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Monday, 23 April 2007

Pheriche to Dingboche [Day 12]

Feeling all alone

I have a good sleep for my last night at the 'White Yak'. A quick wash using wet wipes, I freshen up, clean my teeth and use the loo - all signs that I am getting back to normal. Best of all is that I am headache-free. I also pass almost a litre of urine during the night - however this was dark yellow, almost brown, indicating I have still not taken enough liquid on-board.

The view from my window

At breakfast, everyone in Trek E are really friendly and supportive. This team seem to have a much more relaxed attitude to rising in the morning for the tests... tending to drift downstairs in one's and two's. I am unsure whether I am still required to carry out my own tests because my Trek group have now left... and particularly with all the medication I have been taking. Nobody seems to know, so I participate in any case.

Results for today are: Resting - O2 80; HR 67; BR 9.  BP 145/81; 144/82; 140/80. Unfortunately, nobody is available to test my 'At exercise' rates.


The Trek E leader asks when I want to go over to Dingboche (4,410 metres) so he can arrange a porter. I say I am happy to fit in with his plans - he mentions a 0900hrs departure - so I agree and thank him.

I go upstairs to my room to pack my holdall and get my rucksack sorted out for the climb over the ridge. I remove everything from the room and leave my holdall outside for the porter and go to sign for my extra days lodging and meals.

My kit - farewell to Pheriche

At 0900hrs, the Trek E leader and his porter meet me outside... ready to accompany me to Dingboche. The route is straight up the hillside outside the White Yak - very steep. All I can say, I am glad to be feeling much better as both set a blistering pace up the track.

Somewhat surprised, I must have gained some of my strength back overnight as I am not breathing too hard, despite the extra altitude gain. We therefore summit the ridge quickly and start down past a large Chorten with fluttering prayer flags. I can see the village of  Dingboche in the valley below.

Dingboche - from the top of the village

As we descend, the Trek E leader suddenly admits he didn't actually know which lodge he was supposed to escort me to - he had forgotten to ask. In the event, we decide to head for the top of the village and work our way down making enquiries. Sods law it is the very last lodge at the lowest point in the village.

Peaceful Lodge

The Trek E leader stays for some refreshment before heading back - I give his porter 100NR and pay for their brew. The Trek E leader then mentions that he has paid his porter 500NR to transport my holdall over the ridge from Pheriche, but 'It was OK as he would take it out of his contingency fund'.

Why did he need to tell me this - does he expect me to pay?

After a final chat, they leave me alone with the Nepalese family at the Peaceful Lodge and Restaurant - it is only 1015hrs.

I wish I can be certain this is definitely my rendezvous point for Trek C. It seems I now have the rest of the day to kill before the other group of trekkers arrive. I therefore decide to take store my bag in a spare room and have a wander up the valley... but I will need to take care I don't set off my headache again.

Leaving my holdall in the room, I put my rucksack on and start up the central path through Dingboche. A little stream gurgles its way downhill amongst the stones as I navigate my way between stone walls and mani stones. I keep greeting people 'Namaste' as I pass and before I know it, I am heading out of the village at the top of the valley.

I think Dingboche is an altogether nicer place than Pheriche. The sun appears to stay longer in this valley and the wind seems much less severe. I decide to gain height up to a ridgeline to get a better view back to Dingboche.

The trail climbs steadily upwards, but soon I begin to feel light-headed again... and there is just a glimmer of a headache forming. I decide my brain doesn't like altitude and turn around to return back to the lodge, getting back at 1150hrs.

Barren terrain at Dingboche

Rather bored, I wander over to the sun lounge to continue reading my book (Memoirs of a Mountaineer by F Spencer Chapman). There is an old Nepalese man inside the lounge chanting mantras, spinning a hand held prayer wheel. A little snot-nosed girl comes over to me and brings her playing cards and slides for her hair. She offers these to me, wanting me to play - we try to build the cards as high as we can until they all fall down... and she smiles with a big grin.

Looking through the window, we notice the snow beginning to fall. All the family rush out to cover their vegetable patch... the little girl included. All lift stones and throw them on the tarpaulin to hold it down in the wind. The soil is steaming as the snow lands. The earth is clearly still hot from the sun's rays through the thin atmosphere. It's no wonder these people are burnt brown... which explains how we are also getting tanned and need the attention of a Factor 50 cream.

Protection for the crops

The little girl comes back to play cards with me and noticing a dirty mark on one, promptly spits on it and wipes it with her sleeve. Porters walk past the entrance to this lodge carrying their heavy loads ever higher up the mountain. Ghostly figures in the driving snow.

I decide to go back to my room where I take a preventative Sinex tablet and vow I will never leave my wife at home again, no matter what sort of adventure beckons.

My room at the Peaceful Lodge

After a short while I decide it is not very healthy, emotionally, sitting on my own in my room, so I lock up and go to the lodge dining room. To my surprise I come someone I know. Helen, a fellow volunteer with Trek C had been at Pheriche suffering from D & V and I wasn't aware she hadn't been able to leave for EBC either.

She had been escorted to Dingboche the other day when I was really poorly, ready to walk back down to Namche with Trek C too. It was so nice to have a friendly face, knowing that this was the correct lodge... hurrah.

The owner of the lodge has just lit the Yak dung burner in the dining room and everybody huddles round trying to get some of its early warmth. Two other trekkers have joined Helen and I. An Australian woman who is trekking on her own and a German climber who has been here many times, but suffering from early AMS he has had to descend to Dingboche for more acclimatisation.

The Australian lady is really chatty - a nice woman who works with socially-deprived youngsters back home. Approaching the yak burner for more heat, she gets a little close and the front of her duvet jacket melts into a hole. Feather down starts to float everywhere. 'Shit, shit, shit' she shouts, for the down jacket is rented. She spent the rest of the afternoon trying to stitch and mend the hole.

My thoughts go out to Trek C having to navigate their way back down from EBC. An early start will have been necessary to have attempted Kala Pattar (5,199 metres), before descending via Gorak Shep. Already it is 1615hrs and there are no signs of them and the cloud/mist has now dropped, cloaking everything... and the temperature is plummeting.

Trek C yaks have now arrived... unloading is an unceremonious affair. Bags thrown left, right and centre. The yaks are carrying their own food in the form of hay bales. It won't be long before the trekkers arrive - it is now nearly 1700hrs. I hope I get the same friendly welcome as that from Trek E.

Trek C transportation

Snow is falling heavily now - my I'm glad to be here in the warm, toasting my feet and hands on the yak burner and drinking lemon tea. Suddenly, through the gloom, people begin to arrive. I go out to greet them as they have experienced a very long, difficult day. It is 1800hrs and they had been trekking from before 0600hrs.

John Dick (Trek C Leader) comes straight over to introduce himself. He has met Deborah (my Trek Leader), so had been expecting me. What a lovely chap - a true gentleman in every sense and every bit different than the Trek E leader. A nice evening was spent chatting and they all make me very welcome - a lovely group of people, every single one.

Tired, I excuse myself for bed, visiting the basic loo on the way. To my horror I discover I have diarrhoea... what next? I quickly take the anti-bacterial drug, clothrimazole and an Imodium in the hope that this works overnight before having to trek down to Tengboche tomorrow at 0830hrs.

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