My apologies in not being a more consistent blogger. As of now, I am just returning to Bangkok, Thailand after a little sunny sojourn to Krabi down on the coast of the Andaman Sea. I’m feeling rested, refreshed, and just about ready to take on India, for which I leave tomorrow. But, before I leave, a blog update! And so continues the story of my trek in Nepal: Namche to Cho La – Week 2.
We stayed a day in Namche before heading up toward Gokyo, our next major resting destination. When trekking at 10,000+ feet, it’s important to take precautions against altitude sickness. We took a drug called Diamox (sp) once a day to help ward off headaches, but we also took the more important precaution of trekking slowly, and not climbing too high each day. Whereas before reaching Namche we had been consistantly walking 7-8 hours per day, we now slowed to no more than 4-5 hours a day, often less. There were a few occasions throughout our trip where we encountered parties with very sick members, often completely disabled with altitude sickness. For reasons incomprehensible to me, the parties were determined to go higher instead of immediately going down as conventional wisdom advises. Judy, who is a doctor, isn’t one to give out unwanted advice, but even she tried to persuade one particularly distressed group to descend in order to save a very sick individual.
Our trek took us up to Gokyo where we climbed Gokyo Ri, the local mountain. It was our highest climb of the trip, and we began what we expected to be a 2-hour ascent at 3:30am in order to catch the sunrise. We made the ascent in about 45 minutes, and spent an hour shivering at the top hoping for the sun to suddenly pop over Everest’s silhouette. The next day, we did a short hike without packs to several of the Seven Sacred Lakes nearby Gokyo. The views were beautiful, and we were able to see the large south face of Everest in the daylight. That evening, we departed to the next village where we spent the night before beginning the arduous trek up and over Cho La, “la” being the Nepali word for mountain pass.
We trekked steadily uphill for about two hours before we could finally see Cho La in the distance. From our viewpoint, it looked like a sheer rock face, and the only words I could think of were, “There’s no freakin’ way.” Only I didn’t say “freakin'”. We made our way to the bottom of the pass over the next hour which, once we were a little closer, was not quite as vertical as it had originally appeared. Unfortunately, we were not alone in our attempt to ascend. We got caught behind several tour groups made up of generally slow paced geriatrics. Most were German and seemed to rely very heavily on their Nepali guides who scrambled from rock to rock making sure their clients didn’t topple to their doom. While most hikers in the Himilayas are generally polite and aware of their shared hiking space, these groups demonstrated neither of these qualities. They used long hiking poles (one in each hand) which effectively created the scene of trudging slowly behind a tripod from War of the Worlds.
Anyway, we finally did make it up over the pass, and stopped atop a small glacier to celebrate our achievement. The descent down to the Khumbu Valley was spectacular, and it felt good to be walking down hill!
Our next major obstacle was climbing Kala Patthar, which took us up to 5000+ meters and was our highest point during the whole trek. We trekked to just a few miles short of Everest base camp and broke for lunch before beginning our climb. The climb was actually pretty easy since we were already up so high, and it was nice to be able to do it without a pack! At the top, the wind was fierce and we clung to the rocks and fluttering prayer flags while we snapped a few photos to commemorate our achievement.
The next day we began our ascent back down, and it was all downhill from there, as they say. We did make one more climb up a similarly sized mountain, but I stayed low due to illness. Our descent took us back down to Namche over several days (similar to our ascent, we had to descend slowly so as not to get the bends!). On the way, we passed hundreds of trekkers, guides, and yak trains all making their way up to the higher elevations. While I really enjoyed the trek, I can’t say I envied them as they struggled to higher climbs.
Twenty-two days after we set out from Jiri in the foothills, we took our boots off in the little town of Lukla. There, we were able to catch a flight off a very inclined runway all the way back to Kathmandu. There, I rested for about a week before leaving for ten days in Thailand. More about that later!