Our day started early and cold, which seems to be a theme, with the steep incline out of Dingboche village and then taking the long flat valley path in the shadow of Mt Tabuche (6362m) and Mt Cholatse (6335m) and above the river valley that flows off the Khumbu Glacier at the foot of Mt Everest. Every direction gives rise to spectacular mountain panaramas but we bid goodbye to Mt Ama Dablam, the sentinel that towers over Dingboche.
The trail to Everest Base Camp is quite busy at this time of year and many trekking parties Zig zag pilgrim like along the path that leads to the sacred mountain. There are no roads or vehicular traffic in this high region of the Khumbu valley and only footpaths for people and yaks (and of course naks and dzopas) join the little villages. The Himalaya are ever changing and rock falls and erosion give up the mountains’ prizes and glittering crystals can be seen on and around the trails.
After a brief lunch stop at Thukla we embark upon the main climb of the day up to Lobuche. All of Cayman Turtle Trekkers are beginning to feel the effects of altitude and progress up the hill at almost 5000 meters is reduced to a slow Turtle like plod, which at average speed of 2 km an hour may not sound speedy but slowly and surely it allows us to climb the 643 meters of ascent to Lobuche.
At the top of the climb we pass through the Sherpa memorial grounds which honors the heroes of Mt Everest, the sherpas and guides that make it possible for mountaineers from all over the world to climb the worlds highest mountain. The top team of Sherpas are called the Ice Doctors as they are highly skilled climbers who set fixed ladders and ropes and carry heavy loads through the Khumbu Icefall, which is the gateway and key to the route up the Western Cwm to the Lhotse face and on to the South Col and the final ridge to the summit. Sadly, climbing Everest is a dangerous proposition and the stone memorials draped with prayer flags on the plateau-below the world’s highest mountains sit as a fitting memorial of the men and woman who died on Everest but whose names live on for ever in mountaineering folklore.
We arrive exhausted at the small town of Lobuche situated at 4,920m by the side of the Khumbu Glacier under the watchful gaze of Mt Nuptse and Mt Pumori. Our reward for reaching our destination is a later afternoon hike up to just over 5,000m to help us acclimatize for the days ahead. The view over the glacier is spectacular but the sun sets over the valley and the bearable warm sunny days gives way to the frigidly cold night and we scurry back to the tea house for dinner.
Our daily routine ends with dinner in the communal dining room with our Sherpa guides and other Trekkers. Everyone gathers around the yak dung fueled fire to get warm before retreating to the very basic bedrooms. These seem to be made of plywood and are unheated so in other words arctic cold. Mingma, our head Sherpa, ends our dinner with the plan for tomorrow. It’s our big day as we head out at 6.00am to start the 12 kilometer round trip trek to Everest Base Camp and Gorak Shep. Our first expedition goal is within touching distance.