Updated: Jan 30
Wednesday 4-5th April 2018 - Day 9 to 10
This, our last hike to get us to BC, was to be around 11kms. Russ was rather quiet as to how hard it would be, and it’s a good job he was, I prefer a tough hike to be a surprise altogether, and not be told it’s easy when it’s not! And this was tough, harder than the previous two hikes by a long way.
We left Lobuche camp after breakfast, where it was already snowing across the vast plateau we had been camping on. I was always up and out my tent by around 5am, so took the opportunity to clamber over some of the rockfalls on the perimeter of our large ‘crater’. I’d watch the sky and take some photos. The moon sets and the sun rises around 6am, when the sun rises the welcoming life-giving heat, an everyday occurrence all over the planet, but a special treat when you’re down to the basics!
We all set off, up over the hill adjacent to camp, the hill that everyone except me and the summiters had climbed the day before. Many were feeling the affects of the near 5000 metre altitude, yesterday some climbed without backpacks, so found it a little more difficult today with their day pack on.
As usual it was a case of asending hills and descending valleys, quite busy and quite tough hiking tbh. And seemed to go on for ever. We stopped at a tea house in Gorak Shep for a cuppa, thinking this was quite close to BC, but no, no it bloody wasn’t
The hike went on and on. One of Russ’s porters ran from BC to meet us with some tea and biscuits, from here BC was in sight, but way in the distance, and on the other side of the valley. I’m not a fan of tea breaks, the thought is nice, but my body seems to shutdown and struggles to get going again. I’d much rather keep on trekking!
After trekking on, you can see our camp directly on the other side of the valley, it’s the first one in Base Camp. The enormity of this hike hits home, as I was running on fumes by now and it becomes apparent the only way to get there is to keep walking along this side of the valley until there is a crossing to the other side, then walking all the way back the other side of the valley. I can’t remember if it was a natural or man made crossing, but eventually we crossed to the other side, then hiked back along and to the camp.
Again Russ’s porters and chefs had been there some time already, a different group than at Lobuche, and had set up a fab camp, very similar in format to Lobuche, but this time it was on the undulating moraine, and slightly difficult to walk anywhere.
Base camp takes around an hour to hike along end to end. The terrain is up and down, up and down, and is on a moraine surface, which is basically ice with rocks on top. The rocks can be loose, and where you think it is a wet surface is actually ice, and is very slippery so you have to watch your steps carefully.
Basecamp is on a bank above the Khumbu Glacier and runs along side it as though it were a river bank. Our camp was the furthest away from the Khumbu Icefall, but right on the edge of the bank above the Khumbu Glacier. It’s such a privilege to camp there, it is not something a ‘normal’ BC trekker can do. We were there for two nights, now at just over 5300 metres, which doesn’t sound much but that’s getting on for 18000 feet!
The first morning, due to my normal getting up early, I was keen to get close to the glacier, I climbed down the bank and walked towards the house sized chunks of ice, but turned back as I knew it was dangerous. It’s a good job no one else was up, Russ would have had a flip-out if he’d seen me!
No one is allowed on the Khumbu Icefall without a permit. And we didn’t have a permit for this, only the summiters would have the ‘privilege’. You can’t imagine nor capture in a photo, the sheer size of the ice chunks on the glacier or icefall. It is vast, with massive chasms to fall in and never be seen again. For me seeing the Glacier and Icefall was the cherry on the top of this experience.
Even the summiters can’t get through the Icefall alone, first the Icefall Doctors, as they are called, a group of fearless Shepas, bridge the vast chasms with aluminium ladders, sometimes four or five roped together. They mark out the route for all summiters to take. This process was underway as we were there in early April, which is spring time in Nepal. No attempts on the summit would have been made yet, not until the Icefall Doctors had done their work.
From BC you can only see the Western flank of Everest, and the summit behind it, with the South Summit and Hillary Step in view. I wish I’d borrowed a telescope and took a proper look!
The sun rises right behind the summit of Everest, it is beautifully amazing, if that’s your thing!
The sun comes around the high peaks and around to the glacier slowly at around 8am. The glacier glistens once the sun hits it, with the ancient ice reflecting a sweet light blue hew, truly awe inspiring! Seeing this has made my trip.
It had started snowing around lunchtime on our second day in BC, with it snowing all night. At some point during the night I was woken by heavy winds, but not that heavy to be scared of blowing into the Glacier! Another thing that woke, the already broken sleep, was avalanches, you could hear them crack off like distant thunder, some were prolonged and it was a bit scary.
But what an experience, there’s not many people that have had the privileged of sleeping in BC, and hearing and seeing such wonders. I really do feel truly honoured.
At the altitude of basecamp, just rolling over in bed could send you into a gasping for breathe episode. I kept forgetting to do things slowly they whole expedition. Running up and down stairs in the lodges and hostels would take your breath away, it’s the trying to remember to slow down that I found hard. The same on the trails, I'd stop to film, then rush to catch up.
So on awaking to our first full day in BC, we had an option, climb Kala Pathar to see better views, or hike the length of basecamp. I chose the latter, as I was so keen to get as close as possible to the icefall. It takes around an hour to hike end to end, with the terrain being moraine, and undulating, making it very slippery. In some places would be a boulder the size of a car, sitting on no more than a plinth of ice, I can imagine as summer comes the ice melting and the boulder slipping off and falling down into the glacier.
Goo, pictured above has been trekking to raise money for research into a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Take a look at her JustGiving page, and support her if you appreciate her efforts and cause, you can find a link to her page here Any amount will do, don't feel under pressure because others have pledged more than you can afford, give what you can!
Poor Russell and his guys had again setup two dining tents, one for the summiters and Kiwis, and one for the trekking group, alas it was requested by some of the trekkers that we all dine together! So whilst we were out hiking the BC or Kala Pathar, they we re-arranging the dining tents. Of which the main tent had been sectioned off for Russ to have his ‘mission control’ office for supporting the summiters, which had to be dismantled to make the tent big enough for everyone.
By now the Kiwis had arrived, even these fit men had found the hike from Lobuche heavy going, I think some of them may have even taken an afternoon nap!
We had our evening meal that night, our last night, with the whole gang. Celebrations were with a ‘Basecamp 2018’ cake for dessert, and a little wine and whisky. I didn’t want to drink alcohol and went to bed around 8:30pm, the party pooper that I am leaving the others to keep chatting, which they did until the early hours!
As usual at dinner, Russell briefed us on the next day’s activities. The advertised trek was to walk to and from Basecamp. Seven of the group had already booked a helicopter out of BC back to Kathmandu as they had other plans or needed to get back to work after already two weeks away. This left only three to walk back, including me, but with a spare helicopter seat available, I nabbed it, leaving only Nicole and Cassi to walk back with the Doc and Little Boss.
So a slightly earlier start the next day 8am at the helipad, and I was ready to go by now, my cold was taking its toll, and I was looking forward to being ill in comfort!