When the alarm went off at 4 am I spent a full 5 minutes laying in bed and debating how badly I wanted to climb Kala Patthar. Wes didn’t give me a choice, dragging me out of my warm cocoon against my will. Caren won her fight with Tom though and stayed behind sick.
The boys set off in the dark at such I pace that I was fully winded before taking a single step uphill. As soon as we did, Tom dubbed the climb the “Nepali Iron Mountain,” and I knoew I was in for a long and painful uphill. Iron Mountain (in LA) features a series of steep climbs, culminating in a summit push of about 2,000 feet of vertical gain in the final mile. For this I had a little over 400m (1312 ft) in about 2 miles. Not nearly as bad, but still very steep for the first half of the climb. And of course, you have to factor in starting around 16,800 feet!
It was also pre-sunrise and ice cold. I had bought a heavy down jacket a few months ago and barely used it on the trek. Today I decided it was an amazing purchase – keeping me toasty throughout both the ascent and descent. My mittens, however, need an upgrade, forcing me to shove my hands under my arms periodically to thaw them. My camera batteries were tucked inside my parka to preserve warmth and life. About halfway up, my willpower waning, the sun lit up the back of Everest.
Wes, Karma, Mingma and I stopped for some hot ginger tea (thanks Mingma for carrying it!). We felt bad for poor Tom, probably already on top, and sent the rest up to him with Mingma. A grueling 2 plus hours later, Wes, Karma and I finally joined Tom and Mingma on top.
By the time we arrived the sun had risen just high enough to ruin the views.
We toasted with the remaining ginger tea, snapped a few obligatory shots, and made our way back down to breakfast.
The path was full of loose stones and very slippery from the frost. Not fun for my knees – I hyperextended the right one while slipping on some pebbles. But nothing that would cause permanent damage.
Breakfast was beyond tasty after 4 hours of morning exertion. It was hard to believe though that this meant our day was just starting. We packed up and set off for tea/snacks/lunch in Lobuche before parting ways with Wes, Tom and Raz about a km past the town. It was hard to say goodbye for a few days, and I’m sure I will worry about their Island Peak climb.
Caren and I wound our way into the Cho La valley along a Nepali flat contour, sometimes with extremely steep drop offs. But the views were spectacular. It turns out though that I was too tired for pictures, and I’m left with just the mental images – harder to share. From Lobuche we wound our way around Awi Peak. We could see the Stone Memorials from our trek in (and, we think, Wes, Tom and Raz) as we split off and started to make the turn. Looking out into the valley was Chola Tsho Lake and the Chola Glacier below Taboche Peak. As we approached Dzonglha we started to climb through some mist, emerging at the top of a flat area and our lodging.
Evening in Dzonglha brought thunder, lightening, and a snowstorm that blanketed everything in white.