Chapter 15: Climbing Everest - Part 2

Author: 

Demos Demetriou

Chapter 15: Climbing Everest - Part 2

An Easy Day

After those first 4 days documented in Part 1, it would have seemed fair enough to have enjoyed a bit of an easier day — after all, that was the plan. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

The uphill slog to the Everest View Hotel was a challenge and Steph was “so glad I did the cardio training”. Reading Steph’s journal, it’s clear to see that you need a really strong mind to overcome the mental fatigue of such an adventure. Equally the physical conditioning for your body to be able to cope with such physical stress is non-negotiable. That’s what I think anyway but, according to some of the trekkers, that’s not the case. One guy actually turned up at the beginning of the trek having thought it would have been a good thing to do while in Nepal. Imagine that for a second, arriving in Nepal and saying, “I know what I’ll do today, I’ll climb Everest”. What the hell…

Well Worth It

The challenging stint was well worth it though, with some amazing views of the Himalayas and the first view of her “Everest”. The sun beating down had caused Steph’s neck to burn so a newly-purchased neck gaiter was needed, and it was also time to start combatting altitude sickness with a ‘special powder’ 😲 called Seabuckthorne (A natural remedy — phew!)

Now back to the Teahouse, where it was time to sample some ‘Momo Dumplings’ very well known in this part of the world and often raved about. Unfortunately, Steph’s palette did not appreciate them as much saying they were “boring”. After dinner there was another more challenging battle: A debate with an American about the history of America. (I would have climbed up to Everest just to listen to this!) Those of you who read these blogs know that Steph knows more than Google, I’m serious, so what chance did this Yank have trying to convince her otherwise. He had no chance at all, but it didn’t stop him trying. History is Steph’s strong point and she is the go-to person in our team to find out anything that happened over the last few million years. With the boring dumplings and the history lesson for the American done, it was off to bed in preparing for the next day’s climb up to Dole at 4,110m.

Upon arrival, a very sore left knee was in need for some rest, but the exhaustion oddly was a “great feeling”. It must have felt like a great achievement even at this early stage, certainly writing about it feels like Steph had achieved so much already and she wasn’t even halfway. The overnight stay was by the river, but it was very cold. Now, given that Steph likes to wear flip flops in the UK until around December, if SHE says it was really cold it would have felt like Siberia to the rest of us! Going to sleep that night, Steph had the excitement of breakfast the following morning which would be hash browns and yak cheese. What a combination, but after the boring noodles for dinner, which were basically plain spaghetti, it’s no surprise she was excited for breakfast the next day.

After that delightful breakfast, the next stint started which would be a long one. It was a climb out of the valley which seemed to last forever, and it was not made any easier with one knee in a bad way. At this point, the group was asked to view all insurance documents, “just in case”. The weather was now turning from cold and windy to hot and sunny. With a mild headache and plenty of water to try and get it to subside, this still didn’t stop Steph helping another trekker repack his entire rucksack (why doesn’t that surprise me). Upon arrival and the next overnight stop, Steph wanted to enjoy a shower but the facilities were a little lacking… A shower consisting of a bucket with some warm water and a non-flushing toilet. I said in the first part of this story that I was surprised how filthy it was up there, but it seemed to be getting worse. At this point Steph was shattered and wanted to sleep, but at that altitude to sleep upon arrival was the worst thing one can do according to the guides. She was told to stay awake for 6 hours before she went to sleep. I just can’t imagine what that must feel like - you have just walked what seems like a million miles and then when you do arrive and want to sleep, you’re told you can’t. With some reading and several hot chocolates, she somehow managed to keep her eyelids open for those 6 hours before finally going to sleep.

One Down

The next day began with an unexpected alarm clock. The sound of an emergency helicopter taking one of the group away to hospital. Everest had taken its first casualty and with today’s route, a trek to the next destination Gokyo Lakes, another guy in the group was going SLOW. He was suffering with tiredness and serious stomach cramps. Could this be the next victim of this herculean challenge?

Upon arrival at the Gokyo Lakes, Steph’s woolly hat had now made its first appearance to keep out the biting cold. (Remember, biting cold must feel like -150 degrees to the rest of us.) Two of the three lakes were frozen over. After a 50m ascent in freezing weather to see the glacier, it was back to the teahouse to indulge in a $3.50 Mars Bar, without doubt the best $3.50 Steph has ever spent! It was an early night after some packing in preparation for the following day, which was going to start early, very early.

This was the hardest morning yet. With a 3.30am start and full thermals on in what seemed like the end of the world outside, was a 3-hour climb seemingly lasting forever. The guy in the group suffering from stomach cramps had decided not to continue. With 2 down and 6 left, they climbed to 5,483m. What kind of view would you be expecting? Nothing short of amazing. After soaking up the views for a short while, it was back down again, not much easier that the ascent. The cold was taking its toll and Steph was now suffering with coughing and sinus issues.

What was keeping Steph going was the fact she would have breakfast soon. A wise choice of a cheese and tomato toastie, chips and beans. Wise not because of the culinary magnificence of all these ingredients, but because Steph had concluded that these ingredients wouldn’t have made contact with any water. Given the lack of hygiene and clean water, you can see her logic! After breakfast, it was a 1-hour rest before heading out for another 3-hour trek to another glacier. It was surreal and extremely hard work but with lunch sitting in the sun watching the snow fall, it somehow seemed worth it.

Once at the next base, they had a meal consisting of the famous Daal Bhat followed by some star-gazing for the group. They could clearly see Scorpio, Cassiopeia and many shooting stars. What a fantastic way to finish a meal — who would want cigars and brandy with a view like that! It was now time to retire for an early night in preparation for the following day with one question in mind: “Will I get to use my micro spikes?”

Nearly there

This is a real change to the usual ramblings of mine of our start-up journey but I hope all readers are enjoying this as much as I am writing it. There will be one more final part of this journey which is the most important. Will Steph make it? You will have to wait until next time to find out! So, until then…