The night before we were told that there are only a few guesthouses in Lobuche and that they fill quickly so we'd need to get an early start. We did not. After finally getting on the trail around 8:30 I was not happy. It was windy and cold and there was still snow on the ground from the night before. With large tour groups on the trail ahead of us, Mike decided to hurry and go ahead so that we could be sure to get a guesthouse for the night.
I fell back with the girls and we picked up the pace, making up time. We climbed out of the valley that Dingboche sits in and the morning fog thinned. Other than the cold, the first half of the day's trek proved fairly easy with only gradual slopes and some of the best mountain views we'd seen yet were revealed.
The whole morning had been spent following a steep mountain ridge that finally descended to a small river cutting through another valley. We crossed a walking bridge and stopped briefly for a water break. We'd arrived at the most challenging section of the day's hike. Just ahead was a steep ascent up rugged and rocky terrain. It was quite literally an uphill battle that ended up taking us almost 45 minutes to reach the top.
|Memorial for world-class climber Scott Fischer who died|
leading an expedition up Everest
Once we reached the top we stopped for a break and to take pictures of the awesome scenery. Upon the hilltop were masses of stupas and chortens. Chortens are more than just decorated rock piles. They are shrines-- stone monuments for Sherpas and trekkers who have died on the mountain. This area of the trek was covered with them. After we'd caught our breath and captured some great photos, we pressed on, trekking for another hour until we reached Lobuche.
|prayer flags and chortens|
Snow was falling lightly as we arrived and it continued all night. The weather was no longer enjoyable. Worse than snow were the constant cold and fierce winds. To add, the terrain was getting more and more rugged-- more like what you would picture when thinking of a desolate, bouldery terrain above the tree line. Streams were now iced over and the ground was frozen and stiff. The beautiful mountain landscape in the distance was a pleasant but brief distraction. I was sick of being cold. Sick of dry eyes, chapped lips, and a runny nose. Sick of being sick. Sick of tea, coffee, and hot chocolate-- but they were the only damn way to keep warm. But this is what we'd come for-- a challenge and an adventure to Mt. Everest. It was definitely both.
|Should've said "Welcome to Hell"|
Mike arrived at Lobuche an hour earlier than Brittany, Leanne, and I. Luckily, he was able to get us two rooms (if you can call them that) for the night. It was by far the worst place we'd stayed so far. Two dirty mattresses laying inside of wooden box with a hard-plastic window. A paper bag type cloth covering the thin plywood walls was the only insulation. There was no flooring, just a plastic tarp covering the hard frozen dirt that was the ground beneath us. It was the most basic of protection from the elements, shielding us from the snow and wind and nothing more. The cold was inescapable. It was almost as bad as being outside.
|my "room" in Lobuche (check out the video below for more)|
We dropped our bags and looked around outside. Lobuche is much smaller than any of the other "settlements" we had stopped at. It consists of nothing more than a few lodging establishments and is infamous for its filthy simplicity. And so we headed to the common room. It was slightly warmer there, only because this is where everyone was. It was a large room with tables and chairs and there were two yak dung stoves that seemed to produce nothing more than stink, definitely no heat. Cold cold cold cold freaking cold cold. and sick. and COLD. At this point I was considering taking the Diamox to ease the impact of the elevation. For the rest of the night, I sat reading in the common room, bundled up. I saw a suspect-looking Sherpa dude wearing flip-flops eyeing up my boots. I had taken them off and put them next to the stove-heater to warm up. I quickly put them back on for fear of them being stolen. The last thing I needed was to be stuck on top of this mountain with bare feet.
WANT TO SEE THE CHORTENS, SOME MOUNTAINS, AND MY "DELUXE ACCOMMODATION" IN LOBUCHE? CHECK OUT THIS QUICK 2-MINUTE CLIP I PUT TOGETHER FROM DAY 7...
It was another night of me going to bed early. The next day we were to walk to Gorak Shep, only about two hours away but supposedly even less of an establishment than Lobuche. We'd have to be walking by 7am if we wanted to get rooms. The good news: Gorak Shep would be our last stop before reaching our goal of Everest Base Camp.
NOTE: The aforementioned book that I finished that night was Escape from Kathmandu by Majushree Thapa. This is a great read about the political history (or lack thereof) of Nepal and I 'd highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Nepal or interested in the country's past and current struggles. It's a bit tough powering through the dry history of the political parties and leaders, but ends up being very eye-opening and I'd even say suspenseful. This is probably one of the best books addressing the current Nepalese political state, the situation with the Maoist rebels, and their fight to establish a real democracy. Eat your knowledge-- check it out!