Friday, April 1, 2011

Everest Base Camp Trek Part 2 : Dingboche – EBC - Katmandu

On Day 7 we began our trek from Dingboche to Lobuche (4900m) (8 hours) involving a rise of about 500m in altitude. Almost everyone was affected by the low oxygen – even wearing one’s boots was exhausting. I would wear one boot, then takes several deep breaths before putting on the other. Even packing my sleeping bag and duffel bag was a major task – such was the impact of thin air.

The landscape was barren with only occasional shrubs. Snow-capped mountains still dominated the scenery – and they were gorgeous. After a quick lunch stop at Dugla, we had to climb a long and steep hill – which took us all afternoon. At the top of the hill were numerous stone memorials dedicated to the many mountaineers who died while summitting the various peaks in the area. I spent a bit of time reading their eulogies which were sad yet inspiring.

We finally reached Lobuche about 5 pm. Lobuche was COLD. There was snow and ice everywhere. We quickly changed our clothes and huddled around the hot stove in the dining room. Most of us were suffering of a lack of appetite, albeit at varying degrees. Despite being exhausted, I could only eat half of my normal portion. Some other could only manage a quarter or less. Somewhat, the usual jokes did not seem very funny at Lobuche. All of us called it a day early and quickly hopped into our sleeping bags. The toilet at Lobuche was the coldest yet. It was outside the main lodge and its wet floor quickly turned into ice into the night. Going to toilet at night, holding a torch on one hand and maneuvering the icy floor proved to be a major challenge. [BTW, the simply task of brushing your teeth requires you to bring your hot water flask to the toilet - otherwise the tap water is too cold]

A view from our lodge at Dingboche - looking towards Lobuche

The "kura kura" team posing on the way to Lobuche 

The "gorgeous" way to Lobuche

The memorials for mountaineers who died in this region. On top of the hill after Dughla

A memorial plaque

Another memorial

On Day 8, after our normal warm up and stretching, we started our trek to Gorak Shep (5100m) which will be our last overnight stop before reaching the EBC. I was quite excited at the thought of crossing 5000m. Lots more ice and snow along the way but the sun was out all morning. We (the slower group) got into a rhythm of walking with baby steps – like 50 steps and stop for 30 seconds, another 50 steps stop 30 seconds, and on and on. After every half an hour or so, we took longer breaks up to 2 – 3 minutes. Despite the strenuous trekking, the group was still cheerful.

Looking towards Gorak Shep. Simply fabulous

Negotiating the icy trek to Gorak Shep

Yaks returning from the Base Camp after delivering their goods. I said hello but the yaks did not bother replying. Some of them were rather cute.

The last bit near Gorak Shep was tough – we had to climb up and down 4 hills which seemed never ending. Finally we arrived at Gorak Shep at about 1 pm. Frankly, Gorak Shep was not as bad as I had read in many reports from previous trekkers. The lodge was decent and the food was alright.

Fong, MK, Sathya, Briony, Jang and Jules posing in front of our lodge at Gorak Shep

The plan was for us to hike up Mt Kalapathar that afternoon. 5 members of the team (Jamili, Martin, Roslizan, Milter and Shuha) hiked all the way up to the peak (5545m) while the rest of us were quite contend to go half way. Our teammate who went to the peak told of very strong winds and sub-zero temperature. The water in their drinking bottles froze. I probably went up to about 5300m – from where I had a great view of the valley below as well as many mountains peaks.

Day 9 was the D-Day. The slower group started early and headed towards the Base Camp. The faster group left about 45 minutes later. The journey took us about 3 hours and 45 minutes. Along the way, we could see Mt Everest which was pretty fabulous. We finally reached the Everest Base Camp at about 11.15 a.m.

The summit of Sagarmatha (Everest) seen from the trek

The Everest Base Camp - seen from the trek about 500m away

The feeling was simply awesome. Most of us were overcome by emotion – excusable given that we reached our target after 9 months of planning and 9 hard days of trekking. There was high-fives and hugging all around. It was also quite humbling – standing at the foot of the tallest mountain the world.

It is here you realize that reaching the Base Camp is only the beginning for the hardcore climbers. Most of them will set up camp at the Base Camp and stay there for 45 – 60 days preparing to make the summit attempt.

BTW, we also did the poco-poco (alamak, have we sinned ?) and sumazau (Sabah traditional dance) at the base camp. Also took plenty of photos with various flags and banners. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Malaysia Boleh !!!

Three of our team-mates were from Sabah Parks - posing here with their banner

MK posing with Milter Gangkuh who was representing the village of Bundu Tuhan, Sabah in this expedition to the EBC. Holding the Bundu Tuhan banner
MK texting the rest of the monyets - informing of the mission success

The EBC itself is not very impressive but the Khumbu Icefall adjacent to it was. Many mountaineers in the 1960’s to 1980’s died trying to cross this Khumbu Icefall. As it was the beginning of the climbing season, there were only two tents at the Base Camp. These were part of the Ice Doctor’s team – whose job is to fixed ladders across the many crevasses in the Khumbu Icefall that will enable subsequent climbers cross it. I had the opportunity to have my photo taken with the Ice Doctor.

MK with the Ice Doctor who was on his way to the Khumbu Ice Fall. This is the guy who makes it possible for the other climbers to cross the trecherous Khumbu Icefall.

We returned to Gorak Shep by about 1:30 pm, had a quick lunch and headed towards Lobuche. As we were headed towards lower altitude, trekking was somewhat eaiser. Plus having reached the Base Camp, somewhat lifted everyone’s spirits and there was definitely more bounce in everyone’s steps. We sang Sudirman’s “Balik Kampung” along the trek. We reached Lobuche just before dark.

Day 10. Everyone was obviously more cheerful. Appetite returned. We trekked down from Lobuche and took a slightly different route. We headed towards Periche (4200m) where we had lunch. Periche is where the Himalayan Rescue Association is based – they have doctors on stand-by to treat mountaineering injuries. Luckily for us, we have no need to visit them.

After Periche, it was a gentle trek all the way to Diboche (3700m). We arrived at Diboche about 4:30 p.m. Everyone was in great spirits, no headaches, good appetite and most importantly, the naughty jokes started flowing again.

Day 11. From Diboche, we headed towards Namche Bazaar. Because we had to cross a steep valley, the trek entailed trek down steeply for about 2 hours and then trekking up for another 2 hours. After that, the trek was relatively gentle all the way to Namche Bazaar.

At Namche Bazaar, the weather was great with the sun shining brightly. After many days, I could remove my trekking boots and walk barefooted on the pavement. It actually felt so good. It was also here that we discovered how brave Fong was – her legs were completely covered with blisters and yet she never once complained.

Many of us took the opportunity to indulge in some luxuries at Namche Bazaar to celebrate our accomplishment. These include buying Coke and potato chips (BTW, a Coke and potato chips cost about RM 25 at this location). I bought 2 disposable razors to shave – something I had not done since leaving Katmandu. It actually felt good to shave.

On Day 12, we marched from Namche to Phakding. It was a breeze. Most of us took it easy, spending time to take in the views and posing for lots of photos.

On Day 13, we trekked from Phakding to Lukla (our starting point). We reached Lukla at about 3 pm. That night, we had a farewell dinner with our Nepali guides and porters who served us very well. We paid them their tips and many of us donated some of our trekking gear to them. There was plenty of merry-making that night including dancing to the tune of “Resham Firiri” which is a Nepali classic.

On Day 14, we flew back to Katmandu. Once again, we had the “pleasure” of taking off from the most dangerous airport in the world. We spent another 2 nights at Katmandu (with plenty of partying) before flying back to KL.

It was indeed a very satisfying journey. To be at the foot of Mt Everest was a priviledge, an honour. Something my team mates and I will cherish for a long time.

Despite trekking through harsh conditions over 14 days, none of us suffered any physical injuries. The only thing I suffered was cracked lips due to the very dry environment. One or two others had blisters on their legs. A few had watery stool for one or two days. Otherwise everyone was fine.

The trek was very very dusty especially when it is windy or when yak trains pass by. That’s why you see me with almost my entire face covered most of the time.

Every year about 300 people attempt to go to the summit of Mt Everest. About 70% – 80% will succeed. This year, the Malaysian team is attempting the summit from the Tibet side. If everything goes on fine, they will summit in May. So far, 11 Malaysians have stood on top of Mt. Everest.

Photos by Sathya

Part 3 : Manai the Great .... coming soon

Monyet King also says
1. I will write about the dos and donts in the last part of the story. One of the dos is you should carry a pee-bottle on this trek. Will save you a lot of trouble going to the very cold toilets at night.

2. You guys should seriously embark on this trek if you have the opportunity. It was wonderful. Nepal is not an expensive country and the people are very very nice.


semuanya OK kot said...

The people of Bundu Tuhan village are doing a great job of preserving their environment, according to a Star article a few days ago.

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Your Highness,
Where are the Nepali cats? Did they go into hiding once they heard you coming? purrrr....meow!

Monyet King said...

1. SOK
That's right. Their community forest is a great model for other communities to follow. My team is actually working with them on creating a forested corridor between Kinabalu Park and the Crocker Range Park.

2. Cat
I actually have a photo of a Nepali cat. Will post it soon.

JK said...

Hi MK,

I've heard that every person who have touched the grounds of Everest and its surrounding Himalayan peaks are humbled by their experience...
the majestic mountains, the deep valleys, the gusts of cold wind spiraling down its slopes, the unrelenting job of the yaks! Everything makes us (humans) feel so small, insignificant, helpless...

This is one place where we can truly appreciate the raw power of Earth and Nature...and to remember we are not super-beings, not money-making-merry-party-goers, not monyets-of-the-parliament, not ruler-of-the-world not all that we have been hoo-haaing about all this while in Malaysia- we are but mere humans eking a life on this beautiful and amazing planet Earth! :)

Monyet King said...

You have said it beautifully. Setuju 100%

Ir-man said...

Hi Monyet King,
Just got back from the same trip just over a week ago and saw your banner-cum-Malaysian flag at the Buddha Lodge in Lukla (I think!). Great experience, eh? :)

Monyet King said...

Hi Ir-man,
Yup.. that's right. We put up our flag at the Buddha lodge at Lukla. It was a wonderful experience. Loved every bit of it. Might even go back again soon.

Rightzilla said...

I am going in March of 2012. I cannot WAIT! I am going with a company from teh US called MOUNTAIN MADNESS. I live in las Vegas Nevada....115 degrees f here in teh summer. Your blog is amazing, and I appreiciate you sharing!