Our guide/porter walked in sandals sans socks to the sometimes frigid cold when in the shadow of the mountains acting either like a badass or an idiot, take your pick.
After breakfast in which I tried to carbo load for the long day ahead of me with fried vegetable potatoes since there would be no stopover village or hut along the way for lunch (we had to reach Lobuche village no question about it), we (the international expedition composed of Israelis and me as the token foreigner) began trekking with Paz’s porter for the first half of the day to pass acting as our guide. It was quite cloudy but Ama Dablam behind us kept peaking out small sections at a time like a beautiful woman teasing the onlooker from behind the shower curtain. We wanted to see more but the environment didn’t permit it. So I kept my head down on the trail in my spot at the rear of the pack (one that I would hold for much of the duration of the trek) as we whipped back and forth through the shallow vegetation keeping on the path as we climbed little by little pushing through the early morning start warming up the muscles in the frigid chill until the sun could properly rise above and through the thickness of the clouds. I kept looking back on occasion at the mountains and the jagged ridges that formed the spine running up to the higher peaks but all they and especially the jaw dropper Ama Dablam could offer was a tease. I wanted to reach out and swat away the clouds or shout my mouselike voice when compared to this land of giants to have her and all the rest to reveal themselves. The clouds wanted them for themselves and we only willing to throw me the spare sight if I times my trance when the climate and weather saw fit. With this in mind I continued the uphill slog luckily able to stop and catch my breath and a swig of weather when the pack deadened their pack for their own sake or perhaps for my slow ass. Occasionally I could see the body of the Lhotse Range and a few of its lower lying 7000+ meter crowns but I wanted it all. I wanted to see Lhotse in all its promise as I drifted right off to the Chinese Tibetan border where Lhotse Shar stood firmly as the watchmen on his post directly on the border. The climb seemed to never end. The ridge up ahead of me as the only thing worth looking at (a depressing sight at that) was steep and it never seemed like I would reach it but on first sight I hoped it was the pass itself signaling the halfway but deep down I knew that that was a total lie but when delirious it is easy to find ways to cheat the mind because at the time it sounds better than the truth but when the lie reveals itself (as I experienced when that ridge was in fact just a stepping stone along the way) it is not just a let down but a shot to how you see the upcoming path (kind of like someone taking your puppy, a dog that you have grown attached to in a short period, out back and hearing the unmistakable sound of a shotgun from afar. Overdramatizing but damn it kills the ego.
After passing an ethereal deep blue lake that offered reflections of the cloudy covering of the peaks that sounded this bowl of a land and the pass itself directly ahead, we charged on knowing the end or rather the end of the first half was near. At the time I thought once I reach that point above all I would need to worry about is the downhill winding path, a tiring pursuit but not as exhausting as striving for each breath and each half step when climbing upwards.
At long last we reached the top and elation overpowered me rocking me back and down to the nearest flattish rock to call it my seat. From what should have been a grand viewpoint I saw jack shit except for the seemingly reachable village of Lobuche down below. After enjoying our celebrations, we began our descent with Anton leading the pack as he disappeared quickly in front of us before the rest of us could the pass too far behind us. It was a long stretch of rocky patches packed yet still loose for an errant step. At times it was more rock climbing or bouldering than trekking with our hands needed to keep balance upon this unsteady surface.
As we were descending with the village of Lobuche always in sight…
My right knee felt broken and done just like my spirit with no views to speak of.
At the bottom we only had to cross a rocky stretch that looked quite small from the top of the pass and for some time as we descended could have been a hop and a skip to reach the other side but we especially I had no idea what we were up against.
Walking through the hell of the up and down path of boulders, loose rocks, and hidden lakes that broke up hidden paths
Upon a long glacier dirtied by rubble rock that crunched with each progressing movement.
Stubborn and impatient standing still with the chill of the wind and droplets of rain gaining strength while I lost mine, I chose to make a move in one direction, in the way I thought best with Paz while the others waited around to make a decision. When we were 100 meters separated from Ori, Stav, and Ido we heard a Hebrew call through the wind. Apparently they found the way but I stubbornly believed it was just another way like all the rest that we had discussed and didn’t feel like wasting my time retracing my steps so I continued on with Paz. The path which wasn’t really a path just one we created for ourselves stumbling across with each teetering step upon the loose boulders and rocks that we gave our full weight to (kind of like Indiana Jones when a wire is tripped; we had to move quickly before our weight collapsed with the rock we were once standing upon). Things looked promising until we ran across a hidden lake impossible to cross. Paz and I debated between going back and rejoining the guys who were following a porter with his basket attached to his back or go across a narrow trace of rocks in between the two and cross there where we could try to catch up to the others. I encouraged the latter and charged for wanting to keep moving with my mind deprived of thought. All I wanted was Lobuche and any logic could not be processed. We crossed over and we were making progress but couldn’t link up to the rest of the group who disappeared beyond the many rocky hills of this deserted hell. We were lost but were getting in the general direction of Lobuche that lay on the other side of lip of the ridge. Luckily the fellas waited atop of the ridge as a lighthouse, a guiding light for our wayward wandering. I was ready to collapse and the thoughts of the movie 127 hours sounded like a legitimate possibility. I kept saying that I looked forward to having daal bhat that I would enter the lodge drop my bag to the floor as I collapsed on the nearest cushion surface I would let out the slightest whisper of ‘daal bhat’. I can’t remember how many times I swore especially with each grouping of boulders and rocks nearly collapsing in on themselves swallowing my ankle like a bear trap.
We made it to Lobuche and after that ridge I moved the quickest I ever had to reach the lodge.
I admitted my major error in decision making but my impatience had taken over.
We got daal bhat working and drank milk tea.
The woman running the lodge spoke the best English I ever heard from the villages along this trek. I enjoyed hearing her take on the earthquake and its affect on the country as a crippling blow but also as a shot in the arm for pride in the country for everyone to work together.
Without having already hear that an earthquake had occurred I would have had no idea one had hit this country based on what I have seen in the little time I have spent in this country.
As a treat I bought two snickers with one of them acting as my dinner
The daal bhat as a late lunch and basically a dinner due to the two massive portions was a godsend
We sat around the fire that was later on powered by yak shit which is a great natural burner without the smell you might expect. The owner knit yak and sheep winter beanie hats that two of our guys bought.
Chatted quite late in the night.
I learned some Hebrew when challenged to learn two words per my choice. I chose ‘beautiful’ and ‘cheap’, two great picks highlighting some hidden Israeli blood I never knew I had.
The end of the trek that took much longer than I ever realized felt like I was walking on a stair master from hell in the middle of a construction site shrouded with clouds while someone (likely one of the construction workers) struck my knees (mainly my right) with a hammer every time I took a step.
There were no views to be found worth pushing me onward and forward so all I could do was slog through the many crummy bits of what lay on the other side of the pass, which did not leave any room for comfort even though a great of the second half of this day’s trek meant going downhill. Downhill is easily the worst thing for my knee with each step compounding the next. I tried taking half steps to throw my right bum knee a bone as much as I could but loose rocks and dirt slid me down quickly out of control at times and the need or undying want to reach Lobuche village which stood as a near presence by perception called me from afar. It was like Odysseus from Homer’s classic of ‘The Odyssey’ who heard the sirens calling from the island and was drawn to its sound. Regardless of how much shit (including yak shit but that’s not exactly what I am talking about) I had to cross to get there which actually accentuated my desires to get there, I had to get there even if it killed me.
My body and mind was deteriorating into a shadow of my former self. If I was staring up at white draped mountain peaks and ranges I likely would have been reinvigorated and had the necessary boost to continue as I should have but the way it stood I was walking like a zombie brain dead which is completely dangerous when you have to watch every step in case of slipping on a loose rock or a wobbly boulder.