It’s not often you get to watch the sunrise over Mount Everest without getting out of bed. Actually I did get out of bed. I wormed my way out of my epic -20°C rented down sleeping bag, wiped the condensation off the window and once I’d picked my jaw up off the floor I pissed my sister right off by opening the window to take photos. Seriously, she didn’t talk to me for about half an hour. That’s probably how long it took her to warm back up again. I did go outside to get some photos too, it had snowed the night before and whilst we weren’t talking knee deep snow drifts or anything it had stuck. Usually I fucking hate snow. It’s cold and it’s wet and it’s slippy and you have to battle to retain your body heat as your dignity slowly ebbs away every time you hit the floor arse first. But here? It’s gorgeous! I felt compelled to photograph it repeatedly from every angle, you get this stunning view of Everest and Lhotse amongst other mountains but let’s be honest; if Everest wasn’t Everest no one would give two fucks about it. It’s not the prettiest mountain and I wouldn’t be able to pick it out of a line up if Lhotse wasn’t stood right next to it, pointing and mouthing, “Ev-er-est!” But you see that sexy chunk of corrugated earth crust to the right of this photo? That’s Mount Ama Dablam. Now that’s a pretty mountain.
There were a couple of dzopkyos knocking about too so I figured I’d get a few of those coveted dzopkyo-in-front-of-mountain photos but this fucker started sauntering towards me slowly yet purposefully and I’m pretty sure that passes as a charge for the usually docile dzopkyo. I abandoned any ideas I might have had for a dzopkyo selfie and bolted back to the lodge for breakfast. Last night’s snow made us realise that shit was getting real. And cold. Mainly cold. And slightly treacherous. Not in a “risk of falling into a ravine” kinda way. Just a “might end up on your arse in a vat of mud in front of a bunch of strangers” kinda way. Nothing hurt but your coccyx and your pride. I broke out the trekking pole for the first time to help me get down the hills which were either icy, or where the snow had melted it had turned to a slushy mud. I’d given one of my poles to Olly so I just used the one which was all I needed but I’m as sure footed as a donkey on roller skates, I proper felt like a little old lady. With two poles you feel like a real trekker. You’re striding along, confident that you’re going to conquer this motherfucking mountain. Hobbling along with one pole makes you feel like you’re nipping round the corner for a loaf of bread and a pint of milk and hopefully you’ll be back in time for Jeremy Kyle.
Apart from the risk of minor humiliation it was fucking lovely walking through the winter wonderland. Eventually the snow disappeared and we were back to walking on dust and by “walking” clearly I mean “shuffling” and everyone shuffles in silence on account of the fact you don’t have enough breath to walk and talk at the same time. Apart from maybe Christoper. He seemed to have a spare oxygen supply especially for chatting, I don’t know how he did it, even when I stopped to drink water I had to wait a minute whilst I gathered enough air in my lung so I could take a sip without feeling like I was suffocating. Today was the day we broke 4000 metres too. Pretty much as soon as you reach 4000 metres everything just goes, “Nope. Fuck it.” Even trees. Not even trees can be arsed growing at this altitude. Seriously, 4000 metres. This is why no one likes you. Sort your shit out. It’s cold and windy and the landscape is bleak. There’s nothing but rocks and scrub and dead grass. Running water had ceased to be a thing too, it’s all well and good having sinks and western toilets but the water had frozen in the pipes. Flushing involved pouring water down the bog from a jug with water retrieved from a huge barrel next to the shitter.
And the clouds! Clouds just float by you and you think, “Bugger me backwards, those clouds are low.” Then you realise that actually you’re just really high up and you have the blood full of CO2 to prove it. By the time we got to Dingboche at 4410 metres some proper, ominous grey clouds had rolled in which just added to the temperature drop. Rugged up in base layers, snoods or Buffs, hats and gloves, we made it to our lodge where they already had the wood burner fired up. I couldn’t strip off quickly enough, going from freezing cold to boiling hot is more than a little bit stressful and after one of our group freaked out a bit and had a panic attack it was decided that we all needed to have our oxygen levels read. We’d already been told that we should be reading above 70% to be safe. I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous! I didn’t want it done at first because I felt good and if I was reading too low I’d just worry but curiosity got the better of me and it turned out I was still rocking 90% oxygen. Most of us were reading in the late eighties or the early nineties which was a relief. Check us out, being all acclimatised and shit!
Actually I found it harder to cope with the temperature changes more than anything else at this stage. I had my usual headache which I chased off with Tiger Balm and massaging my neck but I couldn’t handle the heat in the lodge so I retreated to bed pretty early tonight. The dining area is generally the only place with any manner of heat in the lodges along the trek. Rooms are often only marginally warmer than outside and it’s always necessary to employ the “cold bed dance” regardless of how badass your sleeping bag is.
Dingboche, Khumbu, Nepal
Altitude: 4410 metres
Activity: Trekking with Adventure Club Trek & Expedition