Base camp day!
Gorak shep is 5100m. And Base camp is 5300m. It’s going to be a tough day no matter what the hike is like.
It’s ‘nepalese flat’, which means it’s not flat at all, but a constant up and down.
It started cruisy enough and the constant view of the worlds largest mountains always makes it easier. But eventually we were scrambling up and down massive piles of boulders and rocks. By scrambling I of course mean ‘slowly making my way up, catching my breath, coughing, continuing the slow walk. Slipping over the odd rock, but always managing to catch my footing before an injury occurs’
Luckily when you reach Gorak Shep you can put your pack down before you continue the hike to Everest Base Camp (EBC to those in the know). Unluckily for me, I’m a photographer, so my bag still consists of 5kg’s of camera gear.
We ran into a couple who had just got back from the hike, they were energised, fresh faced, not suffering any illnesses. They told us ‘it’s a pretty easy hike, took us 2 - 3 hours return’. Stupidly I took them at their word, forgetting I still have several kilo’s to carry, and my rattling lungs (which by now I was starting to suspect wasn’t a simple cold) made every expulsion of energy into a difficult and time consuming challenge.
For the fit and healthy it’s a 2 - 3 hour hike. For our group it took maybe 4 - 4.5 hours.
I take full responsibility for the hold up. Bob is an absolute gun and Spencer, who was also sick, still managed. Though we did often sit down together and hold an orchestra of coughing. I hate being the slow one. I have lived my life trying to prove to myself/the world, that I can do anything I set my mind to. Except apparently walk to base camp in an upbeat and timely manner.
We finally reached a bunch of prayer flags, a sure sign we’d reached a destination. I celebrated too early, I looked down and realised base camp was below us, it was a swift descent down and then back up to actually be able to walk in amongst the few tents that were left (most of base camp had packed up in the preceding week)I considered not making the effort but I didn’t trek for 9 days to sit on my tired sick butt and NOT go explore base camp.
So down we walked, right up to the khumbu glacier. The ice fall. The most dangerous part of the everest summit ascent. The part that has claimed so many lives.
Also the first glacier i’d seen up close.
So many doco’s, movies, pictures, books. So many years of dreaming of this moment and here I finally was. Standing ON the worlds tallest mountain, maybe standing on the place where one day i’d start my ascent to the summit (although we’ll wait and see how expensive it gets, I am just a struggling artist)
These moments are always so anticlimactic. It’s hard to sit in awe when you’re so breathless and cold and tired. But sit in awe I eventually did. My brain just needed to time to warm up to the fact.
What a beautiful desolate wasteland base camp is.