Today is the day, today we make it to the goal. Yesterday we hiked, for the first time, in snow. It was cold, and today, we go higher still, to the final floor of the roof of the world.
Begin: 4,930 mtrs
End: 5,290 mtrs, inc. EBC: 5,360 mtrs
Distance: 10 kms
Duration: 8 hrs
It was a restless night, an unwholesome accomodation that I am more than happy to see the back of. Nerves made sleep restless and fitful, so near now, but still enough yet to go. The morning arrives, and it is glorious; sunny, cold but clear, the gloom of the preceding afternoon has dissipated, and hope enlivens the resolve; we might make this yet!
We are in shadow as we depart, the sun yet to make its way above the massive peaks that lie on the other side of the Khumba glacier, which we will now follow alongside for the remainder of our journey. As the sun arrives, it is bright, piercing as only high-altitude sunlight can be, sunglasses, sun-screen, fewer and fewer clothes and we are almost heading off to the beach! Ah, by the sandy, dusty frozen wastes of the glacier that may be.
Our destination, and overnight stay, is Gorak Shep, essentially a couple of hotels and supply depots for the climbers based in EBC. It is actually quite nice, comfortable of rustic, clean enough and welcoming. We arrive in time for an early lunch, with still 3kms and a scramble until EBC; a task for the afternoon. As I sit waiting for lunch, having divested myself of packs, etc, I am overcome by emotion and tear up. I’ve made it! I actually didn’t completely appreciate until now just how much, doubt, anxiety, worry, I had about whether I would make it, and it all just came to the surface as I sat there, waiting for lunch. Quietly, I just let the emotions wash over me, and not only a sense of accomplishment arrives, but also one of relief. A strange melange indeed.
The trek after lunch was more inconvenient than anything else, I mean after all of this, we are here aren’t we!, we are schlepping out way through difficult terrain to actually get to the camp. We had seen the camp as we had approached Gorak Shep during the morning, a dot of a few hundred tents amidst a vast landscape that defies the imagination; there is still over 3,000 mtrs of altitude from EBC to the peak of Everest.
I had walked all day with our guide (MB), the slow, steady walk – ‘slowly, slowly’ – a walk that can conquer the world. As this thought crosses my mind, I realise that this is the walk of tribes, of people who wander, who have and will, the world over. The destination will be there the next day, the important thing is that tomorrow, you walk again, and again. It is a completely different idea, than achieving a goal, than getting there as fast as you can, only to have to get somewhere else tomorrow. There is always somewhere else to go tomorrow, so you enjoy the moment, use and save energy. The next day will teach this quite dramatically, but more on that tomorrow.
EBC, we take photos, we look at the tents from afar, as we can’t go close into the camp itself. We are tourists, taking our photos of our achievement, of our being here, for some this is the only reason to have done this; what’s next. And I, like the climbers that spread out before me, am a guest, only here because of the incredible energy and patience of our gracious hosts.