We woke up at 4:30 AM to try to get a glimpse of Everest at sunrise and set out at 5 AM in the dark. Dan led the pack up the hill, and he and I waited every few minutes to see the rest of the group’s headlamps come into view while it was still dark. Once it got lighter we realized no one else was planning to go too far so we headed up with Jit. As the sun started to come up we saw incredible views of mountains in all directions. Massive peaks that shot up into the sky all around us. We even managed to get a few quick sightings of the pyramid peak of Everest before the clouds moved in right at sunrise and covered everything.
Dan and I decided to summit “real quick” to see if the clouds would break so we could get more photos. Summitting took longer than we thought. Dan beat me up by 20-30 minutes, and it took me almost 2 hours. It was the hardest hike by far and really the only time I’ve felt the altitude. I had to stop every few steps to rest. Plus it was freezing cold. Boo had caught up to me part way up the hill and wasn’t thrilled that I was headed up and he had to go with me. Every time I asked how much farther it was he told me we were still really far away, hoping that would get me to turn around and go back to the warmth where the rest of the team was. We finally got up to the top, and the clouds did break a few times. We would be looking off in one direction, then turn around and realize the clouds were gone, revealing incredible mountains and valleys. As quickly as the clouds broke, they were back again, as if the mountains weren’t even there at all and we had just imagined it.
The summit was cold. I somehow mustered enough mental power to open up hand warmers before we left so we had them at the top. I gave one to Jit who was amazed by it, and continued to hold onto it all day even after it had long since stopped giving off heat. Once we thought we had gotten enough photos, we headed back down. 4 hours round trip. We ate breakfast, packed up, and started our way down around 10:15 AM. Andrew was feeling better and started off quick with the porters. Sam and Mike still weren’t feeling great so we kept a pretty slow pace with Boo. Dan had stayed behind at the lodge with Jit, helping them fix their internet. The confusing trick they had of refreshing the home screen over and over wasn’t working for them this time. Jit taught Dan how to run straight down the side of a cliff, and they caught up to us rather quickly.
We stopped to get Mike a little food in Lobuche and took photos of the memorials (thanks to Jit who climbed back up the hill to bring us a tripod). We stopped again for lunch in Thukla around 1. We had the option to stay for the night at Pheriche or try for Pangboche. Boo told us Pheriche would be 3 hours after lunch and Pangboche 1 more after that. We left lunch at 2 which would have put us in Pangboche just before dark if everyone were feeling ok and moving at a decent pace. We got to Pheriche at 4:30, and we were all doing alright so we headed down to Pangboche.
Sam and I were going a little slower with Jit and the group ended up getting split in two shortly after Pheriche. At 5:45 Sam and I started wondering why we weren’t there yet. Jit said we still had 40 more minutes which was much longer than what we had been thinking. By 6 PM it was getting dark. Jit’s confidence in how far we had left seemed to be diminishing. Sam and I weren’t entirely convinced we were even going the right way. Fortunately, Sam had his headlamp. I wasn’t thinking and had left mine in my daypack from the hike up Kala Patthar. We were climbing in the rain on slippery rocks on a narrow trail next to a cliff in the dark with one light. Sam was walking inches behind me shining his light over my shoulder so that I could see what was trail and what was open air off the side of the cliff. Stupid and incredibly unsafe. Around 6:30 we ran into Boo and Case who had come looking for us. We finally made it to the teahouse at 6:45. Everyone was upset about hiking in the dark. The other group had run out of water and didn’t have headlamps. We want to move our flight out of Lukla back up to the original date so we can get out of here. We’re all ready to get out of the mountains.
Date: 25 September 2011
Path: Gorak Shep to Kala Patthar to Pangboche
Where Did We Stay In Pangboche: Namaste Guest House
Elevation: 5645m / 18520 ft
Hours hiking: 10
Hours hiking w/ stops: 13 3/4 — at Kala Patthar
Stay tuned for the Everest Base Camp Trek Journals Days 10-12
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