12th November 2012
From the lowest point on our trek to the highest was a climb of almost 3,000m. To put that into perspective, it’s about 3 Mount Snowdon’s stacked on top of each other. But the fact is that our lowest point is already 2,300m, so whichever way you look at it, altitude is going to play a part in an Everest basecamp trek.
Altitude sickness (or acute mountain syndrome, to give it its proper name) is the effect that less dense air (and therefore, less oxygen per breath) has on the body. You have to take altitude sickness seriously, as the effects can be life-threatening. But the main way to prevent it, is to ascend slowly.
Looking down on the beautiful town of Namche
And so we had the first of our acclimatisation days in Namche. The best way to approach an acclimatisation day is not to treat it as a rest day – rather to use it to do an ascending walk (i.e. rise a few hundred metres) and then come back down to sleep.
“I sleep much better, partly because the room is warmer (despite frozen condensation on the inside of the window). The view from here is absolutely stunning. Yesterday, we cursed having to walk up to the back of the village, but today the views definitely make up for it.”
“After breakfast (an enormous, inch thick apple pancake), we get ready to do this morning’s acclimatisation trek up to the Everest View Hotel. I was concerned that I was going to feel really stiff after yesterday’s climb, but actually, I’m fine.”
“We start off by visiting the modest, but informative museum about the Khumbu region. We then walk past a small army base to the steps that mark our trek – straight out of the back of the town. As yesterday, Dan sped off, whilst Prakash and I take a more leisurely pace – although we
Imagine going to this school!
did overtake a number of groups of elderly Japanese. It is a steep climb up the steps until we reach a plateau, where there is a landing strip. Apparently, the government felt it would be good for the local people if they had greater access to air travel. However, the locals turned down the idea because of the negative impact on trade (a lot of the tourism trade between Lukla and Namche would disappear, as well as most of the portering business).”
“The walk then flattens out and we follow the contours (with a MASSIVE drop down to the right that made me feel a bit wobbly) to the Everest View Hotel. Developed by a Japanese businessman, it is a touch of luxury in this area. Tea here is 280 rupees (about £2), as opposed to 60 rupees (about 40p) in the lodge in Namche, but the views of Everest and her sisters are well worth it.”
As we stayed in the lodge for 2 nights, we got to know some of the other trekkers. Dan and I took an instant dislike to an Englishman travelling on his own. However, he recounted a story about having a shower, which is housed in a shed-like building behind the lodge. He took his towel and fresh clothes and locked the door behind him. He stripped off and turned the tap, which promptly came off in his hand. Cold water gushed out, drenching him and his clothes. He managed to pull on some underwear before calling for help. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer chap!
In contrast, we met a lovely Swiss couple. Although the man was originally from England, he had lived abroad so long that he couldn’t remember the right English word on occasions. We talked about the use of walking poles (I had noticed that more than half the trekkers we saw were using them). So I resolved to get a pair and give them a try. We walked into town and for the equivalent of about £9, I picked up a pair.
And then the weather changed.
“It snowed all afternoon and it settled on dry surfaces. By the time we were eating dinner (I decided to try the yak curry – not bad at all!), the sky was clear. After more cards and packing, it was bed at 9.30pm.”
Chilling, with Everest behind us