I actually had an ensuite bathroom! An ensuite in a Pheriche trekking lodge? Unheard of! - but what a luxury, and the toilet actually flushed (as opposed to having to manually pour jugs of water down the loo). The hot and cold taps on the sink suggested hot running water, but sadly not - it's still glacially cold. However, the owner, apparently a regular visitor to Norway (go figure) has returned fully educated as to the benefits of double glazing. So, no more ice encrusted bedrooms!
I was awake early. I washed and shaved in said glacial water, and now 101% awake landed in the communal lounge area already basking in the morning sun. However, the owner, somewhat unexpectedly, had also turned on the giant iron stove that sits dead centre of the room, so further enhancing the toasty feel. Normally this "luxury" is reserved for the disappearance of the afternoon sun and is turned on only under duress. Our lover of all things Norwegian had clearly run a positive cost/benefit analysis.
I ordered a meagre toast breakfast, sat with my back to the sun and enjoyed the moment. I tried to read but my concentration was hindered by a bizarre conversation between two men to my left, apparently experts in the field of commercial baking, who were energetically discussing the vagaries of spreading, kneading and the baking of dough. The more detail they offered the more animated they became - quite surreal. Apparently even the screws holding commercial baking trays together can effect the quality of the finished product, owing to their ability to heat up quicker and cool down quicker that the aluminium tray. My will to live began to ebb.
As if on cue, Tsering and the boys appeared, scoffed down a comparatively copious breakfast and at 08:30 we began the relatively short trek to Lobuche Base Camp. It was a beautiful morning, crisp and cloudless blue skies. The only sound was the seemingly incessant buzz of numerous B3 helicopters, using the perfect early morning weather to shuttle people and cargo between Kathmandu and the various stations enroute.
The walk was scheduled for 3 hours but such is the boy's altitude ability that we completed the walk in little over half, despite stopping regularly. Tsering took numerous pictures and videos clearly intent on documenting this momentous teenage right of passage - it was lovely to see the welcome the boys received from the incumbent Himex Sherpa crew when they walking into camp.
I shook hands with the guides, who I knew well from the past, but also the new members of this, the 2017 Everest expedition. They had all walked back down valley from Everest Bc the previous afternoon with the intention of leaving to climb Lobuche this very afternoon. I basically had 2 hours to wolf some lunch and drag the necessary kit from my duffels and join them. This all seemed a tad rushed.
Nevertheless, we all walked out of camp at 1:30 pm, with myself bringing up the rear carrying a heavy pack. My plan was to sleep the night at "rock camp" a small collection of tents perched precariously on a rock escarpment at 5300m, before launching into a dawn run at the summit (6200m) and sleeping the night. The rest of the team were planning much the same, instead intending to "tag" the summit before quickly descending the BC for a day's rest. They would then climb a second time in order to sleep a night at 6200m.
This was essentially my first proper workout of the trip, hauling a fully loaded pack up the hill wearing my high-altitude boots. I simply kept to a pace that didn't choke me and didn't make me sweat. However, walking on unstable rock in those rock hard soled boots is a balancing exercise. We were all up on the escarpment in two hours and before long ensconced in our tent. I had to put up my own having arrived on the expedition some 2 weeks later than the rest of the crew, but before long I was prone and comfortable.
I had climbed from sea level to 5300m in 3 days which so far hadn't bothered me but I was slightly apprehensive about climbing another 1000m the following morning and sleeping on the summit. Climbing and tagging the summit, stopping for just a quick selfie, wasn't an issue, but sleeping would be a different thing. Firstly it's a long time lying horizontal in a tent which, unless you have your head raised, is guaranteed to spur a chronic headache if you're not adequately acclimatised properly and secondly, I would be alone - not ideal if something should go wrong.
However, it was not to be. As the light faded I heated up my evening meal, crossed legged over my little stove, before turning the lights out at 8pm. No sooner had I zipped up the sleeping bag than there was a blinding flash followed by a tremendous boom. Thunder and lightening is something to see at altitude, but with it came precipitation, which at 5300m is snow - and lots of it.
By the morning the camp was covered in a blindingly white 15/20cm blanket. I banged the tent roof shaking free the layer that was cutting out the early morning light. However this didn't make a whole lot of difference as the sun was struggling to break through what was a low and deep grey cloud base.
The day's ascent would have started by climbing on vast rock slabs before steepening on to roped snow-slopes. The new snow covering had made walking on the rock slabs dangerous because you couldn't see crevasses and it further made climbing the snow slopes dangerous because the snow had fallen onto an almost pure ice base. The snow would surely slide and avalanche. The decision to descend was easy but disappointing.
Russ reported from Everest BC that a Low had appeared over the Khumbu in unexpected short order and that it would likely last two days. By 07:30 we had packed up our tents and backpacks and started a very slow, slippery descent. I was exaggerated slow as this is instant "break leg" territory - something that I wished to avoid.
By 9:30 the whole team was in Lobuche BC and enjoying a slightly late breakfast. As I sit here writing, wrapped head to toe in down clothing, it's notable that the sun hasn't managed to win its battle with the cloud today and appears unlikely to do so. We will get a weather report from EBC later this afternoon which will guide tomorrow's agenda. I suspect we will sit inert for another day as the weather clears before restarting the Lobuche rotation.
There is no "power" down here as our normal 3 day tenure is deemed to short for the investment, so I need to be careful with my own equipment's batteries - I have a solar panel but the sun refuses to play!
Anyway, thanks for the support. Please remember that I am climbing (or trying to climb) for the NSPCC and the many damaged children the charity helps. My climbs are designed to raise money for the charity, so I ask, if you find both the dispatches and cause to your liking, please click the links below and donate.
Thanks in advance.
Looking back at Pheriche
Arrival at Lobuche
Lobuche BC - now