Sunday, April 20, 2014

Everest Base Camp Here We Come!

Greetings All,
The alarm went off at 4:00 AM for another early start for our crossing of the Cho La.  The climb started off gradually but there were plenty of boulders to scramble over and rockfall to avoid from above.

Ascending Cho La

We could see a long white prayer flag on a pole on top of the ridge but as we approached I could see it was a false summit.

Prayer Flag at False Summit

The climb started in earnest from this point on.  There was more boulder hopping and a few snow fields to traverse.

Final Ascent of Cho La

Finally after 4 hours we reached the top of the pass at 17,782 feet.  Once again we were rewarded with spectacular views and stopped for a lunch break before heading down.

Us on Cho La

There was a receding glacier on the other side of the pass.  Recently the approach to the east side of the pass had to be rerouted due to the unstable glacier.  If the glacier continues to recede, the Cho La may become impassable.  Fortunately, we had our micro-spikes with us which made the descent much easier.  We had to cross the glacier over steep side-slope areas where if you slipped, you could slide hundreds of feet down into a crevasse.

Descending from Cho La

Luckily we had no mishaps and we all reached Dzongla safely.  The next morning we left Dzongla under clear skies and continued our approach to the Everest Base Camp Trail.

Dzongla Tea House

We had to cross a small pass before reaching the junction with the Everest Base Camp Trail.

Junction with the Everest Base Camp Trail

It was a short 30 minutes to the village of Lobuche where we stopped for lunch.  We crossed the Lobuche Glacier and continued along the massive Khumbu Glacier.  Finally we arrived at Gorak Shep, the last outpost before Everest Base Camp.

Gorak Shep

We stayed in a crowded teahouse where the atmosphere was more like being in a ski lodge in Europe rather than just a couple of hours away from Everest Base Camp.  Marc and I set off early the next morning to explore Everest Base Camp (EBC).  We encountered porters and yaks hauling heavy loads to support the climbing expeditions just getting underway.

Hauling Loads to Everest Base Camp

Finally the tents at Base Camp came into view.  They stretched for over a mile along the Khumbu Glacier at an altitude of 17,600 feet.  Just above camp the Khumbu icefall loomed ominously, the major obstacle to conquer when climbing Everest.  There were many climbing companies including International Mountain Guides (IMG), Jagged Globe and Peak Freaks getting set up for the climbing season just ahead.

Everest Base Camp and Khumbu Icefall

We made our way toward the end of the camp where an expedition guide was leading two novice climbers to the edge of the glacier to practice using crampons and an ice ax.  I couldn't imagine learning how to use crampons and an ice ax on an ascent of Mt. Everest!

Crampon and Ice Axe Lesson

More yaks arrived carrying loads with "NBC News" stickers.  We had seen roughly 60 porters or yaks carrying loads for NBC News.  "What were they going to do with all this equipment?", we wondered.  They must be filming some sort of documentary or maybe a clip for the Today Show.

Hauling NBC News Gear

We made a hasty retreat back to Gorak Shep as the weather began closing in.  Snow began to fall and we wondered if we would be able to climb Kala Patthar tomorrow.  Fortunately, the weather cleared overnight and we were treated to sunrise over Everest as we climbed the "peak".

Sunrise over Mt Everest and Nuptse

As we neared the prayer flags on the top, the perfectly pyramidal shape of Pumori rose in the background.

Reaching Kala Patthar

We didn't dare to go to the very top as the rocks were covered in slick snow and one slip would mean instant death.  The view from our vantage point was just as good.

Us on Kala Patthar

At 18,200 feet, Kala Patthar has one of the most impressive views of Everest Base Camp and the summit of Mt. Everest beyond.  Although not a proper peak, Kala Patthar is very popular with trekkers and now on the top I can see why.  The view of Changtse, Everest and  Nuptse was breathtaking!

View of Everest and Nuptse from Kala Patthar

It was time to return to Gorak Shep where a pair of friendly Tibetan Snowcocks greeted us.

Tibetan Snowcock

We had time for lunch before heading back down to Lobuche where we would spend the night.  What a thrilling visit to Everest Base Camp!  After reading so much about the highest mountain on our planet I could hardly believe that I had finally reached Base Camp.  I couldn't imagine scaling the peak.  I was content to admire it from afar and wish those brave enough to attempt it the best of luck!

We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc

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