Sherpa spent the morning stuck to the mattress with dizziness, a debilitating headache and nausea. He looked haggard and drawn and I was worried. By Sherpa:
“I had read about AMS, acute mountain sickness but never fully realized the consequences. It takes you completely by surprise. We finished climbing Kala Pathar at 18,500ft & after yet another dose of noodles & rice I went to bed. At 1am I awoke to the most severe headache I had ever experienced. Nausea, felt like vomiting etc. I tried Diamox, paracetamol, water etc !!!! The cure ……………. coke n coffee!! (not the stuff u snort). The team spirit kicked in at breakfast & the TLC was rolled out by our superb team ! The AMS left & returned last night so we are descending today as that’s the best cure & we’ll acclimate at lower altitude before we go for Island Peak! ………….. serves me right joking about AMS’s likeness to PMS!! Bad karma ladies 😘, Sherpa Mac.”
Trekking out of Gorak Shep, we are thankful that our team is still intact. The trek is through a vast grey crater filled with dust, rock and ice.
The cloud has dropped down low today and robbed us of the heat of the sun. It is noticeably colder than previous days. I am togged our in a buff, beenie hat, windbreaker hood, sun hat, Marino wool base layer, tee shirt, fleece, duck down body warmer, windbreaker jacket, base layer leggings, windproof pants, sunglasses. Not a square inch is left open for the biting wind and toxic cold to attack.
As we trek through the valley and climb a number consecutive dusty rocky ridges, we again struggle to deal with the low oxygen levels. Gorak to Base Camp is about 5kms with an elevation gain of just 200 meters. It will take us 3 hours.
Along the way, some of us struggle and the professionalism of Ang Kami Sherpa and Passang Sherpa was fantastic and kept us going.
Finally, Everest Base Camp comes into view. A motley collection of orange coloured tents perched precariously on the edge of the Khumbu ice fall. It is a strange sight and looks totally out of place. It is however a monument to the endeavor and pioneering spirit of man.
As we enter the approach to EBC, it starts to snow. Not a big dump but light impish snowflakes dance around us. Almost as if the spirits of Miyolangsangma are casting snowflake petals in a welcome to their sacred place.
The snow reminds us of Ireland’s great bread crisis just weeks ago and we both smile. It also brings thoughts of home and family. We fall silent for a while.
Suddenly, it becomes clear that to accept this rock filled crater at face value would be a mistake. The crater we have been trekking through is actually millions of square tons of glacier that has been hidden from view by millions of years of rock falls. It is staggering. Closer to base camp the glacier reveals herself in all her glory.
Up one last climb and we’re here, Everest Base Camp. It is bright colors and odd sized constructions combine to make it oddly interesting against the rugged symmetry of the ice fall. The camp is not yet fully constructed for the season and yak trains and porters come and go with regularity.
To the right of the icefall, our tents lay prepared. They are bright tangerine North Face two man tents. In the sporadic sunshine they look happy and optimistic about the night ahead.
Having spent ages taking every type of selfie and group photo known to man, we retreated to our small piece of base camp and prepared for the night. Sherpa and I threw our duffel bags and Rucksacks into our tent and wondered where we’d fit. After some advanced geometry, we worked out a system.
Having changed for the night we wandered down the street and knocked on the door of Dylan & Brendan. Soon, Niko arrived and a game of Uno took off. In the middle of the game an approaching head torch alerted us that our dinner was en route; chicken soup, noodles, cheese sandwich, coffee, popcorn & snickers.
Having enjoyed dinner, Uno, Top Gear and some lively banter, we all went our own ways at about 8pm. No sign of a taxi, so we walked the 5 steps to our tangerine dream – stopping off to use the port-a-loo one last time.