[RD] The Everest Basecamp Trek

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by warpus, May 18, 2020.

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  1. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yeah, if I remember correctly me and Steve were staying in room M and Jeff had his own room that day.
     
  2. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 9 - Climbing the Black Rock
    Early morning views of Mt. Everest from the highest point on the trek

    It is not possible to see Mt. Everest from Gorak Shep or Base Camp, so most people climb Kala Patthar in the early hours of the following morning. At 5,643m the summit is the highest point on the whole trek and offers the most accessible closeup views of Mt. Everest.

    The locals call Kala Patthar The Black Rock because of its distinct black summit. If you check out this earlier post you can see the trail leading up to the summit of Kala Patthar just to the left of Gorak Shep.

    To see a cool 3D map of the area and the route to the summit click here. You will notice that Kala Patthar is barely a mountain of its own. It's basically a part of the much larger beast right beside it.

    We woke up at 4:00am and departed about a half an hour later. We were by no means the first group to do so, although it was still quite dark and incredibly cold.

    I knew that this was going to be the coldest part of the whole hike, so I tried to dress appropriately. I put on multiple base layers and doubled up elsewhere. On my hands I was wearing glove liners, gloves, and large down gloves overtop for extra warmth. Think big puffy gloves that almost look like boxing gloves. I had purchased them earlier on the trail anticipating the need for warmer gloves than I had brought with me. I was wearing a warm hat and a down jacket with a hoodie that was on my head as well. Overtop all that was a windbreaker layer with yet another hoodie. I was snugly packed up and feeling warm, but it was very easy to tell that it was indeed quite cold around me. My face felt it, as did my legs and my feet. This was the most extreme sort of hiking I had ever done.

    On other cold days on the trail I would wear the glove liners and the gloves and the fit was snug but I never had any problems.. but as we walked, for the first 10 or 15 minutes, I could feel my fingers getting colder, even though the rest of my body was actually pleasantly warm. I was encased in a set of layers of warmth and protection from the elements, and yet my hands were feeling quite cold and.. eventually I mentioned it to the guide.

    He took off my gloves and on my hands and fingers I could see these dark red and in some places black looking splotches.. I had made a big mistake by restricting the blood flow in my hands and fingers, but fortunately the problem was identified fairly early on.. My guide gave me the go ahead to continue the hike and said that my hands were going to now get better, but from that point on I only put the puffy gloves on my hands and put the other 2 pairs away in my daypack.

    As we started slowly and climbing Kala Patthar, the need for deep breaths intensified.. more and more short breaks were needed in order to get that extra bit of oxygen. Wrapped around in all those layers I started feeling a bit like a mummy. It was not that easy to take those deep breaths, and eventually I started feeling like I was suffocating. A bit of panic began to set in and I eventually instinctively grabbed for my face and tried to rip off the hoodies in order to create a larger opening for more oxygen to get in. I also immediately unzipped my outer jacket and got rid of some of that tightness. I took off my gloves to make all of this go faster, and took a step back and took a several deep breaths. I got colder, but at that point I didn't care. The only objective was to get more oxygen in my lungs.

    I am not sure which of the phobias that was exactly, but I felt like I was wrapped up in something that was preventing me to breathe and that feeling of panic was creeping in... I had never felt anything like that in my life, and this was just after I barely avoided getting frostbite maybe. This was not a good start to the attempt to scale the highest point on the trail.

    After taking a short break and regrouping mentally, me, Steve, and our fearless Sherpa guide pressed on. Jeff got into a slightly quicker walking groove and was encouraged to continue it to the summit, within reason. We could usually see him up ahead, but eventually he disappeared from view.

    At some point before reaching the summit we ran into Jeff again. He had reached the summit, wasn't feeling very well, and began to descend. He had lost his appetite the previous day already, and was reporting mild headaches, but always seemed well enough to continue the hike. This was the first time he felt unwell enough to need to descend, and so the guide gave him the go ahead to descend down back to the teahouse, where he could rest again at lower altitudes.

    We continued our push up to the summit and eventually.. made it.



    This is the best view you get of Mt. Everest on the trail. Down below and up ahead you can see the Khumbu icefall. You can also now see the route one would have to take to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. It seems like an insane undertaking. Keeping in mind what I went through just to get here, I could not wrap my mind around continuing the journey all the way to the top, even if that were possible. It seems multiple levels of intensity higher than what we had accomplished hiking all the way here and climbing Kala Patthar.

    The sun had still not reached Kala Patthar at that point, let alone the valley below. It was still incredibly cold.. It did not stop me from taking some photographs of my surroundings, some of which you will see in the upcoming posts.

    We ran into some Polish hikers at the top and spent about 15-20 minutes here. The view was insanely beautiful in every direction, but especially in the direction of Mt. Everest. It just gives you such a different perspective of the Khumbu glacier, the icefall, and the route up to the top of Mt. Everest. It feels like this is the climax of the hike, whether the Base Camp likes it or not.
     
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  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Changri Nup Glacier

    This is the view south from the Kala Patthar summit. On the left you can see the Khumbu glacier and on the right is the Changri Nup Glacier, which is a Khumbu glacier tributary.

    You can also see that the sun is just beginning to shine on the Khumbu glacier. A spectacular start to the 9th day on the trail.

     
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  4. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    GoPro Troubles at 5,643m

    After taking some photographs and taking in the views, I set up my goPro and powered it on. It didn't last long.



    I was using an authentic goPro battery here and the goPro ended up shutting down due to how cold it was anyhow. It surprised me, since it has never died on me like that before. Every once in a while the 3rd party batteries will shut off or cause problems, but I never had any issues with the branded ones. I tried turning it on again and it lasted about 4 seconds the second time. You could see an error message pop up on the display for a second or two that indicated that the device is shutting down due to extremely low temperatures.

    I was hoping to capture our descent back to Gorak Shep with the goPro, but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be.
     
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  5. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    Bummer.
     
  6. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yeah, it was disappointing, but the goPro seemed fine when I booted it up again another day. I guess the hardware just couldn't handle how cold it was. It was surprising, since I was under the impression that goPros were designed for extreme experiences like this one. The temperature wasn't even that extreme, it couldn't have been lower than -20C (and probably closer to -15). But hey, not the end of the world! I still had my camera and snapped a couple more shots. I had to take my gloves off to do that, but as long as I continued to warm my hands in between shots it wasn't really a problem.
     
  7. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    More shots from the summit

    Pumori is the mountain that Kala Patthar is basically a part of. It's hard to explain unless you look at this 3d view of the area again. It stands tall at 7,162m above sea level, more than 1 km higher than the summit of Kala Patthar.. but almost 2km lower than the summit of Mt. Everest.

    If you look closer you will notice a helicopter flying right in front of the summit, at least from this vantage point. The question of how high helicopters can operate is a complicated one, but at these altitudes they would not be able to hover.



    The person standing in the shadow on the left is one of the Polish hikers we met here at the summit. They are basically standing at the highest possible point of the Kala Patthar summit. It seems that there might be a way to go higher, but there was no obvious safe way to do so.



    After about 20 minutes at the top it was time to descend. The sun had still not had time to reach any of the valley below, and there were still hikers coming our way, attempting to reach the summit.

    In the distance you can see Ama Dablam dominating the south-eastern sky. It seemed wild to me at the time that we were hiking so much closer to it just a couple days ago.
     
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  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Kala Patthar Aftermath

    I am not really 100% sure what happened to my hands. I assume it was the beginning stages of frostbite, since I restricted bloodflow to my hands and fingers by wearing tight glove liners and gloves during very cold temperatures during the ascent.. I remember seeing near-black-like wounds all over my hands which freaked me out at the time. Over the next couple days I had to deal with wounds all over my hands that were like nothing I had really experienced before. At first they were a bit black, then most of them sort of puffed up, then turned red , and then took their sweet time healing. Some got worse because I could just not avoid rubbing up the hiking poles against them..

    These pictures were taken two days or so after the incident:

    Spoiler :


    At high altitudes wounds take longer to heal, so that was not unexpected.. but it was a bit demoralizing to have to deal with this. I tended to these wounds as soon as we descended, which is why I don't have any photos of the wounds in their fresh state.. The above photos were probably taken right after I took off my bandaids and was about to clean my hands and cover them up with a fresh set of bandaids.

    Our guide sort of laughed my wounds off, which made me feel better, surprisingly enough. This was on top of him saying I was probably going to be okay. There would be a doctor at Gokyo, where we would arrive in a couple days, so if the situation deteriorated I would have the option of seeking professional opinion or treatment there (for a fee).

    Before any of that happened though, we still had Kala Patthar to descend, which took about an hour. The whole hike up and back down takes about 4 hours.

    If you remember we ran into Jeff already descending when we were still about 15-20 minutes from the top. He made it to the top well ahead of us and wasn't feeling good, so he decided to descend back down to Gorak Shep right away. We agreed to meet up at the teahouse.

    We found Jeff at the teahouse sipping on a tea. He told us that when he descended from Kala Patthar, he didn't really know where he was. He wandered around aimlessly trying to find our teahouse and it took him about 20 minutes to do so. That is a bit alarming, since Gorak Shep only has 4 teahouses. There really isn't much there at all, only a small handful of structures. It is true that they all sort of look similar, but this sort of confusion is one of the symptoms of high altitude sickness. This is also the point in time when Jeff lost his appetite. He was only eating a bit of toast here and there, for a couple days. The guide kept a close eye on him as we moved forward.

    Our plan was to continue on and attempt to hike across the Cho La alpine crossing, but if Jeff or anyone else had more problems, the alternate plan was to hike around the alpine crossing to Gokyo, or possibly even begin heading back to Lukla via the way we came. There were reports of fresh snowfall up on the pass and more snow in the forecast, so it was unclear whether it would be safe enough to attempt to hike that way or not. For now all we could do is pack up at Gorak Shep, eat lunch, and head out towards the closest village to this side of the Cho La pass.
     
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  9. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Onwards to Dzonghla

    After lunch the ninth day of hiking resumed. We had already been up for over 8 hours and the ascent of Kala Patthar took a lot out of us, but we also had a long day's hike ahead of us. We departed Gorak Shep and prepared to make our way all the way back to the base of the Khumbu glacier, where we would turn right, off the raditional Base Camp route. We would continue our hike towards Dzonghla, which is the closest settlement to the Cho La Pass, our next big challenge.

    I could not find a cool 3D view of this route, but I did find, the Lobuche-Dzonghla portion backwards. We walked this in the opposite direction as indicated here, and began the hike at Gorak Shep.

    The whole way down the Khumbu glaciar moraine is of course covered in rocks. We had the walk the same route back to Lobuche, where we spent the previous night, and then all the way back to the base of the glacier as well. After that we could begin to think about Dzonghla.



    The Sherpa porters of course made it look easy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2020
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  10. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    Was your plan to get to Dzonghla that same day or stop for the night in Lobuche?
     
  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    We were hiking all the way to Dzhonghla, it's about a 4-5 hour long hike from Gorak Shep. I remember this feeling like an especially long day, since you had to wake up at 4am to climb Kala Patthar. And of course hiking on all those rocks on the moraine was a big pain
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2020
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  12. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Premium Resting Possibilities



    With such a long day above 5,000m it was important we paced ourselves properly. The rocks along the way provided plenty of excuses to stop and take a break.

    We were tired, yet focused.
     
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  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Back at the base of the Khumbu Glacier

    By the time we were back at the base of the Khumbu Glacier the clouds had moved in and the weather conditions were deteriorating. We were about to depart from the classic Everest Base Camp trail and continue towards Dzonghla.



    You are looking back at the way we originally came from. The Khumbu glacier moraine is just to the left, that's the way we would have gone if we were returning to Lukla via the classic Base Camp route. The trail would have taken us downhill and then down that trail in the distance. The Everest memorial is right there behind the moraine, probably all out of view. We would be turning right here and continuing the hike towards Dzonghla and the Cho La alpine pass.

    I forget when exactly, but at some point it began to snow.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2020
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  14. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Cholatse

    Cholatse is an interesting word. It's what the locals call the mountain that sits right beside Dzongla, where we would be spending the night. The word breaks down as such:

    Cho - Lake
    La - Pass
    Tse - Peak

    Perhaps not surprisingly the alpine pass we were due to cross the next morning was named the Chola pass. The lake down below? Chola Lake.



    You can't actually see Mt. Cholatse here (6,440m), it's basically where the photo turns white on the right (and up).

    We were hiking at a decent height above Chola Lake here, which at this point I thought was one of the most unique parts of the whole trail. The clouds and the snow were really moving in though, so we had to keep moving.
     
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  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    A Proper look at Cholatse



    Sort of proper, as the bright sun made it hard to photograph. Lake Chola is down below, and we are getting closer to Dzonghla
     
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  16. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    Do the sherpas swim in the lake ever? ;)
     
  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I don't think they swim in any of the lakes up there. Sherpa children are not taught to swim and the water is probably usually way too cold for that sort of thing. I did not see a single person in the water anywhere during the whole 14 days on the trail.

    Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if it happens. I know that hikers do occasionally go for a swim, although probably not in this particular lake either, and maybe not in November either.
     
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  18. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Views from the Trail

    With about an hour left to go until Dzonghla I got a bit ahead of the group. Turning back, I was able to get some shots of Jeff and Steve hiking towards me.

     
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  19. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    Do you happen to recall what the highest elevation you saw any vegetation or wild animals at?
     
  20. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Good question! Tough one to answer too, so I'll begin with the wild animals, because we really did not see any. There's wild yak in the region, Himalayan tahrs (they are goat-like), snow leopards, musk deer, and red pandas.. but you have to be lucky to run into any of those from what I understand. All the animals I listed can live at altitudes up to 5,750m or so, which is just a bit higher than the summit of Kala Patthar, the highest point on the trek for us. At one point on day 2 of the hike we were told we might be lucky enough to run into some monkeys. And you know me, the last thing I want to do is run into a group of wild monkeys. (Un)fortunately we did not see or hear any during the stretch where they are usually seen. The only wild animal I really remember seeing are the birds. I'm not an expert, so I have no idea what birds we saw, but the region has Himalayan Griffons, lammergeiers (they have a huge wing span), alpine accentors, golden eagles, and several other species. Most of the time the birds we saw were flying overhead and we did not pay too much attention to them. There are a lot of birds in the park though! It's actually a pretty popular place for bird watching, and some people come here for this reason. Read up on some of this here.

    We were not expecting to run into any wild life well ahead of time, so we were not really on the lookout for them. The one sort of creature that was on my personal radar was the Yeti. I watched a silly show on people trying to find the Yeti on this very hike, and you know how those shows are. Apparently they spotted one using a drone, but yadda yadda there was nothing there, and they could not find any evidence of such a thing at all. So I was jokingly on the lookout for Yeti, but not really.

    Thinking back, I am now reminded of the crow that was hanging out with us at the highest point on the Cho La pass. That's where everyone stops for lunch, so it was probably there hoping to get some food. I am not 100% sure that it was a crow, it could have easily been another species. I can't remember if I have any good photographs of it, but if I do then you'll see it posted.

    As for vegetation, anything above 4,000m was pretty much devoid of trees, although you'd see one occasionally right at that altitude, as well as some small bushes. Up above 5,000m you'd only ever see grass, moss, and small shrubs you see in the last photo. On some parts of the trail above 5,000m there was nothing though, but that depends on the terrain. On the glacial moraine nothing would grow at all, and same thing with the alpine pass.

    It also depends on which side of a mountain you're on, from what I understand, and a whole bunch of other factors. In the Alps for instance, the "snow zone" begins at 3,000m or so, and the "alpine zone" at about 2,000m. Here in the Himalayas these biomes exist at much higher altitudes.

    Here's an infographic outlining how some of this plays out in the Andes:
    Spoiler :
    To answer that question directly, the highest altitude I remember seeing vegetation at was about 5,200m or so, maybe 5,300m. However, it is possible for vegetation to exist much higher still! Here's an interesting article about plants that have been discovered living as high as 6,100m.
     
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