I had a splitting headache and a grating cough. Nausea, fever, and fatigue cramped my body. I would continue to wake up in this manner for the next ten days. The horrible cold was bad enough and now the altitude was getting to me. It was like having a hangover without getting to have fun the night before. I'd previously made the decision to try and complete the trek without using of Diamox, a medication for treating altitude sickness (AMS).
Eat your knowledge: Diamox is helpful for adjusting to breathing the thin air of high altitudes and relieving the symptoms of AMS. However, it doesn't actually treat the sickness. This can be dangerous. The symptoms are your warning signal that something is wrong and if they're being suppressed, you may not realize the severity of the condition. Continuing on with a trek and climbing higher in altitude while sick can be deadly. For this reason, I was avoiding taking the Diamox.
|This guy greeted me when I opened the door from my room|
I put two more layers on top of what I already was wearing. I was expecting to feel a rush of freezing wind and to see a layer of fog like the night before when I opened the door . I was pleasantly surprised when I felt sunlight on my face and the air was clear and crisp. Instantly my ailments seemed to fade.
Outside, several groups of early risers were walking around on the green grass taking pictures of the Tengboche monastery and taking in the views. The legendary mountain vistas that were guarded by the fog the night before, were now perfectly visible. I wandered over to a group of people looking and pointing and overheard them spouting off the names of several distant peaks. I followed the direction of their pointing fingers and noticed one that stood out from the others. It was far away, but it's beauty and size were apparent and intimidating. A trail of snow crystals whipped from it's summit and seemed to stand still, frozen in the air above the mountain. I was taking in my first view of Mt. Everest.
|My first view of Everest... you can see the snow-whipped peak on the left.|
I met up with my crew at the bakery, mashed an apple pancake, and we hit the trail once again heading to our next checkpoint, Dingboche. We weren't on the trail long when a man jogged by us wearing only a light jacket, a small backpack, and a number pinned to his chest. Then another and another, each coming from the direction we were heading. A yak-train crossing a small suspension bridge forced to stop for a few minutes and we had the chance to talk to one of the runners. He told us that he was competing in the world's highest marathon, the Everest Marathon, starting at Gorak Shep (5184 m) and finishing at Namche Bazaar where we were two days earlier. I couldn't believe it. I was having trouble just walking around and this dude was racing in a freaking mountain-marathon.
|Leanne and Brittany trying not to get run over by the yak train|
With my ego a bit deflated and self-confidence slightly bruised, I continued on. My friends and I followed the winding river far below us as we trekked along the mountainside path. For much of the trek, we could see Everest and several other fabled peaks far in the distance. The first half of the trek was pretty easy, mostly descents or small, gradual ascents. After two hours we stopped in a small town (Pangboche) on the river for lunch.
We ate and started hiking again and shortly after, I realized that we had passed the tree line. This is the “edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing”. I don't recall the exact elevation, but the tree line is much higher in the Himalayas than in North America. I hardly noticed the transition from lush forests to the suddenly barren terrain. Tall green trees were replaced by colorless rocks and small shrubs. Harsh winds picked up as we proceeded through the rocky valley. I thought of the woman in Kathmandu that gave me a free buff to protect my face and I was thankful. Coming out of a daydream I rounded a bend and in the very near distance I saw our destination. We'd made great time and after only four hours total, we reached Dingboche (4,530 meters) where we would stay the night and again the next day for our second mandatory acclimatization camp.