Luckily back home, but far from finished

I’ve now been back in the UK for a little over a week, but it could have been very different. The last post was about our ‘interesting’ flight back from Lukla, and after the (actually quite minor) psychological trauma it inflicted I have not updated the blog, but after a certain piece of information was pointed out I thought I ought to mention it.

This was Lukla on the day we flew out.

OK, so not too bad, but what you have to remember is the entire area is surrounded with quite large mountains that are not very visible when covered by clouds, and the planes that fly in and out of here don’t have any fancy radar or instrument landing systems. Simply put, if you can’t see it, you don’t fly there, and if you can’t see through it, you don’t fly through it.

We got out. We knew we were luckily, just not quite how lucky.

We were on one of only two flights that got out that day (31st October 2011, for reference). Lukla then was shut for a little while. Actually a week, and they were still working through the backlog yesterday (9th November 2011), so if we hadn’t got out, we might still be in Nepal today.

The biggest thanks needs to go to our porter, D.B. Tamang, who despite technically being off the clock found us moping into our drinks in the early afternoon with the rallying cry of ‘first flight! you on first flight! coming now! airport now!’.

This was despite the fact that the previous afternoon when re-confirming our flights I was sure we had been put on the third flight, which for clarity did not actually make it that day.

We’ve contacted the trekking agency to get an extra bonus tip to him. Only fair, and he was great throughout.

So in the end we got back to Kathmandu on the day, if not the time expected. And as expected the Kathmandu Guest House had made a hash of our booking, so we stayed at the Excelsior around the corner. Although it doesn’t have the gardens and bar area, it does have a nice roof terrace in a traditional 6 stories up not sure if it’s safe nepali style.

What this doesn’t give an impression of is the noise of the streets below.

Of course it will, once I’ve pulled together all the various threads of the Stop Frame Everest film. But i do think it may be some time away, just down to pure logistics

 

I have around 25,000 photos and a few hundred video and sound clips to pull together, So far, in a week, all I’ve managed to do is put archive pictures into fairly generic folders based on where taken. I’ve started to work out the best way to go to video from stills with stabilisation, but it aint easy.

So lots of beta, like this;

The film will take a good few months, but I’m hoping will be ready for a premier at one of the Leamington Underground Cinema events in February – i.e. debut on the big screen at the Apollo.

And I’ll keep you all updated with teasers.

BTW – donations are still open now I’ve actually done the bleeding trek

We knocked the bastard off

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

Beccy on the mend, and decision made

Further to yesterday’s post, Beccy is feeling better, but not great. After much soul-searching and thinking about what she can realistically achieve, and what we’re here for, she suggested that I go on whilst she recuperates and then has a gentle wander around the Khumbu.

She will stay here in Namche with our porter DB, and the Khumbu Resort proprietors who are now ‘mama and papa’ to her, having been absolutely brilliant.

I’m going to try to get up to Gokyo on my own, as this is more realistic the EBC now. We will get back together either in Phakding or Lukla at the end of the week. We have phones that can call each other, so should be able to co-ordinate, but also have a meeting place arranged as a backstop.

I’m not entirely comfortable leaving her, but she is definitely better, upright and mobile, but will not be able to do the hard and high trek in the time we have. She’s virtually kicking me out of the door. So hopefully my next post will be saying ‘hurrah, did it, and we’re back together, and Beccy had a great time at slightly lower level’. The film will have to be re-named ‘stop frame Gokyo’, possibly…

Signing off for now.

Sick-notes in Namche

I’m sorry to say that we are still in Namche. Despite the industrial sized drugs and the doctor’s assurance that Beccy should be ready to roll the next day, she woke up this morning feeling pretty ropey – still some fever, coughing and generally knackered. To be honest whatever sized horse pill you have, it’s a bit ambitious to expect to trek after one days treatment. Where does this leave us? Well it leaves Beccy in bed for another day.

As for me, I decided to go for a little walk – a day trip to Thame,

which the Lonely Planet describes as “possible for the fit and well acclimatized as a return trip in one day, but a long and grueling one”. What do they know?

Despite leaving late at around 9am (trekking tends to start early, as you have to work with daylight hours and as I type at 5:30 it is getting dark) I still managed there and back by 14:30, so yah-boo to the Lonely Planet – I may be acclimatized but no-one would describe me as fit.

Actually it was reasonably hard work, but well worth it for the views. and the Thame Gompa (monastery) sits nestled on a mountain side in a way that only buddhist ones seem to manage with any authority (bottom right)

On the way back I re-acquainted myself with a certain biscuit that any trekking visitor to Nepal would be familiar with – a fantastic quick fuel hit, and enough to get me back to Namche, but not without encountering some belligerent Yaks – a continual problem on the trail

So where does this leave us in terms of our itinerary?

Realistically, if Beccy is not well enough to trek upwards tomorrow, we will not make it to Everest base camp. We have no contingency left.
If she feels better, but not great, we may have enough time to wait another day and try an alternate trek to Gokyo – which I would be quite like to do. You still get a great view of Everest from Gokyo Ri

Mount Everest, Lukla, Nepal
This travel blog photo’s source is TravelPod page: Trek to Everest Base Camp & Gokyo Lakes

– arguably better than at Kala Pattar (the traditional viewpoint near base camp).
If she is still no better, then I will be taking the executive decision to go down to Phakding, 600m lower. Despite being told it is a chest infection and not altitude by the doctor, the dry cold air at altitude is doing it no favours. I’d rather have a pissed off friend than one who catches pneumonia.

What would we do then? We can always come back up and go some way to see the views, or as a radical alternative turn our tails and go in the opposite direction – there still is enough time to trek out all the way back to the road and get the bus, rather than fly back to Kathmandu.

As for the film, I already have plan. I was looking for a story to lay over the photos, looks like it is going to be a disaster movie – or at least a comedy of errors.

As a ‘by the way’, the last two posts have been somewhat challenging to get up, as the electricity in Namche is not exactly 24/7. There was a 30 minute break between the last sentence and the one before, and the both have taken at least three goes to get done. Oh well, time to get some ‘Everest Whisky’ to drown my woes. It’s meths-tastic.