My stomach hurt all night, but I’m feeling ok this morning. Sam was sick again last night, but he feels up for the climb. Andrew seems better and wants to climb as well. Mike still hadn’t fully recovered but was in good shape to go up. I’m glad we don’t have to send anyone down to Pheriche. The rain we walked in yesterday turned to snow during the night. The landscape looks pretty with the dusting of white, but also very, very cold.
We left around 7:30 AM and made it to Gorak Shep in less than 3 hours. The hike was flat along the river for the first half, then a steep uphill on rocks, crossing a waterfall at one point. We saw a few avalanches caused by the fresh snow. We stopped for lunch before heading to Basecamp. After lunch we hiked for about 2 hours, mostly uphill but a few flats. Then we turned a corner, and there was Basecamp. We had finally made it. The base of the top of the world. More than 3 miles above sea level with half the amount of oxygen.
Sam collapsed in a heap when he got there, overwhelmed that he had made it. Andrew made a miraculous recovery and was posing for all sorts of crazy photos. True to every personality test I’ve ever taken, I barely stopped to enjoy the moment before wanting to accomplish the next goal- the real Basecamp. “Old” Basecamp is essentially a stone monument covered in tags from previous visitors. “New” Basecamp is where summit expeditions actually set up camp. People on the trail were referring to new Basecamp as Advanced Basecamp, which is actually Camp 2, much higher up the mountain.
A Japanese expedition was set up at Basecamp, and we had heard that they were trying to keep regular trekkers out of their camp. There were a couple Japanese guys behind us on the way up to old Basecamp who were headed over to the Japanese camp. Dan and I ran over to talk to them and got the ok to tag along. We joined the photo ops the rest of our group was partaking in when we realized the two Japanese guys were headed toward their camp. We raced off to catch up with them, and I slipped on the glacier at one point which resulted in a lovely two inch bruise on the back of my leg. We were told that the safest way to get to the camp was around the glacier, which supposedly took 3 hours (I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate), but we followed the Japanese guys straight across the glacier for a quick 30 minutes.
New Basecamp is only some rocks spray painted red unless an expedition is set up. This one had about 20 tents, generators, and some communications equipment. When Dan and I got there, we were trying to get to a high point to take some photographs and ended up in the middle of their mess hall tent as they were eating. We ran through saying “konichiwa”, hoping they wouldn’t be too irritated with us. They weren’t phased by Dan’s bunny ears, but they did take notice of the blonde girl. From Basecamp we could see Khumbu Icefall, one of the most dangerous parts of summit climbs, where the glacier comes down the side of Everest. At the base of the mountain is an area known as Phantom Alley where the ice forms in these crazy-looking peaks from the intense radiation. On the way back to old Basecamp, we passed the other three from our group who decided they also wanted to see the camp. They didn’t seem too happy that we had run off without them, but we thought we would miss our chance if we didn’t follow the guys who were part of the expedition.
As we headed back to Gorak Shep, it started to snow. A lot. My water-resistant, quick-dry light hiking pants were completely drenched within the hour. I was incredibly cold for the 2 hour hike back. When we got back to the tea house, we camped out in front of the fire that was burning yak dung. It smelled pretty bad and burned our eyes, but we desperately needed to warm up and dry our clothes. After we were finally warm again, we played more Rummy 640 with Boo and Jit, ate dinner, then went to bed. Surprisingly, I wasn’t that cold trying to go to sleep. I had kept hand warmers and a silk liner in reserve so I had one more layer of defense against the cold that I hadn’t yet used. They were great, maybe mentally as much as anything else. Today had been a huge success, but the cold and altitude made it hard to celebrate much. Early day tomorrow to attempt Kala Patthar and hopefully see Everest.
Date: 24 September 2011
Path: Lobuche to Basecamp to Gorak Shep
Where Did We Stay In Gorak Shep: Buddha Lodge
Elevation: 5364m / 17598 ft
Hours hiking: 7 1/2
Hours hiking w/ stops: 9 — at Everest Base Camp.
Stay tuned for the Everest Base Camp Trek Journals Days 9-12
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