Saturday, 21 April 2018

Himalaya day #9 - Chola pass 5,430m

Today was a monster and currently writing this mid afternoon lying in my sleeping bag with my head covered coupled with another blanket over the top trying my best to keep warm. The weather is making this trip both physically and mentality challenging. There is no hot water this high and often no running water as the pipes are often frozen. Electricity is also scarce.

For the usual early morning start we were greeted with a thick snow carpet as we set off immediately uphill towards the pass but accompanied again with clear skies and the stars helping the neighbouring mountains glow.  I could tell that Sheilesh was nervous and remonstrated with us that we would 110% need crampons / yaktracks and gators along with a minimum 2 litres of water and ‘be at the ready’.  My rucksack was already heavy due to my camera gear but just had to get on with it.

There were a number of sections to this climb. The first piece was a steady slog (400 vertical meters) in the snow to the first col where we rested to prepare for the next short descent and the scramble over the rock before the final push over the pass.  The snow fall gave rise to treacherous conditions. It was masking a lot of the ice that was covering the rock which meant that you had to be really sure with your footing every time you planted your feet. This unquestionably notched up the difficulty levels and with a couple of the group slipping and falling in this section.

Now at the foot of the pass and with the weather quickly closing in from the Gokyo valley side where we had just come up from we had to keep moving. Sheilesh then ordered that all the woman ditch their rucksacks to be distributed between the guides as well as the call for crampons / yaktraks. The only problem was that there was one extra rucksack and so I volunteered. 10 minutes in and my respect levels for the porters sky rocketed as I began to seriously blow. I reckon I had 25kg at least and could really only go for 15 or so steps before keeling over with it now being well over 5,000m. I treated it akin to interval training with the lactic gradually building in my legs.

Finally at the top of the pass (5,420) and another 90m higher than yesterday it started snowing which meant no messing around and descending down the other side. After an initial steep down we crossed the snow field in single file as the snow really started in ernest. So much so that we ditched the lunch stop to get down as soon as possible.

Of the entire trip this was probably my most enjoyable moment. My new light weight Scarpa boots were a dream as I hopped from stone to stone avoiding the ice. Mark P would have been impressed with my balance and it’s all down to his exercises. The reliance on the glutes is also massive. Safely down and with no tumbles and similarly loving my goretex jacket we moved further down the Khumbu towards the tea house. The snow abated temporarily and out appeared the face of the Chola mountain (not sure on the exact name) but it’s the one with the dramatic face that the Japanese crew attempted to climb in 2006 with one of their climbers falling the entire 500m cliff face to his death.

Another hour and we arrived at the tea house around 2pm all of us knackered. All up 13k but in challenging conditions and 900ms and 700ms of acsend and descend respectively.

* Sheilesh was telling us today about the going rate for the porters on Everest. Apparently it’s £100 per kg to camp 1 which then ratchets up to £200 for camp 2 and so on.

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