The window for summiting was clear. For the past two days, the conditions were looking right and it seemed like we would accomplish our goal. The monsoon pushed the jet stream further north causing the skies to clear up. Our chance was now, a bit past the middle of May. We had already tried twice and failed. This time we would succeed. We will climb Kala Patthar and get a clear view of Mount Everest.
We set off early in the morning. The kitchen in our lodge was closed so we went without breakfast. We had prepared the evening before with Georgi and Dave and packed a picnic. They had been carrying around a can of VB beer, Dave’s favorite. We bought a can of Everest brew to match, stocked up on candy bars, and were set for the highest picnic of our lifetime.
The climb to the top of Kala Patthar is not that long. Its peak stands at 5550 meters (disputed, recent measurements put it at 100 meters higher) so we only had to climb 400 meters from Gorak Shep. However, the air was now quite thin, containing only half the oxygen it normally does at sea level. It was a tiring hike up the mountain.
The weather did not disappoint. The view of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and the numerous other peaks was legendary. We could also see Ama Dablam far off in the distance towering its distinctive peak. Pumori was right behind us. All around mountains. Huge mountains. The biggest mountains in the world. Magnificent.
What better place to picnic than this can one find anywhere? We cracked open a can of Everest beer, our first since arriving in Nepal. We celebrated our summit and our splendid view by cheering with Georgi and Dave and their coveted VB, and stuffed our faces full of chocolate. Granted, even though the Toblerone we bought turned out to be over a year past its expiration date and the nougat has mysteriously disappeared, it was a momentous occasion with a celebration to match.
Getting down the hill was a breeze. We got back to Gorak Shep, ate some proper food, and had a siesta. Afterwards, Weronika wanted to rest and I took off towards the Everest Base Camp.
The hike to the base camp was pretty straightforward. A little up and down and a few kilometers down the moraine and you find yourself in the middle of a tent city. It is a surreal place. Perched on the glacier, it looks like some sort of settlement on a different planet. The rocky ground is covered with colorful tents. Occasionally, a shard of ice or a patch of snow peaks out from the gray rocks and dirt. Yak dung dots the pathways. Off in the distance is the Khumbu ice fall, the first real obstacle to the adventurous souls who dare to climb Mount Everest and their hardy Sherpa guides and assistants. You are in an amphitheater of snowy peaks, perched on a platform of slowly flowing ice.
The amazing thing about this place is the organization required to set it up, keep it running, and then tear it down. Everything is brought in on the backs of sherpas and yaks. Food, mail, and other supplies are ferried in daily. Garbage and human waste is carried out in blue barrels. This pays quite well and certain sherpas literally make money by the crap load. As we were making it down the mountain, whole herds of yak were being brought in as the season for climbing was over and the whole Everest Base Camp needed to be dismantled and carried off the mountain.