From Lobuche at 4910m to Gorakshep at 5140m, and onto Everest Base Camp at 5340 m
Today we reach the Everest Base Camp, the finish line for us, and the starting line for the summiteers of Everest!
Its freezing in the morning at Lobuche, and I wait around impatiently for my morning tea. I can’t wait to start the day. Our usual breakfast routine over, we set off once more at a brisk pace, with Om Bahadur Ji leading the way. The rock-strewn path to Gorakshep is not steep, but it is slippery at places, and not as well kept as the trail we had been walking on. The path follows the Khumbu Glacier, which, when I look at the map is Huge, in fact it looks like one of the largest in the Everest Area. We follow this glacier all the way to Gorakshep. There is hardly any greenery at this altitude, only rocks and scree. The weather being warm there is no snow along the way, and the stream we are following is not frozen. We keep up a steady pace and by 11 are at Gorakshep, checking into our hotel where we’d stay the night.
I try to persuade Cheekala, Sudhir, Aditya and ABhishek to leave early – by 12:30 maybe, even if the rest of the group does not reach. I am very concerned that the weather in the late afternoon would turn cold and windy and that we’d have to walk in the dark with the snow and wind biting on our skin. Call me paranoid, coz thats what I am!
So I practically dragged these 4 with me out of the cozy lodge. Thankfully my fears were unfounded – it did snow a bit when we reached the Base Camp, but not much, and then the sun came out in the late afternoon making it a great day for us.
We could occasionally spot the blues, yellows and oranges of the expedition tents at the base camp as we made our way through the rocky path. I could see walls of blue ice over which dirt was packed, and it occurred to me that we may be walking over packed ice too. At long last, a little weary, we reached the plain ground on which the expedition camps were pitched. It stretched out over a huge area, and by some estimates, there were close to 50 expeditions waiting to summit Everest. Mt. Everest is a busy place nowadays – a far cry I’m sure from 1953 when Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first climbed to the summit.
The highlight at the base camp for me was to see the expedition camps up close, to see the prayer chorten where the Sherpas make offerings before heading up into Chomolungma, and meeting Mamta Souda, who, a few days after, summitted Everest. It was on the same day when Arjun Bajpayee became the youngest, at 16, to climb everest ( a title that was taken away from him shortly when another boy of 13 climbed Everest) .
Talking to Mamta near the stone which marked the “Everest Base Camp” was a great experience.An unforgettable one – she was the second Everester I’ve met, after Satyabrata Dam, who I’d met at the Club Mahindra Retreat in Mashobra. Sudhir, me and Cheekala ( who disappeared for some quiet reflection) are all a little affected by the climbing bug. Maybe more than a little – but more about that later.
Meanwhile, we explored the rocky area where the base camps are pitched. Ice blue glaciers and frozen pools, as well as walls of ice beside which we walked made the whole place peculiar and memorable. In front of us was the famous(in) Khumbu Ice Wall, responsible for many of the .. deaths in Everest. We didn’t get that far.
So after lingering and chatting with Mamta and her Nepali liasion officer, we headed back, this time very very weary.
It’s the weariness of having completed something big, and the feeling that its, you know, over.