Monday 2nd April to Tuesday 3rd April 2018 - Day 7 to 8
My YouTube of this part of the hike can be found here
We awoke to another cold morning in Pheriche, today wasn’t to be our longest hike, but it was to be the hardest so far. The previous one was 11kms, this was only 6kms. The difficulty on this trek was to get up a hill nick-named Heartbreak hill. There’s an option when setting off from Pheriche to go up and along the ridge, as opposed to keeping low then hiking up the whole ‘hill’.
Hiking up and along the ridge saves around a third of Heartbreak Hill’s punishment, and luckily that’s the one Russ decided we should take. The hike was standard Himalaya stuff, up and down, up and down, then one big bastard up, before dropping into camp, quite rocky, quite dusty and tough on the lungs.
Before we left the Edelweiss Lodge in Pheriche, we said goodbye to another team member, Dave. He hadn’t the heart or will to go on once he knew his mate Adrian wasn’t returning to the trek. I understand where he’s coming from, you have to really want this! With funds and helicopters, it's too easy to quit. So he flew back to Kathmandu whilst we set off on the hike to Lobuche.
Heartbreak Hill was a complete bastard, just going up up up. Not only do you have the altitude, rugged steep terrain and any ailments you may be suffering from to contend with, on some of the popular hiking trails you need to keep an eye on traffic, giving way to porters, yaks and hikers, going in both directions. Where possible, Russell tried to use less popular and more interesting trails, I think secretly they are harder than the popular routes! But it is nice to be where no other hikers are, alas Heartbreak Hill is a busy trail.
Russ may be in his sixties, but he skips up these hills, so be cautious when he says something like “just around corner”, “not very steep” or “it takes two hours”!!
The porters and chef’s would already be at the camp, either leaving before us or leap-frogging a stay to get to the next camp early, so everything is setup for when we arrive. A two man tent each, a dining tent for the main group, a dining tent for the summiters and Kiwis, rudimentary ladies and gents toilets and a kitchen, there’s a lot to be done.
Russell has organising an expedition down to a fine art, it’s quite amazing just how much goes into this. The individual tents already have a foam ground sheet and a mattress, so by the time you put your own thermarest down on them, you are well insulated from the cold earth.
As we dropped into what was to be our first camp site, it started to snow. At least we didn’t have that to contend with on Heartbreak Hill. I had a heavy cough, cold and headache by the time I arrived at the Lobuche camp, and a very sore nose from constantly blowing it. I was on my last legs, and feeling quite ill. By now we we at just over 4900 metres. Gabby and Goo could see I was unwell and offered me some kind words, unfortunately that upset me, and I had my first cry and went to take a nap.
The yaks were un-tacked and sent off into the mountains to graze. We had our usual evening meal, a bit of chatter and to bed early after that demanding climb.
On congregating for supper, I was clearly ill and slightly disappointed it took many asks for the doctor to give me a once over. Which he did when I got up from the table to go to bed.
Everyone except myself and Goo had taken the altitude acclimitisation drug, Diamox. Ni, the doc tested my oxygen level to see if I had more than just a cold and that my illness was altitude related but at 78% whatevers he didn’t think I needed them, so he supplied me with some ‘cold’ tablets, that in fact neither helped me sleep, nor stopped my headache or cough. The next day I saw him again and asked for some cough medicine, which he gave me along with some paracetamol. The cough medicine didn’t seem to work either, it made me cough a whole lot more, and kept me up on our second night in camp. So I’d just have to suck it up and wait until I naturally recovered. Even though a smoker on and off for over 40 years, currently a vaper, I’d not had a persistent cough like this for quite some time. Not covering my nose and mouth on the dusty windy trails probably didn’t help. It’s kind of a vicious cycle, don’t cover up and you get a cough, get a cough and it’s harder to breath, so you can’t cover up, and so it goes on.
The temperature through the night was around minus 6 deg C, but the tents were nice and toasty. If I hadn’t been coughing all night and keeping myself awake, it would have been perfect, possibly nicer than a hostel! Except for the fact that if you wanted to go to the loo, you’d have to go through the palaver of jostling about in the tent, getting your shoes and headlamp on and negotiating the terrain outside, which wasn't easy due to the low cloud.
I think the girls were split into two groups, one that used a ‘she-wee’ and pissed into a bottle in their tent, and others like me and Goo that just waited until morning!! I had bought a she-wee, it was a waste of money as I was put off using it by hearing one of the other girls’ tale of pissing all over her tent as she practiced using it!
The ladies had a wee toilet tent and there was a joint men's and ladies poo toilet tent. It’s harder to split the two bodily functions than you can imagine! Everything has to be taken down the mountain, so I guess that’s why they need to separate the poo from the wee…….I just like saying poo and wee actually, poooooo, weeeeeee!!
The next day was a rest day, again I abstained from any additional hiking, of which the three summitters took a climb up to 5325 metres of the Nangkar Tshang peak as part of their acclimitisation procedure, whilst the main group took a hike up one of the surrounding hills.
Another night was spent in the tents, a little more snow fell but again it was perfectly fine under ‘canvas’, and if you got up early enough some beautiful skies were to be seen.
The following morning the yaks were herded back to camp, god knows how they find them as they’d disappeared off into the mountains. They were give some hay whilst we ate our breakfast.
After, the yaks were loaded up, and we all set off to Base Camp.
We met up with the four remaining 'kiwis' if we stayed at a camp for more than a night, they arrived at Lobuche a day after us, and leave a day after us. It's a shame we're not all together as they're a great bunch of guys!