Both of us slept poorly last night.
It was a bit weird. The temperature was about minus 15 outside and inside but we were both too hot in our sleeping bags. The lack of oxygen hampers sleep as the brain interprets it as suffocation and shocks you into consciousness, gasping (sleep apnea).
The hours till morning passed slowly.
Frustrated by the attempts to sleep, I was glad to see 6am. I walked down the corridor to the communal wash stand which consists of a sink with a barrel under it to collect the used water. A small bucket of water with a tap is placed on an adjacent shelf to supply the sink. This morning, the supply water is iced over.
Thankfully, I am using the warm water from my Nalgene bottle to wash. We fill them with boiling water at night to use as a hot water bottle, then use some of the water to wash in the morning and then add purification tablets and drink the rest.
Sustainability at its best.
Returning to the bedroom, I note how warm it is compared to the corridor. It must be at least minus 10 in here. Toasty.
I pulled back the curtains and the windows are iced over. On the INSIDE.
Last night, David, Brendan and Dylan took their cameras and went out with their cameras into the frozen darkness at 8.30am to capture the starlit scene. The medals are in the post lads and I have the number for a good psychiatrist in Namche.
Breakfast is always a joyous occasion as the group gathers to share stories of cold, sleeplessness, strains & sprains. The conversation is lively and the slagging, even at this altitude, is pointed – There are no free passes.
Along with Sherpa and I, our Everest family consists of;
Mark, Denmark – Proof that variety enriches a life.
Dylan, Texas – A teenage explosion of positive electrons.
Katie, New Zealand – Embodies the pioneering spirit of Amelia Earheart.
Niko, Cleveland – Went to the mountain with jeans, a tee shirt, a bottle of squash – and won.
Brendan. Cork – if Aghada had Apaches, he would be Chief Laughing Bear.
David, Canada – His dogged determination explains why the Mounties always get their man.
Ursula, Cork – strong and the Sense and Sensibility of our group.
We leave Labouche at 8.30am and trek towards Gorak Shep. Our last overnight before Base Camp.
The trail today is rough and uneven and consists of climbing a whole series of ridges in a landscape that resembles a big stone and gravel quarry.
It’s not very picturesque.
Every time we crest a ridge, we are faced with an identical but higher ridge. It is a little tedious. Halfway through the morning, Katie checks her advanced scientific instrument (Snapchat) and declared that we have passed 5,000 m.
Cheers all round…..and then a moment of collective wheezing and gasping.
Soon after, we detour around a yak train, climb another damn rocky ridge and suddenly – there it is – Everest Base Camp.
It’s still a good way off, but unmistakably, there are the orange tents nestled beside the cobalt white pillars of ice that make up the Khumbu Ice Field.
To our right and behind the snow capped mountains that frame the enormous quarry bowl that we are in, The summit of Mount Everest reveals itself for a moment.
We continue on, happy that we are now within touching distance of EBC and descend into Gorak Shep, the last & highest trading post in the world.
On arrival at the Snowland Highest Inn we are served tea and coffee and launch into the longest game of Uno ever recorded. (a card game that we have refined & developed into great craic).
The Snowland Highest Inn is loosely described as a B&B – BASIC & BALTIC.
The toilets here are all rank. They consist of a hole in the floor with a ceramic surround for standing on, a large blue bucket of water for taking water out of with a tim can and flinging it down the jacks. And in the corner, a bin for throwing your used toilet paper into.
The drill is to pull down your pants and underwear and place your feet on each side of the hole in the ground. Then push your bottom backwards until it’s hovering over the hole and go. It’s harder that it sounds as the trap door is a good 3 feet from the target.
I’m not sure that the waiting queue appreciated my screams of “Bullseye”. But it was euphoric to see the rabbit disappear down the hole.
We leave at 2pm to climb Kala Pathar to view Everest in her full glory at sunset.
It is a 5 hour trek to the summit & back and we expect the temperatures to be down to minus 10 on the way down in the dark.
Tell me again what I’m doing here???