I think the reduced oxygen has been getting to me as I’ve had a busy few hours of “down time” at Gokyo posting updates, sending emails and confusing my support team who are kindly posting updates on my behalf! I can’t let my updates jeapordise my sleep and distract me when I need to stay in peak condition and adjust to the ever-changing demanding environment I’m in.
After Lumde we headed out at 5am, our first start in the dark. I’ve been impressed by my LED LENSER head torch which came on for the first time on the trail. It reminded me of the nauseous 5am starts to cycle to the train station for a full day hillwalking in the rain – part of my training and unbelievably only just a few days ago.
As we convened at the teahouse I didn’t have much appetite for the porridge and pancakes. I’ve had a ravenous appetite so far and I’m actually putting on weight with so much wholesome, calorific food; but today was a struggle. We’ll undoubtedly lose our appetites at some point during the trip hence the usual weight loss.
We set off into the freezing dawn, climbing the rocky, typical trail, trying in vain to warm our hands up. It wasn’t long before an orange pink hue illuminated the tips of the stunning peaks surrounding us. They were quickly all glowing in the dawn but the morning sun was still a long way from thawing us out.
The porters soon caught up. These incredibly strong young men carry loads far heavier than I used to train with; but they do it day after day and at altitude.
The route brought us into a large valley with almost neolithic rock formations surrounding us like a dome. It reminded me of the Grand Canyon! I definitely couldn’t see a way out of it. The giant masses of rock eventually allowed us up some steps alongside a cliff, sunlight smothering the top of it. “HEAT!”, me and my team mate Ellis beamed. We’d learnt a lot about our pacing and so didn’t try and keep up with our leader Tim. Slowly does it, but if I went any faster my head throbbed and heart felt like it was about to jump out of my chest anyway. We were above 5000m, still more than 2.5 miles below the summit of Everest, and it was quite tough going. I couldn’t help but imagine the Lhotse face up to Camp 3, and the utter exhaustion which would make this feel like walking up the stairs. But that was weeks away. One day at a time I told myself. We both slogged up the final path with prayer flags signalling a near end to our puffing and bad heads. 5350m. Ellis was seconds ahead of me and I heard him say “bloody hell!” as he disappeared round the corner. Not from the first rays of heat we’d soaked up that morning, but as I soon realised, Everest was about to say hello.
It was almost like a post card. The unmistakable pyramid of Everest towering above everything else. It’s dark plume, tickled by the jet stream, and quite simply awesome.
The panorama we had, with Makalu too, put the little slog into perspective. This was what we were here for. It was a daunting, intimidating feeling, yet enthralling at the same time. I was so fortunate to be here.
We spent some time soaking in the view, gazing with our eyes on the prize. This view beat Kala Patthar in my eyes. At over 5300m it got a bit chilly, so after some biscuits and photos we sadly left for Gokyo; a little speck in the distance. The view of Everest slipped away as we descended quickly. We’d see her again soon enough. Hard to imagine myself slogging up there on the high camps in just a few days time. Gokyo was pretty cool. At 4,750m our highest stay. It reminded me of a little seaside town at the edge of a frozen lake with stunning distant snowy peaks.
Approaching the noisy teahouses with some local builders hammering away at a new one. Hot mango juice was amazing. I was relatively tired but I knew soon this would become normality. I knew my training was paying off but you still can’t train for altitude. The Namaste lodge at Gokyo was huge contrast from the past few days. It was full of trekkers and had a far more extensive menu than the traditional rustic teahouses in the high passes. Gnocchi and minestrone soup then Lasagne! “You’re Mountaineers?” we got chatting to some cool folk.
Then as the daily snow came down I ran outside to grab my Powertraveller Powermonkey Extreme solar charger, vital kit for the modern adventurer. Rorgetting I was at nearly 5000m, I struggled to talk for a few minutes.
I slept like a dog and woke up feeling far better the next day after near as dammit sleeping at the summit of Mont Blanc. Breakfast and a Beet It Sport shot then off for a short jaunt up Gokyo Ri, a 5360m high Peak nearby. Sustainably steep and stunning views of Everest, Nuptse, Makalu and Cho Oyu. Nice and easy. We headed down for a late lunch.
We rested all afternoon before another fantastic evening meal and an early start the next day. It was nice to be asked to pose for a photo by other trekkers. The Everest teams seem to receive special treatment whenever staying somewhere. The lady at the lodge gave us a Cadbury’s Crunchie bar (which went down well) and another khata scarf for good luck. This is a very important part of the local culture and we’re getting so many of them because we’re staying with Tim’s friends. We’re getting really immersed in the local culture which is humbling. I’m looking forward to tying them around my Everest summit photo on the mantelpiece when I get home.
We flew down the trails, now well acclimatised and strong, passing the three very peaceful lakes of Gokyo. The height loss was very gradual but it was nice to get on the move for a long day, ‘zoned’ out in our own world and enjoying the scenery but thinking about the Cadbury Crunchie bars in our rucksacks
We’d left the main Khumbu trail and as expected only saw one other trekker all day. It’s
such a treat to have this pristine environment to just the 4 of us. Lunch was a lone ‘rustic’ teahouse with a large RAT leaving the room as soon as our soup arrived. We headed on down along fast trails up and down (and up and down) until we finally did descend into a spread-out village called Phortse. Finally a stay below 4000m, everything felt a bit easier. There were hardly any other trekkers here which is good for us as it keeps us clear of illnesses which could jeapordise the trip. Our daily tea and biscuits ritual then a local Monk joined us around the fire. Shortly after, the Buddhist chanting from the stereo, nestled in between the rows of Everest beer cans, bottles of Coke, tubes of Pringles and boxes of Snickers bars stopped. Suddenly the spiritual peace was shattered by the ‘Nevermind’ album by Nirvana started playing. You couldn’t make it up!
Another casual start and a chat about concurrent activity on the hill. These are all useful lessons that I’m picking up from Tim’s mentoring and expertise to make me a safer, and more successful climber. We headed off to Pangboche, another great village I’d stayed last year on my Baruntse trip. The route was very dusty, undulating and exposed but beautifully quiet. The skies were dull and cold for a change the path etched into the hill side, eventually descending from 4100m sharp down to lower Pangboche. Past some monuments and Mani walls we arrived at Namaste Lodge (see a recurring theme here?!).
Doing so supports the Sherpani owner, a lovely lady who sadly lost her husband on Ama Dablam, so she can send her children to school in Kathmandu. After eating lunch in her kitchen (out of bounds for most trekkers) we mooched up to the Hermann Bakery.
I’d driven the guys mad talking about it for days but when we got a slice of double chocolate cake and a Cappuccino I was suitably silenced and satisfied. We’re calling back there today- with WiFi I’m able to finally post this blog! Shortly plodding on to Dingboche, another easy day and small height gain then a proper rest day before our highest acclimatisation days yet before we descend into base camp.
We’re all in good spirits, have strong mindsets and developing good routines. I’m personally feeling fresh and going to make the most of these lower sleeps.
This has already been the most amazing experience, I am just so grateful for all of the support and encouragement from back home. Tech problems have have been getting in the way of my comms plans but I’ve been seeing tweets and sharing photos where possible. I’ve been humbled to see my name mentioned amongst the likes of established and record breaking adventurers.
I’m just a teenager with a dream… or isn’t that what it’s all about?
and ‘Camp 2’ Sponsors: www.greatbear.co.uk
If Alex’s journey is inspiring you then do please off you support by sponsoring the CLIMB4CHANGE charities CLIC SARGENT ( supporting children and young people with caner) and REACT PROJECT (connecting people with endangered animals). Every single penny raised goes to these charities as the climb is fully funded by Alex Sponsors.