More struggle with cold and altitude on the way to EBC... but then the ultimate goal reached, so who cares right??? ;)

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March 13th 2013
Published: May 2nd 2013
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Day 4 – Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3,860m)

When I opened my eyes in the morning I felt quite relieved straight away as was pretty hungry meaning my appetite was back and it looked like my cold might actually be going away as well so it seemed like I was on a good way to full recovery. 😊 Actually everybody seemed to be in very good spirits and shortly after breakfast equipped with new gear we set off on our seven hour trek. As soon as we left Namche some amazing views appeared right in front of our eyes again! Even though you look upon the same mountain range along the trail, the scenery each day is changing so much that somehow it seems as if you were looking at different peaks each time…That day we were walking through the Valley of river Dudh Kosi, the trail was set right on the side of the hills and was more or less flat for the first two hours or so which made it a very pleasant start for our trek. So we were taking our time, admiring the views and taking lots of pictures along the way while eagles were circling over our heads. We passed a few charming stupas along the trail as well and at some point we even came across a holy man (apparently he is very active within the local community and takes care of the trail, hmm… looking at his age it’s quite hard to believe, but then don't judge the book by it's cover right? So I guess you never know, it could be something in that after all...). Everybody left a small donation for the lama sherpa and shortly after we were descending back to Dudh Kosi river, only to cross it and start climbing again straight after - just in case anyone needed a bit more of a workout 😉. I had to stop to catch my breath here and there again. It definitely was becoming more difficult to breathe the higher up we were going. When we were reaching Tengboche the weather started changing quite rapidly and in few short moments the mountains disappeared in the clouds and it became pretty dark and cold all around. Tengboche was definitely much smaller village than the ones we were staying at before as there were only a few guesthouses here and a big monastery in the middle of the village. We had a first encounter with a veeeery basic ‘bathroom’ here as well – squat stinky toilet outside (torch would come in handy around here) and a little sink right next to it. You don’t realise how much you are used to normal toilet when you have to start using one of these. Before dinner we set off on a short acclimatisation trek again up the nearby hill and later on went to visit the Tibetan Buddhist monastery (it is known as Dawa Choling Gompa). We sat around the prayer hall and watched the monks chanting their mantras, playing all sorts of instruments and drinking cups of something (tea possibly?) and then repeating this cycle again after a while. It sure felt quite spiritual and a bit enchanting - to the point that one guy in our group fell asleep, haha! Once it got dark, it was time for a dinner and yep! around 8pm everybody went to their rooms again. I sure don’t remember going to bed that early before this trek!

Day 5 – Tengboche to Dingboche (4,410m)

We got a wakeup call around 6am just in time for a sunrise. The village looked totally different in the morning as you could actually see that it was surrounded from all sides by mountains, with a beautiful view of Everest and Ama Dablam. Again right after breakfast we set off to our next destination. The first part was a bit tricky. A little bit of snow and ice started to be visible here and there which made some parts of the trail very slippery, still it didn’t really slow us down just made us walk a bit more carefully. It was another sunny day which made the walk very pleasant again – obviously the energy levels weren’t as high as at the beginning of the trip especially because a couple of people were getting sick the last couple of days (mostly tummy troubles, but quite a few headaches also – most of us were on Diamox at this point anyway). Again the scenery was changing and becoming slightly more rough now. It definitely felt as if we were getting closer to the peaks each day. When we stopped for lunch in Orsho, three people from the group had to lie down as they weren’t feeling well at all, but then our guide Ashok was there to help as usual as well as his assistants (crazy Pemba and lovely Mick and Birka) always there with a smile on their faces, ready to jump in whenever help was needed. It sure was becoming colder during the treks now also, even though it was still sunny, the wind was so strong that slowly more layers of clothes were becoming necessary. It wasn’t very steep that day, but it sure seemed like a long day again and everybody was looking forward to another day of acclimatisation (meaning a lot of rest as well) the next day. We got to Tengboche just in time as a few moments later it started snowing. But then Ashok suggested that despite the weather it would still be good to do a short acclimatisation walk that day – this time a few people decided to leave it and in a smaller group we set off for the short trek up the mountain. It really was a very short walk but turned out to be quite a nightmare as it was very windy at this point and snowing straight in our faces, which made it quite impossible to breathe. So had to stop once in a while and turn around to catch a few breaths. But sure was happy to have made it to the top and was hoping that indeed these little walks were good for me and were making my body more immune to the altitude sickness. In the evening I had a chance to have a small conversation with a guy from Cadiz and another one from Buenos Aires who were setting off the next day to climb Island Peak. As adventurous as that sounded I was quite sure at this point that going to Base Camp was enough of a challenge for me and didn’t really need to go any further than that. Still respect and the best of luck to all the people who will be attempting to reach the Everest summit or any of the other Himalayan peaks this year!

Day 6 – Acclimatisation in Dingboche

There were a few complaints about doing the acclimatisation walk that day, as some people were not feeling too great, but straight after breakfast the whole group set off climbing again… As everybody thought it was best to try it in the end. We took the same path as the day before to the small stupa up on the hill but that was just the beginning of the walk as we went quite a bit further up after that… Eventually only four of us made it to the highest point (we reached 4,850m that day!) and it sure felt pretty good to have made it all the way to this point. Especially knowing that the Base Camp was only 500m higher than that, all of us agreed that whatever happened the next days, feeling well or not, since we made it this far, we sure could make it all the way to our final destination point also! So it brought a bit of motivation and definitely lifted our spirits! Again the scenery was changing – there were no trees at this point and more snow started appearing all around us slowly… With some more prayer flags here and there it sure was absolutely beautiful around here! More and more yaks at this point also – even saw some of them carrying bags with ‘Everest Expedition 2013’! Ah well, the season has definitely started and since the best time to make it to the summit is only a few weeks in April and May, no wonder that people are slowly starting the acclimatisation process. Apparently it might take a few weeks to get used to the really high altitudes anyway.

When we came back to our guesthouse we still had plenty of free time until nightfall. The sun was shining but it sure was pretty cold outside but I found a little bench without any wind around and just sat there with my book. I even went a bit crazy and took off my hiking boots! What a great feeling to let my feet breathe again! Maybe not so good for the people around me though haha! Ah well... We were all on the same boat after all! The temperatures were dropping very quickly with the night falling so once the sun started setting, everybody got inside the dining area and gathered around the hearth (yak dong the best heating material around here!) with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. Actually Ashok introduced us to another drink here as well – seabuck thorn juice, apparently also good for acclimatisation. Hard to say what it was similar in taste to, it sure was quite sour… I really liked it though! It was served hot as well, which was quite a nice touch in this weather, so a few of us had a few cups. Besides, whatever helps with the acclimatisation process right? We had a bit of entertainment after dinner as Ashok showed us a couple of cards tricks, also somebody from the other group had birthday that day so even had a chance to have a slice of birthday cake (hmmm… how I missed some nice pastries and cakes! What’s worse the girls kept on talking about an amazing brownie they had back in Kathmandu, ah well… I would have to wait for these kind of luxuries a little bit longer!). Two of the guys from our group went crazy and even had a beer that evening! Definitely no booze for me at this altitude! Again an early night for everyone as we were going even higher up the next day…

Day 7 – Dingboche to Lobuche (4,930m)

At this point everybody was taking out more layers of clothes and I was getting worried that my softshell jacket might not be enough to keep me warm in this weather, the wind was getting stronger and in general the temperatures were pretty low. On top of that Ashok was constantly reminding everyone to wrap up a bit from the wind as the last thing anybody needed was to get some chest infection at this point… There were some pretty steep parts on the trail again today. Just before we reached the Khumbu Glacier we got to a place with a few memorials to lost climbers and Sherpas – one of them was in memory of Scott Fischer (after watching the super motivating movie back in Phakding at least I knew who he was and got to know his story, so I guess the movie wasn’t that bad after all). From here on we had to walk through a snowy patch which seemed to be pretty time consuming as the path on the side of the hill was very narrow and since there were quite a few yaks passing us by, it sure took a while to let them through without us slipping down the hill. When we made it to Lobuche, I felt pretty exhausted – in general was tired from walking the seventh day in a row, had almost no sleep the night before and was really suffering from these cold temperatures (whether you were outside or inside the guesthouses, the temperatures were more or less the same!). Had a bit of a headache also, so basically was feeling absolutely wrecked… But there was no time for rest as Ashok said it was best to do another short acclimatisation trek. I could do nothing else but move my butt off the cosy bench in the dining area and follow the group. It turned out to be a pretty good idea after all as the walk didn’t prove to be too tiring and my headache seemed to have gone away once we came back. So I guess there might be a seed of truth in what they are saying about the acclimatisation walks – they really do help! Besides the big day was coming our way so we needed all the help we could get to beat the altitude! We would be reaching our final destination the next day! It would be a long and tough day though, very early start and approximately 9 hours of walking! This time there were no laughs or complaints about going to bed early again as everybody knew that some good night’s rest was badly needed for the next day… That is if you managed to fall asleep at this altitude in the freezing cold of course. 😉

Day 8 – Lobuche to Gorakshep (5,160m) via Everest Base Camp!!! 😊

For once on this trek I was the first one to show up in the dining area for breakfast! I guess I really was looking forward to reaching Everest Base Camp! 😊 Despite the devilish hour we had to wake up at, there were quite a few hours to catch some z’s in between and I actually did manage to have a good night’s sleep, but it wasn’t the case for all though unfortunately… We left at 6am, our first destination being Gorakshep. Don’t know what was going on, but despite having rested well the night before I was actually exhausted! And for the first time my leg muscles started feeling very sore, so that day the trekking poles were a great help as I literally was pushing myself up the stones when climbing, otherwise I don’t know how and if I would’ve made it! It was very hard to breathe as well, and at this point pretty damn cold also! I had my thermal leggings on, two pairs of trekking trousers, two thermal tops, fleece and the jacket and was still feeling cold! My hands were absolutely freezing – yep! Didn’t choose a great pair of gloves for this kind of trekking trip for sure!

The scenery became quite rough and very monotonous at this point as well – we were walking along the Khumbu Icefall and basically all you could see around (except beautiful mountain peaks of course) were rocks and stones and some icicles here and there… After three hours we made it to Gorakshep. We had a bit of time here to rest and have a bite to eat. To say I was exhausted would be an understatement! I seriously was having doubts whether I was going to make it to EBC as it was a six-hour round trip from here! I knew that once again I didn’t drink enough water on the way, but since it was so cold outside it was pretty difficult to force some icy cold water down your throat anyway… But then there was no way I would give up at this point! So after some minutes of resting we set out to reach our ultimate goal.

It was getting even colder now and what was worse it was becoming all cloudy as well – definitely not a good sign! Walking on the flat terrain was proving to be difficult at this point, with my nose all congested throughout the whole trip, that day it was even more of a nuisance as it sure was a lot of hassle taking out the tissues in this cold all the time and the last thing I wanted was to have an icicle hanging from my nose! 😉 Eventually we split up in three groups, I was in the second one (just the three of us walking somewhere in the middle), later on we found out that the last group (well two guys actually) only made it to the old base camp and turned back… I have to say I was very close to doing that as well, especially that it started snowing half way to the base camp, so it became even more difficult to breathe. But then I just couldn't get back now right?

Finally we saw it! Tiny dots far away in front of us - but there it was! The base camp! Still far away, but at least it was within our reach now! We saw an avalanche along the way as well – what a powerful force, definitely would not like to be anywhere close to it! Seeing the camp definitely motivated us a bit more and with the last bits of strength we kept on walking until eventually... we have made it!!! I was wrecked as hell – couldn’t even think about going back at this point! But since the other group was waiting there for quite a while already, we only had time to make some group and individual photos and it was time to head back!!! I wouldn’t have minded spending more time there as after all, reaching the base camp was the main reason behind this trek, but since the weather was absolutely horrible and I was beyond exhaustion at that moment I thought I’d better move or otherwise somebody would just have to carry me! This time I tried to keep up with the first group as knew that if I had taken a slower pace I simply wouldn’t have made it all the way back, so pushing myself to the limits, with the last bits of energy left, just bit my lips, covered myself up better and walked behind my buddies with one thought in my head: Just keep walking, just keep walking… And it seemed to have worked as made it to Gorakshep in one piece! Well, kind of… As almost felt like crying, don’t think I was ever so exhausted in my life! Add to it total dehydration and you have a recipe for disaster! Didn’t feel like talking, smiling, eating, drinking, didn’t feel like doing anything really, was just asking myself what was the point in doing this all??? Was it really worth it??? What was it actually that I achieved by getting there? And what was it that I was hoping to achieve by getting there? All sorts of questions were flying through my head… Everybody else seemed pretty happy and actually not tired at all… What was wrong with me??? Ah well… the usual… too many issues… And way too many thoughts flying through my head… So I knew that there was no point sitting around in the dining area, but to lie down and rest hoping that my energy and spirit would lift up the next day… So just after dinner, took another dehydration sachet from Ashok and went to bed! With the temperature now below zero degrees in the room, I knew it was going to be an interesting night… And going to the toilet would be even more exciting! But then I actually managed to sleep most of the night and only had to go to the loo twice – the water for flushing frozen solid of course! Later on found out it was -15C during the night… Yep, it was time to leave this place and get some place warmer…

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2nd May 2013
yay! we made it! over 4,800m!

Happiness is...
meeting your goals! Good job.
4th May 2013
yay! we made it! over 4,800m!

Thanks Dave & Merry Jo, really appreciate your comment! :)
2nd May 2013

Way to go...
such determination and undaunted spirit.
4th May 2013

Thanks Bob, your comments mean a lot to me! :)
4th May 2013

Congrats on reaching the EBC!!!!!... I think people who struggle but keep going are the bravest so well done, you!! I love the way you share all your thoughts and struggles and you remind a lot of myself for that! Looking forward to more blogs
4th May 2013

Thanks Deni & Dax, really appreciate it! More blogs on the way!Regards! :)
5th May 2013

Fantastic views of the mountains. That's what amazing for me - the combination of the struggle and still ability to see a beauty. also, i agree, it was worth it, to discover the will and strength you have. But for me the mountains is just beauty where my soul flies off, so i better stick to the pics and easier hikes as not sure after such vivid description i am ready to find my limits..

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