Start: 17,500 ft Summit: 18,200 ft End: 16,100 ft Total Time: 7hrs
Today we begin our whirlwind speed descent down to the airport in Lukla to fly off of the mountain. What took us 7 days of climbing to reach (with a few rest days for acclimatization thrown in) will we do now in just 4 days. Each day of descent will cover what took us nearly two days to climb as we headed up towards Base Camp.
Today a small group of us will take a detour on the way back down to climb one of the smaller nearby summits. It is named Kala Pattar, and also known as Black Rock. It is a 1,300 ft steep climb up from the small town of Gorak Shep, which is affectionately known as the nearest place for 3G and internet coverage to Base Camp.
It’s hard to describe the difficulties of altitude. At Base Camp we had only about 50% of the oxygen we normally have at sea level and as we climbed Kala Pattar that amount continued to decrease. What this realistically means is that every task becomes challenging. Even after spending 4 nights at Everest Base Camp I would become winded just walking up a few steps to breakfast. Even the simplest tasks such as going to the bathroom or getting my sleeping bag ready to sleep became challenging. And as I got towards to the top of Kala Pattar, the air was thinning and I was feeling it. During the last hundred meters I had to stop every 20 or 30 steps for a 30 second break.
About 100 ft from the top someone coming down from the summit explained that it was freezing at the summit. He recommended stopping to completely bundle up now because the summit would be to windy to put any additional clothes on. Boy was he right. At the summit the wind was sustained at 40-50 mph whereas 30 ft below the sustained winds were 5-10 mph. I had to sit down or hold on to nearby rocks to avoid being blown over!
Finally, I reached the summit! As the feeling of accomplishment (and exhaustion) washed over me, I got a fellow climber and our guide to take a few pictures at the summit (like the one below). Then I scrambled back down to the warmth and safety of low winds below. It was an exhausting climb and I’m glad we had the acclimatization days at Everest Base Camp because it would have been an extreme challenge otherwise.
After a quick lunch in Gorak Shep (and posting a few blog entries of our time at Everest Base Camp) I spent the next 4 hours climbing back to our Base Camp in Lobuche to prepare for the rest of our descent.