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Published: October 14th 2006
Top of the World
Still over 3,000m shy of the Everest summit, this photo was taken at almost 250% the height of Blackcomb mountain.
It was decided that a hike was in order and so it was a hike that we did. Being forced to actually do all the planning ourselves (no Doris and no tour operators) we began by buying Jamie. Our good friend and reliable companion Jamie McGuiness followed us through thick and thin, sickness and health for 10 long days.
Things began with a flight from Kathmandu into the town/village/tourist meca that is Lukla. Lukla is the best starting point for any treks in the Everest region because it cuts out a good week of hiking from where the last road leaves you. Skipping the lowly lowlands and taking a flight into one of the scariest runways (and airports) of all time left us with more time in the alpine. Immediately we had to cut down our ininerary from what is considered “safe” in order to fit in our goals and still make it back to Delhi for our flights onward. Both the Kathmandu and Lukla airports are utterly chaotic (even more so upon our return voyage) but once the madness is seemlingly sorted out the flight itself is simply delightful.
Jordand and I exited the plane wearing pigskin merell
We're not sure if we're protecting the mountain from the constant breeding of Yaks, or the Maoists, but either way its safe and sound.
low cut all terrain outdoor shoes (slightly different models) with vibram soles, khaki coloured North Face pants (convertible into shorts) him sporting a Helly Hansen thermal undershit, me a Nike dry-fit long sleeve sweat free undershirt and a black patagonio zip up breathable fleece shirt and him with a scentless MEC T-shirt underneath. I asked Jord the night before what the protocol was for sock folds whilst climbing over 4000m and he said it was the same for the 2000m mark, and a hike-casual style dictates them to be pulled upward with only a loose fitting image remaining under your pants.
After a quick stop for Apple pie and Pizza in Lukla we immediately set off to complete the intinerary projected earlier that week in Kathmandu thanks to Jamie McGuiness’ advice and our complete lack of safety. While the safe rate of ascent is 300-400m per day, with a rest day to acclimatize every 1000m (or so) it was safe to say we were doomed when including our flight we ascended just under 2100m in 7 hours on the first day. While at this point we declared it our “make or break night” we entered the sherpa town of
Ode To The Sherpas
I didn't actually intend to take this one in Black and White but looking back I'm glad I did. Day after day, week after week long after I'm gone and drunk on the beaches of Thailand this man will still be carrying stuff up this very trail.
Namche with only slight headaches. Please don’t worry folks we know what we’re doing. Actually, surprisingly we do. After our time in the Andes both Jord and I are very aware of A.M.S. and more importantly, when the mild version kicks in for each of us respectively. There’s been no history of trouble below 3500m, which is roughly where we slept the first night. We took the next day to acclimatize and glimpse our first visual confirmation that Everest does actually exist, and is not merely a strange myth from the far East.
The next day found us in a slow traverse upwards to where we slept in what I’m confident was the smallest room ever inhabitted by two grown men. The back of my fathers van is about 6 times larger than this room. Bunks on Russian submarines dwarf the beds we slept in, and to make things worse twice in the night we had unwelcomed guests. First was a maggot on my face (which fell from dark netherregions of the room) and the second was another maggot on my face (which also fell from the dark netherregions of the room) and dozen spiders later you might be
R.C. Gerald Lush
Guess who?? "Of course Gandalf is pronounced 'Gandaf' is this piece of my leg a 'calf' or a 'caugh'?"
able to imagine the rather comical scenario that has Jord and I in beds 4 feet long with bugs everywhere in sight. Needless to say sleep was not an option, but who needs sleep when hiking all day everyday?
We continued on, fueled by Diamox and boiled eggs to where day 4 brought us from “Tiny roomed bug town” up to Dingboche where we found a nice lodge and rested for the night (and the next day) -more acclimatization. Much time was spent terrorizing the yaks and trying to learn Hungarian. Both initiatives were, to be frank -unsuccessful.
From there we climbed higher yet up to the town of Labouche which was my first visit, first sleep and first shower (I’ll get to the later event in a moment) at roughly 5000m. The air was thinning rapidly and the air was cold. Prices incresed dramatically (over $1USD for a boiled egg) and $18 USD for a double room. I should probably add that the number of Gompa’s, payer flags, prayer wheels and prayer water wheels, prayer stones and prayer cliffs were all far beyond count at this point. Dozens memorials were also visited en route as well. I
Although I still stand by my belief that the Yaks could walk themselves up the hill before being slaughtered, it seems the Nepalese prefer to kill them in the valley and carry the meat unrefridgerated at their own leasure. Sure glad I didn't eat any of it regardless.
want to talk briefly about my cold shower at this altitude. My confidence was very wrongly at an all time high entering the stall given that it was during the heat of the day ( I guess above zero?) and, well I’m tough! I swaggered in with my hotshot towel much to the surprise (or horror) of the hotel worker. “No sorry sir, need 30 minutes for hot water, 400 rupees cost” to which I replied: “No, it is I that should be sorry good fellow, this tall drink of water doesn’t need hot water now, or anyday for that matter, a cold shower it will be, please go about your business!” The following moments have mainly been blocked out my memory for safety’s sake, but for the purpose of storytelling it went something like this: ice cold water empties from the faucet onto my body, I leap back shrieking. I stand and muster all the strength and will I possibly can then slowly put a single finger under the stream of water. I no longer feel that finger. I put my head under, after an instant headache and then feeling my body go into shock, I fumble for my
There she is, in all her glory.
bar of soap. I lather up shaking violently, as I try to rinse my head I put it under the stream of water but it just won’t go, I force it under and and try to get rid of the soapy residue with my hands, but I can’t feel my hands, my head hurts even more, and finally I flee back to the room and lay in bed taking deep breaths for hours in an attempt to avoid hypothermia.
That night, given the altitude I had trouble sleeping, I would awake out of breath every few hours until the 5 am alarm went off and we shuffled out the door for our grand summit attempt of Kala Pathar (translation: Big Black Rock). Kala Pathar is really the end of the line. Everest base camp is about the same distance, but not as high up and offers little or no spectacular views. Its probably where most hikers end up and climbers take over, although not at that exact spot. From Kala Pathar you can view in a single glimpse many of the worlds tallest mountains. The trip up there from where we slept started off badly, fog rolled in and
With the ongoing turf war involving Nepalese trail gangs and the best interests of organized crime, various record labels and barber shops the two youngest members of B$G throw up scissors in what can only be interpreted as a hostile maneuver in the Himalayas.
we lost all hope of any decent photographs. In the dark we stumbled through streams of liquid ice but kept advancing onward. We encountered our good friend “Ice Dog” who guided us from the depths of the rocky paths upwards and onwards to the peak of Kala Pathar. Frequent stops were needed to ensure our hearts were still beating. Somewhere around this elevation the air is so thin you need to breath twice to get as much oxygen as you would earn in one breath at sea level. The going was slow, yet somehow we managed to pass probably 50 people in a series of organized treks with full winter climbing gear who actually had “hiking boots” and “down jackets” (overated if you ask me) and with evil stares we swiftly passed them (if only they knew we were wearing the exact same thing now as we were almost a year ago navigating the jungles around El Mirador Guatemala). We didn’t get any good vibes from these people, if only they understood we had to go all the way to the summit, then back all the way we came to reach Lukla in the next 72 hours and make our
Finally, in what was either a physical collapse, or an attempt to re-enter his mothers womb, Jord ends up in the fetal position from what I can only assume is from a severe lack of French Toast.
Thus, after making it to the top of Kala Pathar (slow going for a number of reasons) we escaped the valley of clouds and entered a heaven like region of the world that is truly difficcult to describe. While it pales in comparisson to what it would feel and look like from the summit of Everest itself, given our modest goals and experience we were utterly delighted. Emerald green ponds and glacial ruins scattered the valleys below while we simply sat and enjoyed it all as best we could. Naturally once rest time was over the photo shoot began before backtracking down for another 8 hours to put ourselves in a position where we had even a small chance of making our return flight. That night however, I did feel the slimy graps of AMS overtake my body and a pounding headache quickly ensued. I did lose some appetite and was getting rather ill (I’m not sure but at one point it felt like lightning bolts surge through my heart) but it couldn’t have happened at a better time as the descent after that point was as rapid as could be. Thankfully I was acclimatized to around 5000m
The chaos and anger reached an all time high fighting the army of chinese tourists onto the return flight. The runway in Lukla is on a hill and scary as hell. Here's a shot of the plane unloading.
(or so I thought) and so when returning back down to around 4250 I started to feel better (although still not 100%). The next day I was fine however, and although I did tweak my knee we continued on without problems.
Returning to the early stages of the hike was a real delight as I could feel my body was in far better shape than it was on the way up. Even with what felt like a dagger in my knee I went up each hill with ease. In general, the guides and descriptions of the trek are a tad misleading (or perhaps I just lack experience with these things) while on a map each segment of our walk could easily be seen as easy “Oh its only 30km” or “Oh we only gain 400m that day in altitude” what we didn’t realize, was that in between the two waypoints you’d go up an entire mountain then back down the other side. There really weren’t any “easy days” as even the return trip was punishing on the body as the stone built switchbacks were very unforgiving on joints. One point of pride is that we did the whole thing
Likely to blame was the Diamox or the Mephloquine, or the Ciprofloxacin -tempers flare and as Jord descends Kala Pathar I strike him down and viciously crush his genitals in a move that most people recognize as "The Gas Pedal".
without guides, sherpas, porters, porter-guides, yaks or any help whatsoever except from the people working in the lodges we camped at. With not even a remote chance of pulling off camping (our sleeping bags were even uselessly cold indoors) we really did do well, the only thing we didn’t carry was our food (except for some snacks).
Anyways, the trip was great, especially since it was Yak mating season and before the whole region got really busy with even more tourists. The Khumbu valley is an excellent destination for anyone in my mind, it seems to have succeeded in advancing past whatever growing pains tend to haunt other parts of the world that are as touristy and there are no scams (except for the guy in Kathmandu who tried to sell us an organized trek for $1,000 USD that only went half as far as we went independantly, and the Maoists who tried to rob us on the way back down) or other problems you find prettymuch anywhere where a world heritage site exists in a third world country. We met countless good people both going up and coming back and would safely and confidently recommend this adventure to
anybody I know.
In the meantime, we now race back to Delhi *cringe* and try to get in a quick visit to the Taj Mahal before heading onward to our next destinations.
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