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About L’appel Du Vide
There exists a psychological phenomenon in which perfectly sane people, with no desire to die, find themselves faced with a steep cliff and experience a strong desire to leap. To jump from their safe vantage point into the unknown. This phenomenon is so common in fact, that the french have a term for it: L’appel du Vide – Call of the Void.
Read more here.
This is day 6 of my Everest Base Camp Trek. For the full series click here.
When we woke up in Dengboche on the morning of Day 6, the thermometer read -5 degrees celsius in our room. The top blankets were covered with a thin layer of frost and the windows had iced over. The water bottle by my bed had frozen over, meaning I would have to forgo brushing my teeth until I could thaw it by the yak dung fire. I had slept in my clothes the night before, so after pulling on my shoes I was ready to go.
By day 6, we had fallen into the familiar pattern of the trek. By far, the worst hours of the day were the morning Sleepless nights were ended at 7am with a knock from our guide, Segar. It was time to get up from our comparably warm beds to face the morning freeze. Our morning hygiene had deteriorated to a few swipes of a wet wipe and brushing my teeth outside with bottled water. My hair would remain tied up in the same messy bun for the entire eleven day trek. Needless to say it didn’t take us long to make it to breakfast.
Without a doubt the teahouse would be cold as we waited for the fire to grow strong. The high altitudes were messing with Shannon and I’s appetite – we usually tried to struggle through a bowl of porridge and some tea. We knew we had another difficult day ahead of us – up 500 vertical meters to Leboche. Our last overnight before we reached Base Camp.
Hiking started early – usually around 8 am to make sure we arrived at our next destination with plenty of time. Afternoons were often cloudy and much colder so mornings were the ideal time to trek. Today, we started our hike in coats, hats and gloves but the first one hour was strait up hill and by the time it crested we were warm enough with exertion that we stripped down to t-shirts. It was weird walking across solidly frozen streams and through frost covered grass while wearing only summer hiking clothes.
Our last hour was spent hiking up yet another soul crushing hill. Shannon and I used our normal method: head down, shuffling forward one foot at a time. Its too hard to talk – your in your own head for most of the hike. I let my mind drift and tried to think of subjects that would take my mind of my exhaustion. I was tired, out of breath, and to make matters worse my still-broken toe hurt constantly. It seemed like I couldn’t go 20 feet without stubbing it one some new unseen rock.
As with all hills, this one eventually also came to an end. Just as we were about to collapse into a thankful heap we looked around and realized we had come to the collection of memorials to those who had lost their lives on Everest. I had read “Into Thin Air” before our trek so I immediately recognized the name of Scott Fischer who had died in the 1996 tragedy. Another memorial that stood out to me was that of a Canadian-Nepali woman who had died on her ascent just this past year.
It’s incredibly sad to see the memorials and it becomes difficult to understand why young, healthy people would make such a sacrifice. Just days before, I had been inspired by the pull of the great mountain – I had felt the urge that so many mountaineers had to conquer the world’s tallest peak. But now, faced with the evidence of the dangers I couldn’t help but feel that there was also an aspect of incredible waste to the years after years of expeditions.
We reached Leboche at around 1 pm. After lunch, Shannon was feeling ill and went to rest while I somewhat unwillingly joined Marten on an short acclimatization trek up a nearby mountain. We were tired, but these short trips to higher altitude supposedly help you hike easier the next day.
After all hiking and acclimatization was completed, our normal routine was to nap until about 5:30 when we would drink as much tea as we could possibly take. It kept us warm, gave us something to do and hopefully worked to hydrate us. The only problem, was that at this stage the cost of tea was almost 800 RS for a pot. Tea wasn’t the only thing that had gotten expensive. Warm bucket showers were 450 RS and an hour of internet was 1000 RS. One can of Pringles would set you back almost 500 RS. The only thing we had to buy was bottled water and we were dismayed to discover the price had reached 250 RS. At this point we were each drinking at least two or three bottles a day – we were looking to spend almost 7 dollars (3 times the cost of our rooms) on water.
Despite our nap, we went to bed early – around 9 pm. Tomorrow we would tackle our ultimate goal: Everest Base Camp.