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Prayer flags above Dingboche. Lhotse and Island Peak in the background.

Monday, April 18, 2016

End of the trek, start of the climb

Our four person trekking team is now enjoying the easy life in Kathmandu. We had a wonderful time walking through the mountains of Nepal enjoying the magnificent scenery, interesting culture and super friendly people. The group got along very well and everyone was strong. This is a magical place to visit and needs to be on your bucket list. 

The last few days saw us crossing the Cho La pass at about 17,500'. It is a relatively easy walk up for most of the way although the final few hundred feet are tough. The following day we walked to Gorak Shep, at 17,000' this is the highest village in the world. We were blessed with clear skies so we hiked up Kalla Patthar, a nearby hill, and watched the sun set on Everest and Nuptse. This is something everyone should see at least once in their life. Words cannot describe how beautiful this is.

Next up was a visit to Everest base camp. We had tea and snacks at the Altitude Junkies camp and the team left with a better understanding of expedition life - both the good and bad. 

From here it is mostly downhill. Three of the members descended to Pheriche, Namche Bazaar the next day and finally to Lukla. That is going from 17,500' to 9,300' over three days. It is incredible how much stronger you feel as the air grows richer and warmer. They flew to Kathmandu the following morning and are reveling in hot showers with unlimited water, far more choices for dining, and of course finding wifi without a struggle. 

Scott and I split off from the others just above Pheriche and instead went to Dingboche. The next day we walked to Chukkung and on to the Island Peak base camp. This was my second time at this camp and it was just as unpleasant as the first time.  It is eternally windy with lots of dirt and dust blowing about. 

We went to bed early and got up at 1:00 am to head for the summit. We were actually moving by 2:15. The climb is mostly on a rocky trail but does require crampons and ice axes for the top as it is on a glacier. When I climbed this mountain in 2008 the final challenging headwall was snow covered and not too difficult. This time the snow was all gone and only ice remained. The climbing was quite a challenge. We finally summited around 8:30. I lingered about one minute as my feet were very cold in my crampon compatible running shoes. Scott elected to use proper climbing boots and wasn't cold at all so he stayed longer. 

The downclimb was long and tedious at times but we finally reached our camp at 1:45 pm. We were quite tired! We took a 15 minute power nap, ate some French fries and drank some milk tea and were reenergized. We packed our gear and walked two more hours to Chukkung, trading a dirty tent and lousy food for a warm teahouse and steaks. 

The following morning we walked to Dingboche where Scott and I parted ways. He headed off for Namche Bazaar, Lukla and Kathmandu while I headed back up to Everest base camp. I was super tired, cold, hungry and dehydrated  by the time I arrived. 

It was sad to see our trek come to an end and say goodbye to our team members. It was also exciting to get back to base camp and focus on my next goal: a safe Everest summit. 

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