Banging out a mountain as significant as Everest requires a boat load of dedication, both mental and physical – the physical part is easy, the mental not so much. Moving on from one sniffing and coughing bout to the next is no fun but almost feels normal. The higher up the hill we go the worse the symptoms could become – you definitely don’t get better with altitude! Slowly gaining altitude is the only way this summit is going to be achieved and with the inherant dangers of the constantly flowing Khumbu icefall it made good sense to use Lobuche Peak as one of the rotations.
We had done our time at Lobuche basecamp. prepared as best we could and were nestled into high camp waiting for a 3am alarm call. In an ideal world we potentially had 8 available hours ahead of us for sleeping, however getting half that at 17,500 ft would be a good compromise. The forecast was pretty good and with the starry sky and zero wind this could be the perfect way to get back into the high altitude world. Two pancakes with honey and a coffee, chased down with a couple more pancakes and it was time to get geared up – this is a great precursor for Everest even if it was going to take us less than half the time. Everything at altitude sucks and takes an extended length of time.
Twenty five hundred vertical ahead of us would bring us to Lobuche’s east summit, about as high as the top of the Khumbu icefall The terrain looked more like the steep Lhotse face, another perfect reason to be playing on this peak. Within an hour we passed by the IMG upper basecamp and clipped into the dangling rope that indicated the start of some pretty steep terrain. The higher we went the steeper it became, often prompting the need to front point crampons into the ice and snow covered face. The weather was good to us; the cloud keeping temps comfortable, no wind and brief glimpses of some of the worlds highest peaks. This was a true mountain and in its own right a big achievement.
Some four plus hours and a vertical 3-4 meter icy pitch later we stood on the summit non the worse for wear. The vertical descent was already on my mind – maybe I had been convincing when practicing rapelling a couple days earlier. I certainly wasn’t excited about going down. The summit was a tiny piece of real estate, big enough for no more than ten people with safety slings meshing us to each other. Every so often a head would appear down below and we’d be stuck a bit longer – it was hard to pass on the super steep sections. Forty minutes later and with a settled heart rate our group of four were tackling the descent, occasionally using a rapel device but more often than not simply putting a small kink in the rope to slow momentum.
The next port of call was Everest base camp, located a short five hours away after passing through the small communities of Lobuche and Gorak Shep. Fourteen years was a long time but I cannot recall the amount of people on the trail to be anywhere close to the volumes out there today. The tea houses were rammed to the hilt, the puffing and panting of trekkers relentless and the patience of porters and yak herders amazing. Trying to earn a small pittance whilst continually waiting for the snail pace of the masses must have been beyond frustrating! Gorak Shep had grown leaps and bounds and being the final accommodation and eating stop on the road to base camp meant it was far from pretty – at least one of the teahouses looked like Soviet block accommodation, all were full of germ ridden trekkers, and windows were plastered in mountaineering company advertising stickers. The surrounding landscape however was stunning.
Everest base camp was a further ninety minutes away with the CTSS camp situated close to the foot of the Khumbu icefall another thirty minutes into this small climbing city. More on the CTSS/ TAG Nepal setup to follow…
Lobuche East Summit Acclimatization
Basecamp to High Camp – gain: 1,388 ft, altitude: 17,712 ft, hiking time: 1:21
High Camp to Summit return – gain: 2,100 ft, altitude: 20,075 ft, hiking time: 6:24
Summit to Basecamp – loss: 3,488 ft, altitude: 16,207 ft, hiking time: 3:00ish
April 3rd – May 23rd 2019
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