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Published: December 31st 2016
We had trekked up to Lobuche the previous day. We’d gained around 700 ft over two and a half miles, before crossing the famous Thokla pass (15,800 ft). I saw so many long strands of prayer flags and memorial stones. Each one of those stones was set up for a climber who had lost their life trying to climb Mt.Everest. I could see names from all over the world. The mighty Himalayas have been there so many years, providing so many amazing stories, most of them being happy ones; with some sad ones.
After lunch, we had to ascend another 700 ft, over a steep section that was only half a mile long; before we reached Lobuche. On the way, we were treated to some pristine views of Nuptse, Lhotse, Lhotse Shar and other 7000+ meter peaks (~23k ft). I was dehydrated after reaching Lobuche, and didn’t venture out in the evening. I stayed back and took in my fluids and carbs.
I was feeling alright in the morning. This was going to be an interesting day. Although the sky was clear, the weather was cold and the air was very dry. I actually had to use my hand
and feet warmers. The first destination for the day was Gorak Shep (16,900 ft) – which used to be the base camp for Everest climbers several years ago.
Once we started out, even though my body was working hard, I wasn’t sweating at all. I tried to keep myself hydrated all the while. The atmosphere was quite a contrast to the one that I found on my way to Namche Bazaar. While the trek to Namche was humid, where I got all my clothes soaked; the trek to Gorak Shep was dry and arid. The sun was out but I was still wearing my thermals and had stuffed cotton in my ears, for the wind was cold.
The walk wasn’t easy, but I still made it to Gorak Shep – it took us three hours to get there from Lobuche. Only after getting there did I realize that I had lost all my appetite. Mountain sickness, it was and this time it was serious. Some of my fellow trekkers were on Diamox (a medicine that’s meant to prevent mountain sickness). I, on the other hand, wasn’t on anything and really struggled to have the food that was offered
As I said, Gorak Shep was the first destination of the day. The second destination was going to be either the Everest Base Camp (17,600 ft) or the Kala Patthar (18,500 ft). The Everest Base Camp is famous, for its name. It is where all the climbers go and set up base, before they start with their attempts to scale the mighty mountain. However, one can’t actually see the Everest peak from the base camp – its view is blocked.
Kala Patthar on the other hand, is higher in elevation than the base camp and provides for amazing views of the Everest and all the nearby mountain peaks. A round trip from Gorak Shep to the Base camp is four and a half miles long, with an elevation gain of more than 700 ft. On the other hand, a trip to Kala Patthar is less than half that distance, but the elevation gain is around 1650 ft.
There was no doubt in my mind that I had to go and climb to the top of Kala Patthar – the more difficult option. It had always been the more important for me. As it turned out,
I was the only person who decided to do so – the rest of the trekkers decided to go to the Base Camp.
Since, it was not safe for me to go on my own, the Sherpa Sardar, Bal Kumar, decided to go with me. I knew that I hadn’t eaten well, but I made sure that I took enough fluids in. I packed up my bag and drank my electrolytes. If I was going to make it, then the entire trip was going to be 3.5 to 4 hours long.
The walk was alright in the beginning, but it didn’t take time for it to become challenging. I was taking it slow and easy. But soon, it became difficult and I found myself breathing from the mouth. Bal Kumar offered to carry my bag for me, but I politely refused. I wasn’t going to give up. I mustered all the energy that I had and carried on.
With every step that I was taking, the air was getting lighter, the oxygen was getting lesser and the temperature was dropping. It was getting more and more excruciating, with each additional minute.
An hour into the trek
and I was feeling the fatigue. Maybe it was the altitude sickness or the fact that I hadn’t eaten properly before heading out. I took a break for a couple of minutes and had a breather. Things were getting more and more difficult but there was no way I was going to give up. This is what I had come for. This is what I had trained for. This is what I was going to achieve.
I kept on going, putting one foot in front of the other, taking it step by step. I could see some other trekkers far ahead of me. But the competition was not between me and them; it was between me and the mountain.
A few minutes later, I could see the summit of Kala Patthar. I told Bal Kumar, that I should be able to make it there in half an hour. He disagreed and said that the next leg of the trek was going to be all the more difficult than the previous one and a half hours.
I put on my warm cap and my jacket. It was getting colder. My calf muscles were burning and were on the
verge of giving up. But I still carried on, focusing on my steps, one after the other, without worrying about the target. Often, the hardest paths lead to the most beautiful destinations. I took a couple of more breaks here and there and took in my fluids. I had to be patient. Great things are never achieved in haste.
I was two and a half hours into the ascent, when I looked up and could finally see the summit of Kala Patthar right in front of me. A few more steps and there I was, right on top. All that pain and fatigue and altitude sickness vanished and I shouted out in excitement. This was the joy of winning, when a person gets exactly what he’s worked for. I was on top of Kala Patthar at an altitude of 18,510 ft. The peak of Mt. Everest was right there, in plain view and so were all the other mountain peaks. It was hard to believe that I was surrounded with such a lot of beauty at one time.
There was a group of Canadians there, taking photographs with their country’s flag. I too took out the tri-colour from
my bag and took many photographs with it. I didn’t forget to thank Bal Kumar, for staying with me all through.
With Mt.Everest right there, I once again thought about the strength and courage shown by all the men and women who attempted to climb Mt. Everest. What an amazing feeling it must be, to scale the highest peak and be on top of the world.
Life wants us to try and win. The wolf on top of the mountain is never as hungry as the wolf climbing it. So why not take things to the extremes and aim for places that would test your grit and determination. A place like no other – Mt.Everest.
Yes, maybe one day. But not this day. Bal Kumar said that it was time to go down. Going down was fast and easy. I saw many trekkers on their way up, struggling. I said a few words to encourage them. One hour later, I was back at Gorak Shep. The whole trip took me three and a half hours as expected.
We spent the next six days trekking back to Kathmandu. It was a lot of walking, but each day felt relaxing. When you spend a long enough time among these mountains, all the risky trails start to become very comfortable. You begin to find yourself in the mountains. They become a part of you.
We got back to Kathmandu, back to our hotel, with the bazaar and all the people. A couple of days later, I flew to India and two days after that, I flew back to the U.S.
Tot: 2.809s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 11; qc: 61; dbt: 0.0408s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb