The final part of the Everest Series by Rohit Kumar.
Rohit accomplished the rare feat of climbing to the Everest Base Camp (5,364m) and Nagarjuna peak (5,100m). In this series of posts, Rohit describes his personal experiences of scaling one of the world’s most treacherous terrains.
The earth beneath my feet moved. I was going down and could not see any soil beneath my feet. It was white ice all around. I pressed my trekking shoes against the ice as hard as I could and managed to regain my balance. I took a moment to catch my breath and then went to the edge of the cliff to see what was going on.
I was standing on Khumbu icefall at Everest base camp (5364m). A thin moraine was ‘sprinkled’ on a massive tower of ice. The ice at the edge was melting slowly. Various trickles formed a small pond at the ice tower’s edge. Water rushed down like a rapid stream along the edge of the ice tower. I prayed that the ice tower would not start moving along the water stream, as I slowly made my way towards my friends.
Base camp was the place I had wanted to be for so long. But even before the feeling of achievement sunk in, I wanted to go back to our teahouse. The weather was getting cloudy and gloomy. I had stayed back to greet the Indian army group attempting the Everest summit (8848m) but couldn’t find them among the plethora of orange tents in front of me.
It was the 9th day of the trek. The Himalayas are often described as treacherous and dangerous. Yet their stupendous beauty and the unmatched challenge of the trek attract thousands of trekkers, nature lovers and artists every year to base camp.
Whenever we took a quiet break to relish the beauty or regain our energy, our guide Pasang would jump in – “Jam, Jam (“Let’s go” in Nepali). It’s flat ahead,” and smile. We discovered that the Nepali ‘flat’ meant a gradual up and down. My lungs and hamstrings would have done more work in one day than a year of climbing stairs in the office! Everyone was pushing their body and mind to the limit. Perhaps we got energy from the massively beautiful landscape all around us.
We crossed numerous suspension bridges on the trek route across the river; one day, we crossed seven of them! The bridges were like a roller coaster ride – swinging in the middle and undulating at the edges. Standing in the middle of one such bridge and staring at the amazing view of the river and the valley below, I was almost blown away by the blistering wind. Looking down at the numerous gorges on the way, we marveled at the spectacular drop.
We would start early each day and generally reach teahouses scheduled for the night stay, by 3pm. Lunch was often served early, sometimes at 10:30 am. Dal-Bhat was the preferred lunch as it gives instant energy to keep climbing. As Pasang often said ‘Dal-Bhat power, 24 hours, no shower!’
Out of a total of 13 days of the trek, we climbed up for 9 days and covered the same distance down in 4 days, running down like rapids of the Dudh Koshi river. On some days, the climb up was so steep that I saw members of a US national sports team, trekking along as part of another group, panting. Some people had rented horses, some others even fancied riding the ubiquitous yak train and many of us had our trekking poles out to our rescue. Getting through each day was like completing a new level of Pokemon!
A toilet with a flush, hot showers and oxygen become rarer as we climbed up. The thin atmosphere at these altitude affects a lot of people. The day we were preparing for our final climb, we heard that a Chinese lady, effected by AMS, never woke up from her sleep, a Nepalese cook at base camp passed away and two more people died at a Lukla airport landing accident. Despite all this, the breath-taking view of the clear skies at sunrise made one forget everything, including the aching limbs, sweaty body and sore feet.
The appeal of the landscape was like watching the Avatar movie live. Beautiful rocks with fifty shades of green were everywhere. Clouds would reveal some of them and hide others, playing hide and seek like a beautiful bride with a veil. Waterfalls appeared out of nowhere, doubling down the mystic scene. The live music of helicopters flying all around completed the charm.
Going down felt like a long needed massage for our legs, music for our lungs and gave wings to our hearts. Little did we know of the summersaults some of us would have going down, resulting in bloody noses and bruised knees. For the time being, I was gathering small rocks from base camp, as a present for my friends from this great adventure. Wouldn’t you like to have one?
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‘To travel, to experience and learn: that is to live.’