Our sixth night in the Himalayas was not a peaceful one. I have fallen victim to severe abdominal cramps that woke me up all through the night, and Tibo’s symptoms of AMS come and go, seemingly more pronounced with each wave. He can do little but take painkillers and hope his body acclimatizes to the altitude sooner rather than later.
We grab breakfast at 7:15 am (daily pancake for me and a porridge with honey for Tibo), and return to the room to roll up our sleeping bags. It may not seem like much, but at this altitude, our muscles ache and our hearts beat faster than they should when performing such a trivial task. Under a clear blue sky and a rising sun, we set out for the long day ahead: a 2-and-1/4-hour climb to Dughla followed by a 3-hour trek through the valley to Lobuche.
Let’s go! Ah wait, Tibo is making friends with a local first.
The first part is relatively easy as the walk through the valley (which we saw from yesterday’s viewpoint) is mostly flat. It also provides a good vantage point to more closely admire this ravishing turquoise-blue lake.
We cross some people who are on the way down from Everest Base Camp or Kala Patthar, and I find myself a bit envious of them, haha. Neither Tibo nor myself grow tired of the adventure or the beauty that surrounds us, far from it, but we do dream of the comfort of a shower and a good night’s sleep.
We tell ourselves not to focus on the ‘final’ destination, but rather to take full advantage of the jaw-dropping views that our trek offers.
Today’s exceptional panorama is made up of the Taboche and Cholatse peaks, towering over glaciers and a desolate valley. After crossing over a glacial stream of water and an exhausting ascension, we arrive in Dughla for a short stop, where we have a tea and snack on a honey waffle. Have you noticed that, while trekking, and especially when conditions are rough, the snacks you enjoy from back home taste 100 times better?! Caution warns of continuing to Lobuche on the same day, with a gain in altitude of almost twice the daily recommended amount, but given our time constraint, we push forward to Lobuche, at 4,940m / 16,210ft, where we will spend the night.
Not your typical inviting and comfortable toilets where you want to spend time catching up on recent developments on your Facebook or Instagram feeds…
It is now time for the second part of the trek, which is a long ascension to the terminal moraine of the Khumbu glacier… Oh. my. god. There is SO MUCH WIND that it is almost impossible to advance in a straight line. The glacial wind, carrying dust, sand and rocks, pierces the layers of our gear and chills us to the bone, making it ever harder to breathe.
At the top of a hill along the way, we stop to pay our respects to fallen mountaineers and sherpas who lost their lives attempting to summit Everest or reach Everest Base Camp. The largest memorial is in honor of Babu Chiri Sherpa, who successfully summited Everest ten times (!), but unfortunately passed away after falling into a crevasse during his 11th attempt.
It is very moving for us to be surrounded by the memorials of these people who had such passion for this mountain. Here you can also see the memorial of Scott Fischer, leader of the Mountain Madness expedition (played by Jake Gyllenhall in the movie Everest) and Rob Hall, leader of the Adventure Consultants expedition during the 1996 tragedy (personal accounts of which can be read in John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Anatoli Boukreev’s The Climb).
The memorial is a harsh reminder that nature cannot be controlled and that its treacherous mountains claim the lives of beginners and experts alike.
The rest of the trek can be summed up by a mix of shortness of breath, wind, cold, sand, and dust. The things we choose to put ourselves through..! The higher we go, the more rescue helicopters we hear flying overhead.
After what seems like an eternity, we finally spot some houses in the distance – Lobuche! We drag our dusty and exhausted selves into the teahouse where we warm up over a hot chocolate and a tea. After relaxing for little while, we order lunch: hash browns with cheese for Tibo and instant noodle soup for me. We are happy to still have a good appetite, as without this, our bodies might not have the strength needed to go on.
Lobuche exists only to meet the needs of the trekking industry, so prices are amongst the highest of the region. For several reasons, and primarily due to its hostile climate, this is not a very welcoming place (Tibo shivers at the sound of the word hahaha).
Despite the fatigue, I feel surprisingly good and motivated, and I decide to use the afternoon to discover the surroundings. Tibo, on the other hand, has to lay down on his sleeping bag due to the increased intensity of his symptoms of AMS. He decides to join me on my excursion, which proved to be a mistake.
Bhim accompanies us to Ev-K2-CNR, which is known as the “Italian Pyramid”, approximately 25 minutes north of Lobuche. The center was created in 1990 by an Italian mountaineer and an Italian geologist, originally to measure the height of Everest. Today, this has become a scientific research center analyzing the effects of climate change, mountaineering techniques, and the effects of altitude on the human body. Unfortunately, given Tibo’s condition and inability to walk in a straight line, we did not visit the center. We decide to “quickly” return to Lobuche before the sun sets. The idea of returning in the cold, dark night surrounded by the icy whirlwinds of the mountain is not an enchanting one. In hindsight, it would have been a better idea for Tibo to stay in the lodge to rest rather than face the cold and push his body to the limit.
For dinner, we opt for a little improvised Nepalese-western fusion: vegetable momos and a plate of macaroni with tomato sauce (delicious, probably a can of tomatoes left behind during a previous Everest expedition!).
At 7:00 pm, we are ready for bed (woohoo party!). WHAT A JOKE to finish off this day: it is literally -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) in our room… For the first time in my life, I go to bed without brushing my teeth because it is above my power to get up and remain out of my sleeping bag for 2 minutes.
To give you a clearer picture, here is what we woke up to: iced windows (the ice was on the inside), and my bottle of water, that I had kept inside my sleeping bag all night… Always useful to have a block of ice, is it not?! Stay hydrated, it’s important!
Tomorrow, we set off in the direction of Everest Base Camp!!!
Starting point: Dingboche (4,360m / 14,300ft)
120m (390ft) descent / 700m (2,300ft) ascent
Arrival point: Lobuche (4,940m / 16,210ft)