We awoke to beautiful sunny skies and crisp clear weather, and headed out sharply towards our next destination, Gorak Shep. We split into two parties with the bulk going directly towards the major destination, Kala Patar, for views of Everest et al before the usual afternoon clouds came blowing in. Scott, Karen and Maria headed off the trail for a brief tour of the Italian Research Pyramid Facility, set in a stunning environment behind Lobuche Peak and facing directly its’ spectacular icefall. We were welcomed by the facility manager, Peter (Italian) and met an Italian calibrator and a French researcher, although not the Canadian researchers Karen was trying to track down – they appear to be MIA. After a brief history and chat, a cup of tea and a trial of their beautiful toilets (the little things in life are so important :) we set off on a different trail called the “Angel’s trail” which joined up with the “yak highway” as Peter disdainfully called it. We learned from the other group that it was quite a challenge for the footing, busy and a fair bit of climbing, whereas we tripped up the ridge on a gorgeous trail seeing nothing but birds and joined in just before Gorak Shep. However, both parties had stunning views all the way up the valley.
The larger group had by this time left for Kala Patar and the divergent three soon followed; we all found the thin air quite challenging, noticeably more so as we approached the summit at 18,500’ (5550 m) and the grade and elevation gain, which we would disdain at sea level, made us all realize we had little in reserve. The summit contained a monument for fallen Everest climbers and gorgeous views of Everest and surrounds, Khumbu icefall and the ice caves on the Khumbu glacier we’d walked by in the morning, and we all caught it before the clouds obscured the views. Pumori directly in front of us was also incredibly impressive. We didn’t linger on the summit however due to the temperature and cold winds and it was definitely not a day to be high on any mountain in the area as the plumes were coming off many of the tops.
Downhill proving much easier, we made good time and were met on the lower slopes with hot lemon tea and biscuits – what a treat – and our lunch was ready at the lodge on return. As often occurs, it was snowing lightly this afternoon with no real accumulation.
Tomorrow we proceed to base camp where we will be able to unpack just a little :) as we won’t move for a couple of days (trekkers) and 6 days (climbers, though two of those will be spent on the mountain).