D-Day. Today we summit Mt Everest Base Camp. Its going to be a gruelling +8hr hike at the highest altitude we’ve ever been. An early morning start with 5:30 breakfast and 6:30 hike. The morning was icy cold and the demons were swirling. Breakfast was barely edible as our appetites were long gone. Being well layered, we started our hike.
We passed ice covered streams while walking on snow laden pathways. The crisp morning air was refreshing and the sun soon showed its warm hand. We removed some of our layers and continued on the flattish but rocky pathway.
Nuptse came into full view protecting Everest, which we have not seen since the first few days, while Pamori, Lingtren and Khoumbutse came into view. Despite our small struggling steps we could not but admire these behemoths. Some starling-like birds flew by at 5000m above sea level. The world is a wonder. It was now bitingly cold.
We had to navigate many rocky hills traversing up and down but mainly up before arriving in Gorakshep. It took a heavy toll on Aneesha who could not continue. “Just 2 hours more” the group encouraged her. I spent almost every minute with her and knew she was spent. She had bravely given everything she had, depleted all her reserves but the altitude had overcome her. The way of the mountain. 18 of us continued.
Onwards we trudged to Base Camp for the final leg. Up some hills laden with rocks and pebbles, down some others. The pathway just continued with many hikers returning from Base Camp while others were enroute. Breathing was hard. Porters continued with their enormous luggage. Several herds of yaks continued with their load too. Our backs were hurting, muscles were crying. It required your last few matches. You tried to rest but you had to go on as the weather can turn so easily.
It was taxing. We could see Base Camp from a distance. We just put our heads down and walked. I heard a rumble which sounded like thunder or a gun shot. I turned my head to see the tail end of ice falling down and causing an avalanche in one of the peaks across the glacier.
We were exhausted but elated as we finally reached Base Camp. High fives, fist pumps and hugs as more of our party arrived. There were tears of joy and all round excitement. It is by far the toughest challenge any of us accomplished.
I sat down to take in the moment but the cold intruded. I tried to write but it was much too cold to complete more than a paragraph. Instead, I walked around tired as I was.
Base Camp is a vast temporary structure created during the climbing season which is mainly spring and autumn. Hundreds of tents were set up by the various expeditions to house mountaineers, guides and porters.
It is situated next to the Khumbu Glacier and above it is the Khumbu Icefall, the first and most treacherous challenge summiters face. We could not see much further up as it was smothered by clouds. Soft snow started falling.
We walked around, cautiously walked on ice ponds (strange feeling), took lots of pictures before bidding farewell to Mount Sikhdar and returning to Gorekshep on the same route exhausted but elated. Mission accomplished… almost. We are just over R5k short to reach our R100k target for #climbing4education.
Today we hiked 12km taking 8 hours 30 minutes and climbing 511m.