Once again woke to beautiful sunshine, but the coldest yet. We REALLY did not want to get out of our sleeping bags. Slept well last night and even managed to make it to 6am before hot footing it down the hall to the ice cube bathroom. So cold that the water pipe to the sink froze and it was 1.5 hours before I could do the simple task of a face wash. We’ve also now entered the portion of the trip where toilets are just holes in the floor, although plumbed and flushable (so far). Let’s just say that thigh strength is important.
Main task of morning was deciding where to head today. Original plan would take us to Kongma La Pass, and if we found it impassable as it was yesterday (unexpected late season snow had it waist deep and 70 mph winds), we had a two day backtrack we’d have to do. We decided for safety and logistics to not go there. Instead we headed directly to Lobuche, gateway to Everest Base Camp. Tomorrow, weather providing, we will be there and at the foot of the famous Khumbu Ice Fall and their constantly shifting ciracs. Many an Everest climber and porter has died there by falling into a crevasse or buried by tons of collapsing ice. We won’t be in the danger part as that higher section requires ropes and true mountaineering.
But back to today. Headed more or less straight up the side of a mountain, but then across a meandering flat with some downs. We hate the downs because it only means more up later. As we looked down on the town where we had just stayed someone was being evacuated by helicopter. At halfway point to Lobuche we came across views to die for. As an aside, it is really hard to decide what to take a picture of as it is all spectacular. Movies simply do not do this place justice. All around us are probably a dozen mountains over 13,000 feet. The big one today we saw was Pumori which is over 23,500 feet.
After lunch, and engaging 4 young men just out of the Israeli Army, it was a killer straight up. I judge the difficulty by how many draws from my drinking tube connected to my water bladder I can muster before just avoiding passing out and having to gasp for air. I usually can do 4-5, but on this bad ass climb I was down to 2, maybe 3. But we were rewarded by an awesome view on top, as well as the high Himalaya cemetery to those who lost their lives on nearby mountains, most commonly Everest. As I understand it, for the most part, no bodies are here, often because they could not be recovered and still reside on the mountain or a deep crevasse. Many Sherpa are honored here, including one who summited Everest 11 times. Can’t possibly imagine how he did that. Scott Fischer, the founder of Mountain Madness (outfit Amy and I used to summit Kilimanjaro in Sept 2017), is memorialized here. He played a prominent role in Jon Krakauer’s book, Into Thin Air (a must read for understanding the psychology of high altitude mountaineering). Scott died on the mountain in that 1996 disaster with a number of others. He also has a plaque on Kilimanjaro we saw on that climb; he put in a new route there that enabled more people to summit via better acclimatization.
Final slog to Lobuche was modest incline up and then right there, roughly 6 hours after we started, was Lobuche. This is our second highest overnight elevation to sleep (tomorrow night we sleep at Gorakshep, elevation 1659) although we will be hiking higher to basecamp, and even higher over the two passes to come. The place is little more than guest houses, yaks, and many Sherpa strolling around, cleaning their clothes in water that I highly wonder about its cleanliness, and enjoying visiting with each other. The Sherpa are a wonderfully positive and outgoing people and it has been a joy to engage them, even with limited English. Their children are also incredibly cute and seem completely unfazed by the cold.
At this elevation, the body suffering is more pronounced. I’ve had a modest, but steady headache most of this afternoon. Sleeping also becomes more fitful. We’ll see how tonight goes. Our guide tested our pulse and body oxygen levels via a finger cuff last night and Amy and I are both in the safe range. Experience tells me it will progressively drop as we go higher though. We both take Diamox, a diuretic that among other things reduces the effect of high altitude sickness. Amy is experiencing some nausea, but the drugs she has seems to be helping some and she’s forcing herself to eat gorp and other high energy snacks. She is an inspiration with her drive and fortitude. Both of us though are looking forward to our last night stay and recovery at the Hyatt in Katmandu 9 days hence.
Will be going to bed early as we need to be on trail by around 7am.