Monday, 27 February 2012

Chloe's Diary Extracts and Photos (day 11-)

It's all downhill from here

(day 11 - Gorak Shep to Pheriche
 day 12 -

What did I do to myself???! Overexertion, exhaustion, -17 degrees and the sickness. Shit! I feel awful today - nauseous, knackered, thirsty - and we walked for a hard 6 hours to Pheriche - in a long dusty valley that went on forever - teasing us with the end in sight for over an hour.

my diary for this day starts "I am watching the teahouse lady pour a bucket of yak shit into the fire". This teahouse is pure luxury - some of the group get a bucket shower, it is warm, it has decor. We are all elated to be here. Especially as it is down from Gorak Shep - the highest arsehole of the world which made everyone feel pretty crappy.

Some of the gang were keen to merge tomorrow and the next day into one walk to get back to Namche Bazar in super quick time, but they overlooked the fact that some of us - me especially - would never make the 12 hour walk without dying... None too popular.

extra marvellous pic:

Chloe's Diary Extracts and Photos (day 10 - EBC!)

Base Camp Day!!

We woke at 5.15 and set off with butterflies on our stomaches on the very difficult 3 hour schlep to Gorak Shep. Forcing noodle soup and tinned fruit down yourself at 9 in the morning at over 5000m altitude is not easy but we knew we needed the fuel.

Dom put the fear in us by warning if we didn't make the journey to base camp within three and a half hours we would be turned back for our own safety. This put a rocket up us all, especially Rosie who set off at the speed of light.  The walk from Gorak Shep was a steady climb along the glacier valley with the Khombu glacier creating tall waves of ice covered in gravel, like a great lemon meringue pie topping.

We eventually made it (me almost last, but determined) in only an hour and 45 minutes - down the valley side and across the glacier to the strange but stunning area known as base camp by a pile of stones in the middle of the glacier.

An amazing moment, we all congratulated and celebrated together. It is so beautiful - stark, monochrome, cold and yet warm, full of journeys and joy, and glowing with that deep aqua blue of glacial ice that seems to be lit from within.

we wrote on a stone and posed for photos (which had better make it into our internal newspaper, Marie Curie People...), then walked back to Gorak Shep - exhausted and elated. I then collapsed a bit.

Chloe's Diary Extracts and Photos (day 7, 8 and 9)

Ups and Downs

(day 7: Tengboche to Dingboche
 day 8 acclimatisation walk to Chukkung
 day 9 Dingboche to Lobuche)

It's a funny feeling, not being able to catch your breath - scary and irritating. I remember actually having to really concentrate on breathing today after a minor panic attack brought on from hefting my huge bag about 10m to our tea house room.

The rest of day 7 was impressive - down the valley and up again to Dingboche in snow so dry it is like white powdery dust. The river we walk along is flanked with massive icebergs and the water is that bright glacial blue.

Before dinner, Dom announced that Susan would have to go down the mountain, as she started to experience the onset of pulmonary oedema - altitude-induced fluid on the lungs. We are gutted, but not as much as she is. After all the effort and real grit, she will retrace our steps up, and meet us in Kathmandu.

On day 8 we had a short acclimatisation excursion to Chukkung and back, taking around 4 hours and getting back to the tea house for lunch. It was hard work - we are getting really high now, and it is cold. The landscape is really monotone after the snow and we are above the tree level now.

Our afternoon was free, allowing some to try to get their strength back. Lisa taught a super-slow dance class - the highest I ever heard of. We played some get-to-know-you games after dinner, and reinforced the group spirit, which is high. We are having a tough but amazing time, and I realise that I laugh like a hyena 100 times a day: am up much more than I am down.

Rosie and I were kept up by the cow bells hanging around the neck of the Zokyo (yak-cow beast of burden carrying our bags) sitting outside our bedroom window. We were greeted by Laila and Lisa's customary morning routine through the thin plywood wall this morning: "day 9. The housemates are cold...again. we are having a good time, having a good time..."

Going to the loo is getting treacherous - we have to flush them using a jug of icy water which creates a pissy ice-rink across the toilet floors. Only one person was brave enough to own up to falling over on it....

The long walk to Lobuche on day 9 involves another increase of 600m elevation to 4930m. The walk was hard but stunning: breathtaking in both senses of the word.

The route starts with a very steep climb for 45mins or so, then a long steady climb around a mountain, past some fabulous scenary. We entertain Laila by graffiting in the snow.

After lunch (its always after lunch), another punishingly steep half hour to an amazing place full of memorials to sherpa and western climbers who have died in the mountains.

This evening, we sit drinking mint tea in the tea house, looking at the sunshine turning Nuptse different colours out the window and looking forward to tomorrow - the big day...

extra marvellous pic:

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Chloe's Diary Extracts and Photos (day 5 and 6)

For That View

(day 5 - day excursion to Kundung;
 day 6 - Namche to Tengboche)

Despite the 7 hour walk today was billed as "non-compulsory aclimatisation walk" but everyone turned up - lets face it, it is what we were there for.

We set off up the extraordinarily steep hillside out of Namche - zig-zagging up 200m before snaking round the hillside. We stopped above the local school to hear the children sing their morning assembly. Goats grazed on the hillside and great yaks lumbered - their cow-bells attracting our attention.

The top of the hill gave us incredible views of Everest, Nuptse, Lohtse, Ama Dhablam and we stopped for a cuppa at the creepy hotel which can provide oxygen and pressurised bedrooms to those with enough money.

We visited a lovely local monastery after lunch, filled with garish flowers, statues, butter lamps and fabric decorations as well as a Yeti's head in a box - viewable for just a small donation.

The altitude has begun to give me headaches, but nothing a paracetamol won't sort out. Some of the rest of the group aren't so lucky. We are all still eating huge portions of rice, noodle and potato dinners and I am able to ask for seconds. The group are getting on famously, and we are settling in to our walking patterns.

Day 6 saw us walk a flat route out of Namche and around the mountain which lulled us before an afternoon filled with the punishing climb up 500m onto the ridge with the Monastery village on top. Tengboche is very exposed and therefore freezing, and tonight saw a slight drop in the group's morale as we fight the cold in our down jackets and hats, even round the fire. We fill our drinking water bottles with boiling water and tuck them into our sleeping bags before we get in.

Chloe's Diary Extracts and Photos (day 4)

The Real Walking Starts

(day 4 - to Namche Bazaar)

Dom had recommended that we leap out of our sleeping bag as soon as we got our wake-up knock, and although I worked really hard to, Rosie succumbed to the temptation of warmth. The mid-night long walk to the loo at the end of the long cold corridor didn't help either of us in catching up on the sleep we so badly needed to fuel today's walk.

After a large breakfast of porridge and toast and eggs (to become habitual) we set out along the stunning Dudh Kosi river in bright sunshine. We crossed rope bridges (Rosie's fav) and passed beautiful stupas - remembering to walk past on the left, for Buddhist merits.

We staggered into Namche just after lunch. Nestled in the hillside, it is a bustling market and tourist town in the season. We were ecstatic to find it has a lovely tea house with hot showers, en suite loos and electric blankets to keep the freezing fog out of our bones.

Extra marvellous pic:

Chloe's Diary Extracts and Photos (day 1-3)

The Long Way Round 

(day 1 - London to Abu Dhabi;
 day 2 - to Kathmandu;
 day 3 to Lukla and beyond)

Our cheery group fills up the back 3 rows of the aeroplane, causing a stir in our blue Marie Curie tee shirts. Just audible is the mumbled captain's welcome speech overhead... "welcome to a group... Mary Curry... base camp of... Everest in nipple..." we had a little cheer!

Rosie and I hid in a forgotten corner of Abu Dhabi airport to try and catch some zeds, but the airport workers are slowly filling up the room where we are camping on the floor, with wheelchairs.

When they needlessly begin to play chinese checkers with them, arranging and rearranging, we go and find the others in the huge hall filled with a colourful tiled ceiling. Dan is using his packet of Tayto crisps (amazing sponsor for the group) as a pillow.

Eventually we get to Kathmandu, eat a gorgeous beef and vegetable soup dish and have a briefing before trying to sleep before the 4.30am wake-up tomorrow for our flight to Lukla.

We excitedly bustled through Kathmandu domestic airport super early, before realising that fog had grounded our planes for the time being. Poor Laila was so wound up about the flight she was barely concious. Pocari Sweat helped Lisa.

The tiny aeroplane held a lovely but hastled stewardess, half of our group and a Nepali couple. The wife had her face screwed up and her fingers in her ears the entire 30 minute trip. The trip was stunning, and the landing hair-raising. This view of the cockpit dash is amazing - "terrain advisory" it flashes, as the plane is heading stright for the mountain.

The light at Lukla was a revalation. Clear, bright, thin. We walked for about 4 hours to Monju through beautiful hilly sunshiny scenary and started to get to know each other.

extra marvellous pic:

We Are Back!

After some long nights of partying in Lukla and Kathmandu, and some even longer days of travelling home, we are finally back safe and sound in London.

I have scrubbed the grime off myself, hacked off some of the Yeti-ness (sorry to be so raw about it) and eaten some bacon and am feeling rather wonderful.

I am looking forward to getting some of the highlights of my diary onto this blog along with some photos today and tomorrow.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Everest Base Camp conquered at 12.36pm 18 Feb

So we made it!  yeah!!!!!!!!!!!
It was pretty tough going! The night before our room had been minus 17, so a frosty start to say the least, but after 8 hours of walking, clambering over rocks and the glacier we made it.  It was a great feeling. Base Camp itself was a pretty low-key spot at the base of the glacier. There were no tents as out of season for the real climbers, there were just lots of lovely colourful prayer flags. Despite the cold we must have stayed there 40mins with everyone congratulating themselves, lots of photos etc. It was brilliant.
We've enjoyed the walk down. The weather has picked up and it has been lovely and sunny in the mornings, finally warming our bones is good to see trees, animals and people again!
We are now in Namche Bazare which has internet, hot showers, proper toilets - bliss! We arrived today and had yak cheese sandwiches and chips, which made a welcomed change from the endless cabbage and potatoes.  I think there also may be a few celebratory beers consumed tonight now we are back in safe-ish altitude...
We have a couple of more days walking before we are back in Kathmandu and then flying home Saturday. Its been an amazing experience, one we wouldn't change for the world, but we will be happy to get home for some creature comforts...
Mum -  if you are reading this, please can i have a roast chicken dinner on Sunday??!!!

Friday, 17 February 2012

View from today...

Base camp tomorrow!!

Hello from 4,930m up, somehow we have WiFi??!!
It is amazing, but blimey we are never going to complain about the cold again...yesterday at base camp it was minus 30...brrr, but we are all kitted up and ready and excited to get there.
The landscape is breathtaking, we are sitting here looking out to the snowy mountains all around us.
It's now more challenging to trek, air thinner and we can only walk slowly. So far we are only suffering headaches, which are v normal. We are eating enormous amounts of food, mainly noodles and chips and cabage and snickers...but apparently we are burning 4000 calories a day so who cares!
Wish us luck for tomorrow!
Rosie and Chloe