Gorak Shep [16,962ft] Kala Pattar [18,480]
Apr 28, 2002
This is the first morning that I'm racing crowds. There is a tourist horde at Laboche. There are only two guesthouses at Gorak Shep. I've heard several reports of food poisoning at one of the guesthouses - I don't want to stay there. With only one hope for a room, I get up early and rush up the hill. I get a room without problem, but don't feel well when I arrive. There isn't anything specific that is wrong with me, just a generic "not feeling well."
A few hours and a few bottles of water later and I'm feeling better. It is getting late to start the 6 hour roundtrip to Everest base camp. I decide to rearrange my schedule. The weather is surprisingly clear. I'll summit Kala Pattar today and then head off to base camp tomorrow. As I start the climb I get my first views of Everest. Jaded? Maybe, but I'm not impressed. A black pyramid tucked away behind some other mountains. But now, I do get to say "I've seen Everest!"
Like Chukung Ri, every step up this hill is hard. Fortunately, it is a much shorter climb. Just as I reach the point of exhaustion and lethargy, I find the peak right in front of me. There is a huge wind blowing across the mountain. The wind probably isn't strong enough to blow me off the mountain, but it feels like it is. The last 10 feet of the climb are one huge flat rock tilted upwards at a slight angle. There isn't much in the way of handholds or footholds. I'm considering the best way up it when the wind suddenly breaks. I scramble up the rock, then the wind starts up again. There is very little space at the summit and sheer cliffs down three sides. I quickly sit for safety sake and am partially sheltered by some smaller rocks. I take another look at the view. Everest isn't much, but the mountain range as a whole is impressive and there is a fantastic view of the valley below. I take a bunch of photos of the scenery and then prepare for a self-portrait. I set up the mini-tripod and tie a rope to the camera so it won't blow off the cliff. For the first time ever I use the timer on my camera, I carefully lean back, try to smile and then wait.... click.
I made fun of the beard, but what there is of it does seem to help. A little sun protection. A little wind protection. A little warmth. Ever bit counts up here. And with the water just this side of freezing I dread the idea of attempting to shave.
Usually you go up and you feel bad, you stop or go down and you feel better. I'm going down and I'm not feeling better. My cure up to this point, water, isn't working. I arrive back at the guesthouse a mess. I'm dazed and dizzy. I decide it's time to start taking Diamox. It instantly improves my breathing, which until this moment I hadn't noticed was a problem, and puts me right to sleep. I wake up hours later feeling recovered.
It's a very cold night, but the guesthouse provides massive blankets which when put on top of a sleeping bag leads to a nice warm night's sleep.