Day 6 – Acclimatisation in Dingboche
I think this was the windiest day I have ever experienced. Our acclimatisation hike from Dingboche (4410m) to Chukung (4730m) for lunch was a gentle but constant ascent, coupled with similarly constant buffeting from the wind. There were many frozen puddles and streams we had to cross and one actual frozen river that was somewhat stressful to cross but a thrilling experience regardless. Unfortunately I didn’t take many photos because it was so cold I didn’t want to take my gloves off.
On the way back to Dingboche I wasn’t feeling well so I went ahead with Sujan again, I just wanted to arrive back at the tea house ASAP. But then Sujan stopped to take a phone call and I got further and further ahead until… Oops. LOST!! I reached a place that I definitely did not recognise so I stood on top of a rock in the hope that someone would see my bright blue jacket from afar. It was such a surreal experience: panoramic views of the most incredible mountains, low clouds rolling in and covering everything, not a single human in sight as far as I could see in any direction. Then I heard “Maia! This way!” and I could just see my team up the mountain slope, so far away. I scrambled up a cliff covered in prickle bushes, jumped over a fence into a yak farm, made my way across the field, and walked into town with the others. So much for arriving early.
Back at the lodge we were all so happy to see Michael who had managed to catch up to us after recovering from his food poisoning. His successful trek to Base Camp was definitely thanks to the diligent care of the Take On Nepal team because with other companies he probably would have been flown back to Kathmandu when he got sick. We all sat around the (dried yak poo fuelled) fire in the dining room of the tea house and caught up on the last few days.
Day 7 – Dingboche-Lobuche
The trek from Dingboche to the base of Thukla pass wasn’t too difficult, mostly Nepali flat. After lunch, however, the fog had come in.
This meant we couldn’t see the monstrosity that lay ahead of us: the path to Thukla Pass (4830m) that would take us upwards nearly 300m in elevation over a considerably short distance. It was STEEP. It was such a relief to arrive at the top, and the view of the frozen river on the other side made me somewhat forget what I had to go through to get there.
That night we stayed at Lobuche (4930m), and after an evening hike up to the ridge to see the glacier on the other side I was literally the coldest I have ever been in my life. I believe the temperature dropped to about -20 degrees that night.
Day 8 – Lobuche-Base Camp-Gorak Shep
I was so happy when my alarm went off that morning because it meant I could finally stop pretending that I might actually get some sleep. It wasn’t a great start to what would turn out to be the most difficult and uncomfortable day of my life, but at least the water in my drink bottle wasn’t frozen solid like everyone else’s thanks to keeping it in my sleeping bag.
The walk to Gorak Shep (5180m) for lunch and then on to Base Camp (5365m) was both a mental and physical struggle. I had a headache all day, I was struggling to breathe, and I just wanted to curl up on the ground and never move again. There were two things that kept me going. First was Dinesh, one of our guides, who was very patient and slowly helped me across the glacier, insisted on carrying my daypack as well as his own, and made sure I sat down to rest regularly. I couldn’t have done it without his support that day. The other thing was my stubbornness. I kept telling myself that I hadn’t come that far just to stop when the end was in sight.
I was the last person to reach Base Camp that day, but I did it and it was well worth it. Standing in the middle of a glacier surrounded by these enormous mountains of ice it was like being on a different planet. A very harsh planet. The word that came to mind as I took in the sights of Everest Base Camp was “inhospitable”. It was an unbelievable sensation to be at the bottom of the top of the world, but after about an hour we headed back to Gorak Shep for the night where it was so cold that the water in the toilet was frozen.
Day 9 – Gorak Shep-Deboche
After my huge struggle the day before and my fifth night of very little sleep, I opted out of getting up at 4.30am to hike up Kala Patthar. No regrets, I actually did get an extra bit of much needed sleep while the others were getting frostbite in their lungs. When they returned, frozen, it was breakfast time, then back past Lobuche, across the frozen river, and down down down from the Thukla Pass.
We stopped for lunch in Periche (4370m), and after that I was feeling so good from the massive drop in altitude that I actually jogged down many of the mountain paths from Periche back to Deboche (3820m). It was exhilarating, I’ve never felt so fit in my life. Such a stark contrast to the day before.
Day 10 and 11 – Deboche-Namche and Namche-Lukla
The homeward stretch. Deboche to Namche was a fairly uneventful day, but I can’t downplay how exciting it was when we got to Namche and I was able to use a toilet that flushed and then wash my hands with water in a sink, both things that hadn’t happened for about 6 days.
Namche to Lukla was fantastic. On the way to Base Camp I was so excited to get there that most days I was walking ahead of the group. After leaving Namche it was as if I could almost taste the hot shower waiting for me and I was stopping for nothing. I had achieved what I came to do and loved it: now I was thinking about how much I wanted to be back in Kathmandu. And how much I wanted to be clean. By this stage my hair was a curly, greasy mop and I can’t describe how bad my clothes smelled. Two weeks + no shower + trekking daily = gross.
Day 12 – Lukla-Kathmandu
We were the first to arrive in the airport that morning. We were so early we saw how they turned the light on: by screwing the lightbulb into the fitting. Going through airport security was hilarious, the metal detectors weren’t actually turned on and the luggage scan was simply a guy rummaging through our bags and asking if we’d taken any stones from the mountains. We were exultant at the fact that the weather was good and we scored the first flight back to Kathmandu.
After a short goodbye to the Himalayas via the amazing view from the plane, I had clean hair and was having coffee and bacon and egg croissants before I could say “suspension bridge”.