Dirty Walking to Everest Base Camp - Part 2

Everest Base Camp sits at about 17,500 feet and the eight or so days it takes to get there takes you through varied and increasingly eerie and desolate terrain.  What starts as rivers, pine trees, and thick forests of rhododendron quickly turns into some kind of post-apocalyptic ice and rock moonscape.  Once above the tree-line and at about 15,000 feet I really started to notice the altitude and how hard it was to do even small tasks like climb stairs.  Once I acclimated, the breathing got better and when I got into the rhythm of putting left in front of right on the trail, I could breathe fine, until the next stop, always climbing up.

I had a kind of sleep apnea during my night at Gorak Shep which is at about 17,000 feet.  I would drift off to sleep, my breathing would slow and I would wake up, panicked and breathing hard, not getting enough oxygen.  I would eventually calm myself down, my breathing would slow, and I would fall back asleep only to repeat the same process.  I resigned myself to the fact that it was uncomfortable sleeping, or doing much of anything above 17,000 feet.  It really made me appreciate how strong my sister Sharlie is as she lives a full life with Cystic Fibrosis, and how hard it is for her to walk up stairs, or to do small physical tasks that I take for granted.  This whole trip gave me an understanding of what it is like to struggle to breathe and an appreciation for what my sister Lexi endured towards the end of her life, and what my sister, Sharlie, and my young niece and nephew, Ben and Lauren, fight for every day.  I was constantly reminded of the pressure on my lungs and regulation of breath.  I was also hopeful for the future, especially for my niece and nephew who I believe will someday know what it is like to climb mountains without the limitations of Cystic Fibrosis.

I'm not good at subtle fundraising but for these two I'd do anything, so if you have the means or the inclination, please help my family in their fight.

Hiking to Base Camp

Along the Khumbu Glacier

On the glacier

Ice wall on the way to Base Camp

Me and my brother at Base Camp

Expeditions waiting for better weather

Our inspiration

The most difficult and fulfilling day of the trek for me was the day after we hit Everest Base Camp.  A small group of us woke up before sunrise and started the hike up to the peak of Kala Pattar at about 18,500 feet.  I felt great and set a pretty good pace up the mountain.  As the sun rose and the trail became steep, I would stop to rest and catch my breath, but the flags at the top and the view kept pulling me and once at the top, the view was spectacular with Mt. Everest splitting the sun, the Khumbu glacial lakes thousands of feet below and the Himalayan giants rimmed sky.  I didn't have a problem with heights until I got to the top and looked over the edge at the drop and I held onto the thick rope of prayer flags that marked the summit and added my own silent ones.

View from the top of Kala Pattar

After carefully descending from the technical section at the top of Kala Pattar, I ran down, completely exhausted and with snot streaming out of my nose and a wild smile, bouncing down the tundra absorbing the shock with my knees as I skied moguls in my head, breathing hard and laughing like a maniac at 18,000 feet.  The rest of the group had already left for the next stop, Dingboche at 12,600 feet, and our group that hiked to the top of Kala Pattar ate breakfast and tea and contemplated where the energy would come from, but descending into the oxygen-rich altitude of 12,000 feet opens up some new energy stores and that day, trekking in the small group, with the exhilaration of Kala Pattar behind us, was one of the most beautiful and memorable days of the trip.

Climbing up to Kala Pattar...

and running down

The next few days were difficult because I was coming off the high of Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar, but we were at the halfway point and we still had to get back to Lukla.  I was still looking forward to running the stretch from Namche to Lukla, but it was difficult staying motivated for the last few days of descent.  I thought it would be easy going from 18,500 feet to 9,000 feet in three days, but it was still pretty difficult with slow, steep descents and some pretty tough climbs. One of the more beautiful and memorable days on the return trip to Lukla was the rarely-used sherpa trail from Dingboche to Phortse village.  This was a change made by our guides from the original itinerary because they wanted to show us a less traveled and more rustic side of Nepal, and I wasn't sure how you could get more rustic than a yak-dung stove and a hole in the ground bathroom, but you can.  The sherpa trail was cut on the side of a mountain over a river and the views were breathtaking.  This was the most narrow and one of the more scenic and empty trails that I experienced and I really had to hold myself back from running it - if I do have the chance to go back to Nepal, this is one stretch that would be on my list of must-run trails.  Eventually I would get my chance to run, and I'll post my experience of trail running in Nepal in a couple of days.

Trail to Phortse

Om Mani Padme Hum

Sherpa trail to Phortse

View point

Sherpa trail with Phortse below


Best apple pie in the world

These guys pop up every few hours to make you feel like a whiny little girl

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