The day started early for some of us, Dave Z, Mountain Dave (I have nicknamed him such given his increasing energy the higher in altitude we go) and I, along with our wonderful Sherpa guides Chhongba and Dorji as we set out for a walk to Kala Patthar to view sunrise over Everest. The walk was a bit cold- my water froze in my camelback, but all worth it when suddenly the golden sphere of the sun appeared beside the black pyramidal top of Everest and instantly warmed us. We had a brisk walk back to pack our bags (so they can get loaded on the dzopkyos for transport) and to meet the rest of the team for a breakfast of fried eggs and toast, muesli and hot (powdered) milk, and an amazing pancake for Diana (how do they get it so fluffy at this altitude?). Good bye Gorak Shep and unto our goal destination- Everest Base Camp! (EBC) The walk included great photo ops with Everest and Nuptse, which appear deceitfully reachable and I must remind myself they are still like 2 vertical miles from us. Through rocks and hills and humbled by the porters with their backbreaking loads we went. Then I saw Colleen and Jasmin stop with a Sherpa who did not appear well. Not that this needed high clinical acumen as he was wearing an oxygen mask reminiscent of a WWII gas mask. We checked his vital signs and listened to his lungs and his presentation seemed most consistent with high altitude pulmonary edema. He needed to descend. Tony, Eric, Sanjiv, and I returned with him most of the way to Gorak Shep. His friend carried his pack and I monitored for yaks. When yaks come on the path, one must stand hillside, so it does not push you off the cliff. Sometimes even hillside, you have to scoot up the hill because yaks with their pointy horns come very close. At one point, (papis, no se preocupen!) I was standing ahead of my patient and a yak decided to come towards us. I knew my patient would not be able to scoot up the hill or fight a yak in his condition, so I grabbed the beast by the horns and pushed it towards the lower path. Luckily the yak did not fall off the cliff or try to put up a fight. We continued on the way but could see clouds coming and we also had to account for our safe return to base camp. Our patient thankfully had remained stable despite having to exert himself which is known to worsen the process. We determined he would be safe to continue with his partner and our lovely Sherpa Chhongba the rest of the way to Gorak Shep and we would start our return to EBC. I left him with a medical note written on a torn page of the novel I am reading and said a silent prayer for God to take care of him the rest of the way.
I returned back to EBC a bit tired, but thankful for the opportunity to assist someone in need. The road back includes a section of a rocky pass where headphones are not allowed and stopping not recommended. Why, you might ask? Because of rock avalanches! We walked briskly through this part ( I would have ran but the rocky terrain and the altitude limit one’s athletic performance). Finally we reached EBC, a tent city on the Khumbu glacier, the central meeting point towards an Everest Summit attempt. Then, to actually reach our tents took about another 45min because after all we are walking on rocks on top of ice. A quick stop to the facilities (a bottomless tent over some rocks) and then dinner to meet up with the rest of the team in our festively decorated propane-heated tent. Mountain Dave entertained us with a song he wrote on the trek using a Hakuna Matata-like Nepalise phrase- ke garney! Which loosely translates to “what is one to do?” when a difficulty arises. Then, off to bed. Despite sleeping on a glacier, I was surprisingly warm. At night we keep warm with heated water bottles. And long johns, wool socks, subzero sleeping bags, and down coats. After unsuccessfully trying denial for about 1 hour, I had to go the bathroom in the middle of the night ( a trek through hills of icy rocks with obstacles of tent support lines. The trip was rewarded, however, with an amazing view of a star-filled sky over the relief of mountain peaks and a safe return to my warmed sleeping bag to be lulled back to sleep by the roar of the rock avalanches.
Sending my love from over 5000 meters,