Day 8 – Dingboche (4,410m) to Lobuche (4,910m)
Having said our farewells to Fleur and Dirk who had left sometime earlier, we set off on our way. We started out on the route we’d taken the day before but instead of heading on upwards we followed the contours of the mountain to the adjacent valley. Here we came across Fleur and Dirk looking like they’d already done a day’s walking! Rather than taking the higher path they’d descended into the valley, only to retrace their steps when realising they’d taken a wrong turn. With Rabin’s guidance we were smugly on the right track and so with safety in numbers we decided to stick together.
Before long we’d caught up with Charles, the affable Singaporean we’d met at Hotel Everest View and who, as it happened Dirk and Fleur had also spent time with. With guides and a porter we became a group of eight and spent a fun and tiring day all walking together.
After a welcome cup of tea at Dughla (4,620m) we followed a steep track to find ourselves at a plateau surrounded by memorials to lost climbers and Sherpas. It was an emotional and sobering experience and a reminder of just how remote we now were. There were memorials for Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, who lost their lives in the previously mentioned 1996 Everest disaster but the largest memorial was saved for Chiri Sherpa who climbed Everest an incredible ten times, sadly losing his life on his eleventh attempt.
As we pressed on the landscape became evermore stark and impressive. Under foot the terrain became increasingly tricky as we began walking on rocks left behind by ancient glaciers .
After reaching Lobuche and eating dahl bhat, Kate, Charles and I took a half hour trip to the Italian Pyramid. Since 1990 the Pyramid has been giving the international scientific community an opportunity to study environment, climate, human physiology and geology in a remote, mountain protected area. The pyramid is a modern, abstract structure that strangely suits its surroundings well. Unfortunately the main pyramid was closed but we were treated to one of the best cups of masala chai we’d had in the mountains made for us by the warden. Whilst there we had our pulse and blood oxygen levels taken. Kate came out a single point better than me on both counts, but we both fared better than Charles, who by now was looking a little peaky.
Tired returning to the tea house Charles began to complain of a headache. Once back he hadn’t improved so we persuaded him to take one of his anti-AMS Diamox pills. Fleur had also been suffering with a headache so we gave her some of our pills (by then we had enough to spare even if we needed to take them) and Charles’ guide was feeling ill so he too took a pill. I started to get a little headache, so as a precaution and because of my bad experience at Annapurna I took a pill. Dirk had already been on the drug for a couple of days so I t was pretty much a full house of Diamox takers – all apart from Kate that is, who by now was feeling somewhat smug not only because of her lack of drug dependence so far, but also because of her outstanding performance at the pyramid!
That evening we heard the terrible news that a locally well known Nepali sherpa man had died. He’d been working with a Spanish Everest Expedition who are trying to be the first team to climb the mountain in winter, without oxygen. He had fallen ill at Camp 2, been helped down by his colleagues and was airlifted by helicopter once a distress call had been sent out, sadly dying on route. It was unclear why an SOS hadn’t gone out sooner and whether or not the Spanish Expedition have a satellite phone that would have enabled a call to be sent at a much higher altitude. We’ll probably never know the full chain of events that led to his death, but it was a somber day in the mountains and a reminder for us all to take the conditions we were living in seriously.
Whatever had happened the situation couldn’t have been helped by Everest Link – the area’s mobile phone and wifi service provider being out of action. This meant that all tea houses from Pengboche upwards were completely without any form of communication and with no phone reception our mobiles were also redundant. We were walking one of the highest trekking routes in the world with no technological means of contacting the ‘outside’ world. We couldn’t help but feel somewhat isolated and a little vulnerable – especially with people becoming ill around us.
With our goal tantalisingly close we went to bed with mixed emotions. A local man had died and friends were ill, especially Charles whose deteriorating health was by now a major concern. For those of us still well enough to attempt it base camp beckoned, we’d so nearly reached our goal. Dressed in all our clothes, tucked under two blankets and snuggled in our sleeping bags, we drifted off to a fitful nights sleep. We were just about warm enough… And so nearly there.
It was getting even colder and we heard that further up the mountain at Kala Patthar it was reaching -48 deg C before dawn.
Day 8 – Gallery