We woke up in the clouds, literally. The cold had come and I quickly went outside to feel it. Today is going to be a different challenge. Refresh, change (lots of layers), pack, breakfast, stretch and away we go.
We started off descending into the cool forest with different vegetation which I have not been able to identify. But, lots of lichen which speaks to the excellent quality of the receding oxygen levels. My snot is clear compared to the muck one finds in London and even Kathmandu.
We soon get a full view of Ama Dablam but Everest is smothered by clouds and we have the sad feeling that we may not see it clearly again.
The gurgling rushing streams are at first faint but grow cacophonic as we get closer. The sun peers to see how we doing and disappears again.
Getting layers right is a royal challenge. Everyone is different and some feel colder sooner while others get warm very quickly. The beautiful days did not require thermal tops or bottoms. A long sleeve trekking top and pants with a warm fleecy layer followed by a puffer or wind proof jacket are the basic layers. Sun hat, beanie, inner gloves and sunglasses complete the clothing. In our back packs we also carry a rain jacket (can double up as windbreaker and warm outer jacket) and rain pants together with snacks for the day. Most importantly, we carry as much water as we would need usually 1.5-2 L in our water bladders and another litre in a bottle, mostly mixed as an energy drink. Hydration is super critical for acclimatization.
We passed a broken bridge showing the might of weather conditions and walked across another bridge after giving yaks the right of way. We passed many villages, some small some bigger but all a fusion of local housing, lodges, tea houses and shops. We passed Pangboche and Somare by which time the temp dropped significantly requiring more layers, inner gloves and beanie. We trudged on, slowly. Step by step.
Mercifully, we stopped for another delightful lunch – a hot tomato soup with Tibetan bread hit all the right spots. Almond butter on the left over bread downed with masala tea was the clincher.
Rain was imminent. We put on our respective layers with our rain coat and pants over everything. Our back packs too were covered. We passed Kamsherko Peak and Kali Mountain came into view.
The clouds were omnipresent, closing in, this way and then the other way. Stiff breeze but no wind. We marched on. The terrain changed as suddenly as the weather. No trees or budding flowers. Unlike the first few days when flowers were in bloom, the terrain now contained dry shrubs, sparse bush plants across a rocky face with loose sand and rocks. It looks as if we are in a Sci fi setting, where the earth was destroyed by some extra terrestrial force. We marched on.
We had passed the 4000m mark, the highest for most of us. Over the last few days some had nausea, some diarrhoea, some had headaches, some were just tired, most were constantly reminded of less oxygen. But, we marched on.
Snow flakes, instead of rain, suddenly started floating down. The way of the mountain. Something we least expected. We were welcomed. And, before long the sun popped in for another visit. It was hot and we shed some layers. We marched on. Slowly.
We rounded Ama Dablam having seen a full 180 degrees. Apparently, we will almost circle it by the time we reach Base Camp. Ama Dablam was almost covered and Nuptse which protects Everest was fully covered by clouds. The temperature dropped again and layers went on. We marched on, slowly reaching Dingboche in 5 hrs 34 mins covering 11kms and climbing 696m. Another tick, we are getting closer.