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Everest Blog: Day Five and Six Of Trek

DAY 5 of Trek

I wake at 5:30 a.m. and know that the other trekkers are sound asleep. I want to write, but can’t in our cramped room. I throw on my giant puffy down coat and walk outside. I can see my breath and it feels colder than when we went to sleep. It’s still dark and the yaks and naks are lying on the ground. The lead yak has his horns tied to a tree. The other yaks won’t leave without him. I stare at the yaks then notice the building below us is lit up. I walk down, and see through the windows, Sherpas boiling water on little gas stoves. I think maybe the owner of our own lodge is up too so I walk back up to the main lodge door and try to go in but it’s locked.

I stand there thinking, “This sucks.” I walk back down to the Sherpa building and, looking like a peeping tom, stare at the Sherpas as I try to decide what to do. Should I knock on the Paradise Lodge door and wake the owner up? Or will he be up? I pace back and forth between buildings then think this is ridiculous, make a decision. I knock gently (being Canadian, I don’t want to be impolite and actually wake him up) but there’s no answer. Relieved that I haven’t woken him up and happy to now stand in the cold for the next half hour until he does wake up (yes, we Canadians are a strange lot!) I turn to watch the yaks and naks. Then suddenly, I hear commotion in the lodge. The owner unlocks the door and he stands in the doorway in his long underwear and wool hat, what we call toques in Canada. Crap, I’ve woken him up. He lets me in and asks if I want tea and makes some for me… while still in his underwear. Talk about pleasing the customer! He leaves (to go back to sleep I hope) and after I write for a while, the rest of the troupe filters in. We have breakfast, pack up our duffel bags for the porters to carry, and then we head off.

As we trek up the trail, it warms up and we walk towards a sour looking elderly Nepali woman carrying an empty woven basket via a strap that drapes her head. She holds up her hands and makes a rectangular shape with her fingers, then makes a click motion with her index finger as if taking a picture. She looks angry as she thrusts her hands towards me and does the picture-taking motion two more times. She really wants a picture taken of her! I pull out my cell phone and take a picture. Then she holds out her hand for money. Guess I should have seen that coming. But we only have large American bills that we need to exchange into rupees at the next teahouse. Herman has some rupees and hands them to me to give it to her. She takes the rupees, then gives me an even more sour look, either as a reward for the rupees, or because she wanted a larger amount of money. Whatever the reason, I take her picture again because her expression is… priceless. A perfect Mastercard commercial.

I hike with Herman at his speed up to Pheriche which is a smattering of teahouses in the middle of nowhere. We pass magnificent vistas; no words can really describe the majesty of these mountains. The Sherpa call Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, by the name of Chomolungma meaning The Goddess of the World. I can see why.

Nestled in valleys along the way are stone houses bordering fields with stone fences. It feels like we’ve been thrown back in time 2,000 years. How many years did it take to clear the stones from the fields to create a fertile pasture, and then pile each stone into a fence? If nothing else, these people are patient.

We finally make it to Pheriche and have dinner with the rest of the group. Tim rewards us with yet another garlic soup. We all need it to fight off Herman’s and now Greg’s cold. I haven’t caught the cold, however, I now have the Khumbu cough, a common cough people pick up at this high altitude from the dry air. It’s killer on the lungs. Tim tells me to hike now with a wrap around my face to make me breath in warm air. He also tells me to cough into my sleeping bag at night so I don’t wake the other trekkers and climbers. They all need their sleep to climb the summit.

Tim is excited because we’re all together. Usually at this point, someone goes home, either from illness, altitude sickness, or just can’t handle the crude conditions and cold. I’m happy, no turning back point now!

Day 6 of Trek

We’ve gone to bed early because we are getting up early to do an acclimatization hike to a higher elevation then returning to Pheriche. Rob needs this hike as he’s behind the other guys with their acclimatization treks; he won’t be able to climb the true summit of Lebouche without it.

We hike up to a ridge to get a group photo, then the guys trek on ahead while Herman and I take up the rear.

Neema, a lead Sherpa on Tim’s team who has summited Everest, is staying behind with me, because I am the slow one. I realize as we go higher, that I’m also the one most likely to be blown over with high winds. When the wind catches my knapsack, it almost tips me over, so I give my knapsack to Neema to carry. Tim tells us that Herman and I have to climb at least to the prayer flags that flap high up the mountain. Then we are to stay there for two hours to acclimatize before trekking back down. On the way up we see the larger yaks and naks that have large tuffs of fur about their legs as they graze on the fields. I’ve seen yak cheese for sale (which is actually nak cheese) and I’m told it’s foul. Tim says the smell alone will turn you off. Herman and I pause regularly not so much from the altitude, but from the beauty of the valleys that takes our breath away.

Finally we make it to the prayer flags and Herman can go no further. We have the plastic bag lunch that the teahouse has packed for us. It consists of what looks like a large thick and very tasty pretzel, which is actually sweet Tibetan bread, a hard-boiled egg, two chocolate bars, a bunch of cookies and a juice. When I look at the lunch, at first I think, “They love their sweets!” But then I realize they think we love our sweets, as the Sherpas only eat dal bhat, a meal made of rice and lentil soup.

After I only eat the bread (no one has an appetite at these high altitudes) I start climbing again leaving Herman behind. It feels like I have weights on my feet as I move at a turtle pace and finally find Greg who has Herman’s cold. Greg is curled up in a ball by a pile of rocks and he can go no further. Because of the cold, he’s having a hard time breathing at this altitude. I keep pushing myself to go up one foot at a time. Step pause breathe, step pause breathe. When I start to gasp for breath, I stop until it passes. This seems to go on forever, until I see Jason trekking down towards me. He and the others have gone to the top, have practiced their knots, and are on their way down. Jason says he’s surprised I’ve made it this far up. He’s the most fit of the men (other than Tim), and the most serious. He’s totally focused on this summit training as he prepares to summit Everest in May. He almost bounces down the trail pass me as I keep going up. Then Scott and Paul pass me, and finally Tim appears over the ridge. Tim is also surprised I’ve made it this far, but he says as soon as I see Rob and Will coming down, I have to stop and rest to get my energy back up to climb down with them. I tell him I feel fine, I can keep going. He looks at me with a “yeah, right” look, reminding me that’s what I said last time I threw up. I watch for Rob and when he appears, I wait for him and follow him down to the cabins.

It will be another freezing night in our sleeping bags, but they are made for up to -20 C temperatures… thank God.

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