A most eventful day
02.17.2009 - 02.19.2009 16 °C
Note: Apologies about the premature post, here's the full entry.
Written: February 19, 2009
Continued from Part 1 of 3
At 1:45PM, Aaron indicated he felt better and was up for making Pheriche. We took off soon after at a slow pace apprehensively. The trail was mostly flat before we crossed a small bridge and started climbing upwards. We looked for the town of Orsho but we never encountered it so we kept on climbing. I periodically looked back and check on Aaron. He said he was fine but I hoped he would not regret continuing to ascend. An hour and ten minutes later we arrived at a small village and asked a local woman if we were at Orsho. She replied to let us know we were at Dingboche (4,320m) and which was 100m higher than Pheriche! We only had another hour of sunlight left but quickly decided we could not stay in Dingboche since it wasn't on our trail and the altitude was 100m higher than where we wanted to stop. We received some vague instructions and continued to hike up the hill to the north hoping to see Pheriche on the other side.
After a short yet exhausting 20 minute hike up the nearby hill, we could only see more hills. I checked the map and confirmed the headed direction and spotted a small trail we were looking for connecting Dingboche to Pheriche. Instead of taking the minor winding trail, we decided not to take the path and but head directly north west descending the valleys and ascending the hills. Finally, on top of the fourth hill, we saw a town and hoped it was Pheriche. A quick inspection of the map against the town's landmarks confirmed we were correct and the both of us felt great relief. We shared a laugh and took a few pictures to remember and celebrate the moment. It had taken us roughly 30 minutes to get in sight of Pheriche and darkness would follow soon. As we zigzagged down the ridge line approaching the first guesthouse past the bridge, we saw Caroline come out smiling to greet us. Once inside the guesthouse, we happily caught up with the Irish couple and their guide/porter.
Soon after we arrived at the guest house, Aaron bundled up and starting dozing in the common room. I had a few cups of comforting warm black team. The fireplace fueled by yak dung fire provided heating for the room and boiling water. In the early evening, Aaron woke up and said he was considering descending to Pangboche since he wasn't feeling better. Caroline and I discouraged him from that idea since it was getting dark. He decided to sleep on it and did in fact feel better the next morning.
On our acclimatization day, we took it easy in the morning and stayed indoors. At 2PM and in the afternoon sun, we ventured out of the lodge and took a walk around town. The Himalayan Rescue Association is based in Pheriche and run a medical clinic there. Right beside the HRA clinic is the Everest memorial marking all the trekkers and Sherpas who've died climbing Everest. All around us were majestic mountains and peaks. I was able to take some time to enjoy the quiet and soak in the sights. We played a few rounds of cards, had an early dinner and called it an early night.
Our party of four (Irish couple, Aaron and I) took off early on the sixth day of my trek. Caroline could not follow us since she developed a stomach issue on Day 5 and it did not get any better. All of us felt bad for her since the temperature during the cold Pheriche night made dashes to the toilet even more miserable. We offered her Cipro but none of it seemed to help.
The trek to Lobuche (alt. 4,877m) was long and rough. We started off with mostly level terrains yet the hike was still strenuous due to the altitude. The trail then broke right and started climbing steeply requiring many breaks to catch our breath. After crossing a bridge over snow, ice and water we arrived in Dughla where we stopped for lunch. On the map, Dughla looked like a town but it really consisted of one lodge with the most disgusting toilet in Nepal.
Leaving Dughla, the path continued to climb sharply for a while before we reached a plateau. With heart pumping fast and trying to catch my breath, I was still stunned by the sight in front of me. There were many cairns of prayer stones some adorned with prayed flags in the plateau area. The Himalayan peaks in the distance felt so much closer than they've ever been. It was here we took some time to rest and enjoy our surroundings. There was a memorial to Babu Sherpa, a legendary Sherpa mountaineer and holder of two world records on Everest (fastest ascent without oxygen at 16 hours, longest time spent on summit without oxygen at 21 hours). The rest of the journey to Lobuche was at an even level hugging ridge edges. Twenty minutes from Lobuche, several people developed ills and discomforts. Aaron and Aoife had headaches while Noel had strong stomach pain reminiscent of his food poisoning in Delhi. We arrived to Lobuche tired and ill in one way or another. After talking about it so much during our final stretches, Aaron and I ordered the apple "pai" (320NRs) at the lodge to celebrate. When it came out, we realized it was essentially a large momo stuffed with mashed apples.
The 7th day started off in a negative manner. None of us slept very well due to the altitude, cold and illness. Noel still had stomach pains and was vomiting and Aoife developed similar symptoms. Aaron had headaches and my stomach did not feel great. My hypothesized culprit was the lunch in Dughla. After a group discussion, Aoife and Noel decided to stay an extra day and rest in Lobuche to see if they would feel better. Aaron and I also decided it would be a good idea to wait one more day but head for Gorak Shep (alt. 5,170m) and Everest Base Camp (alt. 5,475m) the next day. We took the day easy by resting and playing cards. In the afternoon, Aaron and I took a short stroll up a small hill to get some fresh air and snap some pictures. We briefly met an English couple at our lodge but due to woman's illness they left shortly after for lower altitude and warmer temperatures. A Spaniard named Paco came in mid-day for brunch and took off for Gorak Shep. He came back around 3:30PM frustrated since he got lost and did not find the way to Gorak Shep turning back to seek shelter before darkness. Since this was his second time on the EBC trail (he first completed in '86), he intended to descend the next day rather than hit Gorak Shep/EBC.
If the 7th day started off negative, the start of the 8th day was a disaster. Aaron knocked on my door at 7AM with his bags packed and told me he was descending to Namche. He didn't sleep at all and was feeling terrible. He wished me luck and stay safe. I returned the sentiments and we agreed to meet in Namche in two days. When Aoife and Noel came down, they also said their conditions did not improve and they would descend. We exchanged contacts and wished each other well. Of the group of people I'd been hiking with only I would be continuing on to Gorak Shep (5,170m), Everest Base Camp (5,475m) and Kala Patthar (alt. 5,643m). After a very lonely breakfast, I steeled myself to continue and take on the final and toughest peaks of the EBC trek alone.