We start from the Dingboche after breakfast. As we are leaving the dining hall, we find the lodge owner sitting near the door. He wishes us well and tells me “Sir, please come back the next season.” I bid him good bye and walk out the door, wondering whether I will be able to come back ever.
At first the climb is steady from Dingboche. Soon we reach relatively flat trail high above Dingboche. The sides of the trail are covered by a thin layer of snow. The trail itself is free of snow and ice, however. After a while, we see Pheriche to our left, way down below. In the distance the clouds have descended on the mountain peaks. We are taking a narrow trail by the mountainside.
After walking for a while on the gentle uphill slope, we reach the Dughla (Thukla) waterfall bridge. It is a short-span, brown, metallic bridge supported on both ends by abutments made of rocks. Below the bridge, glacial waters are gurgling through grey and white rocks. The waters are coming from the Khumbu glacier, whose terminus is about 900 ft above us.
We cross the bridge and stop for lunch at Rest Point Bakery & Cafe in Dughla. It is crowded with trekkers sitting on carpet-covered benches that line either side of the narrow dining hall. The walls are made of light brown plywood. The large glass windows and sunroof make the dining hall well lit. We have a quick bite to eat and leave.
After Dughla, the climb is steep uphill. The wind is blowing hard and cold. After a long, hard climb we reach a flat area on the mountainside, where we stop to take rest. A few other Trekkers have also stopped to take rest. We have stopped near the Everest Memorial, a memorial for climbers that perished while attempting to summit Mount Everest. There is a large heap of stones that mark the central spot. From there several colorful streamers stretch out to a memorial near by. The streamers are fluttering in the wind. I sit atop a low wall near the memorial
Memorials for climbers from all around the world surround us. Some are simple piles of three or four stones. Some are more elaborate, chorten-like structures made of stones and mortar, incorporating commemorative plaques, and decorated with colorful streamers. A short distance behind us is the memorial for Scott Fisher who perished in an ill-fated expedition in 1996, described in Jon Krakauer’s excellent book Into Thin Air and depicted in the 2015 film Everest.
Right in front of us is the memorial for Babu Chiri Sherpa, a legendary climber. The brass epitaph on his memorial lists his feats. He holds two records. In 1999 Babu Chiri stayed in a tent on the summit for 21 hours, without auxiliary oxygen. Most climbers stay at the summit only for a short time, as short as several minutes. Babu Chiri sang songs and talked on the walkie-talkie to keep himself awake because doctors had told him that he may not wake up, if he falls asleep on the summit. In 2000 Babu Chiri set another record by achieving the fastest ascent to the summit from the basecamp. In spite of his extraordinary mountain climbing skills, the mountain claimed his life for a careless step he took during his 11th attempt to reach the summit in 2001. He died, falling into a crevasse near Camp 2 while stepping backwards to take a photograph.
After the rest at Everest Memorial we resume walking. Soon we reach a plane surrounded by mountain peaks.The ground is clayey, dark brown in color. At places the ground is covered by patches of dry grass. The ground is strewn by rocks all over. We walk a long way over the relatively flat ground. We go past several primitive huts made of stones, surrounded by stone walls. No body is living there now. Ngima tells us that sherpas own the huts. They will come during June and July to graze their yaks. I wonder what would ownership of huts mean here.
On the sides of the trail, we find small rocks piled on top of large rocks on the ground. Ngima tells us that the piles of stones act as trail markers for trekkers, when the trail becomes concealed under snow.
We stop to take rest. A group of trekkers are resting ahead of us on the trail. A couple is walking very slowly toward us. I think they are German, although I have never heard them speak. I have seen them before at a few places. They do not have a guide nor a porter. The husband, tall and well-built, seems to know his way around here. He is a carrying on his back a large rucksack, presumably containing their supplies. The wife, who is short, walks behind him, carrying a small backpack.
The sky is deep blue in color. White snowy mountain peaks stand out in sharp relief against the sky. The scenery is eerily reminiscent of computer generated graphics of an alien world.
We resume walking. The air is thin, and we walk very slowly with much effort. There is a positive side to the slow walking, however. As of the eighth day of our trek, I don’t have any blisters on my feet or pain in my knee or lower back. I have stopped wearing my toe socks, which were absolutely essential to prevent blisters while doing long hikes back home. I do not need the knee braces I brought with me and have put them away.
Eventually, we come to place where we see large sheets of compact snow mixed with rocks. It looks like the terminus of a glacier but Ngima says it is not. Actually, we crossed the Khumbu Terminus after we left Everest Memorial, and Khumbu glacier has been to our right ever since.
We reach Alpine Home and Restaurant in Lobouche five and a half hours after leaving Dingboche. A notice posted at the entrance requests climbers to remove their crampons before entering the dining room. Another notice advises Trekkers to inform the teahouse staff promptly of any health problems, so that they can arrange a helicopter rescue.
We enter the dining room. It is nice and warm inside. I look around and see around ten Trekkers sitting quietly in the dining room, reading books or playing with their smart phones. I get a strange feeling in my lungs. The air is already thin at this elevation. The heated air in the dining room feels even thinner as I breathe it. Also there is a whiff of kerosene in the air. This gives me a strange feeling. I immediately decide that I must take Diamox tonight.
After drinking tea in the dining room, we go to our bedroom. Pramod has unloaded our luggage and is getting ready to leave. “My license” he jokes, pointing to a small length of rope that he uses to tie our luggage. The guides must have a license, which the police may check, Ngima explains. The porters do not need a license.
I am very glad to think that in one more day we will reach Everest basecamp! I take half a Diamox tablet, and the night passes without any scary, sleepless episodes.
Lobouche 16,210′ (4,940 m)
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