The morning air was crisp and chilly. At nearly 4000m, sleep comes and goes. You don’t feel as fresh in the mornings anymore, mild headaches start creeping up and become more common now. The excitement of what lay ahead gets you going though.
We would be entering new territory now, as past this altitude is where you leave behind the treeline. The greenery starts to disappear and is replaced by only rock and ice.
We were in good spirits, as usual! As you can see us trying to replicate the Beatles.
Every now and then a Yak passes by, carrying vital supplies for either the locals in the village for their day to day life, or expedition supplies. Make sure you are always on the opposite side of the cliff edge, as there is always a small risk of them being spooked and headbutting you off!
Our goal for the day was to hike to Dingboche, 4410m, where we would spend two days to acclimatise.
Dingboche is quite exposed and surrounded by goliath peaks that feature prominently. Here you can see Ama Dablam from another angle.
The Lhotse face in all its glory is right in front of us at Dingboche.
We had climbed up a fair bit by this point, and at nearly 4500m, the altitude sickness was a real threat now. Members of the team were reporting headache, fatigue and general un-wellness.
I have to admit, this was also the first time I was starting to feel the altitude. Simple things like packing your bags were starting to become a tiresome effort.
We finally arrived at our teahouse in Dingboche. With deep breaths and exhausted lung, we sat down and enjoyed the views around us, with the knowledge that we would be staying here for two nights to acclimatise.
At night, with clear skies, the heavens open up to a view of a billion scattered stars amongst the dark sky. The snowy ice capped mountains look almost peaceful, serene and still. Until you hear thunderous cracks and the rushing white walls of snow racing down the in the form of an avalanche.
A reminder of how truly wild, unpredictable and untamed the mountains are.
Next morning we began our acclimatisation hike. A steady and easy paced climb taking us up the valley and giving us some great views of the surrounding.
The weather was great, and really allowed us to appreciate how high we’ve climbed, as now most thick layers of clouds that you usually look up and see from sea level were below us.
Selfie with Lhotse! The sister of Everest.
We returned to Dingboche for the night. Tomorrow we would set out for Lobuche, 4940m.
Before getting to Lobuche, we would be passing the Everest memorial. A place to remember those that have died and remain on Everest.
The village down below that you can see is Pheriche, which is where we would go on the return journey. Dingboche is on the left higher up on the plateau.
You can see how much the topography has changed now. Truly only rock and ice.
This hike would see us getting to nearly 5000m. So pacing ourselves and resting as often as we can was vital to ensuring no one got altitude sickness.
The next push from here would be taking us to the Everest memorial. It was quite a steep and boulder filled climb.
The backdrop is stunning, so make sure to stop and look behind you.
Eventually you make it to the top of what is called memorial mountain.
Memorial to Scott Fischer, some may remember him from the 2015 Everest movie on the Everest 1996 disaster.
Various other plaques and memorials are set up for remembrance.
It is a hauntingly beautiful place, with a silent eeriness, only disturbed by the creeping swoosh of clouds from below. Standing there, I’m sure everyone was thinking the same thing. The toll and risk we all take to adventure in the mountains just because its there.
There’s still a long hike ahead to Lobuche. So it was time to move on.
Finally we had arrived to Lobuche. The smallest settlement so far on the trek, composed mainly of one big teahouse.
Later on, around sunset time, we went out for a walk and noticed how amazing the colours in the sky were due to the setting sun.
No filters needed, nature in all its glory doing its own filter over a 7800m mountain.
Chess is a great way to keep the headaches at bay, and something I quite enjoyed playing with the locals at every teahouse we stopped at.
The next morning was truly bone chillingly cold. All the layers, hats and gloves were out.
This would be our longest day of hiking. We would head to Gorak Shep, 5164m, the last village before Everest Base Camp. Here we would have a second breakfast and recuperate. Then we would head to Everest Base Camp on that same day, to then return to Gorak Shep to stay the night.
We were ready, and had a beautiful sunrise view over Lobuche to motivate us.
Pumori in the light, as we hike through the morning shadows cast by the mountains around us.
At 5000m, more rest breaks are a welcome idea!
Further on in the hike, you will come across the famous Khumbu glacier. This comes directly from Everest.
Now in the far distance, we could see Everest Base Camp, and the terrifying Khumbu Icefall.
We all stood a while here, mesmerized by the collection of glacier in the distance signifying Everest base camp. To think it was so close now.
Finally, we arrived at Gorak Shep, the final village before the last push to Everest.
Overlooking us is Pumori, the big peak and Kala Pattar, the dry rocky hill and look out point.
It was time to rest and eat. In a short while, we would re-pack and take only the essentials as we headed out to Everest Base Camp in my final part next time!