, read this Backpack Adventures’ account of the Jiri-Lukla trek by a Dutch traveller, which she did in 2021. She may convince you that time spent in the lower hills below the Himalayas is time well spent!

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The Flight From Kathmandu to Lukla – 30 minutes

My agency-organized trek began with a thirty-minute flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. The Exodus team took care of all 14 duffels- one for each client, all but me from the U.K.

Good weather meant no problems with take-off.

Exodus duffel bags at the airport check-in...common bag helps to keep things together

Exodus duffel bags at the airport check-in…the bags are only available to UK customers so my red North Face duffel kinda stood out!

Shangri-La Air! our 18-seater airplane getting loaded- I can see the baggage handler with my red North Face duffel!

the airport, Lukla village, and the start of the trekking trail to the Khumbu

Lukla Airport- supposedly one of the least safe airports in the world

Lukla Airport’s single landing strip is 460 meters long and slopes a bit upward

Mera Lodge- a Lukla landmark and one of the many lodges with rooms available

cultivated fields just west of Lukla airport

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Next Post: Lukla to Namche… (Days 1 and 2) + Day 3 – Acclimatization Day

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See also:

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Climbing Ishinca and Tocllaraju in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca

Our Five-Day Climbing Itinerary:

  • Day 1 – vehicle from Huaraz (3052m)  to Collon and walk up to our tent Base Camp (4350m) near the Refugio Ishinca
  • Day 2 – climb Ishinca (5530)/rest in the afternoon
  • Day 3- late start/ climb up to Tocllaraju High Camp (5300m)
  • Day 4 – Tocllaraju summit (6034m) and return to Base Camp
  • Day 5 – walk out to Collon and drive back to Huaraz (3052)

Back in Huaraz after our Santa Cruz trek and climb of Nevado Pisco, we had a day to relax and get ready for the next chapter in our Peruvian Andes adventure! My climbing partner and I were heading to the Ishinca Valley with a couple of new objectives –

  • Nevado Ishinca (5530) as a warm-up
  • Tocllaraju (6034m.)

top of the Ishinca valley – Tocllaraju and Ishinca peaks

Look at the list below for the Top 10 peaks in North America. Our two Cordillera Blanca peaks would not be out of place! The thing to note is that they are only two moderate peaks of the eighty 5000+m  that the Cordillera Blanca has for keen mountaineers. Tocllaraju ranks 17th highest peak in the Cordillera.

The two Cesars – El Guia (y et jefe) Cesar Vargas and Cesar El Cuchinero – were in charge of the trip. They had done an A+ job on our just-finished ten-day Santa Cruz Trek and Pisco climb. This post has the details –

Santa Cruz Trek & Pisco Climb In the Peruvian Andes

with Cesar Vargas on top of Pisco

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Day 1 – Getting To Ishinca  Base Camp:

The Ishinca Valley is a short drive up the highway from Huaraz to Collon and then a rough road up the bottom of the valley for a short section. This makes it one of the easier to get to climbing destinations in the Cordillera Blanca. At the end of the road, Cesar, the guide, took care of the National Park sign-in procedures, and we were met by a village donkey team that hauled our supplies up the valley to Base Camp. Meanwhile, we did the 15-kilometer walk in about four hours. [Apple Maps has an Ishinca Trek trail indicated in Satellite view.]

As we made our way on the dirt path, the tree cover provided shade for the first couple of hours. As we neared the top of the valley, the bush was replaced by rock rubble and grass. Once out of the wooded lower part of the valley, we stopped for a break. I looked back and got the following shot –

looking down the Ishinca Valley to Collon

Then I looked up the valley – snow on the peaks ahead but no view of Base Camp yet.

same spot – but looking up the valley

By mid-afternoon, we were there. The shot below (taken two days later from above the valley)  shows the Refugio (the white structure a bit lower than the center of the image) and the nearby tenting area.

the walk  up the Ishinca Valley in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru

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Note: Since I made this trip, the nearby settlement of Pashpa has become another access point to the Quebrada Ishinca, perhaps the preferred one since the hike is a bit shorter (11 km instead of 14). In the end, if you are on an organized trip, your agency will decide which one to use – Collon or Pashpa

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Refugio Ishinca and The Tenting Area

The Refugio Ishinca

the image is from the Refugio website

The 70-bed dormitory-style Refugio is mainly used by independent travellers and is open from May 1 to September 30. It also has a cafeteria which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. A bed costs 50 sol a night (about $13. U.S.). See here for the Refugio web page. While I never went over to the Refugio,  some people made the short walk to use the toilet facilities.

A taxi ride from Huaraz to the trailhead, a bed at the Refugio, and climbs of a few moderate peaks nearby are certainly feasible if you have come prepared.

Here is what is on the menu at the top of Quebrada Ishinca:

  • Ranrapalca 6,162
  • Palcaraju 6,272
  • Tocllaraju 6034
  • Ishinca 5530
  • Urus  Oeste 5450
  • Urus Central 5494
  • Urus Este 5420

Climbing Peaks -top of Quebrada Ishinca

Lots of choice for a keen peak bagger – and all are higher than all but four of the North American peaks!

The Tenting Area

Our Peruvian Andes Adventures crew set up the tents – one for each of the two clients, a cook tent, a dining tent, a toilet tent, a tent for the guide, one for the cook, and one for the porter. I prefer sleeping in a tent, far enough away from the noise and commotion of Refugio Ishinca’s dormitory.

Nearby the tenting area is a concrete basin with a metal water spout, providing tenting parties with clean water from up the hill.

Refugio Ishinca and tenting area at the top of the Quebrada Ishinca

When we got to the tenting area, there were three groups there. Two were from Canada. The guide/leader of one team was from Banff, Alberta; the other guide, whom I had climbed with before, was from Golden, B.C. I also knew a few clients, having been on Alpine Club of Canada climbs with them.

Sitting in the Quebrada Ishinca surrounded mostly by Canadians! As you can see in the image above, the meadows are pretty much empty of tents. Our Camp was on the right side of the image. Apparently, during prime season, there are dozens of parties at one time, and the camping area gets quite messy, thanks to litter and inadequate toilet management. We were there at the end of May/ the beginning of June, still very early in the season.

my MacPac tent with Tocllaraju in the misty background

A few minutes later, the mist cleared, and Tocllaraju appeared. I felt again that mix of awe and anticipation (and apprehension!) as I contemplated its west face and wondered just how we would be climbing to the top.

To that point, my highest – and most challenging – climb had been Mt. Assiniboine (3618m) in the Canadian Rockies. Tocllaraju was 1400 meters higher!

a late afternoon view of Tocllaraju

While Ishinca is rated a P.D.-, Tocllaraju gets an A.D. (Assez Difficil/Difficult Enough) or D (Difficult).

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Day 2 – Climbing Ishinca:

Ishinca is a great climb for those who do not have much mountaineering experience, or for those looking to get acclimatized before going on to bigger things. It is primarily a snow walk on glacier sloped until the final 100 meters, which steepens enough that you could fall if you are not paying attention. [Johnson, 156 of 1st Ed.]

Many agencies combine the Tocllaraju climb with a climb of Ishinca the day before to give their clients some extra acclimatization time – and probably to see how comfortable they are with glacier walking and low-grade scrambling on rock and ice. Our previous ten days on the Santa Cruz trek, followed by our Pisco (5752m) climb, meant we were already well acclimatized. The Ishinca climb is rated a P.D.- (French grading system); crampons, an ice axe, and a harness are required!

It was still dark when we set off on the second morning for our climb. An earlier start meant the glacier/snow section would less likely be soft and mushy, and the walking would be easier. As the above satellite view makes clear, two-thirds of the route is below the toe of the glacier.

Break time on Ishnca – time for a few snapshots!

I took very few photos, thanks to the hassle of taking my DSLR out of my backpack every time I wanted to frame an image. It was usually during a break when I would haul it out and snap a few shots while munching a Clif Bar and sipping some water.

Ranrapalca (6162) is on the right as we move up Ishinca’s slopes to the left.

As we approached the top, there was a sudden change in the weather, and we lost visibility as the mist enveloped us. So – no panoramas from Ishinca top…just the satisfaction of knowing we had improved our acclimatization level with our 1000-meter ascent.

After a brief rest out of the wind on top, we headed down, following the tracks we had made coming up. It is about 6 km from Base Camp to the top via the N.W. route, so we were looking at a 12 km. day by the time we got back to Camp.

a wee break on our way down

We got back in the mid-afternoon from Nevado Ishinca and took it easy for the rest of the day, knowing the next day we would walk up to the biggest challenge of the past two weeks.

This Wikiloc upload – Nevado Ishinca 2016 – has a GPX/KML track from Base Camp to the summit. They chose to go up the southwest slope instead of the northwest slope we ascended. Click on the title or the image below to access it.

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Days 3 and 4 – To The Top of Tocllaraju:

Tocllaraju is one of the most beautiful mountains in the range. It is a challenging peak yet not too difficult for a first 6000+ peak. Adventurous yet moderate ice climbing and an exposed ridge lead to a perfect summit. [Johnson, 1st Ed.,150]

Tocllaraju’s normal route – the northwest ridge –  gets a  grade of A.D. to D, thanks mainly to the final stretch up to the relatively steep and icy summit pyramid.

10:00  We left Base Camp, following the route indicated on the satellite image above. Easy initial walking on a trail was followed by scrambling up more vertical sections of boulders. Some groups make their High Camp just before the toe of the glacier on the exposed rock. The boulders provide shelter in windy conditions.

We kept going and made Camp near or slightly above the spot marked on the image. It is about 1000 meters from Base Camp to our High Camp.

When we got there, I looked over to Isihinca and Ranrapalca and got the shot below.

Ishinca (5530m) and Ranrapalca (6162) from Tocllaraju High Camp on the Glacier

See here for the Google Earth satellite view of the above image.

a view of the neighbourhood from Toclla High Camp

14:30   We arrived at the high camp location, and the tents were up soon after. Another climbing party, whose clients were from Austria, shared the spectacular view with us.

Tocllaraju climbers – Austrians on the left and our two tents on the right

Tocllaraju High Cam[p – social hour

18:00 We had a bit to eat, and then it was time to lay down and get a bit of sleep before our 1:00 a.m. breakfast call and climb to the top.

It started snowing, and the temperature dropped to about -5 degrees C. I didn’t get much sleep since I was so hyped about our upcoming challenge.

Until we reached the summit, those photos of our tent were the last I took!

The start of the climb had not been without its drama.

2:00 We left Camp with a bitter wind blowing and below freezing temperature.

3:30 Angelica decided she could not go on anymore- her feet were freezing. Her three-season La Sportiva Trangos were perhaps not the best boots, given the below-zero conditions when we set off.

4:15 We walked her back down to the tent where Miguel, the porter, took over.

Angelica was okay, but we were left with a decision-

  • head down to base camp or
  • go back up.

I’m glad that Cesar didn’t pull the plug on the summit attempt and indulged me when I said- “I feel good. Let’s go.” And that’s what we did.

4:20  Cesar and I turned back to the mountain and retraced our path to below the bergshrund where we had been at 3:30. We were followed by the Austrian crew, who had postponed their own start when they saw us coming down the hill at 3:30.

10:30  We were up on the top after some difficult (for me)  slogging and, in the last hour to the summit itself, much counting of steps (thirty at a time!)  and frequent breaks. A couple of pitches with a 50-60 degree slope made the final section below the summit “interesting”.

Cesar was very patient. When the time came for the bit of technical stuff just below the summit, he made sure that I, as well as the climbers in the other party, were safe and secure on our ropes as he scampered up and set up anchors. A slip there would not end well.

And here – 15 hours later, on the top of Tocllaraju, the first shot after that tent shot above – a shot of mi Guia muy simpatico Casar Vargas. It would not have been possible without his skill and experience on this mountain.

Cesar Vargas – cumbre de Tocllaraju

After a short break, it was the down trip. As the saying goes, “When you are at the summit, you’re only halfway there!” Not the time to relax and get careless.   Following the visible trail created by two climbing teams meant we would avoid the bergschrunds and the crevasses on our way down. First up was the rappel down the stretch of 55º icy slope.

13:00 When we got back to High Camp near the bottom of the snow, we saw that the porter and Angelica had already headed back, along with the tents and everything else. We took a little break, drank water, had a snack, and continued our descent.

When I saw the Refugio that I framed in the image below, I felt a combination of triumph and relief that I had actually made it.

Ishinca Base Camp and Refugio from the bottom of the glacier

15:30  We were back at base camp. On the way, I passed through the tent sites where the two Canadian groups were; by then, I was all but delirious. When I got to my tent, I  immediately crawled into my sleeping bag. It was the most physically drained that I had ever felt!

17:30 . Angelica came to get me up for supper. I told her I would pass but asked her for some water. She returned with my full Nalgene bottle, and after drinking a cup or two, I went back to sleep

6:30  I crawled out of my tent for breakfast the next morning, feeling much better than I had twelve hours before! I stood outside my tent and looked back up at where we had been less than twenty-four hours ago. I had managed to climb a 6000-meter peak!

After a leisurely breakfast, we headed down the Quebrada Ishinca to the vehicle that would take us back to Huaraz. As with everything else on this Peruvian Andes Adventures-organized trip, the vehicle was waiting.

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Back In Huaraz

2:00 p.m. We were soon back in Huaraz, perhaps the #1 mountain town in all of the Andes, thanks to the specialized services its climbing outfitters can provide and the mountains that they have nearby.

The Peruvian Andes crew dropped me off at Olaza’s Guesthouse. The two weeks just spent in and out of Huaraz were such a high that I knew I’d be coming back to this mountain town for more of the Cordillera Blanca.

Olaza’s Guesthouse rooftop patio

olaza guesthouse wall

While Huaraz looks like a ramshackle town, thanks to the Great Peruvian Earthquake of 1970, which took many lives and destroyed most of the town’s main buildings. What it lacks in charming buildings, it makes up in the welcoming nature of the tourism economy its citizens have created in the past fifty years. It is just a great place to be – and is the starting point of countless incredible mountain treks and climbs.

Two years later- after a trip that brought me to three of Ecuador’s highest peaks- I was back in Huaraz again. This time I did a fifteen-day HuayHuash Circuit with Peruvian Andes Adventures.

Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit: South America’s Finest High-Altitude Trek

I smiled when I saw Cesar the cook again- and learned that Cesar’s younger brother

Miguel would be our guide for this visit to a mountain range made more famous by Touching the Void, the British climber’s gripping account of his adventure on the slopes of Siula Grande.

Mountain views from Olaza’s Guesthouse rooftop

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Some Useful Planning Links:

Brad Johnson’s Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca

The Cordillera Blanca is second only to the Himalayas in the number of high-altitude climbing objectives. More than any other book, Brad Johnson’s is THE book that captures the grandeur of the Peruvian Andes.

With its photographs, maps, detailed route outlines, and text, the book provides the information needed to understand what is involved in climbing the various peaks that make up this fairly compact yet majestic mountain range.

The 1st. Ed came out in 2003. It was a finalist (though not one of the ultimate prize winners) at the 2003 Banff Mountain Book Festival. I bought the book in 2007 in my search for info on a trek or climb that I could add to my visit to Machu Picchu. The book opened up a world of possibilities that I had not considered before. In 2009, a updated and revised 2nd Edition was released.

There is one problem: the book is difficult to find and does not exist in digital form.

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Summit Post

This website hosts reports by climbers from around the world. It is an excellent source of inspiration for new climbing destinations.  The Cordillera Blanca is well covered. Of course, Tocllaraju and Ishinca are there. The site is worth visiting just for the stunning images the climbers have uploaded – but there is much more detailed and helpful information.

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Finding A Reliable Outfitter/Guide Agency

Peruvian Andes Adventures is not the only outfitter/guide service in Huaraz that can make your trip happen for you. In fact, it was inexplicably not even mentioned in the last Lonely Planet Peru guidebook I looked at!

The two adventures they arranged for me:

  1. the Santa Cruz Trek with a climb of Pisco add-on
  2. climbs of Ishinca and Tocllaraju

were both A+. Excellent logistics and equipment; food was plentiful and well-prepared, and even vegetarian-friendly; the guides were skilled and experienced. The Morales family owns the company and goes out of its way to make your stay in the Huaraz area memorable and hassle-free. They even picked me up at the bus station and drove me to the guesthouse I was staying at!

I was so impressed that I used Peruvian Andes for a 16-day Cordillera Huayhuash trek a couple of years later  – and they earned another A+. Check out their TripAdvisor score to see if I am the only one enthused with their level of service –

TripAdvisor Reviews of Peruvian Andes Adventure

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Finding Accommodation In Huaraz

Huaraz has lots of reasonably-priced accommodation for visiting hikers and climbers. booking.com or TripAdvisor will turn up some great choices. Read the more recent reviews to see if the quality has slipped or not.

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On my Ishinca trip, I stayed at Olaza’s Bed and Breakfast and was 100% pleased with my stay. See the TripAdvisor Reviews for what others think.

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During my second visit to do the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit, I stayed at the Morales Guesthouse. It also proved to be a convenient base for my three weeks there. Here is their latest TripAdvisor score  –

Amazingly, the area of town where it is located managed to escape the devastation of the 1970 earthquake- so you get to walk the quaint colonial streets nearby.

The hotels and guesthouses are used to storing your left luggage while you are out on a trek, so no worries there.

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The High Passes of Everest Trek: Namche to Chhukung Days 4 – 7

Table of Contents:

Previous Post: The High Passes of Everest Trek: Lukla to Namche Days 1 – 3

Maps, Basic Stats with Elevation Gain, and KML file

Day 4: Namche to Tengboche

Day 5: Tengboche to Dingboche

Day 6: Dingboche to Chhukung

Day 7: Chhukung Ri Acclimatization Hike

Next Post: Chhukung to Kala Pathar Via Kongma La – Days 8 – 10

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Maps, Basic Stats, KML file

Namche to Chhukung satellite image – from bottom left to top right

Dingboche to Chhukung

Days 4 – 7 :

  • distance: 24 km
  • elevation (meters):  Namche 3440 to Tengboche 3860 to Dingboche 4410 to Chhukung 4730 to Chhukung Ri 5550 to Chhukung 4730
  • kml file of route: click on the download prompt in the top left-hand corner and open in Google Earth

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Table of Contents:

Previous Post: The High Passes of Everest Trek: Lukla to Namche Days 1 – 3

Day 4: Namche to Tengboche

Day 5: Tengboche to Dingboche

Day 6: Dingboche to Chhukung

Day 7: Chhukung Ri Acclimatization Hike

Next Post: Chhukung to Kala Pathar Via Kongma La – Days 8 – 10

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Day 4: Namche To Tengboche

  • distance: 9 km
  • time: about 4 hours

Namche to Dingboche – Himalayan Maphouse map…hard copies available in Kathmandu

On Day Four we left Namche and headed up the trail on the west side of the Dudh Khola We way, we went down to the river and crossed over to the other side before heading to the spiritual heart of the Khumbu, the monastery village of Tengboche. 

(It is also spelled Thyangboche in some guidebooks and reports, and not to be mistaken for Pangboche or Dingboche, settlements further up the trail!)

Mani Wall and our tent site above Namche at dawn

boy in upper Namche at 6:25 a.m.

mani wall and Himalaya peaks above Namche Bazaar

our trekking crew in a meditative mood at breakfast inside the lodge where we tented

the trail from Namche to Tengboche Monastery on the west slope of the Dudh Kosi valley

a view of the trail from Namche to Tengboche and its monastery

The trail from Namche is on the west side of the Dudh Kosi. The images above and below show a small section of it. Eventually, it leads down to the river itself, making a crossing on a suspension bridge. But before we descend, we pass through another small settlement. Tables sit on the side of the trail with souvenirs to tempt the trekkers passing by.

section of trail on the west side of the Dudh Kosi with a bridge on the bottom right

approaching a stupa on the way to Tengboche

souvenir yak bells tempt trekkers returning to Namche from higher up

souvenirs on a table on the trail to Tengboche

Crossing the bridge in the image below, we walked up the switchback trail to Tengboche. Its famous Gompa or Monastery and our tent spot for the night were not far.

suspension bridge over the Dudh Kosi to Tengboche

trail-side huts with precious firewood stacked high

Tengboche satellite view

We arrived at Tengboche in the early afternoon. Our tents were already set up in front of the café/bakery not far from the settlement’s reason for existing – the Tengboche Monastery (Gompa in Tibetan). The monks there belong to the oldest of the various Himalayan Buddhist sects, the Nyingma. [Tengboche Monastery’s history – a Wikipedia  entry.]

Construction on the original gompa was finished in 1916. Eighteen years later, it was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt. It was not to last very long; in 1989, a fire would badly damage it. It has been rebuilt again and is a major attraction for trekkers on the trail up to Gokyo, Everest, or Imja Tse. A typical ritual involves the head monk bestowing blessings on Everest climbers before continuing their way up to Base Camp at the top of the Khumbu Glacier.

Tengboche Gompa complex (3860m) as you arrive on the trail- the spiritual center of the Khumbu region

looking down from the steps of Tengboche Gompa to the trekking trail beyond the gate

Tengboche Gompa (Monastery) gate from the gompa steps

prayer wheels at Tengboche with  workers behind

workers adjusting a decorative piece on the stupa with the gompa behind

looking out the main entrance of the gompa at Tengboche

our Exodus blue tents at Tengboche-  and the yellow tents from Phakding too!

Inside Tengboche Monastery’s Central Prayer Hall:

At around 4 p.m., we were ushered into the central prayer hall in the monastery and found places to sit around the periphery of the large and highly decorated room. At the same time, the monks went through their daily chants and meditations. No videos were allowed; photos were okay. My camera struggled with the low light, but the images still helped me recall the feeling of sitting on the wood floor and listening to the bells and rhythmic chanting while the incense floated about the room.

inside the main hall at Tengboche Gompa

trekkers/pilgrims watch the service unfold at Tengboche Gompa

the scene during service at Tengboche Gompa

a moment during the service in the prayer hall at Tengboche Gompa

Tengboche prayer hall scene

Tengboche Gompa meditation ritual

the stupa (chorten) outside Tengboche Gompa- from the gompa darkness to outside light!

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Day 5: Tengboche to Dingboche

  • Distance: 11 km.
  • time;  3 hours
  • altitude gain: 550 m from Tengboche (3860) to Dingboche (4,410)
  • Tengboche to Chhukhung

Tengboche Gompa at 6:00 a.m.

Tengboche wall detail – Buddha figure in dancing Shiva-like pose

yaks still chillin’ at Tengboche at the beginning of a trekking day- and workers are back at the stupa for final touches

sign detailing climbing rules and expectations

bridge over the Imja Khola above Tengboche

a view of Ama Dablam from the trail near Dingboche

passing to the left of all chortens, stupas and mani walls

nearing Dingboche (4410m) on the route from Tengboche (Thyangboche)

Dingboche and the trails up the Khumbu Glacier and Imja Khola valley

Dingboche is the doorway to some of the world’s most iconic – and epic – mountain scenery. It sits at the junction of two trails:

  • the trail going up the west side of the Khumbu Glacier to Everest Base Camp
  • the path going up the Inja Khola valley to Chhukung and Imja Tse (aka Island Peak)

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Day 6: Dingboche to Chhukung

Himalayan Maphouse map…hard copies available in Kathmandu

looking at the trail up ahead on the way to Chhukung

the path on the way to Chhukung

a simple bridge across the Imja Khola

the trail along the Imja Khola towards Chhukung, our tent site for the next two nights

Chhukung is made up mostly of trekkers’ lodges and serves those heading for one of the nearby climbing peaks, Inja Tse (aka Island Peak) being the most popular. Base camp for that climb is seven kilometres up the valley, and the hike is sometimes made by trekkers.

Chhukung -Imja Khola valley

Chhukung with Island Peak further up the valley

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Day 7: A Hike Up Chhukung Ri (5550m)

Like Day 3, Day 6 was an acclimatization day. The idea is to hike to a higher altitude during the day and then return for another night’s sleep at a lower one. The “Climb high, sleep low” mantra for trekkers is often built into itineraries followed by trekking agencies. It makes sense.

Already mentioned was the hike up the valley to Island Peak Base Camp at 5040m. It is located just above Imja Tsho, one of the fastest-growing lakes in the Himalayas, thanks to the melt of the two nearby glaciers. The likelihood of a glacial lake outburst flood was strong enough that Nepalese Army engineers and local villagers constructed a canal that drained off some of the accumulating water and lowered the water level by some 3.4 meters in 2016.

Since the hike to Imja Tse Base Camp only involves an altitude gain of 310 meters, a better choice for acclimatization is Chhukung Ri, easily accessed from the lodges.

Chhukung (4730m) from the hills above- our blue tents are visible on the bottom left.

In the satellite image below, you can even see the well-trodden path up the spine of the hill right to its 5550-meter  summit. A total altitude gain of 770 meters had me occasionally stopping to catch my breath and pulling out my camera! Incredible views in all directions  -the Nuptse ridge to the north, east to Inja Tse, south to  Ama Dablam, west to Dingboche…One big WOW! I really should have done a short video of the scene!

the walk up Chhukung Ri (5550m)

a view of the north face of  Ama Dablam (6856m) from the top of Chhukung Ri (5550m)

Looking east up the Imja Khola valley with Amphu Gyabjen (5630m) on the right and Imja Tse (Island Peak) (6189m) on the left

The view from Chhukung Ri of our previous day’s walk up along the Imja Khola from Dingboche

We returned from our acclimatization hike around noon and spent the afternoon in the dining room of the lodge in whose yard we had tented. I also had a basic hot water shower in a small shed at one of the other lodges. It was an extravagance at US$3 for a hot bucket of water – mainly for the cost of the wood that someone hauled to Chhukung from below. However, it felt great to wash off a week’s worth of dust and sweat.

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Crossing The First of the High Passes – Kongma La:

The trek continued with our crossing of the first of the three high passes, Kongma La and a walk across the Khumbu Glacier to Lobuche. We walked up to Gorak Shep on our second day there and ascended Kala Pattar. The thin yellow line on the satellite image above shows the route. The following post has the details, maps, and photos.

Next Post: Chhukung to Kala Pathar Via Kongma La – Days 8 – 10

See also:

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A Winter’s Day Walk Along The Banks of Toronto’s Lower Don River

One of the perks of living in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood is the easy access to the Don River Trail.  It runs from Pottery Road almost all the way down to Lake Ontario.  It is the Pottery Road-Riverdale Footbridge section that was for a decade the almost daily” big walk of the day” for our Icelandic Sheepdog Viggo.

Viggo coming down the steps to the Lower Don trail

While he is no longer with us, the lower Don still is and now memories of Viggo add to the experience of walking the age-old river path I re-established and maintained so that we could avoid the bike traffic on the sometimes very-busy paved main trail.  It can have the vibe of a stage in the Tour de France as cyclists come zipping by!

I went down a couple of days ago – it was -10ºC and some 15 cm. of snow overnight had blanketed the neighbourhood.  The  5-km. walk starts with a descent to the trail on those steps you see above. Then it is north along the path and over a small footbridge.

looking south at the bridges spanning Gerrard, Dundas, and Queen Streets over the Don

the abandoned Metrolinx railway bridge.

I approached the flimsy shelter on the banks of the river hoping that there would not be anyone inside. It would be easy enough to fall asleep in the below 0º temp and not wake up. Whew – no one there!

And no one on the main trail either as I walked north!

looking south

looking north to the Prince Edward Viaduct

There is a side trail on the left side of the above photo that takes you down to the river on what I like to think of as a portage trail.  Brief moments out of time – I forget that I am in the middle of an urban collection of 5 million people!

The ducks are floating placidly at Viggo’s beach – certainly more at ease than if he was here with me at this moment.

a shady section of the river path just before it rejoins the main trail

To the north of the Viaduct, a collection of late 1800s architectural pieces used to dress up Victorian-era buildings –

On my return, back on top of the Riverdale footbridge crossing the Don, I stop to check the scene on the Cabbagetown side. It has a great sliding hill and there are some people taking advantage of the snow-covered slope.

The Cabbagetown tobogganing hill

The tobogganing hill on the Cabbagetown side of the Don River valley is a great one but an even better one is on the east side just off the side of Broadview Avenue. Here is a view of the main sliding area from the bottom –

A bit to the south is another open area with a more gradual slope. That’s it in the image below! It is more of a “family with young children” spot to hang out! Parents line the top as they watch their 5-year-olds slide down the hill, no doubt worrying a little about what can happen.

the Riverdale East beginner’s hill at Broadview

See the post below for some pix and action taken  – not from the bottom of the Broadview hill – but from the top.

Related Post:-10ºC and Snow in Toronto – Great For Toboganning!

Today – two days later – on my way back home from a slushy walk down in the valley,  I walked up that same beginners’ slope. Thanks to the +6ºC temperature for the past day, the hill was looking very different! Patches of exposed grass and slush instead of snow.

We’ll just have to wait for the next snowfall!

Related Post: Dashing through The Snow – Viggo Has A Winter’s Blast!

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Robert Bell’s Lady Dufferin Lake: It’s Not Where The Map Says It Is!

Related Post: Temagami’s Lady Evelyn of the Lake – Who Was She?

Smoothwater Lake and Lady Dufferin Lake in the NW corner of Ontario’s Temagami area

I’ve paddled up the east branch of the Montreal River to its headwater lake, Smoothwater,  a couple of times. Before you get to it, you go through another lake named  Lady Dufferin.   Each time, I’ve wondered what the Lady would have thought had she seen the inconsequential, marsh-lined and not terribly scenic widening of the river that someone decided her name should grace.

It is actually not the lake that he had given the name to, as I would find out! The much more significant and scenic lake that he named Lady Dufferin was about twenty kilometres downriver!

Robert Bell of the Geological Survey of Canada:

The someone who did the naming was Robert Bell (1841-1917) of the Geological Survey of Canada, a department of the Canadian Government tasked with mapping the lakes and rivers – and cataloguing the mineral, agricultural, and timber wealth – of the Canadian Shield. He was one of the greatest of Canada’s greatest explorers and is credited with naming over 3000 geographical features in that part of Canada which he helped open up through his reports.

Robert Bell and field crew 1881

The report he submitted on the 1875 season detailed the terrain he and his crew paddled and portaged from Lake Huron to Wanapitei Lake and then up the Sturgeon, down the Montreal’s east branch, over to the Mattagami River, and down to James Bay before heading back to Michipicoten on Lake Superior via the Missinaibi River.  Quite the trip!

In the report, he mentions that he named a lake on the east branch of the Montreal River after Lady Dufferin.

Why Name A Lake After Lady Dufferin?

From 1872 to 1878, the just-created Dominion of Canada’s  Governor-General was Lord Dufferin. Bell had enough status in Ottawa society that he would have met the G-G and his wife at Ottawa gatherings or at their official residence, Rideau Hall. The Wiki bio linked above includes this observation –

Lady Dufferin was one of the most popular of the governor-generals’ wives, and was starting to build up her reputation as “the most effective diplomatic wife of her generation”.

Naming a lake after her may have been based on a personal connection to the G-G and his wife and an honour to be accorded to someone of her status. Here is what Bell had to say a few years before in his 1870 Report on Lake Nipigon:

Even though Bell often stuck with the local – i.e. Anishinaabe –  language names for places, he did on occasion reach into the name bag of Empire! As with Lady Evelyn for another lake in the area that he named after another G-G’s eldest daughter, this was one of those times.

The Bell Quote In The 1875 Report:

But back to my initial point –  was this really the best lake that Bell could choose to put her name on in his summer travels?  I turned to the 1875 Report hoping to find a direct quote about his naming the lake.   What I found was initially confusing;  it did not fit the names found at the headwaters of the east branch of the Montreal River!   Here is what he wrote:

The first bit of confusion was the name White Beaver Lake, which he uses instead of the one we use now – i.e. Smoothwater. The lake, he writes, is reached after traversing a series of ten lakes and ponds from the Sturgeon River. These ten stretch from Hamlow Lake by the Sturgeon River up to Apex Lake just south of Smoothwater.

Smoothwater is the English translation of the Ojibwe Zhooshkwaa (smooth) + agamiing (lake). On some maps it appears as ShusawagamingGiven the role the lake supposedly plays in the local version of Nanabush and the Flood Story, it does seem odd that its mythic significance is not acknowledged in some way in its name.

Bell’s dimensions and description for White Beaver fit exactly with Smoothwater Lake.  His name for the lake was probably the English translation of a name (Wabaamik?) he got from someone local.  It was not the one that eventually ended up on the map for some reason.

He writes that it is “fifteen or sixteen miles, in a straight line” to Lady Dufferin Lake from White Beaver Lake. He is clearly not describing the lake we know as Lady Dufferin Lake less than two kilometres below (i.e. to the north of) Smoothwater Lake!

Fifteen miles from Bell’s White Beaver Lake puts us right in Gowganda Lake. Again,  as with White Beaver (i.e.Smoothwater), the particulars of the lake fit perfectly with Bell’s description.  He notes the portages to enter the lake, and of the outlet, he writes –

The three lakes (Burk, Edith, and Obushkong) and the branch – a bay stretching NW to Kawakanika Lake – are on the map.

Gowganda Lake

Someone in the Mapping Department in Ottawa screwed up and attached Lady Dufferin’s name to the wrong spot on the map.  Instead of that “beautiful-shaped expansion” of the river 25 kilometers north of Smoothwater Lake, it is that non-descript “lake” just 2 kilometres downriver.

Now that I know Bell’s intent, the next time I paddle up to Smoothwater, I won’t be wondering how naming this short section of the river after someone would be considered an honour!

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A copy of the Bell Report can be found in this 48.5 Mb pdf file:

Geological Survey of Canada Reports of Exploration and Surveys 1875-1876.pdf 

The Bell Report – pp.294-342 

The reference to Lady Dufferin Lake is on p.299.

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If you’d like to paddle up to Smoothwater lake from the Beauty Lake Road put-in, click on the title below to access the map from the Ottertooth website’s Temagami Canoe Atlas Series:

Smoothwater Map

From Smoothwater, you have a few possible route options.  Two include:

  • heading south to Scarecrow Lake and a summit attempt on Ishpatina Ridge, Ontario’s highest point (2275’/693m).
  • turning east from Apex Lake and making your way down the south branch of the Lady Evelyn River.

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Related Posts – Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Route Options, Maps, Shuttles, Permits, And More

Posted in Temagami, wilderness canoe tripping | Leave a comment

Temagami’s Lady Evelyn of the Lake – Who Was She?

Related Post: Robert Bell’s Lady Dufferin Lake: It’s Not Where You Think!

Lady Evelyn – such a genteel name! How did it become the name of a lake in the Temagami area of northern Ontario? Who was she, and whose idea was it to name the lake after her? This post is a record of my attempt to deal with the question marks – abandoned more than once because of seeming dead ends or impossible-for-me-to-accept answers. After a year and a bit of stop and starts, I think I’ve arrived at the right place!

Table of Contents:

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Introduction:

By 1901 Geological Survey of Canada crews and surveying teams sent by the Ontario Government had spent a few summers paddling the waterways of the Temagami region and produced fairly detailed maps. Cartographers then labelled local landmarks, most lakes and rivers, and various significant landmarks.

Ontario Govt -issued map from 1901 – see here for the entire map set

  • Sometimes the English phonetic equivalent of a local Anishinaabe name was chosen -Temagami, Matabitchuan, Obabika, Wawiashkashi, Maskinonge, Anima-Nipissing – to name a few.
  • Sometimes the name was the English translation of the local Algonquin or Ojibwe word.
  • Some landmarks received the names of those who had come to the region to exploit its resources – fur, minerals, lumber – or to establish fishing lodges, hotels, or camps or to map it.

However, the names that do not seem to have any direct connection to the region sometimes leave those pouring over the maps wondering just what the story is. While there are more than a few that come to mind, none more so than the Three Ladies, all found at the north end of the Temagami area – Lady Dufferin, Lady Sydney and Lady Evelyn!

It was Lady Evelyn that first piqued my curiosity. The Ottertooth website is an excellent source of Temagami-related information, especially canoe route planning, so I headed there first.

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Option #1: Lady Evelyn Campbell

The Ottertooth article Who Was Lady Evelyn? notes that the lake was named by Robert Bell, the renowned Geological Survey of Canada geologist and explorer credited with naming over 3000 Canadian geographical features. A bit of googling led to this passage from a Geological Survey of Canada document published in 1899. Written  by Bell’s assistant, A.E. Barlow, the report confirmed the Bell origin of the name:

See here for Barlow’s entire report. The quote above is from p. 268.

What is noteworthy is that both Bell and Barlow often also mention the Ojibwe name used by the locals. It puts the notion of an “I came, I saw, I renamed” scenario to rest. The actual maps that the names would appear on were years in the future, and sometimes when they finally found their way to paper, they were put in the wrong place! [See my post – Robert Bell’s Lady Dufferin Lake: It’s Not Where the Map Says It Is! for an example.]

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The Ottertooth article turns to  Bruce Hodgins and Jamie Benidickson and their book The Temagami Experience for a possible answer to why Bell chose the name.

Bell, note Hodgins and Benidickson, was a prominent explorer in his day and moved in the upper circles of Ottawa. That included being on the guest list at Government House, the Governor General’s residence. The governor general from 1878 to 1883 was Sir John Douglas Campbell (Lord Lorne, 9th Duke of Argyll). His sister was Lady Evelyn Catherine Campbell and while visiting Canada likely met Bell at Government House. Maybe Bell became a little infatuated, as she was single until 1886.

The digital text of  The Temagami Experience is available at the Internet Archive site. [Click here to access it. Log in to borrow the book for an hour at a time.] I did spend an hour with the text. While I could not find the details mentioned in the above account, the one passage I found put a different spin on it. I read this –

Bell then entered Moozkananing, the haunt of the moose,’ which, consistant with imperial custom, he renamed Lady Evelyn Lake in honour of the sister of the former governor-general, the Marquis of Lorne. Traditions of empire thus began to compete with traditions of nature in the Temagami country. [Hodgins, 52]

While Bell uses the name in a summary report of his 1887 or 1888 fieldwork in the Temagami area, he does not explicitly state it was his idea. (See here for the text.)

This was not the first time Bell had named a lake after someone related to a Canadian Governor-General. In 1875 on his first trip through the region, Bell had renamed a lake that Hodgins says had the local name Negigwaning (“the place of the otter heads”) as Lady Dufferin Lake. Her husband was the Governor-General from 1872 to 1878. One might see it as a way of honouring or, if you lean towards the more cynical,  currying favour with an important political figure.

However, there are problems with Hodgins’ choice of Lady Evelyn Campbell as the Lady Evelyn of the Lake. The first is the timing. His Excellency The Marquis of Lorne was the Governor-General of Canada from 1878-1883, having succeeded Lord Dufferin. If the Lady Evelyn after whom the lake was named was the Marquis of Lorne’s sister, then Bell chose to name it after her at least five years after her brother’s return to England.

How often she would have been in Ottawa for Bell to meet is unclear, although, given the nature of travel back then, it couldn’t have been more than two or three times. [Seven to ten days was typical for the London to Quebec City trip in 1880.]

Did she make that much of an impression on a 40-year-old married man with three children? Born in 1855, she would have been between 23 and 28 when Bell would presumably have met her while she was visiting Rideau Hall from London.

Robert Bell –  the lower middle figure with the beard –  with his field crew in 1881

[Bell was born in 1841; he married in 1873 to Agnes Smith in Glasgow. By 1888 they had two daughters. He joined the Geological Survey of Canada on a full-time basis in 1867 and, by 1879, was promoted to the position of Assistant Director. See here for a brief account of Bell’s life.]

The Hodgins’ explanation includes the line – “Maybe Bell became a little infatuated, as she was single until 1886.” Not clear is if this is Hodgins’ view or that of the Ottertooth writer. Given his marital status, It seems unlikely that Bell would so publically try to ingratiate himself to this Lady Evelyn, years after one of her occasional visits to Ottawa and two years after she got married.

If he did so to make a positive impression on her brother, he waited too long! Since the Marquis of Lorne’s appointment ended in 1883, five years before Bell named the lake, it is unlikely that naming it after the ex-G-G or his sister would have earned him any useful credit! Doing so would also have had the current G-G wondering precisely what Bell was implying with his naming gesture!

Update: More time with Hodgins’ book turned up this footnote which states that Evelyn Campbell is the Lady of the Lake without providing any reason why this would be so other than the probability that they might have met in Ottawa while her brother was G-G some five years before she was accorded the honour.

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Option #2: Marie Evelyn Moreton/Lady Byng

See here for the image source.

More googling the name “Lady Evelyn” led to another candidate –  Evelyn Byng, Viscountess Byng of Vimy, a former Viceregal Consort of Canada.” Lady Evelyn Byng, the wife of one of Canada’s Governors-General, the one who served from 1921 to 1926. [Note: she is the Lady Byng who donated a trophy to the NHL in 1925 to be awarded to the most gentlemanly player each year.]

This Evelyn was born Marie Evelyn Moreton in 1870 and married Lord Byng in 1902. Since Bell named the lake Lady Evelyn as early as 1888 and maps from 1900 already show the name in use, could Bell really have thought of this Evelyn when he made the choice? She was 33 years from coming to Canada as the wife of a Governor-General!

However, from the late 1870s, when the Marquis of Lorne was the G-G of Canada, Marie Evelyn Moreton’s father had served as the comptroller at the official residence, Rideau Hall. She would have been between eight and thirteen years old during her father’s tenure in Ottawa. If Option #1 is unlikely, then even more so is that Bell would name the lake after the pre-teen daughter of an employee of the Governor-General five years after her family returned to England from their Canada service.

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Option #3: Lady Evelyn Selina Louisa Ward (Crichton)

See here for the image source

A third possible Lady Evelyn appeared when I googled my way into “What’s In a Name?” an article by Jennifer McCartney. She had turned to The Encylopedia of Canada for the answer. This particular encyclopedia set dates back to 1935.

Here is what her article has to say –

But there’s intriguing mention of another Lady Evelyn that suggests the lake could be named for a different British aristocrat. This comes via the Encylopaedia of Canada, Volume III that has an entry for Lady Evelyn Lake.

“The lake was so called probably by a tourist or prospector, Member of the Orange Association before 1896 in honour of Evelyn Louisa Salina, daughter of John Henry, 4th Earl of Erne, who was born on 21st July, 1879. The Erne Family has long been associated, as Grand Masters and otherwise with the Orange association. Conjectured date of naming was 1879, shortly after Lady Evelyn’s birth or baptism.”

Lady Evelyn Selina Louisa Crichton was born around the right time for this story to make sense. She later married Gerald Ward, who was killed in the First Battle of Ypres. There’s no evidence this Lady Evelyn travelled to Canada in her lifetime—but the Orange Order was well-established in Canada by this time, and perhaps an enthusiastic Protestant was so inspired by her birth that they named a lake after her.

Thirty years before McCartney’s article, the Reid/Grand classic Canoeing Ontario’s Rivers, depending on the same sources, had made the same assertion.  Their chapter on the Lady Evelyn river began like this –

I checked out the biography of John Henry Crichton, 4th Earl of Erne – the Wikipedia article mentions some children. It did not include a Lady Evelyn Selina Louisa! (See here.) She does, however, appear in other genealogical lists, including these two

 

 

 

 

[See here for the source.]

One problem with this account is that it attributes the naming not to Robert Bell but to a member of the Orange Order (a militant Protestant Christian group formed in Ulster, Ireland, in the late 1700s). Since the name Lady Evelyn was used by the Geological Survey of Canada by 1888, this Lady Evelyn would have been no more than nine when her name was chosen.

Presumably, her father’s status as an Irish Orange Protestant Grand Master or a defender of Protestant Christianity in Ireland was the main factor that led to her name being chosen. However, none of the online information I found indicated a connection to the Orange Order or his staunch defence of a Protestant Ireland.

In the end, it seems far-fetched that this Evelyn is the answer to the question. It is so obscure that no one would even have known that a statement was being made by naming the lake after her. The tourist alone would not have been able to do any map labelling!   Is it possible that Bell, on meeting this Orange Order member who was visiting the Temagami area, decided that his suggestion made sense? More research into Bell’s religious background may explain why Bell, the son of a Scottish Presbyterian clergyman, would feel compelled to honour some Anglo-Irish peer’s nine-year-old daughter by naming a lake after her!

The passage from McCartney above ends with one last observation – “perhaps an enthusiastic Protestant was so inspired by her birth that they named a lake after her.” It leaves you wanting to know what could have been that inspiring about her birth! She was the fourth of a minor Earl’s six children! As with Hodgins’ use of the word “maybe” before he suggests a romantic yearning prompted Bell’s choice, McCartney’s use of the qualifier “perhaps” is a clue that she is definitely over-reaching for an explanation.

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Craig Macdonald, the creator of an Ojibwe-language-only map of the Temagami area, has another version of the Robert Bell-John Henry Crichton connection. In an article in Legion: Canada’s Military Magazine (May 2006), the journalist  summarizes what is presumably Macdonald’s explanation like this –

In the 1880s, Robert Bell of the Geological Survey of Canada named it Lady Evelyn Lake after the daughter of an Irish aristocrat of his acquaintance. (source here)

Instead of the Encyclopedia of Canada account of a prospector or tourist suggesting the name (but not indicating to whom),  here Bell himself takes the initiative thanks to a personal relationship with the Earl that he acknowledges by naming a lake after the Earl’s nine-year-old daughter. But why her and not her sister Mabel Florence, born three years later in 1882? Some actual evidence is needed before this Evelyn can be accepted as the answer!

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The Ontario Names Board Secretariat Replies

It was around this time, having come up with three less than satisfying candidates,  that I gave up on the question! Months later, on noticing that the Ontario Government’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Foresty had an Ontario Names Board Secretariat, I figured I’d send off an email asking about Lady Evelyn and Lady Sydney Lakes. Maybe they had an answer?   I got this prompt reply-

Your request was forwarded to me here at the Ontario Geographic Names Board Secretariat.  I researched our digital historical geographic names records and found the attached official records from our card catalogue of names.

The card states that Lady Evelyn Lake was made official on March 2, 1950 and was “named by a tourist or prospector member of the Orange Assoc., before 1896 after Evelyn Louisa Salina daughter of John Henry 4th Earl of Erne. Presumed date of naming was 1879 shortly after Lady Evelyn’s birth or baptism.” It lists numerous historical map references for this name, as well as some for Evyline Lake and Mattawapika River.

Unfortunately the card for Lady Sydney Lake does not include any origin information.  It was made official on the same day, March 2, 1950.

A shocker for sure! Here is the card from which the above information was taken –  a section that sounds like that Encyclopaedia of Canada article McCartney quotes.

Ontario Names Board card………. [See here for Lady Sydney. N.B. I cleaned it up!)

Given that the name had appeared on Government of Canada topos since the 1890s, you have to wonder why the name only became official in 1950! Perhaps the federal and provincial governments duplicated the work by having separate naming commissions?

The card refers to a Mr. Fullerton, a Surveyor-General of Ontario, as one source of the explanation. A Mr. C. H. Fullerton is identified as the then- Surveyor-General of the Province of Ontario in a 1938 article “A Winter Survey” by F.H. Peters. The Liberals ran the provincial government from 1934 to 1943, so his job as surveyor-general probably coincided with those dates. The reference to him is tagged with a WB/’45 which does confuse the issue. Given that it was wartime and his position was not a political one, it may be that he still held his job in 1945.

The paragraph on the card is all but identical to the section from the Encyclopedia quoted by McCartney. Fullerton and whoever wrote the paragraph on the card got their information from the entry on Lady Evelyn Lake in the Encyclopedia article mentioned above. The Encyclopedia’s entries were written mainly by W.S. Wallace, who also edited the six-volume set.

Where Wallace found his story – who can say!

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More on Lady Evelyn Selena! Hodgins, in his The Temagami Experience (1989), considers the likelihood that she is the Evelyn of the Lake and dismisses it here –

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A Side Question Pops Up!

I thought back to Robert Bell and his preference for using Indigenous names. How come he had not used Monskananing or Mooskanaw instead of Lady Evelyn?

In regard to geographical names, we endeavored to ascertain all those used by the Indians, both in reference to places on Lake Nipigon itself and in the surrounding country. These we always adopted in preference to any others. For the correct meaning and mode of spelling the Indian names, I am indebted principally to Mr. Henry De La Roiule, of Poplar Lodge. There are, however, many geographical features for which the Indians appear to have no distinctive names. When names of any other origin existed for these, we always adopted them. There still remained many localities for which we could hear of no designation whatever, and it then became necessary, for the convenience of description, to give names to them.

Was Lady Evelyn Lake a geographical feature for which the Indians appear to have no distinctive name? When names of any other origin existed for these, we always adopted them. Clearly, this was not the case; Barlow mentions the very name in the first quote of this post. While it makes you wonder why he did not just choose the local name,  it also shows that there was no reason for him to accept a name proposed by a tourist to the region intent on celebrating the Loyal Orange Order.

Bell was in the Temagami area in 1887 and 1888. A couple of years later, he was down in the Sudbury area, where a mining boom prompted the need for a better understanding of the area’s geology. In the introductory pages of the report published in 1891 – Report on the Sudbury Mining District – Bell wrote –

In some cases the expressive Indian names which had been m use from time immemorial had been replaced by others on the surveyors’ township plans. In such instances, while accepting the latter, we have also restored the aboriginal designations upon our map. But it was found that many features made known by our explorations and surveys to which frequent reference required to be made, had no names whatever, and to these, for convenience of reference, we were obliged to give some distinguishing appellation.

Was Monskananing not expressive enough? Maybe it was too common? Googling Moose Lake at the Natural Resources Canada topo site turned up over fifty variations! Still, this makes it no different than all the lakes with names like Trout, Long, or Cliff that can also be found in multiple locations on a map of Canada.

And what about – In regard to geographical names, we endeavoured to ascertain all those used by the Indians…These we always adopted in preference to any others? Hodgins states “Bell then entered Moozkananing, the haunt of the moose,’ which, consistent with imperial custom, he renamed Lady Evelyn Lake…” Given Bell’s overall record and openness to Anishinaabe names, Hodgins’ statement is overly harsh.

The arrival of the Lady Evelyn card scan from the Ontario Names Board and the puzzle about why Bell did not just go with Mooskananing or Monskanaw or some other variant brought me to an impasse! I put the whole thing aside.

And then, a few days ago and almost a year later, I was mapping this summer’s canoe trip in the Lady Evelyn area. Going through Hap Wilson’s Temagami canoe tripping guidebook, I came across a statement that prompted me to reopen the case of Lady Evelyn of the Lake!

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Option #4: Lady Evelyn Emily Mary Fitzmaurice/Lady Cavendish (after 1892) the Duchess of Devonshire after 1908

Lady Evelyn Lake lost its Ojibwa title of mons-kaw-naw-ming [sic] or “haunt of the moose” to the wife of the Duke of Devonshire, probably because of the difficulty Whites had in pronouncing Native names. [Temagami, 91]

That glib comment got me wondering. Since Monskananing has no more syllables and is no more difficult to pronounce than Wawiashkashi, TimiskamingBiscotasing, or Matabitchuan,  there had to be a better explanation of how the lake came to be known as Lady Evelyn.   And given that Wilson would have known of Robert Bell and his work with the Geological Survey of Canada, his “probably” prefaces an explanation that he knew was not the case.

The Wilson quote did provide a possible clue – “Duke of Devonshire’. Another British lord! Perhaps finding out who he was might lead to an explanation?

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While there is a long list of Dukes of Devonshire, the one with a Canada connection was Victor Cavendish, the ninth in the line. He succeeded his uncle Spenser Compton Cavendish as Duke of Devonshire when he died without an heir in 1908. More to the point, the ninth Duke served as Canada’s Governor-General from 1916 to 1921. However, since his appointment came almost thirty years after Bell named the lake,  this lead did not look too promising!

However, this bit of information provided the possible answer to the question –

He married Lady Evelyn Emily Mary Fitzmaurice, eldest daughter of Lord Lansdowne (Canada’s fifth Governor General), on July 30, 1892.  (See here for the source)

Since the name was already in use by 1900, long before Duke #9 became G-G in 1916, if Monskananing lost its place to anyone, it was to Lady Evelyn as the daughter of Lord Landsdowne and not as the wife of the Duke of Devonshire.

Portrait of Lady Evelyn Cavendish, John Singer Sargent (1902)

Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, served as Canada’s Governor-General from 1883 to 1888. His wife, Lady Maud Evelyn Hamilton and their four children accompanied him. His eldest daughter, Evelyn Emily Mary, born in 1870, would thus have spent most of her teen years in  Canada.

In 1892, Evelyn would marry the man who would eventually become the Ninth Duke of Devonshire. As the Duchess of Cavendish, she gave birth to five children, all but the oldest of whom were still alive when she died in 1960.

As noted above, in 1875, Bell had named a nearby Lake Lady Dufferin while her husband served as G-G. Since the name Evelyn was shared by Lord Landsdowne’s wife and daughter – and since they were in the last year of their stay in Ottawa –  naming the lake after one or both of them was probably meant as a final thank-you for their public service to Canada.

Just which of the two did Bell have in mind? Given that his wife was technically Marquessa and Evelyn was only her second name, that leaves his 18-year-old daughter as the most likely person after whom the lake was named!

Unlike Lady Evelyn Campbell, who may have visited Canada a handful of times during her brother’s appointment, this Lady Evelyn spent most of her teen years in Ottawa. She may have been familiar with Bell’s children, though they would have been 10 years younger and closer in age to Evelyn’s younger siblings.

  • Option #1: Lady Evelyn Campbell 
  • Option #2: Marie Evelyn Moreton/Lady Byng
  • Option #3: Lady Evelyn Selina Louisa Ward (Crichton)
  • Option #4:Lady Evelyn Emily Mary Fitzmaurice/the Duchess of Devonshire

Of the four options above, it is #4 which best fits the evidence. The 18-year-old daughter of Lord Landsdowne, Lady Evelyn Emily Mary Fitzmaurice,  is whom  Bell named the lake after in 1888, the last year of her father’s term as Governor-General.

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Related Post: Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Introduction and a Bit of History

Posted in Anishinaabek World, Temagami, wilderness canoe tripping | Leave a comment

-10ºC and Snow in Toronto – Great For Tobogganning!

toboggan: a Quebec French word from the Anishinaabe (i.e.Algonkian) word topagan meaning “sled”.  Along with “toque” and “loonie” and “eh” and “two-four”, the word makes most sense to fellow Canadians!

overview of the Broadview sliding hill – spot the CN Tower!

We’ve had a cold stretch here in Toronto and it doesn’t look like things are warming up any day soon! Here is the Weather Network forecast for the next week – some low nighttime temps coming up, including -19ºC tonight. Also expected – another 5 to 10 cm. of snow!

 

I grabbed my iPhone as I left the house. Since I was walking past the section of Broadview Avenue popular with sledders and sliders, I figured I’d grab a shot or two of the scene. I had just been exchanging emails with someone in the Serengeti region of Tanzania; I planned on sending him a photo of what things look like here on a sunny -9ºC afternoon.  He might get a chuckle at the contrast with what he has!

I walked up our street to Broadview. While the sidewalks are now mostly bare, there are still snow piles of snow on the curb.  Early this week we got a month’s worth of snow in a day! It will be a while before the City crew comes by and takes it away.

There were dozens of people -more often than not, the parents – standing at the top of the hill when I got to Broadview.  The hardpacked snow surface was giving the tobogganners the thrills they were after.

At the south end of the hill is where the parents with younger children head; the slope is more moderate and it makes for a better introduction to this quintessential Canadian pastime! The activity is not without its risks; last week an Ottawa child died on her first-ever try at tobogganing.

I passed these two guys standing there with their chillin’ Leonberger and my thoughts turned to our own dog, an Icelandic sheepdog named Viggo.  We have walked up and down this hill a thousand times over the past 12 years.  For the past couple of months, I have not been out doing the daily five or six kilometers that Viggo and I used to – we lost Viggo to liver cancer in November and things just haven’t been the same.

Viggo – one happy Icelandic Sheepdog

What used to be done on wooden toboggans – that is, sleds with curled-up fronts like the one pictured below  –  when I was a bit younger back in the late 1950s,  is now done mostly on plastic!

the classic wooden toboggan from back in the day!

I never did stick around to see if the passenger on this sled was able to hold on to her iPhone all the way down – or whether they ended up tumbling off the sled before they got to the bottom.  Let’s hope she was able to post an awesome TikTok video of their epic 20-second slide down Broadview Hill!

Across the street from the slopes sits a local landmark, the Ukrainian Catholic Church – definitely an eye-catching piece of architecture that blends tradition with modernity.

As you walk north along Broadview you soon come to the tennis courts; there are four of them and they are all buried under a meter of snow.  It is a good thing that Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov are playing down under right now!

Next to the courts is the hockey rink and beside it is an open skating area for folks without hockey sticks.

As I passed by, skaters were lined on the perimeter of the open skating area waiting for the Zamboni machine to finish cleaning the ice.

Even though the thermometer read -8ºC, it felt great to be outside and do a bit of walking!

Just north of the skating rink is the Loblaw’s grocery store where I was headed.  All the way up I had stepped aside to keep my distance from other walkers.  Now – as we approach Year 3 on the Covid calendar – I slipped on my black N95 mask and headed inside to do a bit of shopping.

 

Posted in Toronto | 2 Comments

Bushwhacking the Ogoki Headwaters: Days 3, 4, and 5

Previous Post: Paddling The Ogoki Headwaters – Days 1 and 2

Day Three: When You’ve Got Two Bad Choices!

Ogoki headwaters – Day 3 – some trouble spots circled

  • distance: 2.5 km total, about 510 m of boreal bushwhacking
  • time: 8 h
  • portages/rapids: an all-day extravaganza, read on!
  • weather: hot, very hot (  17˚ to 31 ˚C; max. humidex ~36˚); mostly clear
  • campsite: nice thick, fluffy, bouncy boreal moss, everywhere 🙂
  • 052 J 09 Neverfreeze Lake – Natural Resources Canada archived 1:50,000 topo map
  • See Toporama (here) for NCR’s current interactive coloured mapping and print what you need.
  • our Garmin inReach-generated GPS track (here)- (Click on View All Tracks at the top right-hand corner)

Another early get-up to take advantage of the cool of the early morning … As the following video clip shows, we got to paddle a  tranquil slice of the boreal forest, definitely an upgrade from the bushwhacking down the river bed of the first two kilometers of the Ogoki.

It was not to last –  that jarring sound at the very end of the clip woke us from our dream state!

The nose of the canoe hit a submerged log just not quite deep enough to skim over.  Back to reality!  And as we rounded the bend in the river,  a complication up ahead!

I hopped out to have a look; it did not look good! I scampered along the left shore about 25 meters to see what was coming up – still not good! It was a replay of the situation we had faced for most of the previous day – and one we were not keen on repeating!

Ogoki headwaters blockage

Ogoki headwaters river view

In planning for the trip, I’d checked out my copy of Canoe Atlas of The Little North (2007). It indicates a 1440-meter portage trail that allows paddlers to avoid the kilometer or two of yet more bushwhacking that they would have to do if they choose to stay with the river.

The Wabakimi Project Volume 1 map (my copy dates from 2009) had the same 1440-m portage but also notes the logging road (702) which crosses it at the one-kilometer point before a final section of trail down to the water. Given that its portage distances are identical to those in the Canoe Atlas, it is likely that the Project map has taken its info from the Canoe Atlas.

Wabakimi Project map – portages from Savant Lake To Tew Lake Via Ogoki River

A post-trip visit to the useful canoe tripper’s online resource,  Paddle Planner,   turned up the following rendition of the portage.  At the bottom left-hand corner, a credit is given to the Wabakimi Project map.  Given the very precise measure of the portage  – 1278 meters –  the impression left is that it is based on someone actually having walked it.

We paddled back to the bend in the river where our map indicated the start of the portage. After going back and forth a couple of times and seeing nothing – no flagging tape, no sign of a canoe landing, no sign of human traffic, no blazes – we were left with a choice to make:

  • go back and deal with what the river had for us or
  • make our own “trail” through the bush.

Given the eight hours we had spent on Day 2 dealing with the first two kilometers, we had no reason to think the next five would be any easier. Low to no water and no portage trails would mean another full day of slogging.  Much better to go overland and skirt all the problems the river was throwing our way – a portage of two or three hours and we would be done with it.  That, at least, was the thinking!

While we were at the maximum trip weight – with 23 kg. of food in our packs – even at 9:30,  it was hot enough that the mosquitos that could have made it a nasty experience, were nowhere to be seen. Off we set. If there was a portage trail in there, we did not stumble upon it!

satellite view of the terrain from the river bend to the open water

We decided to move across in small 100-meter legs, each of which required three carries so that for every 100 meters forward we were walking 500. We found out soon enough that it would not be easy.

Ironically, in this summer of massive wildfires in the boreal forests of northwest Ontario, this slice of it could really use a good burn!  We were walking on a mishmash of lichen, rotten tree trunks and assorted deadfall and blowdown. Most steps were question marks as we moved our gear down the line to the next bit of orange duck tape.

About 1 1/2 hours into the “portage” I did express the thought that maybe we had made the wrong choice.  What to do?  Spend 1 1/2 hours moving everything back to the river and deal with what we had tried to avoid – or push on with what we started?

Some high school Shakespeare bubbled into my mind and I recalled Macbeth’s words as he surveyed the results of his murderous path so far –

I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.

Change the word blood to bloody boreal and our situation was nicely encapsulated. Like Macbeth, we decided to go o’er!

on our way to that logging road

We didn’t know it at the time but we had embraced probably our most unsettling and forgettable canoe tripping experience ever – and one that we’ll never forget! Over the next 26 hours, we would spend eight of them bushwhacking through the boreal Canadian Shield version of an Amazon jungle.

Max checking his Etrex 20 to make sure we are on track

what looks like a friendly section of our carry

By 2:30 or so we were “bushed”! We had covered a mere 500 meters and the temperature was in the low 30s C. It was feeling even hotter. And we had a water problem; we were running low and would not have enough for the next morning unless we went back to the muddy creek we had crossed a half-hour previously and filled up our three Gravity Works bags.

We decided to stop for the day. Up went the tent; out came the lunch bag.  After a bit of a break, we wandered back and scooped up 12 liters of somewhat muddy creek water.

our tent halfway across the “portage”

Later, after supper, when I went for a walk to see what tomorrow morning held in store, I was able to string together a series of rock outcrops with little vegetation on them.  While they took us off our direct path, they made progress easier. Before we crawled into our sleeping bags, we made use of this easy section to haul the canoe, the water bags, and the food bags another 140 meters down the line.

some bare spots in the boreal – string enough together in as straight a line as possible and you have a portage trail!

Day 4: Out To the Logging Road and Back To the River

  • distance: 5 km to campsite
  • time: 11 hrs.
  • portages/rapids: 2/0 – 720 m (to the road); 1.72 km on the logging road to the river, then back on the Ogoki for the rest!!
  • weather: very hot 😦  20 C˚ to 33 ˚C;  max. humidex ~40 ˚C; from clear to partly cloudy
  • campsite: make-do on raised outcrop; ok for 1 x 4 person

We were back at it by 8:30. Shortly after noon, we got to the logging road. Totally focussed on just getting to the road, we had taken zero photos of our traverse!

The logging road goes north and crosses the Ogoki about 1.7 km. from where we came out. First, we walked up and down the gravel road to see if there were any traces of a portage trail or signs of anyone having come out of the bush on our side of the road. Nothing evident. We looked on the other side of the road for signs of a trail or of human traffic that would indicate a portage back to the river. Again, nothing.

Not keen on another session of boreal bushwhacking to get to the water, we picked the other option. We would move our gear up to the logging road to the bridge that crosses the Ogoki River and put in there. We fantasized about an empty logging truck passing by and stopping to give us a lift. A fantasy it remained!

The 32ºC  temperature and the complete lack of shade during the hottest part of the day had us break the 1.7 km. road portage into segments of 300 or 400 meters. At the end of each double-load carry, we took a ten-minute break. Two and half hours later, we were at the bridge and keen to get back to a canoe trip that involved water!

the logging road we walked up to access the river

I looked west from the bridge and saw the Ogoki snaking its way through low-level scrub and marshy terrain. As it came up the bridge it was maybe 15 cm deep, maybe just enough to float our canoe.

the Ogoki river headwaters as it snakes towards logging bridge 702

We hauled the canoe and bags down to the river, squeezing by a cached boat to do so. While the initial stretch looked promising we would soon find that the shallow water meant for more than a bit of scraping and hauling the canoe over semi-submerged logs and rocks.  From 5 to 6:30 we managed to move down 2.1 km. of the river.

the downriver side of the bridge – our put in

Faced with another portage, we took a quick look before deciding a good night’s rest was in order and that we’d leave it for the next day.  When we saw a flat spot on an elevated rock outcrop nearby, we headed over to check it out.  It would have to do!

Day 4 CS on the banks of the Ogoki

Our focus on “top to bottom” river trips has provided us with some challenging but, in the end, exhilarating situations.  However, in this case, we were not feeling the exhilarated bit! Had we decided to continue our trip down the Ogoki via the portage by-pass route, originally developed because the river itself was probably even more work, we were faced with the likelihood that those portages also no longer existed and that more bushwhacking would be on tap.

That night we made the decision to pull the plug on our exploration of the upper Ogoki – well, at least the rest of the headwaters section to just before Wabakimi Lake.

We figure that all the portages marked in red on the map above are now only historical in nature. They were probably a part of an HBC fur transit route from Nipigon House on Wabinosh Bay (and after 1830 relocated to near Jackfish Island) on Lake Nipigon. Once the furs arrived at Osnaburgh House they were transported down the Albany to company warehouses on James Bay.

Canoe Atlas of the Little North (2007) indicates all these portages; the Friends of Wabakimi map from two years later reproduces them all. Trails that haven’t existed for a hundred years or more survive on paper. It reminds me of

  • the historical-only Mink Portage on the Kopka River or
  • the Big Bend Portage on the Pikitigushi River above the Mud River VIA stop.

They continued to appear on NRC topo maps into the 1990s even though they no longer exist. However, since no one uses them anyway, it doesn’t really matter, at least not until someone plans on walking them!

the string of Ogoki lakes from Tew to the Reservoir

Beyond Tew Lake the Ogoki takes on a totally different character; it becomes a sequence of big lakes joined by narrow channels punctuated with rapids and falls and well-used portage trails. Wabakimi, Kenoji, Whitewater, Whiteclay…all the way to the Ogoki Reservoir and beyond.

In my pre-trip planning, I had calculated that we would be on Whitewater Lake by the end of Day 5. Well, here we were at the end of Day 4 about 5 kilometers as the crow flies from our Endogoki starting point!

With supper done, we made use of our Garmin inReach Explorer+ to send Mattice Lake Outfitters an email about the possibility of a “Beaver shuttle” from the lake we would be on the next morning east to Whitewater Lake. We got a response much faster than expected – “We’ll pick you up mid-afternoon tomorrow. Just send us your exact coordinates.”

[At the end of the trip as we sat on the Mattice Lake Outfitters porch, Don Elliot gave us a souvenir photocopy of the map sheet on which someone had pencilled in “Albinger Lake” on the patch of open water where the pilot would land the next afternoon. They could not remember ever landing a plane on that lake!

a view of the next morning’s first order of business – an unrunnable set of rapids

Day 5: Airlift From Ogoki Headwaters To Whitewater Lake

  • distance: 3 km; 69 km;
  • time: 2h + waiting time; 26 min flying time,
  • portages/rapids: 2/0 – lining 150 m into Nameless Lake
  • weather: hot (20 C˚ to 33˚ with max. humidex ~40 C˚); clear/partly cloudy
  • campsite: camper’s choice, multiple 4 person spots on the shore but all exposed

This morning  I took another look at the sleep data generated by my Polar Vantage M watch.  My usual overnight sleeping heart rate average is 47;  after Night 3 it read 65; during Night 4 my sleeping heart rate average had climbed to 75 beats per minute! Yikes!

We looked forward to a few hours of sitting around and waiting for the plane to arrive – but there would be some work to do first.

a view of our tent space – without the tent

With the tent down and the canoe loaded, we set off for the first of the morning’s to-do list. It came up within a couple of minutes.  In the image below, the canoe sits in 15 cm of water and I’ve walked ahead to see what we need to do. Shallow water meant that the portage along the left side of the river would be a bit longer.

Twenty minutes later we had hauled everything to the bottom and were ready for what the river had for us next.

at the bottom of a mini portage on the Ogoki headwaters

Surprise! A minute or two down a stretch we could float in –

And then one final bit of hauling to get beyond the boulder garden you see in the image below. We hopped on the rocks on river left to get to the bottom –

looking back at the boulder garden we had just portaged

The nameless lake below the two dry sets of rapids on the Ogoki headwaters took us an hour to get to.

Once on the widened section of the river,  we paddled over to the west shore.  It was there that the supposed portage trail comes out.  We found no evidence of a portage or of human traffic as we scanned the shoreline.

Ultimately, you have to wonder – who would be coming this way-  and from where? It would certainly not be locals from Osnaburgh House or the VIA stop at Savant Lake.  This route would lead them nowhere that they would want to go.  Locals do not even travel by canoe anymore – and the route is certainly not one for a “boat and kicker”!

Our scan of the west shore of the lake done, we paddled over to the other side and set up the tarp to give us a bit of shade.  We also took advantage of the sloped rock and the beach to cool off in the lake, had a leisurely lunch,  and another cup of coffee.

Around 3:30 p.m. we started listening more carefully for the drone of a De Havilland. The plane finally arrived at 5 and by 6 we were 70 kilometers  downriver.  With our airlift completed, we paddled to the south shore of Whitewater Lake not far from the Wilderness North outpost at the lake’s west end and set up camp. It felt great to be sitting next to water  – we were back to actually being able to paddle!

Whitewater Lake – west end beach campsite

Coming up: two days of canoeing across Whitewater Lake with return visits to the Ogoki Lodge property and the Wendell Beckwith Cabins on Best Island. Things had changed since our previous visit in 2011!

The following post has all the details and pix!

Next Post: A Two-Day Paddle Across The Ogoki’s Whitewater Lake From West To East

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