Everest Trekking Oct/Nov 2015
Thangnak 31st Oct 2015
There is a knock at the door at 4am “stay in bed and sleep, the weather is no good”.
When we get up for breakfast we hear the guides talking. They have sent an advance party to check on the track to the pass. The concern is that the snow that fell overnight was very powdery and is slippery, not binding well and increasing the chance of rock falls.
They return and after a brief talk where all teams agree to contribute funds for the local team to fix ropes across the pass to ensure safety it is agreed that we shall leave at 8.30. This gives us a pretty tight schedule as it is an 8hr trip on a good day and conditions are far from good. And I’m not feeling particularly great either.
This is my fourth day of not being able to eat more than 1 morsel of toast a day. I know this will take everything I have plus a little more. And I really don’t know if I’m physically capable of it in my condition.
We set off. I stay with Kaji at the rear up the incline of the long boulder strewn valley. In my weak state it is a hard slog. As I need to use more energy I increasingly need to rest and the urge to vomit is relentless. So much so that I need to remove my neck scarf which I’m using to shield my face from the biting cold air as its pressing on my throat. I quickly feel the cold air and wind biting into my skin but hey if it gets me there.
On a couple of occasions I think “there is no way I can do this” Kaji and I briefly discuss contingency plans. But I go on knowing my team depends on me. Kaji says “the flag at the top of the hill, then downhill, then final ascent to the pass”. I reach the flag and look over a wide glacial moraine filled with huge boulders, ending in some 300m vertical rise to the pass on the edge of a glacier.
“Slowly slowly” says Kaji. Meanwhile my thoughts are focused on making it from one Boulder to the next while having Joe Simpson “Touching The Void” flashbacks but in a far less dramatic manner. As we near the final climb, I’m out of fuel, suffering from Kathmandu fuel crisis. I put my cheek on a huge boulder and ask Gaia for help. Then she shows me blue poppies, ironic. At least I know where to look in August.
We pass a Guide friend of Kaji’s who is with 2 that are struggling. We formulate plan B. I will go back with them. Kaji will get one of our porters to catch up with me later. Good plan. Except I’m thinking “how the hell am I going to get back across the Boulder field and up the hill to even reach the descent to the valley?”
Of course pragmatic self kicks in and says “well the only alternate option is dying on this mountain so suck it up princess”. One rock at a time. Just like Joe.
Kaji has taken all our water and left me 2 empty bottles. I know that over the big hill there is a stream that runs all the way back to the village. But that is some way off yet. I wonder if I put a little snow in my bottle if it will slowly melt.
The walk across the Moraine is exhausting but not so bad. I consider myself pretty uncoordinated compared to my Nepali friends but have since learned that by western standards I’m pretty sure footed.
The walk up the hill takes everything I have plus more. I barely make it from one Boulder to the next. And I discover snow does not melt in my water bottle.
I make it to the top and it is a long long way down the valley. I reach the river and look at the little bit of snow in my bottle before I half fill it with the freezing water “will snow melt in near freezing water?”
I look around in this stark white landscape. With massive peaks all around and standing at around 5000m at the sheer raw inhospitable beauty of it all. This is an environment that will test the limits of human endurance and it had tested me today.
I drink some of my water “no. Snow definitely does not melt in freezing water”.
As I’m walking down I hear an approach from behind. It’s Bir our porter with a huge beaming smile. I can’t stop the lyrics from James Blunt “Carry me Home” playing in my head. Knowing nobody is going to carry me except my own two feet I keep going. And pretty soon we are back in Thangnak with bits of snow still floating in the mouthful of water in my water bottle.