Everest Trekking October / November 2015
Well one thing I can say was that this year our trip was certainly very eventful with hardly a dull moment and certainly made for some laughs along the way.
Our flight across to Lukla was uneventful and we were greeted with perfect weather. Everyone seemed to manage quite well and we made it to Phakding in pretty good time and condition.
Our troubles started here however with Andrew and I ordering yakky steaky (Yak Steak) for dinner. Matthew also ordered steak but it was just the 2 of us who woke to terrible stomach upset and diarrhea. All the while being laughed at by Matthew who proclaimed to have a South African cast iron stomach. Unfortunately this one meal was to plague us for the remainder of the trip and define at least 50% of our conversations hereafter which would revolve around bowel movements.
Our second day was moderately problematic with Andrew and I constantly worrying about our next urgent toilet stop and where the toilet paper was located. But we made it to Namche on time, interestingly Andrew beat us all but I’m sure it was more so he could be close to a toilet than anything. We later found out after the rest of our crew had arrived with our porters and guide that Leanne had been virtually carried up the hill by our guide and one of our porters while crying “I can’t do it”. This was not a good start as I was painfully aware of just how much harder this trek would get in the coming days.
Her situation didn’t improve. On our acclimatization walk above Namche the following day she had to turn back with the aid of Krishna our porter barely 100m from our hotel after bouts of vomiting brought about by climbing just a few stairs. The rest of us did it quite easily and we were back for lunch to find Leanne looking pale and unwell in the dining room. A quick conference with our guide confirmed the need to have a rescue heli on standby if her condition did not improve overnight.
My fears were realized early the next morning when I woke early to hear vomiting in the toilet down the hall. When I got back to our room I was given a gruesome description by Matthew about how the sound of vomiting through the wall that separated our room from Leanne’s room had woken him at 2am and left him unable to sleep and dry retching. I quickly went downstairs to find our guide and inform him of the situation so that the heli evacuation could be arranged ASAP.
One thing about the Khumbu is the sheer number of heli’s that come and go on any given day. And each heli is a point of conversation and excitement. Almost as though everyone finds great pleasure in the misfortune of others, another story to tell or another discussion point. I’ve often wondered how they get sick and injured people up to the helipad at Namche. It seems rather a big task as its situated almost 2/3 of the way to the top of the hill above the village. And Leanne had nearly collapsed walking less than half that distance on the previous day. So when I was told that the heli would land just in front of our guesthouse in the dirt field it made a lot of sense.
So we all gathered just outside and when a heli was spotted coming in we had our cameras ready. Alas it turned out not to be ours and landed on the helipad above us at which time we were informed that we too would need to walk to the helipad. I was still wondering as I walked up the hill exactly how Leanne would be able to walk up to the helipad when I turned to see Bhir our porter running up the stairs behind me with Leanne on his back. There was a small crowd at the helipad, apparently there was another rescue heli due to arrive for another sick trekker. Ours arrived soon after and Leanne was dispatched with Krishna to hospital in Kathmandu. The following day we were given a message that she was much better and would soon be released from hospital.
One thing the heli did do was give us the idea of filming slow motion videos on our iPhones. For it was on the helipad while waiting that Matthew filmed our first jumping slo-mo and we loved it so much that we decided to do our “jumping the Khumbu” for the remainder of the trip.
The rest of us continued on amid jokes of “who will be next?” Almost like an episode of Survivor “You are the weakest link, goodbye”. Little did we know.
Andrew and I were still suffering from diarrhea as we walked to Thame and decided to share some meals as neither of us had much of an appetite. But we made it there and back without incident and great delight in finding a “loo with a view” at Thamo. Another couple of highlights on the way were sitting with the nuns in the new Monastery at Thamo during prayer ceremony and also meeting the “little Rinpoche” at Thame. Kaji our mountain guide told us the story of how he had been discovered in one of the villages nearby Lukla not too long ago. Of course Thame was as beautiful as always and proved to me yet again why it’s one of my favourite Khumbu villages.
The walk from Thamo (lunch spot) to Khumjung I found a little difficult. Probably because I was carrying a heavy pack (I decided I was going to carry my own pack this year) as well as suffering from stomach cramps, diarrhea and had not eaten much for lunch. So the final climb was quite exhausting.
The following day we did an acclimatization walk to the top of the hill above Khunde. Kaji wanted to have that day to check on how we were all getting along and acclimatizing. It was a wonderful walk. The view was stunning with a panoramic 360 degree view over the entire region.
We noticed though that James was really struggling. He was listless and visibly exhausted the entire way up. This concerned us and also worried Kaji. By comparison my fatigue the previous day seemed to be completely gone. Without the heavy pack I found the climbing quite easy. And even though Andrew and I were still suffering from the diarrhea it did not appear to have affected either our stamina or walking ability.
When we got back to Khumjung I pulled Kaji aside to have a discussion about James who was at that time in the dining room sipping tea with a listless glazed look in his eyes. Kaji’s prognosis that James was not handling the altitude well mirrored my own. He insisted that the coming days would have altitude gains that would make it far more difficult for him. And that an evacuation would be only a matter of time. Best to get him off the mountain sooner rather than later and a heli could land outside our guesthouse in Khumjung. It was with some dread that I watched Kaji as he told James his feeling. To be honest I was expecting him to protest and felt bad about shattering one of my teams dreams of making it to EBC. It was a big relief when James told us that he was feeling the same way and I was thankful that 24 hours earlier I had put Kathmandu on standby for another heli evacuation.
The following morning our heli arrives amid yet again another social gathering for everyone nearby. My crew is excited at the news that the heli will do a short sightseeing loop before heading back to Kathmandu with James. I send Kaji along for the ride so I can catch up with our Kathmandu leader who has flown in personally to collect James. This turns out to be a great decision as Kaji points out all the points of interest to them on the flight and they can barely contain their excitement for the rest of the morning.
As we continue on to Dhole Matthew and I are concerned about Andrew who is looking rather listless and not his usual cheery self. Inevitably the “who’s the weakest link” jokes come into play. When we stop at Mong for lunch we are surrounded by the most breathtaking views as we look up both valleys. There is a young girl at the next table who is being arranged a heli. She looks fine to me but had decided she cannot continue. I wonder where the hell they will land a heli near this small village perched on the side of the hill. Having dispatched James a few hours earlier it clarifies what Kaji had said to me the previous day.
I’m walking well having bit the bullet and handed my bag over to the porters, I’m acclimatizing easily and despite the ongoing diarrhea and subsequent lack of appetite I’m still feeling ok. Andrew worries us though. At Dhole he disappears to his room after our arrival only to emerge for dinner shivering.
In a hilarious turn of events his middle finger is completely white and as we sit by the fire Kaji is rubbing it to get the circulation going while Matthew and I try to stop ourselves from collapsing onto the floor in a giggling fit. After dinner Andrew tells us that he has started taking antibiotics that he brought with him and heads off to bed.
The following day Andrew seems better and we discuss our bowel movements and note that neither of us have experienced any improvement and that this had now been going on for over a week.
The walk to Machermo puts us now above the tree line and as we walk we are afforded the most incredible views across the valley and all the way to Cho Oyu (8188m) which stands proudly at the head of the valley.
From Machermo on to Gokyo we start to see Lake 1 and then Lake 2 before arriving at Gokyo on the banks of Lake 3. My heart races as the views of this epic location unfold around me with each view more spectacular than the last. I’m not feeling the best when we arrive in Gokyo but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating this epic location.
To be continued…..