Day 10 – Gorak Shep (16,863 ft) – Kala Pathar (18,208 ft) – Orsho (13,547 ft)
Surya woke us at ten past four in the morning, and we were out and climbing by 4.45am, just as it was beginning to get light. For Surya and I, this was our second slog up Kala Pathar in less than 24 hours. Once again we managed a steady pace, and passed a few people who had started before us.
About half way up, Henry stopped to take some photos, and I continued my steady plod, increacing my pace as I approached the summit, keen to get there before the sun appeared from behind Everest. I climbed the last twenty minutes or so as hard as I could, puffing and panting hard in the thin air above 18,000 feet. I must have been going pretty well, as I had at least ten minutes on my own on the summit before anyone else arrived.
I wrapped up warm, with everything that I had in my small rucsac, as it was well below freezing. The water in my bottle had started to turn to ice, and was painfully cold to drink, but I had worked up a bit of a thirst.
I sat alone on the very top of Kala Pathar, and watched the sunny patch slowly creep down the mountain above me, towards where I sat shivering, as the sun rose slowly behind Everest to the east of me. Seeing the huge mountain so spectacularly silhouetted, and looking down on Base Camp far below was one of the most outstanding moments of my adventures over the past two years.
Others arrived at the top, and finally the sun reached us and warmed us up quite quickly. The best photo opportunity was now gone once the sun appeared, so we headed down for breakfast at Gorak Shep, packed our bags, and began the long descent back to civilisation.
We headed down the beautiful Khumbu Valley for about 5 hours, and stopped at a nice little tea-house all on it’s own at a place called Orsho. The clouds had been building steadily throughout the day, and we were very lucky to make it to our accomodation just before the skies opened, and it poured down.
Day 11 – Orsho (13,547 ft) – Tengboche (12,664 ft) – Namche Bazar (11,286 ft)
For the first time in days we laid in until 7am, and I had the best night’s sleep. The thin air at higher altitudes can make sleep difficult, and at more than 3,000 feet lower than Gorak Shep, the denser air in Orsho meant that I had an untroubled nine hours sleep. Henry did even better, asleep before me, and still asleep when I woke.
Again the morning was bright and clear, despite the rain the day before, and we headed on down the spectacular valley. We arrived mid-morning at Tengboche, which is a beautiful little place with an amazing monastery. Apparently the original monastery burned down in the 1990’s but was re-build with the help of Edmund Hillary’s Himalaya Foundation.
After lunch we decided to detour to Khumjung, where more of Sir Edmund’s legacy can be found at the school he helped build, documented in his book “Schoolhouse in the Clouds”. It was very atmospheric to visit, as once again by mid-afternoon the clouds had started to build again, and were swirling dramatically just above the school.
We made a final stop at the impressive Everest View Hotel, where there was no view at all, unfortunately, because of the now thick cloud cover. A long downhill toil from there brought us back to Namche Bazar at last. Just one more day of trekking to get back to Lukla.
The tea-house in Namche, which on the way up seemed so basic, now felt like The Ritz. It is such luxury to have modern toilet facilities, and water that comes out of a tap, not just scooped out of a bucket. And best of all… a shower, with real hot water! It’s the first shower I have had since we left here over a week ago, and it was FANTASTIC!
It is quite hard to explain how basic and difficult everything is on the long trek, how cold it can be every evening, and how little there is in the way of modern facilities that are so often taken for granted. We have pretty much been in the same clothes for most of the last week or so, washing socks and shirts when the chance presents itself, and hoping to get them dry again before they are needed too badly.
But what a truly incredible experience the whole trip has been, I wouldn’t change a minute of it.