Dingboche – Lobuche
Day 8 and our hiking adventure continues. We woke in the night to Robbie not feeling 100% so we made sure to drink extra water to keep hydrated. We only had one more sleep until base camp and I think the realisation of our altitude gain and challenge had started to kick in. Our wakeup call came at 7 am but I was already up and ready with my bags packed. I woke at 6 am, reluctantly and ventured to a frozen bathroom.
I zipped up our bags and left them in the hallway ready for Deepak and his crew to rope them all together and set off into the hills. It was COLD this morning. Dingboche had another layer of fresh snow and we sat outside in the early morning light before heading in for breakfast. I had a large lemon tea and although sugary its exactly what my tired eyes needed.
We set off up the same hill as yesterday. When we reached the peak, we started to descend through the valley. It looked like we would be walking relatively flat for the day, however, the valley slowly inclines. As Dingboche disappeared behind us, Ama Dablam got taller. The mountains either side towered above, and we walked for hours passing Yaks, porters, and Everest Base Camp crew, all on their way to actual base camp. We walked very slow today, the cold wind, bitter, ever so grateful for our Mons Royale merino buffs to keep our faces warm.
Two and a half hours later a tiny little place called Thuklar came into view. We crossed a river, which if icy could have been pretty treacherous and up a small hill. Lunch surrounded by the mountains was good. Garlic soup, for the altitude, hot tea, and we shared an egg sandwich, a decent carb load for the afternoon’s ascent.
My chest began to feel incredibly tight. I rooted around for my asthma spray and took myself away to calm down. I couldn’t figure out if my asthma was playing up, I was struggling with the altitude or if I was panicked by the steep hill we could see in the distance. After lunch, we tackled the hill. One hour of pure incline. Cold, steep and slow is how it went. Halfway up I had to put on Robbie’s waterproof pants as my legs were so cold. My waterproofs had slipped under my camera gear and I needed to get warm quick. At the top of the hill sat the memorial for all the folk who had lost their lives on the mountain. The view from the top was incredible, but the memorials, prayer flags, and remembrance plaques quickly brought back a stark realisation that mother nature is powerful, and the mountains can be a very dangerous place. I found Rob Hall’s memorial, a famous kiwi adventurer, his company Adventure Consultants still runs today in Wanaka. If you have seen the film Everest, then you will know Rob Hall’s story.
It was a beautifully eerie place; these people had died, and we stood to remember them, but they died doing something that they love and that brought me some kind of peace. We pushed on to Lobuche. We hiked up and down, but mainly flat for an hour. On route to Lobuche we passed Lobuche east base camp, a fellow kiwi family I know from Instagram in the tents waiting for their son to summit the mountain. I waved even though I knew they couldn’t see me. The weather changed and it clouded over quick, it then started to snow as we crossed icy frozen rivers. We watched the Yaks slip and slide, also trying to navigate the ice patches. As the quaint town of Lobuche came into view so did the storm.
The snow and wind whipped around us. Robbie had to put my waterproof pants on there was no way I was stripping mid storm to give his pants back. We bustled through the tea house door in a group all wanting to get in front of that fire first, but it was out. We begged them to light it early but to no avail. It was freezing but the clock hadn’t hit 4 pm yet, that’s when they would light the fire. It was minus 10.
The tea house centered around the main dining room. Our bedrooms outside and the toilet also, so every time we needed to use the bathroom, we would have to lace up our boots and go outside, through a door and into another room, did I mention it was minus 10?
Finally, the yak poop arrived, and the fire lit up the room. Everyone huddled around closer than ever before, but it was worth it for the heat. Our tea house had other inhabitants, a group of solo hikers from Slovakia. The tea house owners looked like they had stepped out of a film. They had those big fur hats that tie on the top of your head and big long jackets. We later learned that they were from Tibet and are used to living in temperatures colder than what we were experiencing. After dinner Shakar tested everyone’s blood and oxygen levels, ours were good, others not so much but I think being six hours away from base camp kept spirits high and a morale boost for the team.
Before bed we decided to put on thermals, little did I know I wouldn’t take them off for two more days. That night it dropped down to minus 15 and I barely got any sleep. At high altitude, you must drink water and lots of it. I got so paranoid that I would get sick before base camp that I drank two litres before bed and another two through the night, this kept me up but so did the cold. I could not get warm all night, I actually reached into my sleeping bag at one point to check my toes were still there.
Our 5.30 am wakeup call came and our coldest morning so far. Minus 17 was harsh but today was base camp day, I repeat, today we would all together, as a group stand on Everest Base Camp. I was already crying and I hadn’t had my porridge yet.