[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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    Final push to Dzonghla

    Dzonghla was still about an hour away, but the terrain here was just a pleasure to hike on. So much better than the rocky moraine! It was all pretty level as well, although that was about to change.

    After the hill you see up ahead we'd descend down into the valley and then gain in altitude a bit again. The weather conditions were getting worse and so we pushed on hoping to arrive at the teahouse before things got too annoying.



    The closer to Dzonghla we got, the more we understood what we would be facing the following morning. The Chola Pass takes you to the other side of the mountain range you see above. The pass is basically in between the two pointy mountains on the right. It takes you to the valley on the other side, where there's more glaciers, and more importantly - the Gokyo Lakes.

    edit: the pass could actually be almost straight ahead, to the left of that super pointy peak. Looking at later photos this seems to be the case, although looking at a map of the area it seems to cast this into doubt.

    At this point it was unclear if the pass would be safe to traverse when we woke up. We would have to wait until the morning to find out.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2020
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  2. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Dzonghla

    What can I say about Dzonghla.. It was cold here.



    We were tired not only from the long day's hike and earlier ascent of Kala Patthar, but the previous 8 days on the trail as well. Finally arriving at Dzonghla felt amazing, but it was cold here! My daily routine involved changing out of my sweaty hiking clothes and into dry layers right after arriving at each teahouse. That was not fun to do anywhere due to the fact that the rooms were not very well insulated.. but it seemed especially cold here, and so that became especially annoying. Finally finishing my routine and arriving in the common area to relax and wait for dinner felt great.. but.. it was cold here! There was also this atmosphere of.. fatigue.. Looking around the room everyone looked tired and out of it.. almost like everybody was already fed up with this whole thing, with the understanding that there was still a lot left. Yet there was also a feeling of resiliance. In the back of the room a girl was coughing

    When Jeff joined us in the common area, he brought all his bags of snacks. If you don't remember what happened, he brought a whole load of ziplock bags full of different kinds of snacks and candies. There was barely a dent in any of it, clearly something he should have never brought in such quantities. He made an announcement to the common area - the snacks were up for grabs! The other hikers descended on our table like a pack of vultures and not a minute later and most of the snacks were gone!

    The chatter in the common area picked up and became a bit livelier for a bit after that and you could almost feel the mood improving.. Not much, but there was perhaps a bit of a boost in morale. The common rooms at these teahouses always had this sort of air of camaraderie and unspoken understanding of sorts, like we were all in this together even though we might not necessarily be even walking in the same direction the next day. Everyone congregating for a second around the snacks sort of brought some of that out.

    We could see it snowing outside and were hoping that we would wake up to good news. It was possible that there would be too much snow up on the pass in the morning, meaning that we'd have to walk all the way around to get to the Gokyo Lakes. We were tired, but at this point we were committed to conquer the Chola Pass.
     
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  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 10
    Conquest of the Cho La Pass


    The Cho La is a summit pass located 5,420m above sea level. It is considered difficult, as it is very steep and the terrain is made of loose rocks, large boulders, and ice. Today we also had snow.

    You have to wake up fairly early to attempt this crossing, as the weather tends to get worse over the course of the day. You don't want clouds, wind, and snow to move in on you as you're in the middle of crossing the pass, hiking right beside a glacier down below.

    We packed up and began to head out, making sure we had our crampons in our daypacks. I turned around and snapped a couple shots of Dzonghla on the way out.



    Here's a cool 3d map of the route here, although we walked it in the opposite direction.

    It took us almost 7 hours to complete in total, including all the breaks along the way.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2020
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  4. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    The pass wasn't the highest point on your trek?

    Crossing the pass looks like it will be very cool.
     
  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yeah, the pass sits about 100m higher in elevation than Base Camp, but about 200m lower than the summit of Kala Patthar (the highest point on the trek)

    The pass crossing was definitely an epic experience. It was my first time ever having to wear crampons
     
  6. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Hiking up to the Cho La

    My initial plan was to hike this part of the route in the opposite direction. However, one of the benefits of crossing the Cho La in this direction is that this side of the pass is not as steep. You still have to walk uphill quite a bit and it does take a bit out of you, but when you see the other side it will make a lot of sense as to why walking the route in this direction is a better idea.

    There also aren't nearly as many acclimatization options on the other side of the pass, so we'd have found the climb up to the pass especially difficult and draining. In terms of an acclimatization schedule, walking the route in this direction makes a lot more sense. Surprisingly enough, just googling this would make you think that walking this in the opposite direction is a better idea. It's why I had that as the initial plan - every single travel agency I found had the itinerary set up with us walking the alpine pass west to east, instead of east to west as we were now doing. Fortunately the company I used to hire our porter through immediately suggested hiking the route in the other direction, and our guide agreed with this assessment as well. Another benefit is that it shaves 1 full day off the trek - from 15 days down to 14.

    At this point we did not have our crampons on quite yet. Our first goal is to get up on the pass, which is just to the left of that pointy mountain peak up ahead.

     
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  7. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    And there's the freshly fallen snow!
     
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  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Views from the Trail

    The following photo gives you a slightly better idea of what kind of a hike it was to reach the beginning of the pass. It's easier to see the elevation change from this vantage point.

    We were getting close to the pass, but this photo is also slightly deceiving. Distances do not really come across very well in shots like these. We still had about 50 minutes of uphill hiking before we reached the pass.





    I'm on the left, Steve is in the middle, and Jeff is on the right. You might have noticed that one of my hiking poles is different. I busted a hiking pole twice on the trail and each time my guide went out of his way to procure a replacement for me (at no cost to me). You can also see the puffy down gloves I'm wearing - these are the gloves I was attempting to describe earlier.

    One of the benefits of hiking this way was that the crowds were very thin. As you can see at times there was barely anyone on the trail. This is in sharp contrast to the classic Base Camp trek, which is usually full of people.
     
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  9. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Getting there..



    Our bodies were slightly more used to existing at altitudes higher than 5,000m at this point, but hiking uphill was still a bit of a struggle.

    In this photo you can actually see some hikers up ahead, which gives you more of a sense of scale.
     
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  10. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Views from the Cho La Pass



    You can see Chola Lake in the above photo, but I think Dzonghla is out of view. Ama Dablam looms in the distance.

    And this wasn't actually quite the beginning of the pass yet! Looking in the other direction..



    You can see some hikers in the distance, which sort of shows you where the trail leads. Parts of the trail were actually not easy to figure out here, so if you're scratching your head trying to figure out where that trail leads exactly, and how you're supposed to get to the very top.. You're not alone! On our way up we ran into a group of hikers who were without a guide and weren't sure where to go. Our guide pointed them in the right direction right away.
     
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  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Three Amigos Pose on the Cho La Pass

    Our guide took this photo when we made it to the top of the pass, up on the rock face you see in the last photo.

    I tried my best to smile for the photo, but unfortunately for me the other two amigos are a lot more photogenic than me.



    From here on the trail would be a lot more level and the uphill portion of the day's hike was pretty much complete.

    I can't remember how the three amigos thing started, but we just went with it
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2020
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  12. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Cho La Glacier

    Now that we were at about 5,420m (17,800 feet) above sea level, we could make our way across the Cho La pass. At first the trail is very narrow and takes you on the side of the glacial moraine. Down below to the right is the Cho La Glacier.



    In the second photo can see hikers on the side of the moraine, a bit up ahead. It's a very steep and narrow trail. Eventually you end up on top of the glacier. Parts of it are not stable, so it is important to follow the established route.



    The trail seemed incredibly dangerous to us, since the path is covered in snow and you are not really sure what you're stepping on. It could be a rock, it could be just snow, or it could be a piece of ice. On the right is a steep drop down to the glacier. The trail was also very narrow. We kept to the left as much as possible and made every single step very carefully.

    While we were doing this we noticed two Sherpa porters sliding around on the trail in flip flops, with giant loads on their backs.. They were laughing! This was a joke to them.. Our guide's choice of a spot to stop to put on our crampons seemed incredibly well calculated and safe in comparison.
     
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  13. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    When you are an expert at something, breaking the rules is part of the work. :)
     
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  14. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    On go the crampons

    We bought these for $10 USD each on day 5 or 6 of the hike. They are needed because parts of the trail take you over the icy glacier. It also helps not slip on the narrow trail leading up to it, as well as the beginning of the descent on the other side.



    They were a bit tricky to get on at first

     
  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Views from the Cho La Pass

    This is looking back the way we came. You get a much better view of the glacier down below.

     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
  16. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    On the Cho La Glacier



    Walking with crampons on was a bit awkward at first. We took our time, as the weather conditions were excellent.
     
  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Top of the Cho La Pass

    Eventually you come around a bit of a corner and reach rocky terrain, which signals the end of the glacier. It also signals that we would be very soon descending downhill

    However, we would first have lunch.

    It's quite a difficult ascent from the other side, in terms of the effort put in to achieve it.. so when you hike from that side you usually have your lunch right here as well, once you've reached the top. All the hikers, sherpas, and porters assemble here on the rocks and have a short break before they continue their journey. Here is a chance to perhaps meet some hikers trekking in the other direction and get some tips or hear some stories from the other side.



    To the left is the descent and the way to Gokyo and to the right is the way we came from, towards Base Camp.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
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  18. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    What were you having for lunches as you were hiking?
     
  19. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    How many different languages do you think people were speaking there?
     
  20. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    This was the only day that was different in this regard, actually. Every other day we would stop at a teahouse or restaurant and have lunch there. Our guide knew where they all were, so he was able to plan our itinerary accordingly. The menu usually had assorted Nepali dishes, as well as some western imitations like pizza.

    On this day our guide brought a packed lunch for each one of us with him. This is common for this day of hiking in either direction, since there are no other options for food nearby.



    Inside the bag were boiled eggs, chapati bread, and possibly yak cheese. The first two for sure, but the cheese I can't really remember either way.

    Do you mean up on the pass? My guess is English for a large fraction of the hikers, and other assorted western languages as well (German, French, etc.), but on the trail you see people from all sorts of nationalities, and in the teahouses you come across all sorts of flags people have left behind as well.. so you can sort of guess who's out there. But the thing is that English sort of takes over if you have a group of people from different places. English is usually the common language, so you'll only hear Italian if you run into a 100% Italian group sort of thing. We met a group of guys at Dzonghla, and they were from a bunch of different European countries, most of them non-English speaking countries. But they all spoke English to each other.

    So it's a tough question! Because you could easily have a Czech couple, or some Polish friends, or some Japanese hikers, Singaporean, etc. All sorts of people come hiking here, and this pass is not something most attempt, so you don't tend to get those large groups here. So languages that tie people together tend to dominate, from what I noticed anyway. Some people were hiking in pairs or 3s and 4s, so other languages could have easily been used as well, I just didn't hear them.

    The Sherpas spoke Sherpa to each other as well, which is a sort of dialect of Tibetan I believe. They could have also been speaking Nepali.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
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