Day 12: Gokyo to Lumde – 14,327 feet

This is the first moment I have had WiFi in days. So if you wish to read in chronological order, start from where you left off (likely day 8).

Today was the official first day of coming down from the high mountains. Lumde is about 1,200 feet lower than Gokyo which should start to manifest in better sleeping. But don’t be deceived, today was the hardest day of climbing in my life. On the heels of 10 hours yesterday and the Cho La Pass, we again were on trail at 5:30am and proceeded up the trail to the pass, 2,000+ vertical feet, some of it more suited to mountain goats than humans. Our first view was of Cho Oyu at the head of the glacier we traversed yesterday. Once we got up higher, at one point, our guide hurried us through an especially dangerous rock fall section. Going “fast” was mostly out of the question; simply breathing predominated. Amazingly, joining us were two dogs from Gokyo (one of whom I am sure barked all night making sleep all the more fitful). They seemed completely unfazed by the elevation and at moments sprinted up the steeps. They actually followed us all the way to Lumde. Dogs around here are not owned by anyone but all feed them. I decided to name them “Blue Green Sherpa” (had two different eye colors) and “Socks Sherpa” (looked somewhat like the wolf from Dances with Wolves that the Kevin Costner character adopts). Our guides also revealed an interesting factoid – April is dog breeding season.

Anyway, I digress. We made it to the Pass after almost 4 hours of climbing. Once again we were blessed by a mostly clear sunny day and feasted our eyes on the most comprehensive view of Everest and the mountains surrounding it. Many 23,000+ foot mountains all in fields of view. On Everest, the Hillary Step, the South Summit, the South Col, and the shear face in that area were in clear view, all of which have been the source of great achievements and tragedies. Having been 2 for 2 weather wise through the passes was a stroke of good luck that I will cherish given that the high passes are the hardest climbs in this part of the Himalaya that don’t require technical equipment beyond microspike crampons and a helmet. As a result many fewer do it. Everest Basecamp is the primary trip people do. Our guide calls the trail there the “superhighway”.

Headed down after about 20 minutes of photos and snacks. Once again, rock faces loomed above and we all found an extra gear while using great caution on the steep icy track down. Trail varied from snow/slush covered and often muddy. My boots held up well, as did the gaiters my kids got me for Christmas – kept the snow and muck out. Our porter was less fortunate with boots that don’t appear to be waterproof. I really feel for him, but he always has a warm smile and friendly spirit. He’ll be getting a good tip.

Arrived Lumde in the afternoon and had what is becoming my meal favorite, Sherpa Stew. I confess, though, that I am looking forward to a burger at the LA airport when I get there. And, for the first time in days, I have a bathroom in my room! Still a hole in the floor with a bucket to flush water into it though. Tomorrow we are back to Namche having completed our circle route of the Himalaya (with a deviation to Everest Basecamp) and the first shower in 9 days! Can’t wait.

As I write this we are hovered around the yak dung stove. I have great video of the proprietor loading it for any of that wanted to get a stove like this :). Outside it is sleeting/snowing. We were so fortunate to get over the last pass today as it might be snowed in tomorrow.

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