I’m sure, after seven or eight posts you are tired of reading about my Everest Base Camp Trek. So, if you are tired of reading about it, you can imagine how tired I was of doing the trek. However, you can skip this post if you want – after reaching Everest Base Camp, I still had four more days of trekking BACK to Lukla that I couldn’t possible skip.
As you can imagine, after the thrill of reaching Everest Base Camp, everything else was a bit anticlimactic. There was the option the next morning of hiking to a nearby look out point, Kalapater, that our guide suggested. Shannon and I were on the fence – we had both had awful headaches the day before and were exhausted. Kalapater was at an even higher altitude than EBC. I asked our guide and even he said he didn’t want to do the hike. Only Marten (who as the song goes, is Six foot Five and full of muscle) was willing to make the journey.
Shannon and I made the decision to stay in the next morning and rest. After all, we would still be facing a five hour hike the next day either way. The next morning, Marten woke up at 4:30 am in order to make the two hour hike before sunrise. I woke up with him so I could walk outside and watch the other hikers make their way up the pitch black trail (and so I would have a chance to steal the blankets off his bed). Freezing, in my many layers of clothing, I watched the little lights of their head lamps ascend above me. I have never been more glad to return to bed.
The next day, thanks to our morning of rest, wasn’t so bad. We hiked down for five hours, feeling better with every meter we dropped. However, every bone in my body could feel the long built up exhaustion. We arrived at our overnight and spent the rest of the afternoon napping and eating before finally retiring for an early nights sleep.
That night would prove to be the coldest yet. Our windows froze, our blankets got damp with frost and all the water for the toilets and sinks got solid. I woke up more miserable than I had ever been. After discussing with Marten and Shannon we decided that we should press on the next day and head for Namche Bazar. It would be a 8 or 9 hour hike – double the plan. But, we knew that with each step we took we were heading for lower altitudes, warmer climates, cheaper food and better accommodations.
After 9 hours of hiking, we finally reached Namche. It was a relief to check into the comparatively warm teahouse and head back to our favorite coffee house. Sadly, the power was out for the whole town so we weren’t able to watch the scheduled documentary. However, we were able to drink our first beers of the trip without fear of altitude sickness.
Having reached Namche, our spirits were lifted. We knew that we just had two more days of easy-ish hikes ahead of us. The next day we would hike down to Phadaking and than after that to Lukla. Each day involved some ups and some downs but for the most part we were walking downhill and it was glorious.
Suddenly we had the time and energy to goof off. We took silly pictures of us with Everest. Marten took over the role of porter. Things got a little more fun. However, we still had to remember we were on a trek.
On the way to Phadaking, we took a blind turn which led to a set of stairs up to a suspension bridge. Shannon was ahead of me and Marten and the guide were about 15 feet back. As we made the turn we came face to face with a group of Yaks coming down the steep stairs. Before I could register what was happening, we were trapped between the yaks and the stone walls of the stairs. Shannon was in front of me so I couldn’t move forward and the rock wall of the turn was on my back.
I was between a yak an a hard place.
I looked around to see if I had an escape. I saw Marten and Segar standing helplessly back on the trail. Other hikers, porters and yaks, blocked the pat of the yaks continuing on the trail. They were stalled next to us. I could feel the ox beside me pushing me against the rock. The yak behind time teetered uneasily on his hoofs and the steep rocky steps. As he shuffled, waiting for his turn to move, it seemed to me that he would slip forward, gorging me with his sharp horns. I was afraid, Shannon was afraid and looking into the eyes of the yak, I could tell he was afraid (truth be told, I’m no expert on Yak emotions so I could be projecting).
At this point I was literally pinned between the yak and the stone wall. I tried to use my arms to push the yak away from me, but to no avail. I looked up and realized that Shannon had managed to escape up the steps to the bridge – I was all alone. The yak in front of her had sidestepped to fill the space she had vacated, leaving no room for my exit.
Pitifully, I began to call for help.
“Help. Please. Please help me.”
For the first time I really thought I might die. How could I have made it all the way to Everest Base Camp just to die in a Yak Attack near the bottom.
After what seemed like forever, (but was probably just seconds) someone finally responded to my pathetic cries for help. A Nepali man appeared over the ledge above and called to me. He reached his hands down and literally pulled my entire body up the rock wall and onto the ledge above. I had to kick the yak hard to free myself from the death clamp he had on me.
I nearly ran across the bridge and then hid on a rock a safe distance from the trail and other yaks while we waited for Marten and Segar.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. Much like the previous ten days, we hiked, we ate, we slept and we kept going. Without the goal of basecamp, our only objective was to finish. All of us, including our guide, Segar, were sick with runny noses, sore throats and mild fevers. On top of being tired we were super gross. We hadn’t showered or for the most part changed our clothes in eleven days. But instead of feeling awful, something funny happened – I felt amazing.
The uphills, hard as they were, went by much easier. I wasn’t as tired as we shuffled into town each night. I felt like I could walk further, climb higher and go faster. As much as I would love to have believed I was suddenly in amazing shape, I was actually experiencing the effects of a natural hight thanks to our time at high altitudes.
Working out a high altitudes, where the air has less oxygen, causes your body to increase its red blood cell count – increasing oxygen flow through your body. When you descend to lower altitudes, this extra oxygen is still in your blood – it increases your endurance and makes physical activity easier. It’s the same reasoning behind Lance and the gang from the Tour de France’s recent doping charges. The drugs they took were designed to increase their blood oxygen in the same way.
Finally, on the eleventh day we reached Lukla to await our flight the next morning.