Sorry for the delay in getting this post out but things have gone a little pear shaped as of late. Before we get onto that, we should pick up from where we left off – departing Dingboche.
We sorted our gear into what we would need for the next few days camping up near the Kongma la Pass and what should be sent the long way round to the town of Lobuche (which is the town on the other side of the pass).
It took us two hours to get up to the Dingogma campsite which is at an elevation of 5000m. The route there was not straight forward. Tim – our expedition leader – told us the round about way to get up there. There were two options, 1) head in the opposite direction of our destination to low saddle where there is a path which gently works its way up to the campsite. 2) Go straight up.
I chose the first approach not being too keen on slogging myself up a steep hill for for no reason. A few of the other guys went straight up. No matter which way we chose, we arrived at the same time.
The campsite was a nice flat area with amazing views to once again, Ama Dablam. Upon arrival the team split up with their phones out at arm length continuing the desperate search for 3G signal.
I wandered back along the trail to a point which had a natural seat with a giant sun-warmed stone backrest. This is the point where I got a good signal so immediately called Alejandra who was on a plane with Charlie about to take off to Marbella. I was a little jealous to say the least. I managed to get some nice panoramas up on Facebook before the wind picked up and it got cold quick so I decided to head back.
We had our first night camping under the stars which was nice and got up at a reasonable time the next day ready to move on up to our next site.
The move up to the next campsite was relatively easy. It took about 1.5 hours up a steep zigzagging section and then over a few hills before seeing the frozen lakes which marked our campsite.
This campsite was just below the Kongma La Pass, one of the three passes on a popular Himalayan trail. As we slept we could hear the two frozen lakes cracking and booming as the temperatures changed. It actually sounded quite similar to the shields being hit in ‘The Phantom Menace’ when JarJar and his guys were being attacked by the Trade Federation (for the nurds).
The next day we were to climb up a nearby rocky peak called Pokalde. After a briefing on how to use our climbing equipment (more for the trekkers), we geared up and started our way up the jagged scree slopes. Very quickly things started to become undone with layers of loose slate slipping an sliding down the hill. This mixed with ice in all the cracks made for a perilous ascent for all involved and not worth getting an injury before we get to our objective. (I had no idea what was to come).
We dropped down a little, ascended another peak at about 5600m, took some snaps, Steve got out his ‘Photography lights’ and it turned into an impromptu professional Sherpa photoshoot.
After a while the team all came back down to camp and not much once done for the rest of the day. We went to sleep after a full moon night photo session for our last night camping.
I woke up the next morning with an unusual pain on the outside of my right ankle. I thought nothing of it and assumed I slept wrong.
We packed up camp, and then made our way up to the Kongma La pass at the back of the campsite. Although higher than the previous pass, we were well acclimatised to this 5550m elevation and apart from a few people who had hacking Khumbu Cough attacks once at the top, everybody got up without issue. The elevation gain from our camp to the pass was only 150 odd metres.
Once again, I raced down with Jon (aka. Speed Donkey) and we made great time descending the loose rocky scree straight down to the Khumbu Glacier below. We kind of ran, hopping side to side on the switchbacks and sliding in the loose stone. For a few of the turns I had a twinge in the left ankle which I twisted back in Pangboche and also in the right where I had that mysterious pain in the morning. Jon and I managed to adopt another trek dog half way down the pass. He was cute and a bloody nuisance at the same time. He would walk so close, he would get under your feet while you’re stepping. I nearly fell a couple of times so I made sure he got my boot if he came too close. He learnt quickly.
At the bottom of the pass we climbed up to the top of a 50m moraine and were presented with a maze of rock and ice which was like some ancient barrier between us and our destination – Lobuche village. Steve said afterwards, he now knows how Frodo felt when he tried to get into Mordor.
Jon sensibly waited at the top of the moraine for the rest of the team with Trek Dog 2 but I was keen to keep the momentum going. I started down a trail into the maze of gritty ice but it quickly crumbled into nothing. I came back up and then started down another, once again it seemed to disappear. I eyed the glacier looking for a way through and although seeing paths here and there, I couldn’t make out a way across. Just as I was about to give up and come back up to Jon, Tim and some of the team came up to the top of the moraine. Sure enough I was going in the complete wrong direction. Lucky I hesitated as I was so close to dropping down and finding my own route which no doubt would have ended in disaster.
I quickly caught up with Tim and others and followed through the glacier. Once on the right trail it became clear how to get through. It was about 11am by the time we were almost through and we met some trekkers going up the pass from Lobuche who were quite happy about their day ahead. Little did they know what they had in store, the journey from Lobuche up to the pass would have been a very long and tough day having to ascend all that loose rock and scree, especially as they wouldn’t be stopping at a campsite just on the other side but would probably be descending hours back down to a town on the other side. We wished them well, came over the last roller of ice and were presented with quite a sight, Lobuche village, teeming with trekkers, yaks, porters, trekkers and more trekkers. It was like watching a trail of ants working their way through a honeypot. We were not excited with the prospect of staying at Lobuche at all. All I saw was a small town surrounded with illness. Each person – a walking carrier of flu, noro-virus, and other contagious bugs. The paranoia is real in the Khumbu, we are constantly all washing our hands with alcoholic hand sanitiser, told not to shake hands with other teams and to be vigilant at all times. After weeks of this practice and already getting through our own little bouts of ‘Welcome to Nepal Diarrhoea’ we were all weary of Lobuche and its crowds.
We dropped down the far moraine into Lobuche and found our tea house for the night. A crummy place which was heaving with people. We ordered our normal first round of drinks, tea and hot water. We all sat around going over the day and trying to get wifi access for hours. I then went up to my ‘room’ (wooden box above the dining hall), sorted my gear and laid down for a while. The headache quickly came, then the shivers, then the stomach cramps, then the rest. Not sure where this came from I spent the rest of the night shaking in the bed trying to fight the urge to purge everything inside me. It felt like a very mild dose of food poisoning. I did not eat dinner and tried to sleep while the dining hall immediately below was an eruption of shouting and cheering like a bar full of drunken pirates. I also listened to a fascinating conversation outside between some Australian and American trekkers about whether they should ‘moon’ a group of other trekkers in a nearby restaurant. The friends had put some money together but after about 30 minutes of giggling like school kids, they decided to abandon the scheme and left. Lucky as they were motivating me to get out of bed and throw my ice axe at them.
I woke up the next morning with the mystery 7 hour illness gone. I felt OK and was ready to get out of this cesspool of a town.
We packed our gear and got moving towards Gorakshep – the last town before Everest Base Camp. I remember there was hill half way along this route which destroyed me and every other person going up it the first time we came across it in 2015. This year I flew up it not skipping a beat. Only because I was so well acclimatised. I felt for the people who were huffing and puffing with every step they’d take up this benign slope. The rest of the trek was uneventful. I made it into Gorakshep where Jon and Michael (trekker) were already waiting. We went into one of the teahouses and waited for the rest of the team. We had lunch and despite Gorak being the last 3G area in the Khumbu and being under the signal tower, we were all thwarted yet again by no cell signal. There was some wifi though where I managed to add a couple of shot of Everest to Facebook and do my mini update post here.
After lunch it was the last leg before we got ‘home’. I was very excited to say the least, I had not been in Base Camp for 2 years and this marked the end of the trek and we could start the climbing – the real reason I am even here!
In about an hour and a half of up and down some glaciated rocky trails and waiting in 40+ queues of trekkers and yaks, we finally got to Base Camp. A lot was familiar however it was all different. I suppose that is normal as Base Camp is on a constantly changing glacier. Jon, Michael and I eventually found Tim Mosedale’s spot high above the other camps with close access to the Khumbu Icefall. A nightmare to find if you’re coming into BaseCamp from Gorakshep but great for access to the Khumbu Icefall and Everest. Some other team members added this to their growing daily list of complaints but they will soon realise that the location is great for Climbing Everest, which I believe is what we are here to do.
We waited for the rest of the climbers and trekkers to arrive in our brand-new mess tent with all the goodies we could have wanted, including a heater under the table!
The trekkers slowly arrived. Some elated, others furious with the amount of effort they had to put in to get there. We all spent the afternoon hydrating and enjoying each other’s company before the trekkers headed off a few hours later back to Gorakshep where they would be collected the next morning by helicopter and taken back to Kathmandu where their trip would come to an end.
Once the trekkers left we all retired to our tents for our first night at Base Camp.