Ugh- 6:15 am wake-up tea at our tents. The Sherpas found many of us popsicles trying to warm up in the dining tent. Have you ever seen 6 people all trying to share a 2 foot heater? We eventually packed up our frozen belongings in our frozen duffel bags and shared an excellent breakfast in the now-warm tent. After breakfast, as we left the camp we were draped in prayer scarves (kata) to bring us good luck and blessings on our journey. We trekked for all of 30 seconds before our first stop- we had to say goodbye to the Everest Base Camp ER crew, Suzi, Kirsty, and Pranav. They have been trekking with us from the start and it was a difficult goodbye- they are family now. We know that the Sherpas, trekkers and climbers are in good hands.
It is a bittersweet departure from base camp. Extreme altitude has been taking its toll on our intrepid hikers and some are looking forward to relief that only descent can provide. But we depart reluctantly, remembering the feelings we had on arrival- joy, a sense of accomplishment and of dreams fulfilled, relief, exhaustion, and a shared goal attained with new but now lifelong friends. We walk along the Khumbu glacier on till thrown up by unimaginable forces over centuries. There are some places in the world where you feel that you are walking on holy ground and this is one of them. We walk along cathedrals of aqua and white ice, the morning sun glistening off their faces. These ice spires reach heavenward, with Lhotse and Nuptse and Everest looking down from above. We are surrounded by scores of 20,000 foot peaks and hanging glaciers. We walk in hushed silence trying to take it all in. It is humbling and exhilarating at the same time.
We walk up and down for several miles and stop at Gorakshep to see our ill hiking partner off to recovery in Kathmandu. We continue on to lunch at Lobuche. Counting heads at Lobuche, it seems like a big part of our group is missing- and it is! Kirsty, Pranav and Suzi are left behind to work at the Everest ER, and John is in Kathmandu. As we head down the pass to Pheriche we see that we are walking in the clouds. Thick clouds boil up from the valley to envelop us, limiting visibility to about 20 feet. We walk through rock and tundra, and the mood in the mist is eerie and mysterious but very cool. We pull in to Pheriche late in the afternoon and are settling in for a brief respite before another long day tomorrow- 13 miles to Kumjung.
Jim Schultz (Love and miss you, Shelley and Danielle!)