Day 8 – Dingboche (4343m) to Lobuche (4950m)
Today was our first really tough day altitude-wise, and we’ve got two more tougher ones to come.
We set out at around 9.15am, climbing out of the valley onto a bleak looking plateau that leads towards the Khumbu valley. After only climbing 200m or so, the headache from the altitude started again. Plus we’re now at altitudes where the breathing rate required to sustain forward motion is significant, and any amount of climb causes extremely fast and deep breathing. It’s like doing 7 minute mile pace at home, but from all this effort you’re only creeping forward up the hill. These days are like running a marathon every day from a breathing-effort perspective – quite a contrast to the first few days of the trek where leg strength/muscles were the limiting factor – now we don’t even notice any leg tiredness as we are limited by the rate at which we can get oxygen on board. We started taking Diamox this morning – it helps prevent some of the symptoms of altitude sickness, but of course it’s not a miracle worker and won’t reduce the effort it takes to move around up here.
We stopped for lunch at a place called Thukla, just at the foot of the 400m rocky moraine climb up into the Khumbu valley. By the time we got there I was feeling pretty rough, with a headache and “fuzzy head” feeling. We had only taken our first Diamox 3 hrs before, and this evening I’m feeling much better, so I think it just took a while to kick in. Stef handled the altitude change much better than me today.
After lunch we made the climb very slowly, taking our time to admire the stunning scenery. In many ways it is bleak – nothing grows up here (grass can hardly maintain a hold here, and we passed the last of the scrubby small bushes on our way up today). It’s also stunningly beautiful, with the scale of the peaks around us and the flow of the landcape carved out by glaciers. At the top of the climb – the entrance to the Khumbu valley – we looked around at the memorials to climbers who died on Everest. Then we completed a relatively flat section along the valley to Lobuche – a tiny settlement which appeared out of nowhere from behind a ridge, in an environment of rock and ice where you would never expect to find a village.
Our challenge tonight is to get a good night’s sleep to set us up for the hike up to Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp tomorrow. Our highest altitude night’s sleep will be spent at Gorak Shep, so hopefully after that we will have broken the back of the altitude issues and have set ourselves up for solid acclimitisation for our Island Peak climb.