…contd from Part 4
Lying at an altitude of 18500 ft (an almost 1000 ft higher than the Base Camp) next to Gorakshep, Kala Pathar gives a direct & a spectacular view of Mt Everest in that region. The climb is best done early morning rather than the evening to catch the first rays of the sun from behind the Everest. Of course its not compulsory to do this climb but any trekker who’s come this far definitely wants to scale this too for the ‘up, close & personal’ views of Everest that wait for him or her at the top!
We were woken up the next morning (or rather, in the dead of the night) on Day 10 at 3.30 am by Lokendra. The climb was to begin at 4 a.m. to avoid the ‘traffic jam’ of trekkers on the slope & make it to the top by sunrise. I woke up in disbelief, rubbing my eyes & almost cursing myself for subjecting myself to this voluntary torture!
So by 4 we were out of the warm lodge into the icy cold air of Gorakshep at 17000 ft. With Lokendra leading us through the dark lit only by our torches & starlight, we commenced our slow ascent towards Kala Pathar.
We had planned to be the early birds but the slopes were already swarming with trekkers who had stolen the march on us. We joined them. It was about 200-300 feet up the slope that my head started to feel dizzy & I felt vomitish. Typical symptoms of high altitude sickness! It couldn’t be happening to me, I thought, & decided to continue. But after another 100 ft or so the body just gave up. I informed Lokendra that I wouldn’t be able to climb any longer & decided to return to Gorakshep. Once back I tucked myself into the sleeping bag & slept the symptoms off. Sanjay however continued the climb & had an exciting tale & beautiful pictures to share of Mt Everest once he & Lokendra returned to the lodge by 7.30 a.m. I was feeling much better by this time. I am still trying to figure out if it was the sudden penetration of the sub-freezing cold temperatures which I could feel through my clothing & couldn’t bear, an unusually early waking hour or just general fatigue which failed me on the climb, but whatever it was, it was the end of Kala Pathar for me.
DAY 10 GORAKSHEP TO PANGPOCHE
We began our march by 9 a.m. Hereafter it was all descent upto Lukla which we would reach day after tomorrow. For today the destination was Pangpoche. But before saying goodbye to Gorakshep I couldn’t resist taking this picture with a wind sock, the avaitor that I am!
As we marched we joined the hordes of other trekkers either climbing up or descending down, with aspirations in their hearts or stories to tell!
The landscape & the yaks continued to present fascinating subjects for taking pictures.
We reached Pangpoche by late afternoon, checked into our lodge for the night & settled down. A hot water shower, my third in 10 days, was but of course much needed! After an early dinner we were soon off to sleep.
DAY 11 PANGPOCHE TO JORSARLE
It was the penultimate day of the trek. Today’s destination was Jorsarle. Passing through Tenggboche we got an opportunity for one last sneak peek at Everest and time for some fun 🙂
On the way we passed through Namche Bazar again & stopped there for lunch. Later, while Lokendra waited for us patiently, we ran around the market scouting for gifts to be taken home. T-shirts, woollen caps, mittens & socks were all bought & loaded into the daypacks but I didn’t mind the extra load now.
In between Namche & Phakding we came across this gentleman who was repairing a stretch of the track single-handedly using just the resources obtained from generous trekkers & other villagers. I made my own humble contribution to his laudable efforts.
We made it to Jorsarle by the evening. The lodge here was the first decent one that I had seen since leaving Namche Bazar on the way up. It did appear that we were gradually headed towards civilisation!
DAY 12 JORSARLE TO LUKLA
We were now just a few hours of descent away from Lukla. There was a bounce in the steps, a song on the lips & joy on the face. We could notice the looks of admiration from the climbing trekkers much as we had given when we were on the way up.
I was happily surprised to bump into Jeet Rai again. Lugging our two heavy kit bags on his seemingly frail shoulders, he was also now taking it a little easy. He knew that he could easily outpace us at will & reach Lukla to dump our bags in the lodge much before our arrival.
We made it to Lukla by about 2.45 p.m. I needed to pose with the gate passing through which the whole journey had begun.
We reached our lodge & checked our room excitedly. A double bed with mattresses, an attached washroom with running water, a geyser…ohh the luxuries of life!! It was time for the 4th & a leisurely hot water shower again.
Later in the evening I & Sanjay invited Lokendra & Jeet Rai for a glass of well- deserved Sherpa Craft Beer.
It was our way of saying thanks to both of them without whose help this feat wouldn’t have been successful. We recounted those 10 days of the trek, laughing over silly things, remembering how we felt at different places & even how we sometimes got upset at a lower than expected lodge or a meal. We sang songs & Lokendra & Jeet regaled us with some of their best Nepalese numbers. It was a fitting end to a lovely trek.
DAY 13 LUKLA TO KATHMANDU
We had a very early morning departure for Kathmandu the next morning. I had a flight to catch to Delhi the same afternoon onwards from there & so definitely didn’t want to miss this connection!
Waking up early & taking our packed breakfasts from the lodge we reached the Lukla airport, a short walk away, by 5.45 a.m. Lukla is a very cute & small airport. It actually resembles more a bus stand with higher ambitions! Even at that hour, the airport had already started to crowd up with the trekkers checking in for their return flights to Kathmandu. On the other side of the runway the helicopters were busy operating to various regions of the Khumbu.
The news wasn’t too good! In a reversal, the weather at Kathmandu wasn’t too favourable & hence no flight had as yet taken off from there. I had a few hours up my sleeve for such a contingency & hoped that the conditions would improve.
With a heavy heart we now said goodbyes to Lokendra & Jeet Rai, tipped & thanked them for their services & help over the last 10 days. Then after completing our check-in procedures we joined the other passengers in the departure hall. Good news came sooner than expected – the weather had improved & the aircrafts were getting airborne from Kathmandu.
Within the next 45 mins the Dorniers started touching down at Lukla. Everyone was now craning their necks over the others to see if it was their airline or not. We were still keeping our fingers crossed & hoping that our flight would land soon because one didn’t know when the good weather window would shut again!
Our prayers paid off & the flight landed. Pretty soon after that we were herded to the aircraft , bags were loaded & we boarded grabbing our seats for the best aerial views of the HImalayas.
We departed within the next few mins. Here’s a short video of the take-off.
We landed safely at Kathmandu in the next 45 mins where we were received by Apar at the airport & soon bundled into his ramshackle car for transfer to Thamel.
While on the way, Apar called up the Royal Nepal Airlines helpline for reconfirming my flight to Delhi & gave me a shocker that it had been cancelled! I was left stunned, dumbfounded & without any other options. The next flight of an Indian carrier wouldn’t operate till the next day & it was imperative that I returned to Delhi this day itself as I had some very important tasks lined up for the next day. However, Lady Luck seemd to favour me as within the next half an hour when Apar called the helpline again he was informed that the flight would operate as scheduled. Whew!!
At the Thamel hotel I transferred the contents of my kit bag to my suitcase. Apar had promised us a beer & a lunch on our return & it was now time for that. The generous host that he is, he took us to a nice, lively place where we filled him up with all our stories of the last 10 days of the trek.
Post-lunch I was dropped back at the airport by Apar. He had been primarily instrumental in bringing my EBC dreams to fruition. We hugged & I promised him that one day soon I’d return to Nepal again for another trek with him, Lokendra & Jeet. (Just for the record, I am still in touch & connected on social media with both Apar & Lokendra).
With that I said goodbye to him, to Kathmandu & Nepal & entered the airport for my return flight to Delhi.