Lobuche (4930m) to Gorak Shep (5160m) to Kala Patthar (5546m)
Say goodbye to the Christians, they are heading for Gorak Shep and EBC, we are doing Gorak Shep with Kala Patthar. Out the door in a lot of clothes with the addition of the crampons we bought in Kathmandu. They are small, lightweight and just slip over your boots. Getting them on is challenge though when your fingers are soooooo freezing cold. Anyway, we head out along the icy, rock terrain. Its noticeably harder going this morning. The crampons are a fantastic asset. We pass the Italian research station mentioned in the LP guidebook. Here is their link complete with webcam views from Kala Patthar- very cool. http://evk2.isac.cnr.it/
Lots of yak trains this morning. The views are, once again, stunning, the sky has taken on an even more intense blue. It remains really cold but not windy. Walking, walking, walking we witness the magnificence of the Khumbu Glacier- truly amazing. As we trudge up another hill there is a lot of commotion- Himalayan snow cocks, they are like big, bright, stripey chooks and they run maniacally around rocks calling to each other. Have a cup of tea and
a bit of a rest. We are only passed by one trekker this morning- a lone Japanese guy. It takes us nearly 3 1/2 hrs to reach Gorak Shep, the last bit of walking is all down hill into the village. It's a relief to get there. My headache has been building for the last 45 mins and by the time we arrive into GS I am feeling really crappy. With a large bowl of garlic soup, Panadol and Ibuprofen, and getting warmed up under 2 layers of quilts and my sleeping bag, I can contemplate the goal of the afternoon- Kala Patthar. Now that I am mostly on top of the headache I can appreciate our little room at Snowland Lodge
- the usual eclectic mix of wall and floor coverings. The window view here is going to take some beating- another awesome mountain vista.
OK, back to the trek... We take off across the sandy dustbowl that used to be a lake bed, it's already around 1.30 pm. The sky is still crystal clear. The climbing is arduous. Reach a small area of prayer flags and look up- there is still a really, really long way to go.
I push on very slowly, counting my way up- it is a technique that I seem to have adopted in the last 2 days and I have no idea why. It does seem to help though. It's hard to describe how difficult this climb is, not technically difficult, but the altitude just makes it hard work. I reach another set of prayer flags and meet up with Koji (the Japanese guy who passed us earlier). He is concerned that I am by myself this late in the day. I hadn't realised but Dhana and Mary are now quite a bit behind me. The wind is picking up and I don't want to stop. The summit is in sight. Koji said it took him 30 mins from that point to the peak, it doesn't look far but the ascent has become much steeper. I continue on, reassuring him that I am fine.
The last part of the climb is really, really hard, the track isn't particularly clear (to me) and I am scrambling over rocks. Finally I make it and it is really satisfying. As with most tourists the moment needs to be captured -my new camera fails me (Panasonic
Lumix), the shutter steadfastly refuses to open, when it does it then wont focus - iphone to the rescue- I get a couple of shots off before that, too, dies a freezing cold death. Anyway, enough about technology- I bring myself back into the moment, what I find interesting is that I don't have that emotionally overwhelming feeling that I did after crossing Thorung La last year. I think this time I knew what I could achieve, I didn't for a second doubt that I could get to the top. Last year I didn't know what I was capable of and was scared of failing. Who knows??
I have about 20 minutes up there by myself before Dhana and Mary arrive. It's a good time for quiet (and windswept) contemplation. The views are amazing- I am happy, very happy. With Dhana and Mary up there we now have 2 functional cameras so lots of photos are taken. The mountain views - Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori are incredible. We stay up there for another 10 minutes or so, by which time the clouds have started to roll in and the wind is even stronger. I feel like a popsicle after
30 mins at the top- really, really cold. Add another layer of clothing, eat some chocolate and make as fast a descent as possible. The clouds coming up the valley are getting closer and darker- amazing sight. By the time we get back to the teahouse we are still freezing and pretty exhausted. Another awesome day! There are a few people in the dining room when we get back- it turns out the Intrepideers and The Christians are all staying here. Warm up a bit, drink a lot of tea, get the fire sorted out. The Christians return from EBC in dribs and drabs- they look completely spent. Many of them are in various stages of unwellness- head colds, sinus probs, headaches, gastro- you name it. I am feeling really good and starving. Dinner is eggs on toast squeezed around the fire.
Have a fantastic nights sleep (until midnight) then have to get up to the loo. I and my 5 layers of clothing negotiate the toilet. Manage to fall back to sleep until 5 when the lodge starts to wake up- there are a few guys climbing Kala Patthar for sunrise. It is -18 degrees. I am very
glad to stay in my sleeping bag for another hour or so.
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