Kathmandu: Climber’s Night Out
R & R in the big city
Summiting Everest is so stressful climbers need a place to exhale. Chaotic Kathmandu is where they relax. For you on your Everest Base Camp trek, it’s the best place to hear their stories and gain insight into what it’s like to be on Mt. Everest. You might also pick up helpful intel for your trek.
Kathmandu is party town for the high altitude climbing set, their chance to be less disciplined and let the world know about their bucket list achievement. At Everest Base Camp they never mix with trekkers fearing they could pick up a virus that would derail their Everest attempt, but in Kathmandu’s bars and restaurants they are less protective and more social.
Below are a few Kathmandu climber hangouts worth exploring for their nightlife. These are not four star places and some are no-stars buried in Kathmandu’s serpentine backstreets that harken back to the pre jet-set era. Chances are you could meet a world class climber like Reinhold Messner or a Sherpa letting off steam after a climb. Adventurous locals out on the town are always there and are friendly with international visitors.
Where climbing gods descend
The original Rum Doodle in Kathmandu’s Thamel night district sounds like something right out of a novel and it is. The restaurant’s name derives from W.E. Bowman’s satiric fiction, “The Ascent of Rum Doodle,” that pokes fun at the gyrations climbers go through to bag Everest.
The restaurant was relocated to the Naxal district after the 2015 earthquake and is opposite the police station. It is still covered with Yeti cardboard cutouts of boot prints on which Everest summiteers write about their journey. A bonfire out back is a meeting place to swap summit stories.
Everyone who has summited Everest gets his name on Rum Doodle’s walls and a free meal a day for life. It’s the unofficial Everest winner’s circle and photos of early climbers are throughout. The new Rum Doodle is bigger, brighter but still caters to the climber set with Western comfort food and drink. If nothing else, go to see pictures and signatures of the most famous Everest summiteers.
Cool down in the back alleys
British climbing guide Kenton Cool has summited Everest 11 times and is a devotee of Kathmandu’s night scene. He favors Sam’s Bar in Thamel, because it stays open late. Cool also likes its off the grid location as you would expect a mountaineer to seek. Sam’s is the classic dive bar where no food is served and is in a back alley on the upper floor of a dilapidated building.
“I’ve had some great drinking sessions in authentic back alley bars where beers are one tenth of the price and no one can speak English. You can have an absolute riot with the locals,” he told The Guardian.
On more somber occasions, Cool goes somewhere else. “I’ve experienced death on the mountain. When Inaki died on Annapurna in 2008 we spent an afternoon in a bar called the Roadhouse where we raised a glass to him and reminisced.”
All that jazz and reggae
Nepal is flowering culturally ten years after its claustrophobic Maoist insurgency that imposed 10 p.m. curfews. New places are opening all the time attracting climbers and trekkers. Jazz aficionados flock to Jazz Upstairs across from the French Embassy where local musicians play with international drop-ins. For the younger set, there are reggae clubs and the Fire Disco. These places are sprinkled throughout Thamel.
Tom & Jerry’s Pub is an older place with walls covered with climbing memorabilia and is welcoming for either small groups or soloists. Some older folks feel out of place when the live music cranks on weekends, but the pool tables and big screens showing Euro/USA sports sometimes compensate.
You’re going into the Himalaya for an 18 day trek. It will change your mindset and push your physical limits while requiring discipline and clean living. When in Kathmandu you may want to let your hair down a little and get down with those who have been to the top of the world. At the very least compare notes, share stories and be part of the Himalaya backcountry and Kathmandu nightlife scene.