And so we left Pheriche and headed to Lombouche.
I woke up with a worsening chest cold. While the views that morning were unbelievably, the air beautifully crisp- I felt like I was walking into quicksand with every step. The first hour or so of today’s short trek were on the flats- through small fresh glacial creeks, and on winding trails full of mountain shrubs and flowers. With the mist above and some sun peaking through. Even on these flats I was struggling to get enough air into my wheezing lungs.
We hiked through the flats, up and across a rushing glacial river (probably the sketchiest crossing yet), and then up and up to Lombouche which sits around 4900m. At about the 4700m mark I began experiencing the throbbing altitude headache many had already experienced on the trek. When I sat down in the lodge in Lombouche and had my vitals taken, my starting O2 levels sat at 56%. Luckily they rose to a comfortable 76% within the hour. That probably explained the headache.
While the rest of the group did a 100m+ acclimatization hike that afternoon, I sat it out and fell asleep with my legs resting up a wall. I had finished the morning’s hike with a very sore chest, very swollen legs (besides the compression socks I was wearing), and numb feet. It was all I could do to stay somewhat lucid at this point. You think you’ve experienced full physical, and mental exhaustion- until you reach this point. Then you find a whole new level.
Reading through my journal entries at this point some of them don’t even form complete thought processes or sentences. I don’t remember much of anything above 5000masl. I remember exhaustion, I remember coughing, I remember everything being completely depleted, I remember losing all interest in the menu items available (white starch after white starch after white starch) and at one point realizing I hadn’t had any protein in days- ordering eggs- and immediately never wanting to see another fried egg ever again.
From Lombouche we continued up to Gorakschep (5180masl). Positive memories at this point are few and far between. I didn’t want to talk to anyone in my group, I came into the village about half hour behind the rest- back to my 5 steps at a time mentality but completely void of emotions. Somewhere around the 5000masl mark while trekking I started crying, and it felt like all emotions and cycling thought processes left me. Poured out of my heart like the glacial rivers we’d been following the whole 10 days. I cried behind my sunglasses as I became empty- and then I cried because I realized how badly I wanted to quit. The scenery, the mountains, THE mountain, the sherpas, the tourists, the monuments- I didn’t want to be in it anymore. I wanted to be done. The diamox dreams filled me with sadness and anger the night before- and I’d woken up sobbing two mornings in a row. Those altitude laden dreams were all related, all lucid, and all too real. They helped me resolve many things, and let go of emotional baggage- but boy could they be harsh.
When we arrived at Gorakshep we had a lunch break and then continued to Base Camp. The goal. Before setting off, in our two hour break, I honestly contemplated throwing in the towel. It was 10:30am where I was, and 2am home in MB. I’d been connectionless for about 7 days, and decided to use some cell service to source out some motivation. Texting a few close friends and my mom- hoping someone would bring my mental game back into focus. Thankfully I received one text right away (“HOLY S***- You have to keep going!!!”) from a friend I knew would be awake. And some reverse psychology from my mother (“If you’re sick, you should stop- you can always go back again and finish later”) That was enough to get me going for another few hours (my brain knew enough at this point to know that I didn’t want to have to start this whole journey over again out of principle).
We trudged along towards EBC (5350masl). Over the frozen, sandy lake bed and then over rock trails (literally- the actual trail had been washed out by that year’s monsoon and no longer really existed. In the picture above you can see one of our guides pointing at where we should place our feet on certain rocks. We got to the rocky plain that was base camp- took pictures- and I sat on a large boulder overlooking the glacier for a while. Literally with no thoughts. I just sat. I was empty. I’d made it- but at this point, I didn’t care. I was just happy to be sitting still and breathing.
Next post I’ll begin reliving the descent- because believe me, this trek only was starting to get interesting!