Everest Base Camp 2008 - Day 9

Day 9: Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Starting point : Gorakshep (Altitude: 5165m/16950 ft. StartTime: 6:30 am)
Endpoint : Kala Patthar (Altitude: 5650m/18533 ft.  End Time: 8:55 am)
Distance :  1.9 km/1.19 miles (One Way)
Net Elevation Gain/Loss:  480m/1575 ft. (One Way)

 

Thanks to the better conditions we had a better night than the previous. Of course, that does not mean a lot of sleep. The altitude was close to 5300m and that is a big factor. One just stayed awake after 4 am. This was going to be the earliest start (6:30 am, no time for breakfast) as our guide had planned to have us walk down to Pheriche (4200m) by the end of the day after returning from Kala Patthar. Our schedule only had us return as far as Lobuche. Obviously, the question over lodge availability must have prompted this. The lodge booking formalities are all handled by the guide and we had no direct involvement.

We knew it was freezing outside as ice had formed outside our windows even though we were quite warm due to the solid construction of the hotel and our sleeping bags.

After perking ourselves up with some milky tea, we got going just before 7 am, wrapped in several layers and balaclava as the day before.

 At Gorakshep, before beginning the climb to Kala Patthar.

It was below freezing and the water in our hydration pack tubes froze. The sun was yet to come up and it had to rise over the considerable height of Nuptse to our right (east). The ground below was frozen as can be seen in the picture below. Of course, the going was quite slow due to the altitude and the cold and the heavy clothing we had on. Picture taking was a chore as we had to rest our poles, peel off our mitts and gloves and then operate the camera in freezing conditions. But that did not discourage us :-)

 Frozen surface of Kala Patthar (Lingtren, Khumbutse and Changtse in background)

The initial part of the trail was gently sloping but it was getting steeper ahead as it veered left. Pumori was really close and was an imposing presence ahead of us.

 Trail to the top of Kala Patthar. Pumori and Lingtren in the background.

By 7:20 am, we could see the peak of Mount Everest and from then on it kept rising over the gap. At 7:40, the sun came up brilliantly over Nuptse's shoulder.

 Sun comes up over Nuptse's shoulder with Everest at left

Since the sun was too low to get good pictures, we put our cameras away and focused on pacing ourselves on the steep slope. We made steady progress and by 8:30, we were going through the switchbacks that were right below the final boulder scramble.

 Switchbacks on the sandy trail on Kala Patthar.

After the switchbacks, the final boulder section was all that was left.

 Summit of Kala Patthar with Pumori behind

Within 15 minutes, we had reached the top of Kala Patthar at 8:55 am. There were quite a few people already by the colorful prayer flags. Our GPS reported the altitude of 5649m/ 18533 ft. This was significantly higher than the figure reported in the books and brochures (5545m). The GPS had more or less stayed on course throughout, so it was strange for it to be off by this much. (NOTE: On our return home, we checked the Wikipedia article on Kala Patthar and it clearly mentions this discrepancy!). The possibility of the measurements being made on different peaks is there, but our measurement was taken right beneath the prayer flags! Enough of that, lets check out the photos and videos!

 Everest (as much of it we could see on this trip) at 8850m/29035 ft.

 A closer look at Everest

Yes, we were there. Proof below.

 Changtse, Everest, Nuptse, Khumbu Icefall and Khumbu Glacier

We could see new details like the Pumori Base Camp right below. And this campsite had occupants.

 Pumori Base Camp

The prayer flags and other happy trekkers.

Distant Ama Dablam (not looking so imposing now, but still majestic)

The panoramic videos...

 

Trip Reports (ignore the bit about the Kala Patthar elevation, that is not from the GPS) from the top and from the bottom on our way down

 

And descending down the switchbacks (a lot faster than ascending)

 

We quickly descended back to Gorakshep and were down by 10:15 am. Happy to see that we could still see Kang Tega and Thamserku in the distance. Thamserku holds the unique honor of being visible from both ends of the entire trek from Lukla to Kala Patthar. While it is not visible from Lukla, it can be seen near Phakding enroute to Namche.

 Gorakshep, Khumbu Glacier and Kang Tega/Thamserku in the distance

We were hungry for a late-ish breakfast, but a surprise was waiting for us at the hotel. No, it was not any Deepavali sweets but the news that we had overstayed. Check-out time was 10:00 am and what were we doing loitering about when we should be vacating our room? With profuse apologies, we hurriedly packed and after breakfast, we were off on the trail on our return trip.

For the curious: An interesting history of the discovery of Mount Everest and the various curious developments over measuring its elevation can be found at the Wikipedia Everest article

Google Earth perspective of the Everest view from Kala Patthar: From left, we can see Changtse over Lho La, Everest and Nuptse. The Base Camp, Icefall and Glacier can also be seen


Elevation profile for the entire onward trip (Lukla to Kala Patthar)

Conversions: Distance 67.3 = 41.8 miles. Net Elevation Gain 2791m = 10070 ft.

Another significant statistic is the total ascent till Kala Patthar (this will be much more than 2791 m due to the ups and downs). This was 5735m/18815 ft.


Day 9 - Beginning of the Return

After leaving Gorakshep at 11 am, we completed the  4.5 km/2.75 mile downhill walk to Lobuche in a couple of hours. Our guide was keen on us going further down to Pheriche which would have meant walking another 3 hours. Downhill, but still you have to put one foot in front of another. And downhill is not really easy as it is very hard on the knees. So we insisted that we stick to the schedule and stop right here at Lobuche. However, the lodge situation was no different from the last time. All lodges fully packed. Not wanting to undergo the Kalo Pathar Lodge experience again, we asked about the expensive lodge that we had heard of that costs $18. Well, it turned out that they had room! It was the Activferien group of hotels. Despite the higher pricing (the regular lodges on the route were about $3), the lodge did not seem to offer any additional amenities. In fact, they even locked their toilets during the day and asked guests to use a hole-in-the-ground toilet outside! But they had the unhelpful and rude attitude that goes with the higher pricing. That's two negative experiences in Lobuche. Unfortunately it is too strategic in its location with no alternatives.


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