Day 14: Phortse Tenga - Dole
A short day of hiking, spending only 2 1/2 hours on the main trail before arriving at your destination, you can supplement your hike with side trips around Dole to uncover fantastic Himalayan wonders. Some of the most spectacular views on the trail were seen during one side trip this day. For tips on safe acclimatization above 3500 meters click on the link Life at High Altitude. We played it safe and averaged an ascent of around 400-600 meters per day in the higher elevations and, besides being short of breath above 5100 meters, did not get sick. I can't tell you how many people we talked to who took only one rest day in Namche Bazaar, ascended to Gokyo or Kalla Pattar way to fast, became sick, and had to cut their trip short. We also saw about 7-10 medical evacuations per day, about half of which were for altitude related illnesses.
Hiking out of Phortse Tenga (3580 meters), follow the upper trail which traverses a short but breathless incline through Birch & Rhododendron forest passing the now abandoned Dole National Park Headquarters. If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of musk deer and you pass a large and a few smaller waterfalls before the terrain evens out and you walk the undulating trail along the side of the mountain. About 2-3 hours out of Phortse Tenga turning a corner you arrive at Dole (4040 meters). We elected to stay at the newly built Riverside Lodge at the end of town (lodge with red roof in the slide show) which was clean and served delicious fried potatoes and noodles. Although you can push it to Lhafarma (fewer facilities) or Luza at 4350 meters, know your limits especially when it comes to high altitude. Ascending 800 meters without proper acclimatization above 3500 meters can be dangerous. Don't go to high to fast above this elevation or you may have to go descend before you want to.
Side trips from Dole: When entering Dole (from Phortse Tenga) take a left up the steep hill, and head towards several prayer flags tied to a series of rocks, about a 15-20 minute walk up from town. You are rewarded with a wall of Himalayan mountains including Kangtaiga & you may possibly see Cho Oyu to your left. The sunsets from this perch are breathtaking. You can also explore further down the river in Dole following a valley where yaks pasture in the summer leading to a large field about 45 minutes from Dole.