[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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    Crampon Troubles

    While eating lunch Pemba went to work fixing my crampons. One of the chains had come loose and required some work to get it back together.





    He was able to fix my crampons, but cut his finger in the process! I dug into my daypack to pull out a bandaid out of my first aid kit. When it was all said and done the crampons were fixed and the wound on our guide's finger was all looked after as well. He waved off any concerns and from what I could tell the cut wasn't really that bad, although there was some blood at first.

    We began to pack up and get ready for the descent on the other side of the pass.
     
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  2. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    An Alpine Chough

    Earlier I was asked what sort of wildlife we ran into on the trail. There wasn't really much to report, but this particular bird sticks out, as he flew over as we were eating lunch and hung around a bit. This could have been his daily routine, as hikers congregate here every day at about the same time for lunch.



    I could be mistaken, as I'm not any sort of bird expert, but I believe this to be an Alpine Chough. Alpine Cloughs have yellow beaks and live in the Himalayas (as well as other mountain ranges around the planet). This is a high altitude species from the crow family; No other bird lays its eggs at a higher altitude than the Alpine Chough.
     
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  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Descent

    Overlooking the valley we were about to descend into from 5,420m is not a feeling I can easily put into words. You don't really get the sense of scale in any of the shots.

    It was great to finally see the other valley, but there was still a lot of hiking left. This was about the half-way point on this day's route.



    It was a bit of a brutal of a way down, much steeper than on the other side. It was steep and slippery so you really had to watch out.. This is why our Sherpa guide went out of his way to fix my crampons.. They really came in handy here!

    After just about 12 minutes of slowly making our way down, I turned around and took a couple pictures.

     
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  4. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Descent Continues

    As you slowly make your way downhill the terrain slowly changes into a rocky wasteland. The lower you go, the more you realize that the landscape you see in front of you is further away than you initially thought..

    Everyone follows the same narrow trail here that's been established by previously passed Sherpas and hikers, since forging your own path here could be quite dangerous.. Occasionally we'd run into a group of hikers heading in the other direction, which lead to a bit of a traffic jam as we slowly navigated around each other.



    This was one of the last groups heading up and this guy must not have had a very fun time climbing up here. It was easy to put myself in his shoes, looking up towards the top of the pass.. So close yet so far away. I know the feeling very well.

    The way acclimatization happens heading in the other direction, there's more than just the steep slope working against you here. We were likely much better acclimatized than anyone hiking in the other direction, and were feeling quite devoid of energy ourselves at this point, with the vast majority of the descent was still ahead of us. I can't imagine the effort required to tackle the Cho La pass from the other direction, and was very happy that the company I hired our guide and porter through right away recommended we alter our itinerary to cross the pass in this direction instead.
     
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  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    On the other side of the Cho La Pass

    About an hour after beginning our descent we took a 10 minute break. It felt like at this point it was finally time to proclaim our Cho La crossing a success!

    Looking back at the Cho La pass it did look a lot more imposing from this side. There is also a decent amount of downhill hiking to go a bit further down the trail, so those walking in the other direction must have had an incredibly tough day.. and base camp and Kala Patthar were coming up! It was tough enough for us, walking in the now obviously far easier direction.



    This was just about the half-way point of this day's trek. We would gradually continue to descend, finally reaching Dragnag at about 4,800m above sea level. Dragnag sits right at the edge of the Ngozumpa Glacier, which is the longest glacier in the Himalayas.

    The terrain would improve later on, but for now we still had to navigate annoying to walk on rocks

     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
  6. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Views from the Trail

    Many breaks were had on the rocks, as the crossing really tired us out..

    Looking straight ahead here you are sort of seeing one of the sources of the Dudh Koshi river, the highest river in the world. The source is fed by the Gnozumpa glacier, which is out of view to the right, but happens to be one of the longest glaciers in the Himalayas, stretching along for quite a while. Those might just be puddles here, I'm not sure.. The main glacial runoff which forms the source is I think out of view behind a hill.

    If you followed the Dudh Koshi river downstream you would eventually reunite with the classic Everest Base Camp Route and a couple hours later run into Namche Bazaar. The river then takes you back to Lukla, where this journey began.

     
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  7. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Finally off the Rocks

    Here's a view of the Cho La pass 1 hour and 20 minutes after we began our descent... It looks even more imposing from back here.

    Cho La is the 2nd most difficult pass out of the 3 passes in the region, so I can't really imagine what the most difficult pass might be like (The Kongma La pass). The most ambitious version of the Everest Basecamp Trek includes all 3 passes (Kongma La, Cho La, and Renjo La), although for that you'd have to add 5-7 days to our itinerary.

    We were going to decide whether to extend our hike by attempting the Renjo pass the next day, after getting settled at Gokyo and conquering Gokyo Ri summit. That would have added a day or two to our itinerary. Climbing Gokyo Ri is the last big challenge on the trail, so we figured we'd have a good idea how we're feeling after we were finished with that.. However, at this point we already knew we wouldn't be altering our route and attempting the Renjo pass. Even though it's the easiest of the 3 passes, we were just utterly devoid of energy at this point.. or at least that's how we felt. Jeff was still not eating anything other than toast and we were even debating not even climbing Gokyo Ri at all and beginning our hike back to Lukla a bit earlier.

    We had conquered the Cho La pass, but it took a lot out of us. To this day it seems like it would have been a bit crazy to walk this route in the other direction.



    One of the guys we met at the teahouse in Dzhonghla was experiencing high altitude sickness symptoms. We ran into him and his friends right around here, although I do not think it's one of the hikers you see in this photo. His plan was to hike all the way to Gokyo this day, as opposed to hiking to Dragnag and spending the night there. In his own words he felt like {expletives removed}. I remember back in Dzonghla he was coughing and was anxious about attempting the pass, due to the way he was feeling.. I can't remember what happened to him, but I do not remember seeing him at the teahouse at Dragnag, although we were so tired and out of it we could have easily missed him or forgotten about it since..

    Once we were off the rocks we started moving a bit quicker. Here's a shot of the pass taken about 10 minutes later

     
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  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    A Time to Rest

    Eventually you reach a point where you can see Dragnag and Ngozumpa glacier down below. A teahouse offering warm food and beverages was within reach! But the rest of the trail is all downhill, and we were a bit sick of that sort of hiking.. not to mention were extremely tired. So we took a 10 minute long "nap".

    It took us a bit longer to get comfortable than Pemba, who no doubt rests here each time he leads a group via this route.



    This illustrates another reason why hiking in the other direction is more difficult. First of all you're not as well acclimatized as we were and your day begins with this uphill stretch, which takes you above 5,000m for only the 2nd time on the trail. Then you've got to hike to the pass, which includes all those annoying rocks, and then climb to the top, which takes several hours. And when you get to the top you're still only halfway to Dzonghla.

    In contrast, we had been hiking above 5,000m for a number of days at this point and our bodies were more ready for these altitudes. We were exhausted nevertheless, but walking in the other direction would have taken even more out of us.

    I remember feeling so peaceful lying here. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to enjoy the moment.
     
  9. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Arrival at Dragnag

    After more than 3 days at altitudes higher than 5,000m we were descending down to about 4,800m. Dragnag sits at the edge of the 36km long Ngozumpa glacier, which we would be crossing the next day.

     
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  10. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    It looks like there are pathways at various altitudes on the hill to the left.
     
  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    It looks like there is a trail leading from Dragnag up to the summit of that hill on the left. That trail is out of view, but these must be connecting trails.
     
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  12. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    How cold was the water?
     
  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    It's runoff from the melted snow from higher up, so probably pretty cold! But we did not get to find out. It's sort of exciting to me though that this water flows downhill and joins up with the main source for the highest river in the world.

    Somewhat unrelated, but the water in my water bottle actually froze during the ascent of Kala Patthar! The photo came out blurry so I did not post it, but at one point I realized that the water in my water bottle was slowly crystalizing and eventually turned into this big piece of ice floating in the middle. At that point the sun was already out so it was starting to melt, but I did not expect for that to happen, even though I knew it was like -15C out
     
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  14. tjs282

    tjs282 Stone \ Cold / Fish

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    How much daylight did you guys generally see per day?

    I mean, the Himalayas aren't that far north of the Equator, so the sun would hit zenith nearly overhead, but dawn and dusk will have very short durations, and from your photos it looks like you were also hiking along fairly steep-sided valleys for a lot of the time. So I imagine mornings/evenings (depending on whether you were on the east or west side) would have been quite shady.

    Were your hikes at all constrained by that factor?
     
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  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    We got about 11 hours of daylight a day when we were there in late october and early november

    Yeah, you're right that we didn't really have 11 hours of daytime hiking time each day due to some of these factors. Sunrise was 6am, but our breakfasts were usually at around 7 or so. We'd always depart a half an hour after breakfast, and we'd basically start hiking as soon as the sun hit the valley floor.. That was different at every teahouse we stayed at, due to the layout of the valleys and mounains.. but that didn't really affect our plans too much. If the day's hike was longer, then we'd do breakfast a bit earlier, and if it was a shorter day we'd have breakfast a bit later maybe. We didn't really have to worry about the sunset either, although a couple times we arrived with 1-2 hours to go.. Clouds moving in in the late afternoon were usually a concern as well, so you had to watch out for that sometime, and it also cuts into the 11 hours.. it also meant that it was better to leave earlier vs arriving late.
     
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  16. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 11
    Crossing the Longest Glacier in the Himalayas

    This day was going to be a bit shorter, but includes the final challenge we'd face on the trail - the ascent of Gokyo Ri. You can actually see the trail leading up to the summit on the left.. But to get there we first had to cross Ngozumpa glacier, which at 35km in length is the longest glacier in the Himalayas. We wouldn't be enjoying the views from the summit for another 5 hours or so.

    At this point we were not really sure if we would be attempting the climb, as our energy reserves were low. For now we hiked north on top of the glacial moraine, wondering at which point we'd descend down onto the glacier.



    Here's a 3D map of the route, although it takes you in the opposite direction again.
     
  17. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    I look forward to seeing the walk across the glacier!
     
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  18. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Ngozumpa Glacier

    This glacier is mostly covered in a layer of rocky debris, as well as some lakes.



    Here's a map I found (courtesy of the BBC) that should add a bit more context to this:



    The Khumbu glacier is not marked on the map, but it's the big glacier pointing down on the right. We hiked up that valley on the right all the way to where all those glaciers meet, that's where Gorak Shep, Kala Patthar, and Base Camp more or less are. Mt. Everest is just out of view to the right. Then we crossed the Cho La crossing, which is right where it says "Ngozumpa Glacier" on the map, just under the "p".
     
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  19. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    That doesn't look all that safe to cross.
     
  20. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    It can be unsafe, but this glacier gets crossed by the Sherpa every day without incident, so you just need to know which way to go. The route is sort of obvious at the beginning, as the trail leads you right onto the glacier.. The rocks and dirt that people walk on does get a bit compacted, so you can see where people have gone.. but in some places it's not as obvious which way to go.. although you're basically walking in the same direction, so hikers without Sherpas tend to make their way across this glacier just fine.

    Having said that, the glacier is always in motion.. and those lakes can drain unexpectedly from what I understand.. and the route slowly changes over time too.. so there is some amount of danger.. But I would always count on the Sherpa to know which parts of the glacier are stable and safe to walk on and which parts to stay away from. We felt pretty safe behind our guide, he was always leading with a confident yet measured stride (as always). We knew he had made this exact crossing many times in the past, and if something unexpected happened he would know how to respond. We were also really tired so we just focused on the walking
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2020
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