Little did we know what this new day in the high Himalaya was going to bring us, when we were preparing to start a new trekking day. Strong morning light entering through the dining room windows was inviting us to take a seat in its warming embrace. Slowly chewing breakfast while contemplating, through the window, Ama Dablam’s snow covered south face sparkling in the sun, we managed to be almost on time for our daily early start 🙂
sunny breakfast with apple pancake and porridge
Today we were going to reach Lobuche village at 4940m, but until there we were going to have some ascending challenges to overcome. The first one was a short, but steep climb just behind the last stone fences of Dingboche village. Climbing to the top of a hill crowned with prayer flag stringed “Chortens”, the trail continued through alpine windswept meadows with scattered stone herders’ shacks. A huge bowl of a valley, sculpted by vanished glaciers, opened on one side of the trail. On its floor, distinguishing from the rock rubble, were the settlements of Pheriche village, home to the highest hospital on the way to Everest. Above this village soar, offering outstanding views, the rugged twin peaks of Taboche (6542m) and Cholatse (6440m). Looking back towards where we were coming from, the skyline was dominated by the perfect pyramid shape of Ama Dablam and the hanging glacier topping Kangtega’s snow saddle summit.
trail from Dingboche with Kangtega peak in the background
Taboche and Cholatse twin peaks above a herder’s shack
The pleasant and gentle climb through desolate, low grass plains eventually dropped to a glacial stream, draining its waters from the very bottom of Khumbu Glacier. Here the path meets the trail descending to Pheriche village, and rises up on the other side of the stream crossing, where a timely lunch spot awaits us in the small settlement of Dughla (Thukla), nestled at 4620m at the base of a steep, strenuous, 350m in relief climb, which was going to be the main challenge of the day. Even though we were blessed with a splendid spotless sky and bright sunshine, strong wind gusts deterred us from taking lunch on the terrace, preferring the shelter of the dining room.
view over Khumbu Valley before Dughla settlement
Looking up the slope we were about to climb, we could hardly distinguish the dot-size people on its top. The trail ascended relentlessly up the gravelly terminal moraine of Khumbu Glacier, to a small ridge on top. Trekkers, yaks, and porters were mixing together, climbing or descending, each in their own pace, faster or slower, resting to catch their breath, or pushing to ascend a bit further. Climbing stone steps in the thinner air above 4600m was sometimes demanding, however synchronizing our deep breathing with a slow, steady pace brought us to the top of the slope. Eventually, the countless stone steps mellowed into a gently ascending path, winding between boulders, and disappearing behind a portal of stone piles bound together by tangles of prayer flags fluttering noisily in the strong wind. We made it! 🙂
view from the top of the slope overlooking Ama Dablam
The trail opened into a small, desolate plateau, standing out like a high balcony above the valley opening directly below. Numerous stone “Chortens”, raised in loving memory of climbers and Sherpas who have perished on Everest throughout the years, cover this windswept area, standing at 4970m like a final warning of the seriousness of high altitude climbing to those heading higher up the valley. Most attention get the memorials of Babu Chiri Sherpa, the pride of Nepali guides, who had climbed Everest 10 times, holding the record for the fastest ascent in 16h 56min, and the one of Scott Fischer, an expedition leader who died in the 1996 Everest disaster. Leaning in silence against a boulder, among those stone reminders of lives lost, we contemplated the contrast between the fleetingness of human life and the timeless presence of the towering white peaks surrounding the area.
Scott Fischer’s memorial
in loving memory of those once lost…
Crossing the ridge between stone memorials, the snow-frosted peak of Pumori (7161m) began to soar into view, dominating the horizon. As the trail descended gently to a stream crossing, a strong scent of rhododendron bushes filled the air, bringing back to the memory of Buddhist ceremonies, and adding to the surreality of the astounding and, at the same time, serene mountainscape unfolding before us. Merging with the path from Cho La pass, the trail continued almost leveled, although laboring, ascending over loose moraine to the haven of lodges at Lobuche. At 4940m, Lobuche used to be a summer village for herders, but now serves as one of the last stops till Everest base camp. Directly above the settlements soars Lobuche Peak (6119m), usually used for acclimatization before climbing Everest, and Lobuche Glacier resembling a waterfall frozen in time.
porters trekking to Lobuche with Pumori in the distance
After the taxing climb to Lobuche, the warmth and tranquility of our lodge were inviting us to get some well-deserved rest. Despite de alluring comfortable beds, we decided to go out for a short acclimatization climb up the moraine slope east of the village, ascending 100m to a ridge covered with “Chortens” and offering our first view of Khumbu Glacier: a medley of gravel, ice, and water. Sitting among the “Chortens” we took in the breathtaking array of sky-scraping mountains soaring all around us.
view of Khumbu Glacier moraine
amazing views over Khumbu Glacier moraine from Lobuche
Evening brought us closer to the hot stove warming the dining room, where we enjoyed the pleasant company of an EBC camp manager, who shared with us stories from his experiences of climbing Everest: acclimatization routes, waiting times, training routines, ascending in thin air with and without oxygen, decision making at high altitude, and many more.
Before turning in for the night, we checked our achievements for the day: we ascended 600m in relief, while trekking 10km in 14089 steps, all above 4400m AMSL.
The plan for the following day included reaching one of our expedition’s main goals: Everest base camp 😉
our destination for tomorrow is just “around the corner” 😀
For more pictures, check our EBC day 7 photo album 🙂