We were supposed to stay in Gokyo for two nights and that made sense as the day we arrived was a big one. It took some of the team over 8 hours to over the pass and down to Gokyo and were understandably exhausted afterwards, however due to changes in some people’s itineraries we had to leave the next day.
The next leg, although not strenuous, was long and not straight forward. We moved around 18km in total down the Gokyo valley to Phortse along a winding path going up and down constantly. The trail was once again spectacular with amazing views, we passed the beautiful three lakes in the Gokyo valley and took the longer scenic route which winded its way around to Phortse presenting us with amazing staircases, stupas and tiny villages. After about 7 hours we were all starting to tire but got into Phortse with the afternoon sun still shining.
Phortse is a special place for me as my 2015 expedition team stayed there for 4 nights on our way out of the Khumbu after the earthquake. The whole team of climbers arrived into the town full of energy and super fit having our expedition cut short and assisted the local Sherpa community in demolition of destroyed houses, barns and monasteries. We also thoroughly enjoyed the local tea houses and lodges where we nearly emptied the town of whiskey and beer. So arriving back definitely brought back some nice memories, clearly not enough memories though as I still got lost upon arrival due to the town’s labyrinth of pathways making navigation near impossible.
Upon arrival into Phortse, we stayed in a tea house I had not been in before, the rooms were basic but fine. The main lodge was very cosy, warm and inviting. Plus the town was drenched in glorious 4G mobile cell signal so we all sat around eating, drinking and internetting late into the evening, this is where I managed to get out the last three posts plus managed a Skype call to Alejandra and Charlie back home which was great!
The next morning we once again, packed up our duffels and backpacks and moved on out. This day was much more manageable, only about 2.5 hours to the next town of Pangboche and pretty easy so I opted to wear my comfortable Salomon trainers instead of my boots.
I was moving well, I started timing myself with the aim of getting there 1 hour 30 minutes after leaving Phortse. Just as I was nearing the town I was stuck behind a yak train. Not wanting to be slowed down I jumped up onto one of the yak/animal trails above and ran around them.
CRUNCH, my left ankle rolls in and a pain shoots up my leg. “You idiot!” I shout to myself. I keep moving to get around the yaks and back onto the main trail. I limp the rest of the way into town wondering if the expedition was over. There was concern but I was relying on the glimmer of hope that the ankle is already so damaged from previous sprains that it couldn’t get too much worse.
I arrived to the bakery in Pangboche and immediately elevated my foot. There was no significant swelling, just pain around the fibula where it sticks out of the side of the ankle which I suppose got knocked into a rock or the weight of my body pressed it into the hard ground.
I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in our very very basic lodge and worrying about my ankle, picturing myself on the Lhotse face with a sprained ankle wasn’t looking very realistic. Not much happened in Pangboche as we had had a few long days on the trot so after dinner I took some ibuprofen and went to sleep (after watching ‘Breaking Bad – the Movie’).
The next day we had another leisurely walk to the village of Dingboche. This time I put my big Salomon high ankle boots back on which provided solid ankle support. Walking straight and going up and down stairs was ok but any pivoting or twisting was out of the question.
We pulled into Dingboche, this time I was not timing myself but still got in quickly only because the 4000m air was a cinch after being up at 5500m the previous days. I have not been to Dingboche before. Last time I was in this neck of the woods, I was on the other side of the hill in a town called Pheriche. The two towns are on the main trail to Everest Base Camp so there are now a LOT more people around. The tea house we are in currently in Dingboche is PACKED at lunch and dinner time, to the point where spare seats are a rarity. The town of Dingboche is pretty cool, it has a few bakeries dotted around (I should have mentioned that a bakery in a Khumbu village is like an oasis for westerners where we can find baked cakes and pastries plus sometimes, proper espresso coffee). We have one official rest day today where we can catch up on washing our filthy clothes, get a warm shower, charge our electronics, enjoy our last bit of internet and get ready for the next leg.
My ankle seems to be improving. Although bruised, I think it will be ok. With some very careful footwork I can take the pain knowing that it will be ok by the time I get to Base Camp.
“Phew! That was a close one. Slow down you idiot!”
Tomorrow morning, we will once again get our duffels ready and head straight up onto the hill next to Dingboche for some camping and eventually another high pass crossing. As we are camping and going over a pass we need to be selective with what we bring as the Porters will not be coming up and over with all our excess gear when they can just go round the corner, through Pheriche and meet us on the other side without the unnecessary elevation gain.
The plan as far as I am aware is something like this:
Tomorrow morning climb 600m up to a campsite at an elevation 5000m with magnificent views. We settle in and enjoy (or maybe for some, loathe) our first night in tents. The next day we ascend a further 400m to another campsite which – I am told – has a beautiful Gokyo type lake and once again amazing views. Tim insists this is the best campsite in the Khumbu. The day after we will climb another 400m to the top of a nearby peak called Pokalde which is 5800m. Nothing too technical but a good chance to get to an elevation above Basecamp. We will be taking our spikes (basic crampons which fit over hiking boots) and a bit of climbing kit just in case conditions are tricky. We will then descend back down to the campsite, spend another evening and retire to our tents once more. The next morning, we will cross over the Kongma La pass at about 5400m and descend into the town of Lobuche where we will meet up with our porters, gear and the rest of the crowds headed for Base Camp.
The signal may be spotty up on the pass, there will be no Blog posts but I may get a bit of online access for Whatsapp or a bit of Facebooking.
So that is it for now. I am now off to complete my chores and later – enjoy coffee and cake 😉 Next post will be from somewhere between Lobuche and Gorak Shep (the last town before Base Camp)
Over and out.