Saturday, 21 April 2018

Himalaya day #6 - More altitude gain to Machhermo ~4,400m

Every morning we are asked to complete a health questionnaire which ranks how we are feeling in terms of headaches, sleep, energy, stomach, AMS, if taking Diamox etc. Everything is in good order for me but I keep getting pretty aggressive headaches in the middle of the night. Last night at 1am I had to pull myself together. In hindsight it’s not surprising given we slept at 4,000ms. It’s a worry and feels worse than a hangover.

This morning it was the usual start at 8am post breakfast which included the local Nepalese bread which I would best describe as a flat pancake. It did the trick. And in keeping with the prior days we set off from Dole in bright sunshine and crystal clear blue skies with breath taking scenary.  The warning signs were already there though with the cloud cover beginning to increase.

This meant that the view of Cho Oyu (8,210m), the world’s 6th largest mountain, the direction in which we were walking, was only visible for an hour or so. Cho Oyu is another one of my favourites situated on the Tibetan border with the ascent on the Nepalese side extremely technical and climbed by a limited few. Only Everest, K2, Lhotse (4th) and Makalu (5th) are higher.

The views back the other way where we had just come from were also stunning. The photos below of me perched on the rock has me flanked by Tramserku (6,608m) on the right hand side and Kantaiga on the left hand side.

Traversing the valley the clouds continued to gather with the wind picking up which meant meant another call for my goretex jacket. For the last 10 years I’ve had a great Kathmandu one but I recently bought the Mountain Equipment Goretex Pro which is on another level.  

The landscape continued to change with it now being well above the tree line and altogether much more rugid with the exception of the growing juniper which still laced both sides of the valley with the help of the spring sunshine. There were also the scattered settlements on the other side of the valley to look down upon.

Post a quick coffee at the only Tea House we got onto the subject of Everest. The sherpa community are very sceptical of the westerners and their obsession with Everest. We covered the 2015 avalanche as well as the well publicised spat between the sherpas and westerners in 2016. The crux of the story is that the sherpas recommended to the western climbers that they join them using the fixed ropes which they initially declined but then cheekily hooked onto the fixed ropes higher up at camp 4. This caused a major argument as you have to pay to use the fixed ropes. Sherpas will often go 3 months ahead of the May spring summit season to freestyle climb and fix the ropes. They risk their lives much more so than the westerners and so you can see why they took offence. It’s their livelihood. 

Sheilesh also told the story in 2006 when he and Pemanuri Sherpa were climbing Ama Dablam when 18 Italians lost their lives. The Italians were preparing for Everest and thought that an ascent of Dablam would get them ready only the guide made the fatal error of leading the descent only for members of the party behind to fall. The theory is that the last member (where the guide should have been) cut the rope.

Pemanuri Sherpa is a favourite of mine. You would not think he is a climber by appearance but don’t be fooled. He has climbed Cho Oyo and countless other mountains. He’s modest, softly spoken and beautifully floats above the ground.

Post lunch now on Machhermo (place where a yeti supposedly killed a Sherpa in 1974) we did another acclimatisation walk up to a 4,650 ridge above the tea house. Sheilesh led us right up the face with a circa 80 degree angle as the wind on the more gentle gradient path was too fierce. By this time it was also snowing which meant curtailing the walk early before heading back down again.

At dinner we chatted with an Indian lady who has done 5 of the 7 summits and is gunning for Everest in 6 weeks time. Sheilesh reckons this is going to be a bad season. It takes up to 2 months for the snow to clear and could be 6m deep which is a nightmare for the sherpas fixing the ropes. Given it’s unseasonally cold and snowing for us at 4,500 it does not bode well.

At dinner it also came to light that a lady in our hut last night  had severe AMS and was the reason we saw the rescue helicopter fly in.

Only 12 or so ks covered today but everyone is knackered and will be interesting sleeping at 4,400 tonight, 400 higher than last night.  It’s perennially cold.  We’ve all been camped around the central stove which is fired up with Yak dung and sits in the middle of the dining room representing our only source of heat. I ate my egg veg fried noodle dinner in both my down jackets.

day 6 video:

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