Published: May 5th 2010April 23rd 2010
Proof that it is in fact freezing here.
Thukla, Nepal Altitude at start of day: 4,343 meters / 14,245 feet
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is caused by an ascent to altitudes above 7,000 feet (a 25% rate of occurrence) with a 50% rate of occurrence above 15,000 feet (some sources put this as high as 80%). Mild AMS can include slight headache, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea and insomnia, with more severe cases leading to vomiting, hallucinations and intense headaches. If left untreated, AMS can lead to cerebral and pulmonary edema, which can cause a coma and death. Pretty serious stuff. What's more, a person's fitness level has no bearing on the onset of AMS.
Having been consulted on this by a travel doctor before I left home, I was well aware of the symptoms and risks. In fact, Jeff, who had recommended my guide, had said we would most likely get some level of AMS. I was prepared for it as best as I could be. But I thought it would surely be me, and not Dave, that would succumb to it.
I awoke at 4:00 this morning having to go to the bathroom (number 1). Normally, this is a mild inconvenience. It becomes
Pondering about life or wondering how long until he can have whiskey again?
a bit more irritating when to do so, one must roll out of bed, put on pants, a jacket and boots, find a flashlight, walk outside into freezing temperatures to the toilet and then have to pee in a hole in the ground. It's no wonder many people opt to use a pee bottle like they're some 90 year old nursing home patient with a bed pan.
I did my business and, shivering, tried to warm up before falling back to sleep. I managed to do so and woke up at 6:00, ready to start the day. Dave's headache was gone so we got packed up, had breakfast and started our morning trek at 7:20. As we passed along the trail just outside the teahouse, I noticed ice on the ground. So it's no exaggeration when I say that it was freezing outside; and inside, too, as the walls are just thin boards with no insulation whatsoever.
We stopped at 7:50 for a break, right where we went to yesterday on our afternoon hike. It had already warmed up immensely, so much so that I was comfortable wearing only a short sleeve shirt on my upper body. About
the only things that remained cold were my hands, so I broke out gloves and looked like a marathon runner later on.
The terrain again was mostly over rolling bushlands until we came to a very rocky portion where we descended to a river, crossed a bridge made of tied tree limbs and ascended briefly to Thukla for lunch around 10:20.
At Thukla, Dave noted that his headache was back and he felt worse, with stomach pains and a feeling like he was in a dream. This wasn't sounding good. We ordered him some hot soup, of which he only ate the broth, and a hot lemon drink as I dined on more eggs and potatoes with a hot chocolate.
As he continued to feel bad, I told Ram we should not go any farther until he feels better. Ram agreed and we decided not to go farther today and let Dave rest. We would wait an hour or two and see if he needed to descend to Pheriche.
We spent the rest of the afternoon resting and trying to stay warm. Most of the days so far have been very warm with chilly evenings but
The mountain landscape we left behind.
today was much colder as we're stuck in a valley with less sunlight and heavy winds. Dave napped this afternoon as I read (and worried that my laptop was also suffering from AMS) before we went into the dining hall to warm up by the fire, play some cards and eat dinner. We shoved off to dinner very early tonight, just after 8:00. Dave had requested our water bottles be filled with hot water so we could stuff them in our sleeping bags to stay warm. This worked great as when we tucked ourselves in our beds were preheated. Though he isn't feeling well, he hasn't lost his ingenuity.
Ram had mentioned that he and I could continue to Lobuche tomorrow and have Dave return to Pheriche with Hari if he still felt bad. I spent the rest of the day contemplating this but could not get over one thing - what happens if things get worse and I'm not there? How could I even consider putting my own gratification above his health. Or anyone's, for that matter, but especially not someone who is like a brother to me. This just falls under one of life's great mysteries that,
Lunch (and overnight) spot
Heading into the valley for lunch.
no matter how powerful we feel we are with our ability to fly into outer space and cure illnesses that were once untreatable, makes us realize how self-deceived we really are.
Besides, if this is it for our trek, I'm okay with that. Dave apologized to me earlier for his condition, to which I responded “For what?” I still feel that way. I've had a great time so far and we knew the risks coming in. Maybe we'll continue on; maybe we won't. But we gave it our all to get here. And despite John Mason's claim in The Rock
about such matters, that makes us winners in my book.
Tomorrow, well, we'll see. Altitude at end of day: 4,620 meters / 15,154 feet
There are more photos below