Monday, March 26, 2012

Gorak Shep

Saturday, March 24
We had a short trekking day today- from Lobuche to lovely Gorak Shep. Motivated by the cell tower in the village, we were all looking forward to communicating with our families. The timing has been difficult- 6-7 AM here works with ~ 8 PM back home, but mornings are hurried with the gear shove and breakfast. In the evening, there is another window, but that corresponds to getting-ready-for-school time back home.
The trail was rocky today, as we continued up the lateral moraine of the Khumbu glacier. We stopped several times for yak trains, often in the worst possible spots on the trail. We'd scramble uphill, and attempt to get out of the way, but we don't have much yak trust these days. Lucy, however, has found a new role to add to her many talents- she is our " yak whisperer". When the yaks go by, she gives them encouraging words, admiring their head gear and earrings, and is generally most supportive. She is also the one to be found petting any dogs on the trail- some of whom have been darn cute.
The tea house where we are staying in Gorak Shep is dark and dingy. As Jeff says, "You can't use enough hand sanitizer in Gorak Shep.". And that is how it felt. As soon as we dropped our bags in our plywood-surround rooms, we went for our acclimatization hike up nearby Kala Pattar (18,200 ft). As many times as I've read about Kala Pattar, I was surprised about what I saw- a huge pile of dirt and rock rising a couple of thousand feet above the "Gorak Shep desert" behind the village. Apparently the name " Kala Pattar" means something like "large black rock."
The climb was steep initially, but we were rewarded with views of the Upper Khumbu valley and Everest. I can't believe we are finally here!!!
After our break at the " bench", we climbed further to the summit- and the last several hundred feet were complicated a bit by,you guessed it with this crew, some high winds- with gusts up to 35-40 mph. Considering we were often climbing from perch to perch, it made for some solid footwork and balance. ( Which brings me to my shoes: a couple of months ago, as Corell and I, or Sasha and I, we hiking the Priest trail (on the Appalachian trail), we noticed how we often felt unstable going downhill in our traditional hiking boots. For me, it often felt as though I couldn't feel the trail, and when I'd try to balance on a rock, the stiffer ankles on the boots would often kick me over. So, we migrated to hiking shoes and trail shoes- and what a difference! I can actually feel the trail beneath my feet, and my balance is worlds better because these shoes allow me to self-correct any mis-step. And so, on Kalar Pattar, and on the rocky rocky trail to Everest Base camp, they have been a god- send.)
Back on Kala Pattar, we scrambled to the summit in those winds, and then, as often happens to me on peaks, tried to find a little niche somewhat protected from the winds. The views were tremendous- base camp, up the icefall, and Everest. Still boggles my mind that Linden stood on top last spring! It was a gorgeous day, and our views even carried us into Tibet. Pretty wild to be here.
After the climb, we headed back down the mountain in time to place our "safe" orders for dinner. I wandered around to an internet cafe to type a blog entry, but after an hour or so of typing, that wonderful gift of a cell-tower went down, and my entry was lost- so I've had to retype.
So, for now, hope all is well back home. We love and miss you!
Sent from my iPad

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