This is the second post about our adventures in the Himalayas. You can read about the first five days of our hike here.
Day Six – Dingboche acclimatisation day (climb up to 4900m peak)
Not much to say about today and I’m still feeling too exhausted to write anyway. Went on an acclimatisation trek up a peak nearby, but got a nasty headache at around 4900m. Not my favourite hike so far – very repetitive, cold, windy and clouds everywhere.
On the plus side, we met a nice American and German who took us to a local bakery for a delicious chocolate cake (we were actually planning to attend a talk on altitude sickness there but it was in a different town..) The German guy is planning a two year cycle from Alaska to Patagonia. Why is everyone such a nutter up here!
Day Seven – Dingboche (4410m) to Dughla (4620m)
A short hike today to help with acclimatisation. Weird to walk the whole way without seeing trees, although we did see lots of snow on the trail for the first time!
Most people seem to have pushed on straight to Lobuche but I’m glad we’ve stopped as I’m really feeling the altitude still. We went on a short acclimatisation hike 200m up from our lodge and instantly felt headachy and nauseous. Our plan was to sit up at a higher altitude for an hour or so to help us with sleep tonight, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it so we came back down pretty quickly. My resting pulse was 105-110, compared to 75 last night (which is already high thanks to the altitude). Quite frustrating given I slept for five hours straight for the first time last night so I thought I was acclimatising well. Blood sugar levels seem to make a massive difference and I think it was a mistake to head up on our afternoon hike before lunch – we’re all finding that as soon as we start to get hungry, we get headachy and tired very quickly. As if I wasn’t already enough of a diva when I’m hungry. Good excuse for a Snickers, though (as if I needed one).
We’re the only three people in our lodge tonight, which is one of just two on the edge of a glacier moraine, and, with no phone signal for the first time, it feels even more like the middle of nowhere. Creepy!
Day Eight – Dugla (4620m) to Lobuche (5050m)
First day above 5000m! Horrible cold start in the morning after another night with just three hours sleep. The nights are really becoming a struggle with the cold and altitude – it’s so hard to sleep bundled up in a sleeping bag hood when you’re finding it hard to breathe anyway. Feel like we could really do with just one good night to reset, but I think we might be waiting a while for that.
The trail is now almost entirely boulders, but luckily it was pretty gentle after the first steep climb out of Dughla. We’re staying in a very weird place tonight – an old Italian research centre which is supposedly still functioning but has shut down a lot of its projects thanks to a funding argument between the Nepali and Italian governments. The guy who runs it is very odd and has lived up here for 14 years. Feels kind of like the places they’re always visiting in James Bond films..
Our afternoon acclimatisation hike took us up to the old weather stations and the guy showed us around the labs. It’s also a medical centre for altitude sickness so it’s reassuring to know we’re in safe hands!
Because it’s set up for scientists it’s a lot warmer than normal and there are even carpets in the rooms so I’m very hopeful about our sleep tonight! We’ve also had our first shower in eight days, which was heavenly but very cold afterwards.
Day Nine – Lobuche (5050m) to Kala Pattar (5550m) and back to Gorak Shep (5180m)
We are absolutely shattered! Today has felt like one of the longest days so far. It started with a 5am wake up call from the Pyramid, followed by 2 hours of constant up and down to Gorak Shep along glacier moraine. Really tough with our bags, especially since I’d underestimated it and thought we had a short one hour flat walk, and bitingly cold until the sun came out. I couldn’t feel my fingers for a good thirty minutes, despite the fact I was wearing a fleece glove and a separate thick wind stopper glove on top.
We found ourselves a room at the Buddha Lodge (sleeping at 5180m tonight – eek!) and set off straight away for Kala Pattar, a 5550m peak which literally means ‘black rock’.
Probably the toughest climb yet. Two and a half relentless hours up to the top. Not hard to see why it’s called the black rock, the path wasn’t exactly full of variety.
Then just when it seemed like we were almost there, we found ourselves on a last climb over huge boulders to make it to the top. I’m so done with altitude now, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing the top, knowing you could make it there in twenty minutes normally, and it taking over an hour.
BUT what a sense of achievement when we finally reached the summit and the views were truly a once in a lifetime experience. The best possible view of Everest, with the entirety of base camp at its feet and the Khumbu icefall. Not to mention all the other mountains which, to be honest, are equally as impressive as Everest but which have a bunch of funny names that I can’t for the life of me remember.
The steep descent into the wind was almost as bad as the climb, but we made it back for noodles and an afternoon spent sat like zombies, breathing yak fumes and attempting to write my diary. I’m so tired that I’ve written the same thing about four times now.
Gorak Shep is stupidly expensive – almost $4 for a litre of boiled water and you’re not allowed to fill up from the tap and purify. I understand the food being expensive as it’s a nine day walk from the bottom, but there’s a glacier right next to the lodge so the water thing is shocking, especially since it just means people are buying plastic bottled water which then has to be carried back down the mountain to recycle.
Despite the tired, at least we’re feeling clean and no illnesses yet. We’ve been eating garlic soup everyday, which is supposed to help with altitude (although not so much with the smells), and drinking ginger tea, so I suspect that’s helped a lot.
Base Camp tomorrow and then, finally, a downhill to Dzongla ready for the Cho La pass (eek!!!).
Day 10 – Gorak Shep (5160m) to Base Camp (5350m) to Lobuche (4900m)
I am utterly exhausted. Today was by far the toughest and most spectacular day yet. We made it to Base Camp!
People weren’t exaggerating when they said it was hard to sleep in Gorak Shep. The cold was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – our water bottles and the steam on the inside of our windows froze solid – and my heart was going so fast all night that I managed a miserable two hours in total. I’ve also jinxed it by writing that we’re all feeling healthy, one night in Gorak Shep has been enough to bring on a cold.
The trek to Base Camp shouldn’t have been so hard, but the lack of sleep and the fact that we were walking along a ridge at 5400m most of the way, made it really tough in both directions.
Base Camp itself, however, was even more amazing than I thought it would be. There were hundreds of tents set up amongst the prayer flags, with lots of busy Sherpas running around moving food, water and equipment. Binod chatted to a few Sherpas who were on their way down from Camp Two. They looked very tired and definitely made me feel guilty about how tired I was feeling!
Being able to walk on the start of the Khumbu Icefall was also just incredible and we spent a long time playing with the ice, taking cheesy pics and trying to work out how the bloody hell anyone could climb it.
Well worth the lingering headache and tired legs, although I have to say it was really tough getting back to Gorak Shep for lunch and seeing all the Base Camp trekkers celebrating and getting ready to begin their descent. The two hours back to Lobuche felt very long, especially when we tried four lodges without being able to find a room. Thankfully someone has managed to squeeze the three of us into one small box room so at least we’re done for the day now. Waiting for what will hopefully be a huge bowl of noodles now!
Our last hiking adventures, including Gokyo Ri and the Cho La pass, are in the next post.