Everything was frozen this morning. Condensation hadn’t even bothered forming, the window was just covered in frost which I grudgingly admitted was pretty and took photos of it against the better judgment of my fingers which weren’t enjoying being outside of my mittens. People not used to using bucket flushes tend to miss a lot and the water on the floor had frozen, and if you wanted to flush you had to break the thick skin of ice that had formed in the barrel next to the shitter anyway. Hmm. That awkward moment when you really don’t want to drop your trousers to use the toilet because you’re scared your arse cheeks will freeze together. It’s rare you try and time your ablutions for just after someone else took a shit. Usually when you sit on a warm toilet seat it feels a bit creepy, but not when it’s this cold. You’re fucking glad of it. You just enjoy the fact that your butt hasn’t frozen to the seat and try not to think too much about why.
Today would be the day. Today we were heading to Base Camp. Hugh still had a killer headache but was feeling well enough to trek so we were still a full group and this pleased me, it just wouldn’t seem right if we had to leave someone behind at any stage of the trek. We felt a like a team more than the collection of strangers we were. It’s rare you get such a great dynamic with everyone getting on so well. Not as in “everyone apart from that one weird twat”, literally everyone gelled, even the guides who we’d developed a really soft spot for. Sonam, Kali and Bhim had really looked after us the whole way, we all felt really cared for by competent, patient lads, despite their young ages. Sonam, our leader, being 22. Kali was 20 and Bhim was only 19, and all of them had started their careers as porters.
So off we shuffled, bistari bistari in the general direction of Gorakshep which would be where lunch would occur before Base Camp. The clouds started coming in pretty quickly today, by 10am the sky was grey but that’s fine. You can’t see Everest from Base Camp anyway, we didn’t need a view, we just needed to get there. As you get closer you catch glimpses of your goal in the distance. You can fucking see it! Surely it can’t be far now? It looked like it was just around the corner. It was 11.15am by the time we made it to Gorakshep at 5140 metres, where unconquerable mountains seem like manageable hills you could jog up in the morning with the dog and it’s so bastard cold that your nipples are pretty much visible from space. After lunch we pushed on, it was only a couple of hours away now, up and down and up and down, none of it particularly easy for someone who really, really enjoys being at sea level. On the beach. With a cocktail. Despite the fact we seemed in my little brain that we went down as much as we went up, we definitely ascended over 200 metres from Gorakshep, because that’s what the itinerary said we did and everyone knows that printed itineraries don’t lie.
And it wasn’t long after 3pm that we all finally rocked up to Base Camp at 5364 metres. All of us, every team member, and not only that, we’d done it in one day less than the minimum recommended for people like us who generally don’t mince around at heights exceeding the top of the stairs at home. We fucking rocked it! If you look up the word “badass” in the Oxford English Dictionary you’ll just see a photo of our group at EBC doing jazz hands. True story. The Everest Base Camp trek is something you do for the challenge and the experience which is a good job really because there’s fuck all there once you get there. It kinda just looks like the world’s shittest festival. But I can now say I’ve been there which I’m pretty sure entitles me to bragging rights and general smugness for the next 12 months at least. Now if someone could send a helicopter to come and fetch me and drop me at the nearest pub, that’d be awesome. Or a zip line. Yeah. Someone needs to build an epic motherfucking zip line from Base Camp right back down to Namche Bazaar so we could get our Sherpa Stew with dough balls fix at our favourite lodge.
Once you’re there and you’ve taken your photos and wallowed in the general sense of achievement there’s nothing else to do but turn around and shuffle back to Gorakshep. A mate of mine paid a fuck tonne of money to spend a couple of nights actually at Base Camp but I don’t see the appeal. It’s a barren and cold place. Maybe there’s shit to do there but I know how utterly unimpressed I was with the temperatures since we got above 4000 metres. Anything above 5000 metres could go fuck itself. As we started back it started to snow. Sideways. Meh, this was totes doable. A spot of sideways snow is a pleasant spring morning in the UK init. I found going back as hard as getting here with all the up and down, plus I was tired and the goal had been attained so I’d kinda lost interest in the vaguely unpleasant hiking conditions. I needed a lot of breaks as did some of the others which left Nat massively unimpressed on account of the freezing cold and the fact that the more the snow fell the harder it’d be to remain upright on the path. But what can you do? Nat’s a bastard powerhouse. Most of us were regular human beings who generally required more oxygen to function correctly.
But make it back we did. At this stage, aside from the fact my usual sea-level meander had been replaced by a high altitude shuffle and my head ached on and off, I didn’t feel as affected by the altitude as I could have. Clearly it affected me, but not as much as it affected the bloke currently vomiting in the hallway. So that’s a pretty serious symptom of Acute Mountain Sickness and I think there was talk of a helicopter being called out to transport him to levels that carbon based lifeforms generally prefer. Our team had had as many ups and down as that fucking walk from here to Base Camp, with coughs and colds, the shits, panic attacks, headaches like a yak was chewing on your brain, but I always had it in my head that we’d all get there with minimal problems. I knew people got flown off the trek regularly and that’s why you needed some pretty kickass insurance to make sure you were covered if it was you that got so sick that you ended up spreading your partially digested dal bhat down the lodge’s corridor, but it never occurred to me that it would be one of us and I’m so so very glad that none of our team had to abort mission. I’d come to, y’know, care about these fuckers. Even the ones from the wrong side of the Pennines.
Gorakshep, Khumbu, Nepal
Altitude: 5140 metres
Activity: Made it to EBC at 5364 metres above sea level with Adventure Club Trek & Expedition