05/10/07 Kathmandu to Chutanga
So cool to be finally on the move. After an early flight from Kathmandu, walk from Lukla to Chutanga (3500m). First lesson learnt - put waterproofs on the minute it starts pissing it down ... managed to get everything soaking just 10 minutes before getting to Chutanga. We just didn't think it was worth it as we were so close, but it's impossible to dry anything up here with no sun. In spite of having arranged porter / guide support only from Tangnag, we appear to have a full team of people walking in with us. They don't understand why we want to stay in tea houses, and have tried to persuade us to sleep in the tent. Not too sure what's going on but just going with it ...
06/10/07 Chutanga to Tuli Karka
A big day over a 4600m pass (Zatrw La). Pretty much the equivalent of climbing Mont Blanc. Both feel great up to about 4200m, but the last few hundred ms is hard work. Just got into a rhythm and plodded on - much better to try and keep walking, even if it's slow, then stop start all the time. It's been cloudy all day, but the odd glimpse of peaks around are amazing - they just go up and up! Crazy to be nearly at the top of Mont Blanc, but yet we're still in the foothills here. The real mountains haven't even begun. At Tuli Karka, have a headache, and don't feel much like eating, but not too bad.
07/10/07 Tuli Karka to Khote
Hardly any sleep (so smoky in the tea house and partying Nepalis next door) plus a banging headache, so glad to walk down to Khote (3500m). Carry our own skis (lots of weird looks - we're miles from the snow) as the porters struggled so much yesterday and didn't even arrive in camp until 8pm - in the pissing rain. Felt so sorry for them! 6 hours walking steeply downhill is hard work physically, but the headache soon goes. Finding being looked after all the time quite weird - but our sirdhar, Sia, and the cooks are so lovely and smily. Quite embarrassing to have a team of 4 porters, 3 cooks, and Sia just for 2 of us, but guess that's how it goes. Arrived in Khote to find loads of people (3 routes into this valley meet here), but hot showers (bucket of warm water with a tap). Yey!
08/10/07 Khote to Tangnag
Such a difference to have a good night's sleep - don't think I moved for 10 hours. Gentle and beautiful walk following the river from Khote to Tangnag (4200m). From here the acclimatisation is gradual, after the shock of the Zatrwr La pass. Starting to feel like we're properly in the mountains. Really busy on the route now that the 3 paths have merged. Still haven't met anyone coming the other way who's made it to the top ... too much snow. Which is good for us. Hoping we'll arrive just in time. Apparently there are other skiers there (Japanese). Shame - we were hoping for first tracks! Went for a little acclimatisation walk to a lake above Tangnag - so beautiful, and Mera (we think) popped her head out of the clouds to say hello. Amazing - but scary. Still so far to go ...
09/10/07 Tangnag - acclimatisation day
Walked up a ridge behind Tangnag to acclimatise. Made it to 5000m - the highest I've ever been - before the route got too dodgy. Snow and loose boulders overlooking a certain death drop. Decided not to go any further ... Felt good on the walk, but the banging headache kicked in again on the way down. At least it's both of us feeling crap. But how the hell are we going to make it up Cho Oyu if 5000m feels like someones sticking a burning spike through your brain??? Couple of nurofen later and all's good. Such wimps ... not sure we're cut out for this suffering thing!!! Summit day is starting to feel closer - hoping for good weather. It's been pretty grim so far. Looking forward to it, but sort of dreading it at the same time. Can't actually imagine getting to the top and skiing off right now.
10/10/07 Tangnag to Khare
Arrived in Khare feeling good - no headache at 4900m show's we're acclimatising well. Weird day of suddenly turning into an emotional wreck (tired?) so take myself off by myself for a bit. Such a beautiful place (first time we've seen it in proper sun) and can't help but wish Oggie and Dad were still around to see it. Got all our ski and climbing kit out in the camp to check everything, and put the ipod on. Dancing around to cheesy tunes in the middle of nowhere in Nepal has got to make you smile. Plus love the clunk of climbing gear after 6 days of walking uphill and not seeing any snow. Wish we'd brought our rock shoes - there's a few people bouldering. Looks cool. So practised prussicking up a rope instead - seem to be attracting a crowd of people who are wondering what the hell the 2 crazy English girls are up to.
11/10/07 Khare to Mera La
Hiked up to the snowline with our skis and skinned up a couple of hundred ms in the whiteout. Awesome to be on skis again, although properly hard work at 5200m, and quite scary as we couldn't see what we were doing. Followed some ski tracks for a bit (the Japanese guys?) but decided to ski down after 150m ... crossing avalanche debris that had come from a cliff above, which we didn't like the look of, not being able to see it properly. Awesome to ski again though (Sia keeps calling it ski play - so funny). Decided to hike up the walking path and ski down a 2nd time. Properly hard work (struggling with altitude and tired) but really enjoyed putting some more turns in. Felt good when we got back to Khare.
We were supposed to go up to Base Camp today but decide to have a rest day in Khare as I woke up with a minging cough / cold - think it's fine, but a bit of blood is enough to worry us into staying put. Don't feel ill - so think it's just a bit of a chest infection from the day in the smoky tea house in Tuli Karka, plus working my lungs quite hard yesterday. Double dose the antibiotics and chill out at camp for the day. Nice to air our kit, sort our stuff out and wash my hair!! The cooks are so sweet and feed us garlic soup and ginger tea - seems to work, as feel really good by the evening. Sia persuades us to go straight up to high camp tomorrow - apparently it's at 5500m (not 5800m as it says on the map).
13/10/07 Khare to High Camp
So much for 5500m! Hiked up to Mera La (fine) and then just up and up and up ... to funnily enough, 5800m. Feels neverending with beating sun, and relentless glare - at one point think I'm going to pass out as the ground starts moving - remember to breathe and it stops! Arrive at high camp feeling like total shit. Both of us just sit in the tent for half an hour unable to do anything useful. Shovel nurofen for the headache and decide to take a diamox each. Feel better instantly and come back to life within a few minutes. Was worried we wouldn't be able to go any further, but loving the drugs! Watch a beautiful sunset overlooking all these peaks I've only read about ... Everest, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Makalu ... wow!
14/10/07 Summit day!
Managed to get a couple of hours sleep, and woke up at 2am to start the summit attempt. Emma feeling really sick, but I feel good. So far! Decide to go for it - it's only 600m to the summit. Make slow and cold progress for what seems like hours, until the dawn breaks and we can start to see where we're headed. Keep clenching cold hands and feet to keep the blood flowing. Manage to keep the plod going, ultraslow, but steady, so even though we were the last group to leave, we were 2nd on top. Thought I felt f*cked until I saw one of the guys from Exodus collapsing all over the place. A final steep (40 degrees?) section to the summit, and we're on top!
The ski down is a mixed bag. The very top section is the only steep bit, with a certain death drop on one side and massive bergshrund on the other. Pretty hairy start - but all good. Managed to link a few turns, realising quickly that what we thought was going to be a cruisy ski down was actually pretty tough. The top half of the ski is hard work, breathing wise (oh my god, you have to stop every 3/4 turns to get your breath back), but the snow was actually ok. Breakable crust, but it's hard enough to ride on top of most of the time. As we get lower down, our legs, lungs and skis are all over the place. Plus the snow just gets harder and the crevasses closer and closer. Decide to stop skiing (snowploughing?) at high camp, and walk down. Would be dumb to have got this far then end it by welting into a crevasse because we're just too tired to control our skis!
First girls? First Brits? Definitely first snowplough ... Who cares? Not exactly a powder run, but just soooo amazing to be skiing down looking over at Everest and Cho Oyu. WOW!
Finally get back to Khare about 12 hours after we started. Can honestly say I've never felt so tired from a day's exercise. We just collapse back at camp - too knackered to even eat. Unheard of!
15/10 to 17/10 - the long walk out.
Now that the summit's been reached, can't wait to get out and get back to 'civilisation'. 3 days seems like a long time to walk when all you want is a shower ... but finally make it back to Lukla, hot water, a proper bed, a glass of red wine, and time to reflect. What an amazing trip - and so lucky. If we'd have tried one day either side we wouldn't have summited because of the weather. Big smiles and hugs from our crew, and jump on a bumpy flight back to KTM.
18/10 - 19/10 - Kathmandu
So nice to be back in Kathmandu. Just chilling, shopping, and EATING!!! All this wandering around at 5000m is definitely good for shrinking. Bring on the chocolate cake in Helenas ... 2 more days then trek 2 starts - 3 weeks in the Everest region, including Pokalda, Gokyo Ri, Lob\uche East and Island peaks. Really looking forward to it, but think it will be a totally different experience as it's so much more 'on the beaten track'.