Having popped a half of a sleeping pill each last night, Sherpa and I had the best nights sleep in 10 days. 6 hours each. I awoke from my slumber, refreshed, leapt from my sleeping bag and…….it was still feckin freezing…
Today is a bittersweet day for us.
Sweet – as today, we begin the third and final leg of our odyssey. Today we set off on our three day trek to climb the 6000m Island Peak.
Bitter – as today, our Everest Base Camp family breaks up.
Mark has been troubled by his knees and hips and has arranged for a helicopter pick up this morning.
Niko, Dylan, Ursula, Brendan, David & Katie all continue to trek down. First to the beacon that is Namche Bazaar and then onto Lukla for the twin prop flight to Kathmandu.
Both Sherpa and I have mixed feelings this morning as we enjoy breakfast together one last time. We are excited by the incredible challenge that will be Island peak but also envious of our friends as they will see their loved ones soon.
After breakfast there are group hugs and genuine fond goodbyes in the warmth of the food room. Facebook addresses and WhatsApp groups are gathered.
Reluctant to break up the gang, we linger until Passang enters the room and we get to hear his daily command one last time “chop, chop” – our cue to saddle up and start moving.
As we move outside, he sidles up to us and whispers “Maith Go Leor”.
The guides split into 2 groups and Passang leads the Namache gang and a stray that we picked up (Patrick Burke, Monamolin) out the gate and they turn left down the hill.
Ang Kami leads Sherpa & I out the back gate and we start to climb back up the hill.
As we head north, we encounter a local lad leading a horse with another local lad on top. Ang Kami has an animated discussion with the chap leading. It turns out that the lad on top is suffering from acute mountain sickness and is on his way to hospital. On closer inspection, he has been tied to the saddle so that he doesn’t fall off. The trek to the hospital will take 24 hours. Even the locals can get Acute Mountain sickness so no wonder Sherpa fell victim.
Today we head for Chukkung (+500m) to prepare for the assault on the summit of Island Peak. At 6000m+ it is the highest altitude that we will have visited and requires technical climbing skills to summit in a low oxygen environment.
On the way, we pass through Dingboche. I scurry past the Summit hotel lest the investigation into the Mickey Mouse incident is continuing.
Further along the trail, we meet a platoon of Nepalese army running maneuvers. They are fully loaded with AK47s and othe pieces of hardware that I don’t recognize but would obviously mess you up. Sherpa asked if we’d try to get a photo with them. I encouraged him to ask but unfortunately they didn’t shoot him, just politely refused.
They reminded me of the FCA, except, they had real weapons, knew what they were doing and weren’t lost.
Finally, we reached Chukkung and the “Resort Chukkung” to be exact. I think the name is aspirational and not a description of its current state. We have a bowl of soup and then it’s out into the courtyard to begin our technical training.
We are fitted for our climbing harnesses and provided with Dumars, figure of 8, crampons, helmet, ice axe and some other stuff that is a mystery to us.
Ang Kami has set up a ladder 6 feet off the ground, horizontally between two rocks for us to practice our ladder walking. On the way to the summit, we will pass over a glacier that has fissured due to the earthquake. Now, a deep crevasse must be crossed by walking across two aluminum ladders tied together while wearing crampons (spikes) on our feet.
The instruction from Ang Kami is great and we both manage to cross it a number of times without incident. It will be interesting if the additional drop of 150 feet will make it more difficult in real life.
We leave in the morning (Thursday) for Island Peak Base Camp so have to separate our gear into essential and non essential. The non essential will be stored here in Chukkung for our return.
We hope to arrive in Base Camp after a three hour hike and will spend the afternoon training at altitude for ascending and descending on ropes and will spend the night in tents.
On Friday we will hike up a further two hours to High Camp to further acclimatize. We will rest and make final preparations for our summit attempt which will start at 2am.
Our summit attempt day is scheduled to be a 16 hour day finishing with our return to Chukkung.
This will be our last post until then. We really appreciate all of the wonderful comments and support that we have received on our odyssey and look forward to sharing our Island Peak experience with you on Saturday.
Sherpa & Yak.