Day 13 - Pangboche, Nepal
Day 13, May 11, 2018. 9.5 miles, Gorakshep to Pangboche, 11 miles hiked, elevation 17,598.
I wake up wondering if I dreamed that we were at Base Camp yesterday. Did it really happen? Is it time to turn around and go back already? I want more time here, time at least for this experience to sink in a bit. But alas, there’s a flight back to Kathmandu to catch, which is still a few days walk away so we must stay on schedule. Plus there’s literally no more room at the inn. Even if we had the time to explore more, this place has got to get ready to accommodate the new crop of trekkers coming in today.
This urge to stick around is most certainly being fueled by our decision last night to forego climbing Kala Patthar this morning. The original plan was to get up at 3am and climb the couple miles to the top to watch the sun rise over Everest before breakfast. Since you can’t actually see the summit of Everest from Base Camp, getting to the top of nearby Kala Patthar is the best way to gain some perspective on these amazing mountains that we’ve been meandering through the foothills of. But with predictions of an overnight storm, unseasonably low temps (which none of us have the right clothes for), and the fact that at least two of us are coming down with the Khumbu cough, we figured it best to hunker down inside and rest up before the long journey back downhill today.
I know it was the right decision, but dang that summit fever is strong! Last night after dinner I plunked down in the chair that was closest to the heater, wrapped myself up in my sleeping quilt, cupped my hands around a mug of hot tea and I still felt chilled. I’m still trying to will it away, but that inability to keep warm is clearly a sign that I’m coming down with something. According to the chatter in the dining room this morning, it got all the way down to 9°F overnight, right about the time we would have been stepping out the door. So with my waning health and the low temps, I know in my brain that not going up was the most sane & safe thing to do, but my heart still aches for it. I know these mountains will continue to be here though, so this unfinished business is all the more reason to come back here one day! This thought brings me some comfort.
As we prepare to make our exit from Gorakshep, Alex takes his leave from us. He’s been able to procure a spot on a helicopter heading from here to Namche Bazaar, (or to Lukla?), I’m not sure which. Either way, he’ll make it back to Kathmandu days before we do. He was an unexpected but welcome addition to our crew and his sudden departure seems perfectly fitting. Around 9am we head downhill and away from Gorakshep and before long start crossing paths with the next group of Base Camp trekkers.
The sun is bright and the scenery is pretty but the rest of the morning feels like a blur. We pass back through Lobuche and see the poorly ventilated teahouse from two nights back, re-cross the tombstone monuments of fallen climbers, which make me feel more grateful and grounded than ever, hop over the Gatorade-colored glacial streams and take our lunch break back in Pheriche at our old home away from home, the Edelweiss.
After lunch it’s like the last few days on quadruple speed rewind. We pass a few yak trains and many trailside monuments carved by monks. I remember thinking that if I didn’t get a photo on the way up, I’d certainly remember to get it on the way down, but of course, everything looks a bit different coming from this direction. The sky gets gray in the late afternoon and we all stop less to take photos, instead focusing more on our feet as we head down, down, down to Pangboche. We didn’t stop here on the way up, but it, like many of the more populated towns, is a lovely collection of stone buildings on flatish portion of a mountainside. I am so in love with all of the stepped potato fields and grazing areas. All these walls, all these buildings, with their rocks cut and fitted by hand…It’s amazing how my life in NYC is so lost to that type of handcraft.
Later I learn that this town is considered home base for anyone heading to Ama Dablam, a very prominent and popular mountain that has been in our sights for much of the last few days. Our teahouse home for the night, The Highland Sherpa Resort features many beautiful photos of Ama Dablam and its surrounding sister mountains. The common area here is my favorite of the whole trek I think. It’s full of warm wood and lots of places to sit. It’s wrapped in windows and has shelves full of books to read and cases full of mountaineering memorabilia. And because it’s perched on the side of a hill and high above the land around us, we have unobstructed views in three directions. Ugh, I wish I wasn’t so tired – I’d try to take some photos to match how it makes me feel.
We’re all tired tonight. It’s been our longest hiking day so far. Coming down in elevation we don’t have to worry about stopping early to acclimatize, so we just continued as far as made sense to set us up for tomorrow. Our feet may be beat, but we’re content and we sit around a big table laughing and sharing Kukhri and hot water – just the thing to combat my progressing cough I think – or at least something to ease my suffering and help me to sleep more soundly.