BLOG: EVEREST HIGH PASS TREKKING
MATEVŽ KONJAR & EVA RUSTJA – Bovec, Slovenia
October 30th 2017, Tashi Delek lodge, Tengboche 3860m, 6-hour hike
When people return from trekking they mostly describe their hikes with superlatives while all the
inconveniences are quickly forgotten. But these, however, do exist and can be quite serious. Usually
they involve altitude sickness that ranges from headaches, nausea, balance and orientation problems
to deadly strokes and pulmonary edemas, which are, luckily, rare (here is a link to a brochure with
some useful info: http://www.medex.org.uk/v26%20booklet.pdf).
Other common problems are food
and water poisonings. A lack of hygiene can also cause poisoning. I had problems with the former
also. My day (and night) was plagued by severe stomach cramps that manifested themselves in
severe exhaustion, shortness of breath and a lack of coordination.
I have no idea what caused these problems but I suspect the Tibetan “momo” dumplings that contained meat. There is a lot of variety
in the food we eat on trekking days and ranges from typical Tibetan dishes like “dal-bhat”, “momo”
dumplings, various kinds of curry and many “western” dishes. The problem, however, is that many of
these foods contain meat, which can be of questionable quality due to the long time it takes the food
to be transported to its destination.
The first part of our today’s hike was, thus, done with the speed of a tortoise and we were quite lucky to reach a lodge where Nabin arranged for me to sleep for an hour and a half to regain some strength. In the meantime, Eva and Nabin were drinking some coke with a great view of Thamserku.
Luckily, the pills I took started to take effect, so we could do the last 700 metres of ascent to Tengobche village in decent time. We are all feeling great now that we have rested and ate a bit.
We frequently hear advice that trekking in the Khumbu region can be done with no experience and no guide. As far as navigating around the region is concerned, I fully agree, but having a guide makes a huge difference when things don’t go according to plan. If Eva and I had been travelling by ourselves today, we would have had a hell of a difficult day. I also can’t imagine what it would be like to go through such an ordeal without a person as supportive as Eva is.
Walking the in the mountains, and even more so in this region, is made much more pleasant if one is accompanied by a person that we feel close to and we can trust.
October 31st, Good luck hotel, Dingboche 4410m, 4-hour hike
The difficulty level varies for different trekking stages. We expected a more difficult stretch between the villages Tengboche and Dingboche today.
Upon looking through the window in the morning, the landscape was completely different from yesterday. All the green and growth was covered in frost and the surface water was also frozen, a clear sign that we are moving up higher every day.
Our day started with a great view of the southern face of Lhotse, the “black pyramid” of Everst which is Nuptse, and Ama Dablam (he name means “mother’s necklace”) right before us. One can quickly come to the conclusion, even if not a climber/alpinist themselves, that the climbing routes and feats Slovenian and other alpinists had to face are unfathomable for mere mortals (the southern wall of Lhotse and western ridge of Everest were conquered by Slovenes, for example).
A light descent into the woods of rhododendron, clad in lichen, slowly woke us up. We hiked on a nice path on the left bank of the river Imja Khola that led us past herds of yaks which were more common than herds of tsukis.
After we had crossed the bridge, the landscape changed. Forests were superseded by dusty planes of bush and above us great eagles soared. The mountainside was furrowed by large gravel flows. We walked the last part of the trail in light snow. After a hike like this one is done for the day, one gets the sense of importance a warm cup of tea by the fireplace actually has, especially in this land and the views we were privy to.
Tomorrow is quite a special day for us. We are going higher than 5000 metres for the first time during our acclimatisation. I must admit that I feel a bit nervous, as this all new to Eva and myself. But I think that being nervous is actually good, as this is the purpose of such adventures, isn’t it?
November 1st, Good luck hotel, Dingboche 4410m, 3-hour hike
Getting up a bit later, thus, quick packing and rushing it marked the second and final acclimatisation before the first pass on our way. After breakfast we headed toward the trekking peak above the village Dingboche (peaks like these contain the letters “Ri” by the name, while passes have the letters “La”). The peak is a common acclimatisation point for hikers on the EBS trek, as well as those heading across passes or preparing to climb the Island peak or Ama Dablan.
Thus, we had the chance to meet many different people on our way. Approaching the half point, we met a group of Romanian hikers led by Nabin’s uncle, Prabin (Nabin is 26 while Prabin is 27, go figure). They announced their “flawless victory” even before the peak and made sure everybody knew by avidly posing for selfies and playing music.
We had to continue, of course, as we had to make sure we acclimatise in the best possible manner. The trail led us across a dusty mountainside weaving left and right. It is here that we began to realise that the alpine style doesn’t work at these heights. I must admit that I had quite a few problems, as I’m not accustomed to hike slowly and regulate my tempo which is, at this altitude, most necessary to get anywhere far. We reached the peak, paved with granite blocks, after almost two hours.
For the first time, we could enjoy the views of Makalu (which has a special meaning for Slovenes as their first mountain over 8000 metres that was conquered).
The western wall of Ama Dablan with a lake at the foot of the mountain.
And the valley stretching in the direction of Cho la (the second and most popular pass on our trail). Tobuche peak and Cholatse are “guarding” the valley from the south.
We felt that man draws a short breath high up in the mountains, but the feeling was great. After a short reprieve, we descended toward the valley and reached it full of dust, grinding our teeth.
We spent the afternoon doing some laundry and I even dared to take a shower. You might think the word “dare” is quite strange here, but taking a shower during a trekking expedition is a “bit” different. As the ice cold water is heated by a gas heater over which the water flows, the action of taking a shower takes quiiiite a while and the thin jet of hot water coming out of the shower head simply has no bearing on the coldness of the shower place.
We later prepared for the following day, the last day before the first and greatest challenge of our trekking expedition.