You can read all of my posts about the Everest Base Camp trek here!
I was up well before our 3:30am alarm – I had not slept well at all at the massive altitude of almost 5200m and had a splitting headache. After my emotional day reaching Everest Base Camp yesterday, I had been unsure if I wanted to climb Kala Patthar this morning, but upon waking I came to the realisation that I would probably only be here once and would really regret it if I didn’t give it a try.
We knew it was incredibly cold outside as Ash had left his clothes ready for the morning on the windowsill, and they had frozen to the window! We quickly dressed in our warmest gear, and crept downstairs to meet Deepak in the dining room at 4am, trying not to wake up the rest of the teahouse. The reason for the early start – we were attempting to reach the top of Kala Patthar before first light, in the hopes of seeing an amazing sunrise over Everest.
Headlamps on, we started off on the steep climb up Kala Patthar. Running on very little sleep, and not coping well with the altitude, it’s no exaggeration to say that I was really struggling. I was only able to take 10 or so slow plodding steps before I needed to stop for a rest to catch my breath.
As we ascended, the sky started to slowly lighten and the temperature dropped even further. A large amount of thick cloud hung in the air, so I was worried that all of the effort I was putting in would be in vain and we would not even see Everest. We soon passed a man heading back down the mountain. He had decided not to wear a down jacket and told us he had got far too cold, so had decided to turn around and go back to Gorak Shep, abandoning his opportunity to see the sunrise.
Noticing how tough I was doing it, the rest of the group offered to stop on a ridge to watch the sunrise, rather than pushing for the summit. Deepak assured us that we would get the exact same view, but I was determined to make it to the top, no matter how difficult it was. I hadn’t come this far to quit now!
The sky continued to brighten as we ascended, and fortuitously the heavy clouds started to sink to form a fluffy ocean at the base of the peaks. All of a sudden, there it was – Everest shining brightly, orange-hued with an arched jetstream curving over the summit. I could not have asked for a better moment, it took my breath away.
Not yet quite at the top of Kala Patthar, we continued slogging uphill. We finally made it to a large plateau at the top, which Deepak told us was considered the summit of Kala Patthar, and I collapsed with exhaustion on a rock. Danielle and Michael were determined to make it up to the absolute tip, so they continued climbing up the steep rocks. But I was happy to sit at the top in the frigid air and take in the magical scenery.
Ash and I broke into a Mars Bar to celebrate our achievement, and a curious little bird came up to us. It seemed to be quite tame (obviously used to the hordes of people at Kala Patthar) and Ash fed it some Mars Bar – it seemed to be more partial to the caramel than the rest!
We stayed up there for quite some time waiting for Danielle and Michael to return from the peak, growing colder and colder in the -4°C temperature. A thick layer of frost covered everything, including our backpacks and hats! Soon Danielle and Michael returned, and we reluctantly made our way back down the mountain, pausing to snap pictures of the changing light all of the way.
We arrived back the Buddha Lodge and ordered some breakfast, although I was still feeling pretty nauseous and couldn’t eat very much. While I was forcing down some breakfast, Deepak came over and passed me his phone – Chet from Nepal Vision Treks who I had organised the trek with was on the line. He wanted to check in to see how our trek was going and how we were all feeling which I thought was a nice touch.
Our trekking wasn’t over, and after breakfast we finished packing and started on the trek back towards Lukla, with Pheriche being our destination for the day. We followed much the same path that we had on the way up, with the first portion out of Gorak Shep being difficult as we made our way back over the glacier.
The weather had stayed quite chilly, and as we descended into Dughla for lunch, little flakes of snow had begun to fall. We stopped in for lunch at the Yak Lodge Thukla, and as we had descended 500m in attitude already my appetite had started to return so I had a delicious Sherpa stew while watching the snow fall outside.
All too soon it was time to continue on to Pheriche, with all of us very fatigued from our early start and interrupted sleep. Deepak said that we only had about 1.5-2 hours to go, so we continued on as fast as our tired legs would allow. After not too long the rocky landscape changed into a scrubby valley, with small burbling creeks cutting their way across our path. This meant several water crossing on small uneven stones – definitely not my favourite part of trekking!
We trudged on this way for a while until we finally turned a corner and there sat the tiny village of Pheriche, illuminated in the sunshine. Buoyed by this sight, we picked up the pace and were soon checking in to the Hotel Pumari in Pheriche. I was delighted to find that they had recently built some new rooms with attached bathrooms which Deepak had booked for us. I still wasn’t super hungry, so just ordered some hot chips for dinner, and we sat around playing cards and reading until we were too tired to keep our eyes open at 8pm.
I found climbing Kala Patthar really tough, both physically and mentally taxing. Reflecting on the day as was tucked up in bed though, I would not have traded the experience for the world and was so glad I did it. The scenery was absolutely magical, and the climb itself was something that changed me – I had no idea that I had that inner strength.
What’s the hardest thing that you’ve done on a vacation?