Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by warpus, May 18, 2020.
5,643m is getting up there. 18,500+ feet. That is as high as Kilimanjaro!
Yeah, Kilimanjaro is about 250m higher in altitude than Kala Patthar. It surprised me that it's higher in elevation than any point on the Everest Base Camp Trek when I first found out, but it's pretty close.
The alpine pass we would be crossing in a couple days sits at 5,420m above sea level. After that we would climb Gokyo Ri, which clocks in at 5,360m. After that we would be heading downhill, back towards the airport in Lukla.
Above the Khumbu Glacier
From this vantage point you get a great look down on the Khumbu glacier. This is me basically looking back towards the south-east. Base Camp is north from here, in more or less the opposite direction.
Pemachoing "Pemba" Sherpa
I am going to take this time to shine a spotlight on our fearless guide again. Here you can see him letting other hikers pass as we take a short break.
The mountain behind Pemba is Nuptse, which has an elevation of 7,861m. Mt. Everest is hiding right behind it. You can't see it, even though it's about 1 km taller.
Rocks.. Rocks everywhere..
Hiking over this sort of terrain can really tire you out, especially at higher altitudes, when you're usually trying to get into a good walking rhythm.. The rocks of all shapes and sizes and all the dirt and sand make that difficult here.
Does that area ever get snow covered?
Yeah, you would probably see some snow on the ground here in January and February, and maybe in late December.
It is actually possible to hike to Base Camp year round, although the alpine passes are far more likely to be closed in the winter months (Dec - Feb). It is popular enough with some hikers who want a more quiet on the trail experience. I've read stories of people having to hike through snowstorms as well, but from what I understand the traditional route to Base Camp is basically open year round.
It can actually snow at any time of year anywhere on the trail. We experienced snow on the trail several times (including in one of the videos I posted), and one morning we woke up to a respectable amount of snow on the ground. That is coming up in a couple days.
A Traffic Jam in the Himalayas
In this particular spot the trail was somewhat narrow; it was far easier to walk along the pre-determined route rather than forging a new trail among all the sand and rocks. Spots like that tended to create traffic jams, especially if you were following a larger group. Larger groups tend to move at the speed of the lowest common denominator.. plus they take up a lot of space, leading to at times these chains of people trying to make their way in both directions.
Every once in a while you'd run into a Yak caravan. This one is probably carrying garbage back to the airport in Lukla.
Yaks don't care what's in front of them, they keep moving forward no matter what. On these narrow stretches it was important to find a good spot on the side ahead of time.
After 2 hours of tedious hiking through rocks of all shapes and sizes we finally arrived at Gorak Shep, the closest human settlement to Everest Base Camp. It is situated at an altitude of 5,164m (16,942 ft)
Wikipedia claims that Gorak Shep is not inhabited year round, but hikers will find accommodations here at any time of year, including in the winter.
There isn't much to Gorak Shep as you can see.. This is where the original Everest Base Camp used to be, in the 1950s and 60s. It was then moved closer to the Khumbu icefall, which you can see in the distance on the right. (can't see Base Camp though, it is out of view)
On the left you can see the trail we would be using in the early hours of the morning in order to climb Kala Patthar, the black rock.
That is the same problem that is repeated high on Everest during the climbing season, minus the Yaks. Of course, 5,100m is not 8,000m so the problems are magnified substantially and the consequences for errors go way up. Moving aside 15 feet at Gorak Shep is easier than moving aside 15 feet on the Cornice traverse or Hillary Step.
I believe the main danger with these traffic jams at much higher altitudes (near the summit) is that if you begin experiencing high altitude sickness problems you are supposed to descend. In some cases that might not be possible.. People have died this way - getting stuck in one of these traffic jams, not being able to descend quickly enough (or at all)
Down lower at 5,000m there was little chance of you getting stuck in front of a chain of people, unable to descend. Descending should usually be possible.. and high altitude sickness dangers are not as severe either. The main dangers are getting impaled by a yak horn, getting trampled, or losing your footing and twisting your ankle or something.
I've hiked a few places, which while not nearly the size or scope of this trip, has had very rock broken trails like that. It is really tiring walking. And easy to hurt an ankle.
Question, what's that area that looks like a really flat plain to the left of the buildings.
Observation, you got some really deeply saturated blues in the sky on these pictures. Is that how you recall it looking to you, or just something the camera did?
Yeah, it takes extra concentration as well; instead of just focusing on the rhythm you have to watch where you place every single step. If you step on a rock the wrong way, and the rock moves, and your foot slips.. you might twist your ankle, like you said. And if that happens to you on the trail here, it might very well mean that you're unable to continue and might even have to be helicoptered out. So you focus extra hard on where you place every single step, as you silently curse under your breath
Wikipedia says that it's a frozen lakebed covered in sand. At the time we thought it was all that minus the frozen part, which I don't fully understand. It's like a beach or a desert down there! It's not something you'd expect to see here, it was a bit surreal hiking through it.
For all these recent photos I am posting the way my camera interpreted the scene, since it was so close to what I remember seeing. In the morning and early noon the sky was usually nice and blue like that, the clouds slowly moving in throughout the afternoon, leading to cloudy skies by the time you usually finished your day's hike.
I process the RAW data myself if the scene doesn't have such ideal lighting conditions, so usually taken later on in the day or when the light was just too confusing for my camera to make sense of. But on such beautiful days, with all those blues and whites, my camera was on it.
My 1st thought looking at that is that it looks like a river bed in the dry season, in that you can see a that it has been at a much higher level in the past. I guess this is a sign of climate change? Did you hear much talk about that from the locals?
That's actually the Khumbu glacier, it's covered in all sorts of rocks and soil and stuff. It looks lower than the surrounding landscape because it is surrounded by lateral moraines, which are usually elevated. This is what wikipedia has to say about lateral moraines:
I do not remember hearing anything about climate change on the trail, although I'm sure there are signs if you know where to look. According to studies the Himalayas are set to lose 66% of all ice by 2100, and from what I remember reading most of the planet's glaciers are currently receding. This has indeed been my experience when visiting glaciers around the planet - the ones I visited in New Zealand had photos up of what they used to look like decades ago, and how much of the glacier had receded in recent years. One glacier in Patagonia we tried to hike to wasn't even there anymore.. Fortunately the nicest one I've ever seen up close (Glaciar Grey in Chile) still looks quite spectacular.. but that one is receding as well
Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp
After a 2 hour long break at Gorak Shep, where we ate lunch, got settled into our rooms, and relaxed a bit, it was time to depart for Base Camp!
The destination after which the whole trail was named was just two hours away!
Gorak Shep is situated on that frozen lakebed covered with sand that you saw from a distance in one of the previous photos. It was really surreal walking on the sand; It seemed like it did not really belong here. It added to that feeling that we were hiking on a completely different planet.
A part of this lakebed is used as a football(soccer) pitch, although we did not know this at the time. Cricket has been played here as well.
Here's an article on a plan to play the world's highest football match here, although this record has since been broken. Here's an article describing this event - A football match on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro which took place in June of 2017.
We were about two hours away from Everest Base Camp, but we would be again walking on a moraine and then right on top of Khumbu glacier. The lakebed was a nice pleasant start to the hike, but it wouldn't be long before we'd be stepping on rocks of all shapes and sizes again..
To view this part of the route on a 3D interactive map, click here
On the way to Base Camp
Here's a shot of Jeff checking if he has a cell signal, overlooking the Khumbu glacier. I am facing south in this shot - Base camp is in the opposite direction.
You hike on top of the moraine for about an hour and a half, then descend right onto the glacier. From there we hike right up to the Khumbu icefall, which is the white blob in the distance.
You don't gain much in elevation hiking from Gorak Shep (5,164m) to Base Camp (5,380m), but the terrain is some of the worst on the whole trail. The problem is that you're hiking on rocks of all shapes and sizes, and here the trail is even less compact. A rock you step on could easily move and you could lose your balance or worse - twist your ankle. It's a very tiring hike to base camp and some hikers don't even end up doing this part and stay back at Gorak Shep in order to rest for the next morning's ascent of Kala Patthar.
That is what Jeff was thinking of doing. You might remember that he was having some issues with the high altitudes and dragging his heavy bag around everywhere.. At this stage of the hike he was only eating toast, and not very much of it either. He was getting occasional headaches as well and just looked a bit like a zombie when you were talking to him. Mind you, all 3 of us were sort of acting like zombies; focused on the task at hand but not much else. Eventually Jeff decided "Might as well", and came along for the final stretch. Throughout all this our guide was keeping a close eye on him, making sure that it was safe for him to proceed uphill.
You might think it's weird to come all this way and not hike the final 2 hours to see Base Camp. The thing is that there really isn't much to see at Base Camp at this time of year. The only time you are able to climb Mt. Everest is in may, and that's when you'd find tents set up at base camp. Nobody climbs Everest at any other time of year due to the extreme winds at the summit, so there isn't really much to see at base camp at any other time of year.
That's not really fair to say I suppose, since base camp is right next to the icefall. It is an imposing location and a bit unique when you compare it to everything else you see on the trail. IMO it is definitely worth hiking that last stretch there, you will see people celebrating, taking pictures, being happy that they made it, and so on.. It's a great feeling, a sort of climax of the whole hike.. although the true highlight would await us the next morning, when we'd be climbing Kala Patthar for beautiful views of Mt. Everest during sunrise.
Approaching Everest Base Camp
Eventually Everest Base Camp came into view!
Those climbing Everest first have to hike all the way here. The next challenge for them is the most dangerous part of the whole ascent - climbing the Khumbu icefall, which for first-timers usually takes 10-12 hours. Experienced and well acclimatized climbers can complete this section in a few hours, but if you're in a group of tourists it's probably going to take a while. Deaths are more common while crossing the icefall than at any other time during ascent.
Here is an image I took from wikipedia which shows how you would get to the summit of Mt. Everest from here.
The camp must be that grey patch over there!
Separate names with a comma.