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October 21: The Apex!

January 13, 2011

21 October: Morning
Did I mention that it snowed yesterday? Light, cute flurries that caught people’s attention throughout the lodge  throughout the day that didn’t stick, and that ultimately waned in interest as a nearly full moon began rising, before sunset, in a sparsely clouded sky over the mountains. Though Max had told us of the really accurate weather readers that any good guide at least has access to, in the crowded lodge, at least as suggested by the clips of converstaion debating the merits of Kalla Pattar v. Everest Base Camp, either no one had such access or no one bothered to take advantage of it.

Because everything changed. Despite the tiny nature of the beds and even tinier nature of their mattresses, Wayne and I decided we’d still amke an attempt to share a bed in an effort to fend off the cold we knew was bound to come from the hole in the wall where a window was meant to be. The cold did come, and I don’t think we were very helpful to each other. Rather, it was a constant battle for territory and, at least for me, a struggle to determine the best way to breathe. Through the nose and the mouth were both really painful. My lips are remarkably chapped.

Then there were the Nepali guys upstairs. It was really early so we couldn’t be mad, but we heard every stomp, conversation, joke, and resulting chorus of laughter (of which there were many). But things got even crazier. There must have been 20 men outside running around and chanting. We had no idea what was going on but it was borderline unsettling because Laura’s been reading about all the political tumult in Nepal and it definitely had a rowdy activist feel. But that soon settled and it seemed the Sherpas went to sleep, so it was back to getting comfortable with Wayne’s scarf as a pillow and figuring out how to breathe.

At some point we all woke up and Wayne asked Laura the time. 11:45. I couldn’t wait for the next three hours to elapse. Slowly but surely they must have, because there was Pemba banging on the door and calling, “Wayne!” at the not-window. Relieved, we all jumped to excape the ice box– only to be informed that it really was an ice box now. Pemba was there to announce our new departure time was 8:30. Bad weather. It was snowing.

Now it’s probably close to 7 and it’s still snowing, but just a little. Laura had self-diagnosed a chest infection, which she’s since made a move to retract, but still doesn’t really seem up to the 10 hour walking day that Base Camp woudl be. Kalla Pattar, with all its splendid views, wouldn’t be worth it.

21 October: Evening
Long story short we made it to base camp. But I’m too tired to talk about it now.

22 October: Morning
So basically when I told Laura we were going to push for Base Camp (though it was still a bit foggy and snowy and we weren’t sure at all if it was a realistic goal), she pulled herself out of bed to get breakfast because she couldn’t be deterred at this point and was already feeling a bit better. This in spite of another relatively unfounded diagnosis on the part of Pemba (who liked to make these without really checking in on her) that she had AMS and , if she attempted to walk, would need to take a horse to Pheriche later. Where does he come up with this?!

By the time we left, around 8, the skies had already started clearing dramatically, and thoughts of Kalla Patthar had begun entering at least Wayne’s and my head again. We made it to Gorakshep (5180 m [16,995 ft; and I realize in my map at the top it’s a little less… different sources give different estimates]) by 10, but the clouds had set back in and we made the final decision to give Kalla Patthar a skip.

Despite the relatively early hour and extortionate prices on the menu (I mean, I get it… nothing grows up there, everything must be trasported on someone’s head, the prices go up with elevation, but it still sends a pang through the heart of any budget traveler who’s seen Momos for 60 rupee [+/- 90 American cents] in Kathmandu, to find they’re 320 rupee [+/- $4.75… haha wow, what a budget indeed!] anywhere) I went for the Momos [Tibetan steamed dumplings]. Upon trying to cut the first one in half, not realizing my plate was hanging off the ledge, I sent the whole thing splattering on the floor, aside from the one I’d pinned down with my fork.

It was tragic, and Wayne so nobly offered his rice in exchange for the dirty dumplings, but I reminded him of all the disgusting things that had been left by disgusting shoes of disgusting travelers, and wouldn’t allow it. I salvaged the fillings (which still drew horrified glances from the British ladies across the table) and then Wayne and Laura shared their rice, the dears.

just past lobuche

getting toasty

not everest

nope, still not

pumori?

ooh… the ‘tiny’ peak in the very center of the photo might be everest…

It only took us like an hour and forty-five minutes to make it to Old Base Camp, which we did with perfect timing seeing as we passed so many people still heading there as we left, and there were some ominous clouds moving in. As we had been told, we couldn’t see Everest from Base Camp, but we did get a brief glimpse of it on our way in, and it was a cool experience being there on the Khumbu Glacier. Some crazy Irishmen were passing around a thing of Mount Everest whisky so of course we took a swig. Found some rocks (souvenirs for Ryan and Nate?), took a couple photos, then we bounced.

pretty desolate leaving gorakshep

ice and debris of the glacier

about to descend onto the glacier to base camp!

we made it!

could we have guessed we’d be doing this when we were 11?

clouds rolling in…

Stopped in at Gorakshep again on our way down, then hustled back to Lobuche as the snow started to fall again. It seemed to take longer than expected, but we made it back (right as the sky cleared again) between 4:30 and 5. Hung out with our Israeli and Canadian/American friends in the lodge (the Israeli guy ended up doing Kalla Patthar after all and got one awesome shot of Everest), then called it a night so early in much more pleasant circumstances. (We actually had a room in the lodge!)

Hard to believe this defining moment of our journey is over. Now we just gotta get back down…

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