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Published: March 29th 2016
Following our grueling six day journey from Jiri all the way to Namche Bazar, our trek continues towards Everest Base Camp.
We enjoyed a full days rest in the Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar (3440m), acclimatizing to the altitude there and trying to heal our sore and spent bodies. By this point I was very comfortable around Adam and Rebecca as we had seen each other through some hilarious as well as trying times. They were both motivated to push themselves and that suited me pretty well. Namche Bazaar sits on the side of a hill and is the gateway to the Khumbu region. Many comforts could be found here - for a price. We spent our first day going to Everest Bakery and having pizza and apple pie, playing cards, and buying a few more supplies and one or two pieces of warmer gear. We then went to a place called liquid bar (although none of us drank) and were able to get a meal while at the same time using the place to charge some electronic devices and get online to cyberspace. Doing this any other way would have been a lot more expensive. Liquid
bar also showed the movie Into Thin Air, based on the book. We also walked up to a viewpoint overlooking Namche and then checked out the Sherpa museum nearby, learning about the culture and about mountaineering in the region. Both Adam and I were pretty interested in that. Despite it being our day off, we all did go to sleep early out of habit. This day of rest had done me good, and I was feeling way more refreshed.
Rebecca had decided that she needed another rest day in Namche to heal her nagging leg and her body in general. Adam and myself decided that we would go on an acclimatization hike and not sit on our laurels. We looked at the map and then pointed to the town of Thame (3900m) about three hours to northwest. This town is actually on the three pass circuit trek. We chatted along as we climbed out of Namche and then found ourselves on relatively flat trail before we descended and then slowly gained elevation. We got lost at one point and then found the trail again about twenty minutes later. The weather was beautiful and we were seeing
new mountain ranges for the first time.
Lines of yaks passed us occasionally and we were stuck behind one group for quite a while when one Yak ended up charging out of the line and acting aggressive. I would not want an animal of that size to freak out and do that while I was passing by. We reached Thame with relative ease and then climbed up to the monastery that was built into the cliffside. It's a sight to behold. We entered a courtyard and sat while eating some snacks. Within the temple an unseen monk repeated a mantra over and over and over again. We returned towards Namche via a slightly different way and made very good time on the way back. People say that you should climb high and sleep low, and this was our goal for the day. Going to a higher altitude and then descending from there and resting lower aids the body to comfortably acclimatize, and decreases the risk of developing altitude related issues. We got back and it was only two in the afternoon. We met up with Rebecca who was thoroughly enjoying her second day off. We went to liquid bar
and got lunch. There we also enjoyed a documentary about Sherpa porters and climbers. After that we played cards back at the hotel. I found a place to take a hot shower (our hotel was useless with this). Man did I ever need one. We found a cheap place by Namche standards to have Dal Baht for dinner.
Rest time was over and it was time to hit the trail and make our way towards higher elevations. The three of us geared up and took off to the east. I had picked up a dry cough during the Jiri portion of the trek and sometimes would get short coughing fits. Adam had a hacking cough that you could hear coming for a mile. He decided to start some prophylactic antibiotic therapy to see if that would shake it. We walked for some time and then began an arduous climb towards Tengboche (3860m). The village is known for its large monastery. We ate lunch year and chatted with some other travelers about hiking and health care. We were tired from the uphill but continued to our next destination called Pangboche (3930m). This was to be our stop
for the night. There were a few more travelers in the lodge we were staying at. The lodge owner was a Sherpa man who had climbed Everest years earlier. He had a photo of footprints and claimed that these belonged to the elusive and fabled Yeti that he claimed lived in the region. We played cards until it was time for bed. Adam found an interesting Beck Weathers book and became engrossed in it. At this elevation it was quite cold in our rooms and we needed extra blankets and clothing layers to sleep comfortably.
We had been incredibly lucky to have had routine nice and clear mornings for most of our trekking days in the region. Alas this morning was not to be one. The thick and low clouds blanketed the sky and our fields of vision. This was the morning we were planning to climb to Ama Dablam base camp (4600m). This mountain (6814m) may be one of the most aesthetically pleasing of the whole region and I had been eyeing it getting closer and closer since the previous day. The decision to try to get to the base camp anyway was made in
case the weather would lift. We crossed the river near the town and climbed up. Altitude was beginning to be a real factor and slowed us down considerably compared to what we were able to do in the foothills. But these were no longer the foothills. We were approaching giants. The Himalayas were formed when the Indian tectonic plate slammed into the Eurasian plate and pushed up the land that now holds these mountains. In fact, the Himalayas are still growing taller today. Snow began to pepper us and the high cloud didn't seem like it wanted to budge. With such little visibility we weighed the pros of continuing on and decided that this endeavor was over. We returned back to the lodge after trekking for just over two hours. There we relaxed for the remainder of the morning and had lunch a little later on. Adam finally finished the entire Beck Weathers book and seemed pleased with himself. I was applying some of Rebecca's duct tape to two different spots of my toes that seemed to be developing blisters. Best to take care of that sort of thing before it becomes too bad. That afternoon we were off once
more, this time on our way to Dingboche (4410m). The journey there was quite pleasant and consisted of hardly any brutal elevation gains. We arrived there quickly and then went to the "bakery" situated by our lodge. The evening saw us crammed into the restaurant area where the bacari was on and created some heat from the incessant cold. The three of us shared a three bed room and hoped for more body heat to have a more comfortable night. Despite having to piss more often now, I was feeling pretty good at the current elevation.
I woke up listening to Adam and Rebecca propose and ambitious plan for the day. They were talking about reaching a much farther point then we had initially planned for. The only reservation I had was that attempting to move too quickly could cause altitude issues. It's sometimes the fittest people that succumb to altitude as they often don't give their bodies enough time to adjust. I figured I would see how I was feeling. We were at 4410m and all felt pretty good though. We left the village and climbed up the hill towards a stupa, and then an
even higher stupa. The terrain resembled alpine tundra, vegetation took a marked downturn. We walked above the top of a ridge-line of hills, and to the left we could see the village of Periche, 200m meters below. I was now wearing my heavy jacket and gloves. Gray and clouded weather came in and the temperature had dropped. We walked for a few hours into the small village of Thokla (4620m) and then had to go up several hundred meters to the town of Lobuche (4940m). I was feeling weak and felt like maybe I was beginning to struggle with altitude, but nothing that major. I lagged beyond my companions, and struggled up. When we reached Lobuche for some food, I wasn't really hungry but still drained enough that I needed a big amount. This is where we had originally planned to stop for the day. Screw it, it was off towards Gorak Shep (5180m). Gorak Shep was the final bastion before reaching the seasonal Everest Base Camp outpost. We would be over 5000m of altitude and would have to sleep up there as well. It felt like a hell of a lot of work to get there in my state
but I did. In the midst of blowing snow and poor visibility. We climbed through what looked like the top of desolate mountains and then poured over the edge and witness Gorak Shep. A loud chopper was just taking off again after having dropped off some people. They got in the easy way. We got back down to one of the lodges and walked into the front door. The place seemed packed with other trekkers, guides, porters and staff. One guy looked at me and offered me a spot around the Yak shit fueled bacari. It felt warm but I thanked him and continued on to whatever room was available. We all wanted to pull off our packs. I had no hunger and felt out of it. I laboriously changed out of my clammy clothes and put on some relatively fresher stuff. Walking along I went back downstairs to join the multitudes of people and discovered that the overcast weather and forced many trekkers to wait out for better weather, especially if they wanted to see any memorable views. Unless you were right next to the furnace fire, the place became pretty cold. Not to mention certain idiots who would
come in or out and forget to close one of the two doors. None of the lodges had much insulation to begin with, but we had become accustomed to that.
At higher altitudes, say approaching 6000m, the body tends to perspire about two times the amount of moisture than at sea level. You end up losing way more fluids the higher you go, even if it doesn't feel like you're sweating much (I was). The lower air pressure means all these fluids evaporate quickly. Basically you need to compensate by drinking a ton of water, even if you don't feel thirsty. I went on a water drinking blitz, I might have drank about six liters of water that evening. I was only able to eat a potato soup. We had some medicinally charged hashish. It helped cure the annoying altitude induced headache and brought back some semblance of appetite. Who needs Diamox? I was peeing a lot and would continue to do so throughout the night. Even when I don't drink much, I just have to pee like a race horse at altitude. Rebecca and Adam both seemed to be doing fine, albeit some slight headaches. Some other trekkers
were surprised at how we had jumped from Dingboche all the way to here so quickly. I didn't recommend it. We sat around the fire and looked out the cloudy weather, wondering what tomorrow would bring.
"It looks clear". I woke up and shivered in the dawn chill. I could see my breath. Maybe it would be warmer outside? I looked out and saw a welcoming crisp blue sky. I felt a little better, just super tired. We quickly at some Tibetan porridge and then were out the door at 0615h. Looking up was the triangular mound of dirt and rock known as Kala Patthar (5540m). It would give us a hell of a nice view of the towering Himalayan mountain range, and could get a glimpse of the top of Everest, as well as many other 8000m peaks. The highest in all the world. We begin the steep climb with tight switchbacks. Within an hour the steepness abated slightly and I worked my way up breathing heavily. I began to get pretty hungry too. Screw lose of appetite, my body needed food fast. Rebecca and I climbed up close to each other, Adam lagged behind
and was huffing hard. Adam was consistently strong so it was weird seeing him struggle. Many others who had climbed up earlier, were rushing down in a frozen state. We reached the top as the sun poked out and cast some warm glows to us. I felt really good at the top by now. Some other trekkers were there and one put on some appropriate music for what we had just done, on his mini speaker. We all exchanged trail mix and then Adam reached us, claiming he had had a momentary bout of nausea but felt much better now. Looking out, you could see the peaks of Nuptse, Lotse and the dark and windswept top of Mount Everest (8848m). Nothing could stand taller. We had perfect weather. We all stayed up there for about an hour before beginning the knee crushing descent.
We returned down to the lodge ate a bunch of noodles and then took a rest. I continued drinking loads of water to replenish what I had just lost. We then prepared and left heading north with only our day packs. The famous Everest Base Camp (5364m) lay beyond. We climbed what we thought were easy
ridges by now and then made our way. After only an hour and a half we could see the camp in the distance. We first reached the rock structure signaling base camp and covered in Tibetan prayer flags and flags identifying countries from all over the world. We had completed our classic Everest trail trek! We took our photos, found Canadian and Australian flags and posed with them. Adam got naked and covered his junk with the flag and posed. Rebecca got into a purple bathing suit and had her picture taken. She told me this bathing suit was a traveling memento between her and her friends and they all tried to get the craziest pictures with it on. I decided I would rather stay clothed, even though the bright sun made things kind of warm. Most trekkers simply stop here and then turn around and head back. We continued on the actual tent camp that lay about 200m further. The main climbing season for Everest is April and May, so we were still a little bit early, but Sherpas were working on preparing the camps for the arrival of all the climbers. I wasn't sure if, since the earthquake
and the fuel crisis, numbers of climbers would be down. We went down to the deadly Khumbu Ice Fall, and could see how the climbers would first have to navigate these deathtraps with the help of ropes and ladders to get to Camp 1 (5980m). Some Sherpas were sitting down by some tents and invited us to have tea with them. We happily accepted and then proceeded to ask them loads of questions about their work, the mountains, climbing culture, where they came from, and about our journey up until that point. It was a pretty cool cultural exchange, in one of the most iconic places. And no other trekkers could be spotted. Maybe most didn't come in the afternoon. We left pretty late. The sun was beginning to descend on the mountain range to the east, beyond Kala Patthar. We got back to the lodge in record time, overjoyed at our day and accomplishments. I felt strong and my appetite was back. I ate a lot of Dal Baht.
We discussed what would be next by the furnace fire. Looking at the map, it became clear that we all had time to add in some more trekking and
maybe, instead of going back from EBC the way we came, we could try to get somewhere else and return in a completely unique way. We had reached Gorak Shep quickly from Namche and we had experienced both Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar in one day. We all decided that we would try to push on. "Gokyo." As I tapped the map with my finger. "But to get there we'll need to cross this thing," I said staring at a large mountain range in the path...
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