Friday, May 11, 2012

Everest Base Camp

Day Eight: Lobuche (4,930 m/16,174 ft) to Everest Base Camp (5,364 m/17,598 ft) and back to Gorak Shep (5,164 m/16,942 ft)

Waking up, we knew that we would have a long, hard day ahead of us.  We already were higher than either of us had ever been, and we would be hiking through extremely high elevations all the way to Everest Base Camp.  Then we would be sleeping at the highest elevation of our trip.  The first of three legs took us 7 km from Lobuche up to Gorak Shep, one of the highest habitations in the world at just shy of 17,000 feet.  To get there we walked through a gorgeous valley that wasn't too steep.  We all walked very quickly, being so excited to see Everest Base Camp, so we arrived to Gorak Shep much earlier than planned (about 9:30 a.m.).  That gave us plenty of time to enjoy a cup of tea and to settle into our rooms.

The walk past Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp is 5 km and took about 3 hours over fairly difficult terrain - steep and rocky.  The trail looks down over the Khumbu Glacier (the world's highest) during the entire hike in.  It is spectacular, and you can begin to see the colorful tents of Everest Base Camp in the distance.  A very, very exciting walk!

Hiking along the Khumbu Glacier
Hiking into Everest Base Camp (the colorful tents in the lower left).  Everest is the dark peak peeking out on the right.

It was an amazing feeling arriving at Everest Base Camp, knowing that we were somewhere so remote and hard to reach.  We had not even seen a car for eight days!  Interestingly, although we were so close to the top of the world, we couldn't actually see the summit from Base Camp!

April and May are two of the busiest and most exciting months at Base Camp because the majority of expeditions go for summit sometime in early- to mid-May before the monsoon arrives.  There are around 40 expeditions attempting to climb Everest this year, the most ever.  As you can imagine, there were sleeping tents, dining tents, toilet tents, hanging laundry, and gear everywhere.

Base Camp actually sits on top of the Khumbu Glacier.  We definitely expected it to be a bit easier to move around, but the glacier is a minefield of ice bridges, cracks, frozen pools, and boulders suspended on columns of ice.  Because of that, the camps were scattered over a rather large area, so there was a lot to explore!

We could not actually stay overnight at Base Camp because only members of climbing expeditions are allowed to stay there.  For us, we knew that we would be making the 2 hour trek back to Gorak Shep for the night.  Shortly after we arrived, ominous clouds started rolling in, so we only spent about an hour at Base Camp.  But during that time, we did manage to meet a world-class climber!  More to come on that . . .

Side note: We have been checking daily at to see if anyone has summited, but no expeditions have made it so far.  We understand that the Lhotse Face, between Camps Two and Three, has less snow on it than usual, so it is requiring a lot of work to prepare safe ropes through that area.  We hope a team will make the summit this week!       

We made it to Everest Base Camp!!
David and Jason toasting at Everest Base Camp with Everest beers carried from Gorak Shep

As exciting as the hike into Base Camp was, the hike out was really tough.  The weather was moving in quickly bringing heavy wind and some snow flurries.  We were walking fast to make it back, but it was tough on the terrain with the wind in our faces.  After a couple of hours, we finally made it back to our lodge and collapsed into chairs.  It was just after 5 p.m. and we had started our day hiking at 6 a.m.

Headaches are a common symptom of the altitude, and as Sara sat down she got a searing headache that brought her to tears.  There isn't much you can do for an altitude headache other than drinking a lot of water and relaxing (or climbing down, which wasn't an option).  We filled her with hot tea and water, and warmed her by the fire.  She slowly felt better, and we had a warm soup and sandwich to cap off the night.

We were all so exhausted that we didn't stay up to chat or play cards.  Straight to bed before 8 p.m.  We had a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call the next morning to hike to the top of Kala Patthar, and we knew it would be hard to get a good night sleep at such a high altitude.
The view from Base Camp looking back towards Gorak Shep.  You can see the weather moving in.

Next up:  To the top of Kala Patthar . . .

1 comment:

  1. Love this post!! Got a little teary-eyed reading it just now, I'm really proud of y'all - what an accomplishment! Can't wait to talk to you soon :) XOXO