29 February 2016

Everest Base Camp Part 4 - We Made It

Day 8: 2hrs 40 minutes to get to Gorak Shep. 
At 5,164 mtrs it is described as a frozen lake bed covered with sand. I didn't expect to find sand this high up in the Himalayas! Gorak Shep means "dead ravens," because of the complete lack of any kind of vegetation growing there. 
The itinerary had us going to base camp the next day, day 9, then all the way up to Kala Patar, all the way down then to Periche on day 10. I don’t think I could’ve done it, I would have had to hire a horse! the others weren’t keen on the long day 10 either so we all voted to go to base camp this afternoon.  

After lunch we set out for base camp 

Dear Far insisted on carrying my rucksack, it only had water and my waterproof  in it, but we were functioning on only about 11% effective oxygen now so I needed all the help I could get.
Tsurin carried Bonnie's. 
Far had my camera with him, I can't remember if he took this photo as a selfie with Bonnie and myself in the background or if someone else took it.

He definitely took this cute bird one

Almost there

I made it!!...... on Monday the 15th Oct 2012 I reached Everest Base Camp at 5,350 mtrs. 
Phurba, Kat, me, Tsurin and John in the background. Bonnie arrived a few minutes later.
It was very emotional. 

Lots of trekkers left their signed banners and flags, or personal mementos.  

I could hardly believe I was there. It had been tough getting there, but so worth it for the amazing experience and achievement. I felt so proud of myself. I texted my daughters, who replied "Well done ma, we're so proud of you" :-) 

Josh looking good on the Khumba glacier - what a poser! :-)

Back at Gorak Shep. A round trek of 5 hours. I took this the next day because it was dusk by the time we arrived back. We celebrated with a hearty meal, the chocolate I had taken and a few games of Uno.
A nice lodge but another grim toilet!  

It was clean, all those marks were scuffed concrete! But again it was unspeakably smelly, perhaps altitude affects drains - the two highest were the worst. Another one where I had to cover my nose whenever I used it, which unfortunately involved a night time visit. I had had to go every night since I started taking Diamox. 
Diamox forces the kidneys to excrete bicarbonate which re-acidifies the blood, balancing the effects of the hyperventilation that occurs at altitude in an attempt to get oxygen. This re-acidification acts as a respiratory stimulant, particularly at night. 
I had a system in place for dealing with these nightly visits in sub zero temperatures. I slept in thermal pyjamas, my down jacket was at the bottom of my bed. I sat up in my sleeping bag, put the jacket on, my Ugg boots were at the side of my bed, they contained my scarf, head torch and a few sheets of toilet paper (never take the whole roll in case you drop it!!!...) So, nicely wrapped up I sprinted down the corridor, put my scarf over my nose, held my breath, did what I had to do, then sprinted back to the warmth of my sleeping bag!  
Didn’t bother with a shower again, wet wipes and deodorant, everyone was more or less doing the same thing, none of us smelt bad, body smells aren’t bad at altitude, or perhaps we just didn't notice because we all smelt the same! I always cleaned my teeth though!
This was the only place I had to share a room for two nights. The lodge was bursting at the seams so I shared with Bonnie, while her husband John shared with Ken. It was very nice having company.

Everest isn't visible from base camp, to get a good view of it you have to climb up to Kala Patar. Everything I had read said how spectacular the sunrise was and it was worth the trek to see it, however that would've meant leaving at about 3.30 when it would be very, very cold and very dark, so we opted to leave later and still get a good view.

Day 9:  We set out at 8.35

I needed many short rest moments

Scrambling up all this shale was tough and I did actually say "I can't do this anymore I'm going back".
I nearly gave up.

but I didn't. Bonnie and I arrived at 12.30. 

Kala Pattar 5,550 mtrs

Mount Everest in the background to the right of the pole. Ken had arrived before us and had got very cold waiting so he and Tsurin decided to go back. Later over dinner we said we would Photoshop him in, there then followed a barrage of suggestions as to what character we could use -  a Yeti, one of the Village People, a surfer, just in his underpants, the list became a very long one!! We had a lot of fun. Needless to say we didn't actually get round to doing it!
For many trekkers, summiting Kala Patthar provides the best views of Everest and the highest altitude it’s possible to reach outside of an airplane (other than actually climbing the mountain itself!)

The mountain we had all come to see. The summit looks so easy to get to from this angle!

Far climbed to the top!It was only a few more metres but it was cold and very windy so the rest of us were content to stay where we were and enjoy the views.

John had told us earlier on that he had bought an Hawaiin shirt and was going to change into it for a photo. I don't think any of us believed him until..........

I can't imagine that this cute little dog had climbed all the way up there on its own, perhaps it was with someone and was waiting for them to go back down.
He looked content sitting in the sunshine with his warm coat on.

So having reached Everest Base Camp and Kala Patar
all that remained was to get back down to Lukla.............. 
to be continued

24 February 2016

EBC Part 3: Dingboche And Lobuche

Most mornings we rose about 5.30 (a lie in was 6.00). 
Breakfast was a choice of porridge, eggs, bacon, toast, cereal, yoghurt, 
jam, butter, honey and lots of chai. 
Porters carried our kit bags to our next destination, 
we loaded our rucksacks onto our backs and set off.

Leaving Tengboche for our next lodge at Dingboche. We were never far from the river Dudh Kosi, a raging river that flows from the highest peaks. It wasn't very raging here, more like a gentle meander, but during the monsoon it would be a raging torrent!

The impressive Ama Dablam in the distance. 


True Grit
The going often got tough for Bonnie & myself. We supported and encouraged each other and we had our mantras. With each step she took Bonnie’s mantra was “Courage & Confidence” Mine was "I can do it". I had a henna tattoo on one of my forearms which read “You can do it ma”, to remind me of what my daughters would say when I was struggling. It wore off after a while, but I still looked at where it had been when I needed encouragement. I also had two sayings going round in my head; “Each step takes me nearer to my destination” and “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”!
This particular day I decided that Bonnie was made of the stuff that built the west and I was made of the stuff that built the British Empire - True Grit.

Essential chores, washing clothes

and drying yak dung

What a handsome beast and what a gorgeous coat. 
There were quite a few wild yaks and ones that had reached the end of their 
working life and were set free to roam the mountains.

Dingboche, a village in the Khumbu region

We couldn't make out if this was an emergency helicopter or a sightseeing one.

The Khumbu lodge. Home for the next two nights.
  6.5 hours walking, a much better day. Beautiful weather and scenery. 
We were above the tree line now at 4,400 mtrs. 
Because we were always last to arrive Bonnie and I got a great welcome from the others in our group.
I think they were pleased to see us arrive safely! We were a lovely group and bonded right from the start.

This was a really nice lodge, one of my three favourites. 
It was one of the many that used yak dung, it was blissfully hot and cosy.

My room was lovely, how did they know pink is my favourite colour :-) It was very cosy, it faced west which I hoped would warm it up a bit, it did, but not for long! There isn't any heating in the rooms, it would be too expensive and besides trekkers usually have all the essentials for cold weather. I hired a down jacket and a down sleeping bag, as they are very expensive to buy.
I went to have a shower and stripped off in the freezing cold. There were two plastic shower pipes but I couldn’t work out where they fitted to get hot water. After a few minutes of shivering I gave up, got dressed and made do with wet wipes. I found out later that the hot water had run out and the pipes had been disconnected. Most of the lodges rely on solar panels for hot water. I did get one the next day and it was excellent, lovely hot water!!

Western toilet. It did flush but paper had to be put in a bin beside the toilet and after a while it smells.
We had to supply our own toilet paper.

Day 6:
The weather was cold and the water from the outdoor tap was freezing but I needed to wash a few bits. Tsurin got some hot water from the kitchen for me. Later some people (think they were staff)
were washing their hair in that freezing water!! They were very hardy. 
I started to wear my really cold weather clothes today.

We stayed for 2 nights in Dingboche. This day the rest of the group did a 5 hour round trek to a place called Chukkung. Bonnie and I decided we would prefer an easier day but wanted to do something to assist with acclimatisation, so with the help of Tsurin we climbed to Nangkar Tshan, just behind our lodge. It was 4,600 mtrs and took us 3.25 hours with stops for photos and to admire the scenery.  


Day 7:
Preparing to leave. After packing everything Ken had forgotten to put sun cream on,
so I put some of mine on for him. 

On the trail to Lobuche. The weather was glorious.
It was somewhere about here I realised that I had left a pair of socks on the line last night, I left them as they needed a bit longer to dry but then forgot about them. I didn't even notice them as we were leaving! It was also about now that I felt one of the side effects from the Diamox, I had some slight tingling in some of my fingers. It wasn't anything to worry about and it didn't last for long. 

The yaks look like cute reindeer but we were told to keep away from them as they can be very bad tempered. Josh touched one by the horn and it turned on him, but another time he stroked one and it was ok. I’m sure some of them are quite docile.

Phurba and me, lunch break

Sherpa Phurba sunworshipping

Phurba was very patient with Bonnie and myself, he wouldn't let us walk too quickly

Boys have to be 16 before they can take a job as a porter, 
the lad wearing the red hat didn’t look much older than 12 or 13.


This area had a lot of shrines and monuments 
honouring those who have died on various Everest expeditions. 

It was very poignant

Our next stop, Alpine Lodge at Lobuche, 4,926 mtrs 5.5 hours walking. 
A good day but I got cold this afternoon, 
I was wearing good gloves but my hands were cold and I was tired. 
We had a slight fall of snow. 
I didn’t like this place, everywhere was untidy and smelt of urine. 
John & I went for a walk in search of apple pie, 
he had heard that there was a bakery in town, sadly there wasn’t.

The lodge wasn’t comfortable or cosy. My room didn't have anything on the floor, just bare floor boards. But again it had all I needed - a comfortable bed. It was a brand new lodge, still in the process of being finished. I think we were some of the first to stay there.

Squat toilet
OMG the toilet, it was new and very clean but the smell, oh the smell, I think the sewers were backed up, it was vile, it was so bad I thought I would never get it out of my nostrils. When I needed to use it I had to hold my scarf over my nose! 
I didn’t even bother looking for the shower, it was too cold, I was in basic survival mode now. 
However the dining room was warm and the food was delicious and plentiful,
and they did a very nice hot chocolate drink.
Someone had one of those gadgets you put over the end of a finger to measure heart rate. 
We all registered good except Ken, his was text book perfect.

Next stop Gorak Shep and base camp.

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