Everest – Day 14: Lobuche

April 12 (Friday)

Today we did an acclimatization hike to the nearby weather observation station that measures black carbon concentration in the air.

weather observation station

weather observation station

Most of the group decided to go back to the lodge but me and a few others elected to join our guide on a moraine walk and listen to his lecture about glaciology.  We got to see the lower tongue of the Khumbu Icefall and its path through the valley.  Because we were so high up, over 16,000 ft, there weren’t even any shrubs anymore.  The ground was covered with moss and many many rocks and boulders.

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view of Gorak Shep below

So far I have been pretty lucky with my health, besides some sore throat I really have not been sick at all.  One thing you should know about altitude is that the gut is the first organ to take a hit from the lack of oxygen.  Food is not processed as efficiently and quickly as at sea level and the result is all kinds of unpleasant gas…  OK, this may be TMI, but it really bothered me!  I think it was a combination of altitude and the Nepalese food that I wasn’t really used to, along with some bad bacteria mixed in for good measure, because after supper I promptly projectile vomited whatever food I just put it me…

As I already mentioned, the higher we went, the worse our conditions got.  You may remember our accommodations at Namche with private showers and heated beds?  Well with every lodge that would get worse.  We always had beds but the bathrooms went from great at Namche through good at Pheriche and awful at Lobuche (two communal toilets with a bucket of cold water and a scooper to flush after doing your business).  Historically, Lobuche has been the place where most people get sick, and it certainly delivered!  The reason behind worsening conditions is the growing distance between Lukla and the villages.  There are no cars on the trek so everything has to be carried in by humans or yaks (interestingly and disturbingly enough, to transport via yak is more expensive than using a porter!!). We certainly could not wait to get to Base Camp to rid ourselves of all the nasty bugs of the villages!

DAY 15

Everest – Day 13: Pheriche to Lobuche

April 11 (Thursday)

today's trail

today’s trail

After a ‘bad’ day yesterday I woke up with a slight sore throat.  I couldn’t complain much though, most people in my group were sick with either a cold or GI stuff…  Supposedly traveler’s diarrhea is so common in this region that even the bugs causing the illness got resistant to the antibiotic of choice to treat them! (Ciprofloxacin). Instead, the drug of choice there is Azithromycin.  Even though we went with one of the best companies out there (Alpine Ascents), there is only so much they could control.  We were served our food in the lodges cooked by the local people.  Water was boiled by the local people.  Also, as I already mentioned, the higher up we went, the worse the sanitary conditions got, going from the individual showers to communal toilet.

We started our hike out of Pheriche through an incredibly beautiful field covered with rocks and snow.  We had expensive views of the north face of Ama Dablam behind us, so I frequently was turning around to memorize the view in my head and on film.  In addition, the field seemed to be a perfect site for yaks to graze on.  Since it was spring, the mama yaks brought out their incredibly cute babies to graze along with them.  A few of us fell a little behind the rest of the group because we just couldn’t get enough of this sight!!

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After some hot soup and hot tea at one of the little villages we started walking uphill at our own pace.  We came to the top of the hill where we were greeted with an unusual sight: the chortens.  Chortens are in other words memorials to those who have lost their lives on this mountain.  Many of them had prayer flags upon them.

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One of the most prominent chortens was the one for Scott Fisher, the American guide who founded Mountain Madness and who lost his life high up on the mountain in the 1996 disaster (one of the guys you read about in “Into Thin Air”).

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There was also a memorial for the Asian woman who died as recently as last year…  And farther away on another hill there was a row of chortens erected for the Sherpas.

chortens for the fallen Sherpas

chortens for the fallen Sherpas

This was a very humbling experience, to say the least.  It was also a big reminder of what Everest can do to us regardless of how careful we are climbing it.

We kept hiking on a pretty flat trail with Nuptse right in front of us and made it to our new home, Lobuche at 16,200 ft.

final stretch to Lobuche

final stretch to Lobuche

view from our lodge at Lobuche

view from our lodge at Lobuche

DAY 14

Everest – Day 12: Pheriche

April 10 (Wednesday)

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In order to make our bodies more used to the thin air, we went on an acclimatization hike to about 15,500 ft (about 1000 ft higher than Pheriche where we were staying at the moment).  I should mention here that we had a mix of American guides and Sherpa guides on the trek.  American men were always going a ‘normal’ pace but the Sherpas seemed to think that we were all mountain goats and made us run up the mountain.  Unfortunately that day a Sherpa was leading so we all had to race up the hill.  I started getting a headache (typical side effect of going too high too fast) so one of the American guides told me to slow down my pace.  I did which helped out my headache, but as a result I fell behind the rest of the group.  So naturally I got upset.  All kinds of doubt crept into my mind: ‘if I’m so slow now then they will surely turn me around on the summit day’; ‘I suck’, etc…  There really was nothing to worry about as my guides reassured me, but today was the first time this mountain kicked my ass!  And we’re only at 14,000 feet!  Twice that to go!

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DAY 13

Everest – Day 11: Deboche to Pheriche

April 9 (Tuesday)

Today’s trek led us to Pheriche at 14,270ft, roughly 2000 ft higher than our previous lodge at Deboche.

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What a beautiful hike today!  We started out by descending a little bit to Tengboche to see Geshe monk, the highest Lhama of the Khumbu Valley.  It was very important to all Sherpas and guides on our expedition to get proper blessing, and this monk was the answer.

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We sat around sipping Sherpa tea while each of us was given a card with a history of how Everest was formed, and a Buddhist prayer.  Each one of us then came up to the monk who wrote our names in Nepalese on the Everest card and gave us a typical prayer scarf along with a tiny orange rope to wear around our necks.  He instructed us to take the card out before our final rotation to the summit, point it towards Everest, and ask the Goddess for the permission to pass and for safe journey.  We were supposed to keep the card on top of our backpack and take it all the way to the summit.

me getting the blessing for successful and safe summit

me getting the blessing for successful and safe summit

Andy getting the blessing for safe trek to Base Camp

Andy getting the blessing for safe trek to Base Camp

After the blessing we started hiking again and were rewarded with views of Everest, as well as Lhotse to its right and the Nuptse ridge to its left.  Again, there were very high winds beating up the summit of Everest which made my anxiety level jump up a touch… 🙂  In addition to the three mountains we also had spectacular views of Ama Dablam towering seemingly at a reach of a hand.

Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam

Everest

Everest to the left (with the cloud of wind)

We had lunch at Shomare (13,156 ft) and started our hike again, this time along a mountain ridge.  The landscape was changing; the trees were visibly smaller and we saw no more of the blooming rhododendron trees.  This part of the trail was easy, pretty flat for the most part, and with spectacular views of the mountains all around and the winding river down below.

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We got over a tree line pretty fast and we were encountered with little dried out shrubs as well as many huge boulders.  We ended our hike that day with a glimpse of Cho Oyu and spectacular views of Mt. Lobuche.  Our home for the night was the Himalayan Lodge in Pheriche (14,340 ft).  What an awesome day today!!

DAY 12

Everest – Day 10: Khumjung to Deboche

April 8 (Monday)

Today’s trek took us to Deboche at 3734m (12,250ft), so at roughly the same elevation as Khumjung.  The idea was to let our bodies acclimatize even better to this low level of oxygen.

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The day didn’t start very bright…  One of the climbers who was hoping to go to Camp 2 has been fighting a GI bug over the last couple days.  He got so dehydrated that it wasn’t safe for him to go further up and he had to be helicoptered out to a hospital in Kathmandu…  Poor guy, we felt so bad for him.  He let me have his knee brace before he left which helped me out a great deal on today’s hike.

We stopped for lunch at Phungi Thanga (say that out loud!! 😉 and continued on up a steady hill to Deboche (12,250 ft).

Before we got to our destination, we encountered another monastery.

the entrance to the monastery

the entrance to the monastery

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Because there was no Buddhist monks present, we were allowed to take pictures inside of the monastery (as opposed to the one in Thame).  The temple was just as interesting as all the previous ones we’ve seen; the walls were covered with paintings of Buddha.  There were also two long tables present with cloths on the ground which served as seats for the monks.

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We stayed the night at the Rivendell Lodge which gave me and Andy a chuckle since we’re both big dork fans of The Lord Of The Rings 😉

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Although still not bad, our accommodations were getting progressively worse.  The bedrooms were dark, and although we still had our own toilet, it wasn’t nearly as ‘luxurious’ as the one in Namche.  The shower was communal, which certainly didn’t stop us from using it!

DAY 11