Everest Base Camp Trek: Day 10-14

Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

DAY 10

Namche Bazar(3440m) to Debouche(3820m)

Elevation Gain: 740m Elevation Loss:320m Overall: 420m Gain

Are you at the age of retirement? Do you usually use a mobility scooter to get around? Looking for something to do with what little money you have left from the GFC? Look no further! Why not trek to Everest Base Camp? Hey why not bring a friend? That way you can bitch about everything thats wrong with the world while you amble through the Nepali himalaya, while walking side by side at a pace that make evolution look like a 100m sprint.

In case you haven't alredy guessed the traffic on the trail has increased. We left the lodge, minus Alan due to an Enchilada that lived up to its name on the menu of 'Enchilada Deploy', and before we even had a chance to get out of Namche we were stuck behind 10-15 people all headed in the same direction. I have no problem with people coming to see the Himalya, after all its something we all have in common. I do however, have a problem with massive groups of people who think its ok to take up the whole trail and move slower than a sloth with chronic fatigue. These are some of the same people complaining to the other 20 people in their group about how crowded it is these days, "It's not like it was in the 70's". No its not, did you really expect it to be? If you want to relive the 70's do me a favour and lock yourself in your basement, put on a Led Zepplin album, take some acid and stop getting in my way!

Sorry about the rant, not sure what got into me. Perhaps its the book by Bill Bryson Im reading, perhaps its the fact that I too am suffering the after effects of an 'Enchilada Deploy'(albeit mild compared to Alan) or it may be that when you walk in from Jiri, rather than cheat and fly to Lukla, you develop a dilusional sense of entitlement.

Only 4 hours after I left Namche I reach the tops of todays 740m climb. Here lies Tengboche our home for the night, or so I thought. A quick dash around the lodges in the village reveals there are no vacancies so we continue to Debouche, a short walk down the hill past Tengbouche.

Dipak suggests that we go back to Tengbouche to check out the monestary there. I spent some time wandering the grounds of the monestary looking at all the intricate and colourful carvings. At 4 pm the horns sound summoning the monks to afternoon prayer. Once the monks have all taken their places inside the prayer hall the crowd of waiting tourists file in. There is much ringing of bells, beating of drums and blowing of horns, supported by a backing of chanting monks. The bells, drums and horns soon subside and all that remains is the chanting monks, reciting mantra after mantra. Some of them so focused on prayer they look as though the as about to fall asleep. The chanting stops occasionly to allow the monks to take in some tea. Offerings of food are made to Buddha. Its interesting but because I don't really understand whats going on it gets a little tedious. My attention turns to the amazing decoration of the prayer hall. The walls are decorated with murals depicting different scenes from Buddha's life. At the front of the hall is a huge statue of Buddha surrounded be some of the most amazing wood carvings I have ever seen. Before long I leave. I get the feeling that the tourists presence is more tolerated that welcomed.

I emerge from the monestary and return to the lodge just in time to see the sun set over Mt. Everest. Tonight I eat dinner alone for the first time in over a week. Its abit shit really. I dont like eating alone. Dinner is a time for socialising I think.

DAY 11

Debouche(3820m) to Dinbouche(4410m)

Elavation Gain: 590m Elevation Lost: Nil Overall: 590m Gain

I rise before 6 hoping to see my first sunrise over Everest from my window. But alas, upon pulling back the curtain all in see is a valley full of cloud. Im a little disapointed but the only sunrise I really care about is the one from Kala Patar in about 4 or 5 days time.

We decide to hit the trail a little early today to beat the crowds. But first a hearty bowl of porridge, served to me by a girl of about 10 who last night thought she was running the show, bossing all the staff around. She was very good, so good I tipped her for the excellent service. By the look on her face this doesn't happen very often.

The mornings walk is quite pleasant. Our gradual ascent through the Rhododendron is not too strenous. Eventually we leave the forrest behind. The vegitation is mostly small, hardy looking shrubs and sparse brown grass. Ama Dablam stands imposingly over us, shining with its fresh coat of snow. After rolling through Shomare(4010m) the landscape opens out to a wide valley, almost devoid of life , bar the occasional Cak.

After a few kilometres of flat open ground we cross a raging stream. This marks the start of the final short, sharp climb to Dingbouche. For the first time I feel the restriction altitude places on you. I am unable to walk at my usual speed. My body just wont allow it. Drawing big gulps of air I push on for what seems an eternity but in actual fact is only 20 minutes. Rounding a bend I glimpse Dingbouche(4410m) far off in the distance.

It sits on the northern slope of the expansive valley of the Imja Khola. Mt. Everest, and the peaks that surround it, lie at the top of the vally to the north east of the village. Its a further 20 minutes to our lodge at the northern end of Dingbouche. At 10:45 we arrive at the lodge, 3 hours and 20 minutes after leaving Debouche.

I spend the rest of the day perched in the window of the lodges dining room reading and stuffing my face. When the cloud clears I have a lovely view of Ama Dablam. From here it takes on a completely different presence. It no longer looks like a 6000m pillar that seems to defy balance. From here you see its broad base, it seems close enough to touch. I watch in awe as wind races up the mountain, picking up clouds of snow and dispersing it high into the air in a swirling mass.

Dipak senses my restlesness at all this sitting around. Not sure if its all the fidgeting or if its me constantly looking at my watch. What ever it is he distracts me by teaching my a Nepali card game. Its very simple and a great way to kill an hour or so before tea.

Over dinner I get chatting to Jake and Linda from the U.S of A. They are great people. Jake and I share a fondness for Irish stouts. He has a great approach to life. Opting to put career on hold for a year or so that he could travel and experience the big bad world out there. He drove the U.S and Canada for 3 months alone before Linda joined him and they headed off around the world. Its a pleasent evening hopefully I will get to visit them one day in D.C.

DAY 12

Acclimatization in Dingbouche

I woke up this morning to see a fresh dusting of snow outside! Fresh, pure, SNOW!!! To say I was excited would be an understatedment. Suddenly I didn't care that I was cold. I didn't actually get to see it fall from the sky but I didn't care. Overnight it had dusted the entire village. All the roofs, stone walls and shrubs had this beautiful white flakey covering. Once I had my fill we had breakfast and went for a walk up a hill behind the village.

Mid afternoon I begin to feel abit ordinary. I assume its dehydration as I haven't had much to drink today. So I pump a litre of water and a couple Nurofen. It works... for a while. Dinner is served and I barely touch it. Halfway through I get the familiar taste in my mouth and make a dash for the loo. Apparently the fried eggs and potatoes I had for lunch have refused to sucumb to my digestive system. I feel instantly better and return to my stew and toast. Still not feeling great but better than I have all afternoon. A good time to turn in I think.

DAY 13

Dingbouche(4410m) to Lobuche(4910m)

Elevation Gain: 500m Elavation Loss: Nil Overall: 500m Gain

Well apparently the fireworks of yesterday evening where just a preview to the blockbuster that was to follow. By my rekoning I got about 2 or 3 hours sleep lastnight. When I wasn't bolting to the toilet, trying to figure out if that fart was indeed only a fart or reading my travel health book I was curled up in the featal position trying to ignore the excruciating stomach cramps and halucinations.

By morning the worst appeared to be over. Taking no chances I dose up on anti-biotics and stoppers. I decide to try to push on to Lobuche, I figure its best not to give this place another chance to kill me.

The first hour was quite pleasent. A nice stroll up a broad valley. We gain 200m in altutude without breaking a sweat. Progress is slower than normal though considering I haven't processed any food for close to 24 hours. We stop in Thokla for a rest and a sugary tea. I figure a packet of cheese crackers might help the situation. They agree. Its then up the Thokla Pass, a scramble over loose gravel and boulders that gains us another 200m in altitude. A few days ago I would have floated up a hill like this. Not today. Atop Thokla Pass there are a series of memorials to those who have lost their lives climbing Everest. One in particular catches my eye.

Babu Chiri Sherpa died in 2007 while attempting to summit everest for thye 11th time. It also lists some of the records he set which include summiting Everest twice in two weeks, making the fastest summit (16.5 hours) and spending 21 hours on the summit without the use of oxygen. The guy enjoyed pushing the limits.

From the top of Thokla its another hour or so to Lobuche. Upon arriving in Lobuche it becomes apparent that the place is packed. After visiting every guesthouse in the village we manage to secure a bed in a dorm room. Its not ideal but its a bed.

DAY 14

Lobuche(4910m) to Gorak Shep(5140m) via Everest Base Camp(5364m)

Elevation Gain: 454m Elevation Loss: 224m Overall: 2360m Gain

Got away abit later than I would have liked due to breakfast being served late. The trail takes us up a nice, gradual rise until we reach to base of Lobuche Pass, a short sharp climb. After the pass is a section of undulation where the trail is made up of large rocks. Its not until later that I realise that we had crossed the intersection of 3 glaciers. So covered in rocks and dirt that they were hard to define. Its from here we catch our first glimpse of the Khumbu Glacier, I am told its the largest in the world.

The Khumbu Glacier has a landscape all of its own, with massive peaks and troughs, frozen lakes and huge piles of rocks that defy explanation as to how on earth they got there. They cant have fallen in a landslide surely, the valley walls are at least 500m away.

By 9:30 we arrive in Gorak Shep(5140m) this is our stop for the night. After some searching for a room I am shown to a lovely little plywood box, with 2 beds, not unlike the rest of the accomodation I have had throughout the trek. Just as I finish settling in I am informed that this is not my room after all. After some confused looks are exchanged between Dipak and I, I am shown to my actual room, or shoe box. I can't help but laugh. The attendant opened the door to reveal a bed and a strip of floor 40cm wide. I half extend my arms to touch both walls. The room would be no more than 1.5m by 2m. But... its a bed.

With my accomodation out of the way we set off for Everest Base Camp. Its a pretty hard slog along the ridge above the Khumbu Glacier. Im not helped by being seriously short of breath and a splitting headache, I am hoping like hell its only dehydration and not altitude sickness. It takes about an hour and a half to reach base camp.

A real sense of achievement overcomes me. Who gives a shit that I cant breathe and have a headache that feels like someone is bashing my head with a very large hammer. I'M AT EVEREST BASE CAMP!!! Its not what I expected, some piles of stones, prayer flags flailing about and a simple sign drawn on a boulder anouncing "EVEREST BASE CAMP 5364M" all in the middle of the Khumbu Glacier. You get the sense you are standing in some sort of natural stadium, having vanquished some ghastly, unspeakable foe. Your surrounded on all sides by towering white peaks that seem close enough to touch. The only thing missing is Everest itself, hidden from view behind an un-named peak.

After the necessary happy snaps its time to return to Gorak Shep. I pump the liquids and a couple Nurofen hoping to shake this headache. Tomorrow morning we are supposed to be heaping up Kala Patar(5550m) for an early morning view, upclose and personal with the big girl. But if I dont improve my only option will be to decend without the moneyshot. Not worth dyng for I suppose.

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