Everest Trek part six, Dingboche to Lobuche

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June 1st 2010
Published: September 4th 2010
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1/6/10: Up at 5:00am to have noodles once again for breakfast, I was starting to think bringing 60 packets of noodles was a bad idea. Our walk started at the same acclimatization point we walk on our very first day in Dingboche. After a few photos we carried on walking in huge plateu between two mountain ranges. It was the clearest day we have had so far and our cameras were running hot before the threat of any weather closed in again. The temp was 15 degrees making it perfect for walking in the beautiful valley. We were having such a great time we stopped for a light snack; having a little nap set in amongst huge giants. Everything was perfect, clear skies, great views, good snacks with no noodles, we weren’t fighting with each other and we were well rested. Of course this all can change as fast as the weather in the Himalaya. After a light sleep Jacinta made the comment that we had come too far, I checked the map and she was dead right, we did come too far. Our intended destination (Duglha) which was 1km back the way we came and along way down the hill, but there was no bridge to cross the glacial river . The high ridge we were walking on was so elevated it obscured the view of the track and bridge below making us walk too far. It didn't matter too much because the map indicated we could carry on up the river until we intersected walking track coming down from the pass above. This meant we could cross the glacier and walk right into Lobuche after climbing down the moraine. This all sounded great, we continued up the walking track until we came to a massive landslide that gouged out a huge part of the hill forcing us to trek up higher just to continue. After climbing up to the hill then down again we only trekked another 100m before we again had to climb up higher to miss another land slide. Gaining altitude we saw several landslides into the distance making the walking extremely difficult. The walking track turned into yak tracks. The landslides were all from the river that was caused by glacier melt on the opposite side of the valley only 150m away. The glacier looked like a massive scar on the land; there was a massive blow out from the side of hill where a torrent of melt water came out from nowhere. This was the start of the Imja Khola River carrying on its journey down the valley. As we walked parallel to the glacier we left the main river behind, we were able to trek down to a dry creek bed that lay between the glacial moraine and mountain. We were ready to trek up to the glacier moraine on the other side but we were felling really tired, once again the altitude started to really take its toll. In the valley we had two massive hills on either side, with no visible trail or trail to intersect we carried on parallel to the glacier hoping to meet up with the trail but we never did. We started to climb the steep moraine, on the other side the mighty Kumbu glacier awaits. The glacier source comes from the Khumbu Ice fall just at the base of Everest. We knew we were of the beaten track when we couldn't find any yak tracks or yak poo. One good thing came from getting lost; the small plant life that hugged the ground was incredible. I have never seen so many small miniature flowers and plants in my life. The colours were amazing right down to the last brightly covered moss growing right from the rock. With only the strongest of plants surviving they were shaped by years of snow and dry winds. I was so careful walking in this area as every step was like walking on a delicate garden. On one hand you have massive mountains peaks that have the ability to carve a wedge in the sky even creating their own weather, on the opposite side you have tiny tiny plants and flowers that you wouldn't even notice unless you lay down on the ground intentionality looked for them. It must have looked so beautiful before grazing yaks carved up the mountain sides eating whatever they could.
It must have taken 30 minutes to climb the glacial moraine, our heads and chest felt like exploding. When I got to the top I felt like I was going to pass out from exhaustion. It was a big disappointment when I summated the moraine, my eyes scanned the glacial, it was a moonscape of rocks, boulders and rubble almost resembling a huge quarry, it stretch from left to right as far as I could see. I hesitated telling Jacinta what my watery eyes could see. I instead chose to stay out of view until she got closer to the top, she repeatedly yelled “can you see Lobuche from there” she so desperately wanted to be there. After several times asking I finally gave her the bad news, she took it better than I thought, until she gazed upon the glacier with her own eyes “F%$#@ hell” I think was her exact words. Without delay we scanned the rocky moraine to find an entry point into the glacier. Once we found a safe passage we over the rocky ridge to start our crossing. I only got 30 metres into the glacier when I knew this was a bad idea. There was no clear way to cross and it felt like I was a mouse trying to find cheese in a maze, the problem was there was no way through and the cheese was odourless. Every which way was certain to lead us parallel to the glacier, into a crater, at the edge of a rocky cliff face, into an ice pool or at the base of an unstable hill. Every single rock was disguised as a wedge that held up bigger and bigger rocks. Every step I took undermined these loose wedge stones and rocks, then in turn undermining the ones above them until a domino effect happened sending massive rocks rolling down the hill like bear traps ready to snap and clamp our legs pining them against other rocks. It was frightening to think of and an even greater a possibility of it really happening. I triple checked every rock I stood on, I sent an array of rocks crashing down the hill and others into the safe foot hold for Jacinta to walk on. Our best bet was to keep as high as we could to eliminating any danger of being hit by a falling rock, also giving us some sort of vantage point to find any way safe out. There was a massive peak that was sure to give me a clear view of Lobuche below. I climbed carefully hoping for good news. We had been crossing the glacier for one hour so far, I reached the top only to find 360deg views of glacier, there was no sign of anything, no life, no wind, just piles and piles of unstable rocks and boulders. I felt sick, the frustrations started to boil in tune with our headaches. We travel 200m in one hour and still had another 600m to go. It felt as if though we were never going to get there, every time we thought we were getting close it ended up being a cruel joke, by this time we were both tired and cranky and we soon found a reason to pick on each other. Spoonfuls of tone, a sprinkle of sarcasm, stir in some altitude and mix all this in with a headache and you have a great recipe for an argument. I started to lose my temper with Jacinta, she was so painfully slow over the rocks, forcing us to spend twice as long in this hell hole as we should have been. She got even crankier when I told her to hurry up. The glacier made noises as if it wanted to close in on use. Every now and then you would hear rocks tumbling down rocky hill sides and the sound of a deep thud coming deep within the glacier itself. Our first sign of any glacial ice came around 300m in. We weren’t sure it was ice at first because it was around 18C in the glacier and the dirty ice looked like a cracked rock face. We could hear a small stream trickling behind the ice wall including little stones and pebbles dislodging from the melt water. It was just a reminder that everything was moving very slowly under us and that the glacier was alive and breathing. We rock hopped 500m in before we had any sign of the other side; the last ridge revealed flatter mounds and smaller rocks giving us some straight line travel. We then found a flat gravel bed that enabled us to freely walk 200m up to the glacial moraine on the other side. Once we found a way up the moraine Lobuche came into sight. We were so happy to be out, we were physically and mentally drained, our heads were pounding from the extra exertion we put our oxygen less bodies through. I developed an annoying swishing sound in my left ear, it was in tune with my heart pumping blood through the tiny vessels, and it would take another week before we were low enough in altitude to return to normal. It ended up taking 2.5 hours to cross 800m of glacier and unless we had to we would never ever cross a glacier on purpose again. We were at least 100m high standing on the edge of the moraine, looking down and to the right was Lobuche, it was only 250m away. We made the decision to travel along the top of the moraine then once perpendicular to Lobuche, traverse down the hill and straight into a lodge. This all backfired when we walked only 40m coming to the start of glacial blow out forming a cliff on either side. We ended up climbing down the face of the moraine like mountain goats until we were finally on the correct path to Lobuche. We arrived at 2:00pm finding a cheap lodge straight away; we had lunch (noodles) then rested the whole afternoon. Our heads were pounding, the onset of altitude sickness has never been more apparent. After a few hours we couldn't handle it anymore, we both took some Panadol to kill the pain hoping that it was the end of it. Within 15min the headache was gone but the altitude was still there. We treated ourselves to dish of Dal Bhat for the massive appetite that possessed our bodies, the best thing about paying the little extra for Dal Bhat is they keep filling the plate until your stomach is popping at the seams.
At almost 5000m high just getting ready for bed would leave you gasping for breath. Even while at rest when your body settles into a normal breathing rhythm there is just not enough oxygen in the air to satisfy your bodies needs. We woke up in a panic as the feeling of drowning without water becomes a possibility. A dozen quick breaths topping up the depleted oxygen reserves until you wake up again 15min- 30min later once again gasping for life. This happened right through the night, even when you are asleep. Another awful experience is when you consciously wakeup in the night with a dry mouth. Breathing dry air through your mouth and with a blocked nose gives you the most unbelievably hideous dry mouth you have ever ever experienced. If you think drying your mouth out when you were a kid feels funny wait till you experience this; it’s horrible! It’s like your saliva glands have gone on strike, after a minute of trying to work up some sort of moister, you end up giving in to the horrible feeling, It feels like your tongue possessed furry cow tongue that is living inside mouth, you end up succumbing to a drink of water. The dry air also produced a massive amount of static electricity. I took my goose down jacket off in the middle of the night. The jacket sparkled like twinkling fireworks in front of me, for a second I thought I was losing my mind. Another frightening experience is when you’re sleeping bag suddenly comes alive and tries to cocoon you in a sarcophagus of death. The hood opening disappears and you’re lost in your own sleeping bag waking up screaming for oxygen you panic to find the opening before you almost pass out. The fresh breathable oxygen is only through a few thin layers of fabric but you can’t find the opening, the depleted oxygen in your sleeping bag is not going to cut it, you arms wave frantically desperately trying to find the opening, it’s always just in a nick of time. This happened to so many people along the trek, everyone explained it as a terrifying experience.

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