The home leg via Gokyo Ri. Tiredness is creeping in & the weather is deteriorating.
Apr 01 Thare (4400m) to Gokyo (4750m)
A very uninspiring, uneventful day. Probably the worst day so far. We woke up to a misty morning for the first time, meaning there were no mountains in sight. The sun did not break through all day and the mist and visibility became worse. We passed by the beautiful Gokyo lakes without even being able to see them.
This may have been why I struggled for energy today but I felt very tired. Thank goodness there weren’t too many steep sections. On arrival at Gokyo it also started snowing and it was very cold. Tiredness is starting to show through in all and I don’t believe there are many who are keen to climb Gokyo Ri tomorrow, particularly in this weather. Su confirmed that if the weather doesn’t clear up it will not be worth attempting the climb. Over dinner it’s evident that most are secretly hoping the weather stays bad!
It was too cold to hang around in the mess tent after dinner so myself and a few others ventured into the tea house close by. We met some Germans who were staying there and they thought we were absolutely mad to be camping in this weather. I’m beginning to be inclined to agree with them. Still after tomorrow we only have four days of trekking remaining where it will be more or less all downhill.
Apr 02 Gokyo (4750m) to Machermo (4490m)
Because of the snow last night it was deemed potentially unsuitable to climb Gokyo Ri. Only three decided to go and the decision had to be made the night previous due to the required 06:30 start. I wanted to wait until morning to decide but apparently this wasn’t feasible. Although the views of Cho Oyu and Makalu are better from here, the fatigue had taken its toll on me and I decided not to go.
As it was the weather was perfect next day. Some of us did however manage to climb to a small ridge round the back of Gokyo for good views and I managed to obtain some good shots. We left Gokyo after lunch down the valley and past the lakes. This really is a miserable walk over boulders, rocks and muddy, slippery paths. The mist coming in again added to its dreariness, so thankfully the walk to Machermo wasn’t long. Again it started snowing as soon as we arrived.
I am grateful it is a quiet spot and we will be eating in a local teahouse, one of the most comfortable we have come across. I feel a touch of jealousy for those staying in the teahouse when I know that I will have to venture back out into the cold snow to the tent. I normally love camping, but the cold and altitude over the past couple of weeks have now become a bit tiresome and I’m longing for some creature comforts. The hiking in itself has not been particularly hard if you’re reasonable Cho Oyu, Everest, Khumbu, Himalayas, mountaineering, climbingfit. Not once have I suffered from aching limbs or similar at the end of the day. I’ve not had a shower for two weeks now and the feeling of dirt and general grubbiness is adding to the weariness of us all.
Apr 03 Machermo (4490m) to Kyangjuma (3700m)
A long day’s walk, 4 hrs in the morning, 3 hrs in the afternoon. The morning walk was mostly downhill but uneventful. The track was very muddy and difficult to walk on in places and by the time the sun came out in the afternoon it became quite hot. After lunch was tortuous, as it was a steep climb of about 600m back to 4000m before making the final descent to camp. Camp turned out to be in a fairly picturesque spot and at 3,700m it is noticeably warmer. With the cloud cover it may actually stay above freezing!
Apr 04 Kyangjuma (3700m) to Jhyamputti (2800m)
The penultimate day of the trek. Slightly misty in the morning though the sun did eventually come out in full. We had a 1 ½ hr trek to Namche where we stopped for an hour to buy any trekking gear and souvenirs. Trekking gear can be quite cheap here as it is either left over from mountaineering expeditions or is imported over the border from China. The quality is also very good.
After Namche it was another two hours down to the same spot by the river from where we had originally had lunch on the way up. Strange how the climb up to Namche now seems so daunting viewing it on the way down. The surprise was how many people were now on the trail.
We easily passed several hundred including porters. Thank goodness we trekked when we did. It was obviously a quiet time for us as most groups had cautiously stayed away until they were sure the issues with the Maoist rebels had died down.
With this amount of people I can certainly see why some believe the trek has lost its purity and become commercialised. The majority of people I saw looked like they’d never walked more than a hundred yards in their lives. Tonight is the last night of camping and we are also having a farewell party for some of the porters as the Phakding area is their home and they will not be travelling the remainder of the way with us to Lukla.
Apr 05 Jhyamputti (2800m) to Lukla (2804m)
The walk back to Lukla was longer than anticipated but not difficult. It seems strange to be back here after almost 2 ½ weeks. We’re staying in a nice lodge which is luxurious in comparison to what we have been used to. It’s basic but cosy and the food is excellent. We killed a couple of hours in the afternoon wandering around Lukla and treating ourselves to a cup of coffee and beer. Oh, how good they both tasted!
Worryingly, a thick mist descended in the afternoon. Planes will not be able to fly in or out in such weather but we are told this is quite common and mornings when the flights take place are fairly clear. It’s an early start but we don’t mind as the sooner we leave the quicker we get back to the hotel and a much needed bath.
Apr 06 Lukla (2804m)
05:45 wakeup call, breakfast at 06:00. Bad news. The weather is still poor. It’s cloudy and there’s currently no chance of flying. Our spirits are as damp as the weather but the only option is to sit it out and hope it clears. We sleep, read, watch films, go for a stroll – anything to kill time.
Su, our reliable guide is confident the weather will clear, but despite the mist clearing enough from the runway, the surrounding mountains are still not visible. By late morning it becomes worse instead of improving and to make matters worse starts raining heavily. We’re told the rain may then cause the clouds to clear but I think they’re running out of excuses to try and lift our spirits. By mid-afternoon it’s obvious that the weather just isn’t on our side this time and so we’re given back the keys to our rooms.
Disappointed and frustrated, but there’s nothing we can do but sit it out for the rest of the day. Annoyingly, the weather clears by late afternoon but by then it’s too late for the planes to come in from Kathmandu and fly out again. Such problems are unavoidable and this extra day is built into the itinerary. What happens if we get delayed further is uncertain. I was told of a group who were stuck here for over two weeks!
Apr 07 Lukla (2804m) to Kathmandu
Great news, the weather is good. After breakfast we check-in at 07:00 amongst the disorganised chaos of Lukla airport. There’s no telling how long it will take for the planes to start coming in, but it’s not long before the siren is heard to indicate the first plane has just left Kathmandu. At 08:40, ours is the third plane in followed by a huge cheer from our group (every group seems to cheer when they realise it’s their plane that has just landed). The turnaround is impressively quick and in 35mins we’re back in Kathmandu and in the hotel by 10:00.
For the first time in three weeks I get a look in the mirror. I don’t look too bad although I’ve lost some weight. I’m more tanned than I thought, but this soon turns to disappointment when a bath soon reveals it mostly to be dirt. I’m so dirty I immediately have a shower after the bath. It feels so good to put on fresh clean clothes.
It’s now time to relax and reminisce on what we have seen and achieved. The Everest Khumbu region is certainly one of the most glorious mountainous places on Earth and it’s something I’ll never forget. There’s a unanimous decision to spend our last evening at Rum Doodles restaurant together. This well known restaurant has the names listed of all Everest Summiteers and its walls are covered with ‘footprint’ cards of all treks and expeditions and the names of those who have taken part. We create our own Rum Doodle ‘foot’ and it now sits hanging amongst all the others.