Well, me and the 100 odd other trekkers who went up Kala Patar today. As trails end it is pretty spectacular, giving as close a view of Everest as you can get without roping up, and today the weather was absolutely clear, which isn’t always the case. I can’t put up any photos until I’m back in Namche (probably tomorrow) but it was worth it, and I managed to also achieve the aim of taking a photo every 5-10 paces all the way from Lukla to the top. Less than my original estimate at around 24,000.
Today didn’t go completely to plan though. I got off to a relatively early start, Lobuche (4940m) at 7am, the ultimate aim to get to the top and back down to Pheriche this evening. It went reasonably well, I crossed the glaciers and got to Gorak Shep (5150m) around 9am, starting straight up the long slog to the top of Kala Patar (5630m). With these steep climbs it’s a case of ‘bistarre, bistarre’ (slowly slowly) – but I got to the top around 11am. At the time I though the last 50m or so was far harder than it should be – normally the sight of the top pushes you on – but I got some time on top alone until 3 enthusiastic Italians joined me on the table-top sized summit.
I guess I spent about half an hour on top before trudging down again, and it was only when I got back down to Gorak Shep I realised why the last bit was so hard. I was still breathless on the flat, felt congested in my left lung and was making odd noises breathing – basically all the signs of high altitude pulmonary edema. Not good. The only thing you can do to make this better is go down – which was my plan anyway – but I did have a moment of panic. I was feeling weak, dizzy and wondered whether I’d actually be able to walk myself down. I stopped for some tea and food in Gorak Shep, still feeling bad, and remembering my insurance docs were back in Lobuche making it a bit difficult to organise a helicopter if necessary, but decided to try to walk down first.
Luckily the concentration of putting one foot in front of the other made me feel better, and I knew if I could get over the glacier crossing it was basically all downhill. I could go on about the survival instinct and ‘epics’ and all that crap, but basically I just needed to get down and did. The lower I got the better I felt, and by the time I got to Thugla (4650m) my head was clear and although I still felt congested, I wasn’t breathless. By the time I got into Pheriche (4250m) – at what seems to be my normal dusk arrival time – my lung felt pretty clear, and the only side effect I seem to have now is a husky voice. The advantage I have now is the Himalayan Rescue Association medical post is literally next door if I have any relapse or side effects. The whole thing was quite scary, even though there will always be someone to help you here, and shows altitude can be a pig when it wants.
So there you have it, mission accomplished (apart from actually getting back home), with only a 100% sickness rate