BLOG: EVEREST HIGH PASS TREKKING
MATEVŽ KONJAR & EVA RUSTJA – Bovec, Slovenia
November 2nd, Chukhung resort, Chukhung 4730m, 2,5-hour hike
Today was a day for rest, as our goal was only a short hike under the pass Kongma La, to Chuckung village. We diverted from our main route between Lukla and Everest Base Camp and entered the upper part of the valley of the river Imja Khola. The difference was quite apparent. We met only a few people and they were quite different from the average hiker on the EBC (Everest Base Camp) route.
Most of them were returning from base camp under Island Peak, a popular 6189 metres high peak that represents a challenge for the more capable visitors of Khumbu (I must say this challenge is quite tempting!!!). We were in good company, surrounded people that are used to mountains and locals.
The route was very panoramic (as are almost all around here) and offered us views of Nuptse, Lhotse and the mountainsides on the opposite side of the valley that are one big, steep and furrowed glacier.
When we started walking between glacial moraines we noticed a memorial dedicated Jerzy Kukuczki, a Polish climber and legend in the world of alpinism, the second person that conquered all fourteen eight-thousanders after Reinhold Messner and famous for going up many climbing routes for the first time in the Himalayas.
The memorial reminded us that no matter how great, experienced and strong one is, the mountain will decide your fate and carve your path forward as it pleases. It seems fate also had a role to play when Jerzy fell 2000 metres deep from a height of 8200 metres, because he used a cheap rope, bought in a Khatmandu market, and it broke.
We concluded our hike in the lodge where a warm lunch and warm living space, due to the sun shining directly into the windows, awaited us. We spent the rest of the day resting.
There was a feeling of tension in the air because tomorrow we are going higher than 5500metres for the first time. Despite feeling great (Eva and I sometimes wonder if we are really at 4700 metres, as apart from an elevated heart rate we don’t feel any different), the fear of the unknown raises certain doubts and one begins to worry.
November 3rd, Himalayan eco resort Lobuche, Lobuche 4910m, 8,5-hour hike
There are many different variants of trekking in the Khumbu region. The most popular is, of course, the route to Everest Base Camp, which has a strong allure (I still don’t understand why J) and attracts many people. Other popular ones lead over Renjo La, Cho La, Kongma La passes or to the Gokian lakes etc…
The route Eva and I chose, with Nabin leading us along the way, is called the Everest three high passes trek, and by crossing over all three passes connects the whole region. The passes, which we chose to “tackle” today, present the greatest difference, however. Our ascent to the “infamous” Kongma La (the highest pass and steep on both sides) started quite early.
We started hiking at 6 AM in piercing cold in darkness. But the fantastic view of the southern wall of Lhotse, all illuminated from the morning sunrays, made it all worthwhile. Only after an hour of walking upon reaching the upper edge of the glacial moraine, the sun moved higher and made our path much easier to hike.
It was evident from the start that Eva didn’t feel particularly well, as she complained of nausea and weakness. Nabin and I, therefore, quickly hatched up a plan to help and encourage her to make it to the finish point. I took on carrying her backpack and we “got our teeth into” the steepest part of the route. Our manner of going forward was weaving left and right, which continued on and on and we had to put quite an effort to make it.
Upon reaching the middle plateau, we could admire the emerald lakes under the pass (I don’t understand how the water doesn’t freeze at 5100 metres at night…).
We also discovered that we had some company. The dog that was resting on my lap the previous day in the lodge in Chukhung, came running behind us. After we went to bed, he was doing some overtime and chewed up some shoe socks that were left “unattended” in front of the door by some unsuspecting hikers.
We suspected that he might have been unwelcome in the village (or was “served a beating” for breakfast), so he had to find a new home. After reaching the top with us, he “jumped ship” and joined an American hiker, who Eva later heard was making a case to his girlfriend that his newfound comrade is coming home with him.
When we finally reached the top of the pass we were quite relieved, as one regains their strength when the ascent is over. The weather was nice and we shared some lunch with Nabin and Jeet. We certainly didn’t expect that the hardest part was still to come.
Upon starting our descent, my head started to bang with a headache, which I thought was due to the altitude. It was only after mi vision started to blur that I knew that it was, typically for me, a migraine. The path had no end in sight and it became very cold with some snow falling. After we had descended down the pass, we had to cross a glacier before the village Lobuche, which took two hours, as a bonus. The trail across this glacier is, due to Kongma La pass being relatively less trodden, quite poorly visible. So we became, as another bonus, a bit lost on our way and had to continue along gravelly, cut off edges, between half frozen and frozen lakes and icy walls.
Worn out and white with dust, we reached Lobuche in the afternoon. Luckily, we are, at the moment, in one of the better lodges up to this point, regaining our strength with good food and in high spirits. The pass we trekked over today is not, by any means, extreme, but I must say I had easier hikes than this one before. 🙂
November 4th, Snow Land Hotel Gorak Shep, Gorak Shep 5190m, 2,5-hour hike
We started today’s stage with an awesome breakfast (if you ever happen to stay in this lodge make sure add and then to cross out these chocolate pancakes of your bucket list) that hit the spot after a cold night. We started hiking on plains that later turned into glacial moraines and a proper glacier. We saw familiar faces, people encountered in previous lodges, on our way (despite there being a ton of hikers here, one gets to know quite a few and later meet them often when hiking). One notices exhausted expressions on people’s faces, as this stage is more difficult compared to previous ones on the EBC trek, mainly because of high altitudes.
We later reached the glacier that joins the great Khumbu glacier from the west (we crossed Khumbu yesterday). There was a great view across the icy abysses to the foot of the icy waterfall where the base camp is supposed to be. But according to some hikers, there were no tents pitched there at the moment, so we decided to “skip” this camp. Despite all this, crowds still persisted in reaching the place even if only to take a photo of the sign or make an “edit to their list of accomplishments”.
We also met the Romanian expedition led by uncle Prabin on the glacier. The whole group seemed less energetic with empty stares, unshaved faces and missing two people who were evacuated by helicopter due to exhaustion and signs of altitude sickness.
All this is proof that trekking, despite being a seemingly easy sports activity, still demands a certain degree of fitness and a bit of luck regarding one’s ability to adapt to high altitudes.
One can even witness such horrendous sights like, for example, people on the edge of their tatter hiring guides and renting horses that they rode on, wanting reach base camp at all costs (unfortunately, one can see such travesties that show a complete disregard and disrespect to locals and sets of rules that apply high up in the mountains).
After about two hours or so, we reached the village Gorak shep, put plainly: the edge of the world. The village is basically comprised of only a few tents and lodges that are standing here only because of trekking expeditions.
The place is plagued by chronic drought, as the water supply is hardly ever thawed to liquid state. It smells of kerosene, smoke and various bodily odours. For autumn, it is piercing cold and by the time of this writing, the temperature dropped to -15 degrees Celsius.
Tomorrow’s goal is the highest point of our trekking. We are heading up to 5550 metres, on Kala Patthar from which, they say, there is the best view of Everest. Definitely the most famous view!
We are going to start our hike as early as 5AM and I won’t dare to even look at the thermometer. 🙂