Finally. The day I had been waiting for since 2003 and moreover for 8 straight days of bitter cold. And guess what? I awoke for the first time on this trek not feeling "right". I noticed in my sleep that I could feel my heart racing. Not just beating fast but RACING. As I awoke, I tried to ignore it. I mean-finally I was going to get to EVEREST BASE CAMP! But, alas, I informed Srin, who said he would feel a similar heartbeat from simple things like picking up his shoes. The reason? Well, the thinner air means less oxygen. So it takes much more for our bodies to perform simple tasks since we are not exactly high altitude people. Think Texas.
After some deep breathing and a bit of rest, my heart rate was in control. So off we went. The in-between stop was a three hour away destination called Gorak Shep, where we would eat lunch and take off! Except, well...about 30 minutes until we reached, Srin beckons me from up ahead saying I had to speed up. It was paralyzingly cold, and it was time to admit: "Srin...I think I should take something for my heart." It was at this point that I think he realized I was behind for a serious reason. I mean-I am most definitely not a hypochondriac, and I have enormous pride in my health and ability to handle almost anything. You see-my chest had just tightened when I said this to him (about 25 minutes prior) and it was a feeling unlike anything I have ever imagined. I described it to him as if someone were grabbing my heart and squeezing as hard as he could. There was pain, but completely due to the tightening. I had no other aches (no headache, no musclular pain, nothing at all but this deathly pressure in my most loved organ), and Govinda said it was a common reaction to altitude. Before I could mark it as altitude sickness, I had a breakdown. I was positive that this could be a sign of a heart attack to come. At the age of 31. How could I naively pushed myself like that? So I buried into Srin's chest and laid on the tears, mumbling something about not wanting to die and wanting to talk to "mom and dad, Daxaben, Clint, Pritty, Bhikhu, Hemben, and the girls." He said I couldn't think like that. I was only a short climb from rest and that would help. Sounds dramatic to you? Well, you weren't there. It was terrifying and the very first time in my life I thought I was going to need medical attention. Sights of EBC vanished from my head. At one point, I thought this tightening must have been what Dad felt that day of Christmas break of 1998. I soon realized that the pain I had could not compare to what he must have felt, and that made me sympathize with him all over again.
We reached Gorak Shep, and after a couple of hours of hot lemon water, soup, and rest, I was back to normal. It is with intense regret and a monumental swallow of pride that I admit to you that I told Srin to go ahead without me as he had to leave soon after we stopped in order to make it in daylight. I could not choose EBC over a potential "incident". So I didn't make it. I actually did not make it. I waited 8 years for this moment, planned this trip on my own, and trekked for 8 days for this opportunity. Something I had never done before. And I didn't make it. Although I know my health is more important (hence the conservative decision), getting within 3 hours of THAT moment was painful. Having to admit it here is again painful. I am happy to report, though, that Srin did make it. WHOO HOO! And it was not easy. I will let him describe it to you.
Take it away Official EBC Trekker.
After 4 hours of trekking to Gorak Shep, I was already exhausted, but knew this was our only chance to step foot on EBC given our tight schedule. Govinda basically told me to put on any warm clothes I had (including gators we had bought in Kathmandu for snow/ice) and we would head out at 11:45am. It started snowing ~15 min. into the trek and it was already cloudy and cold (-12 C) = no chance to see Sagarmatha (i.e. Everest). The trek took us along a ridge overlooking Nuptse and Khumbste mountains. The trail was quite challenging with loose rocks covered in snow/ice, and up/down terrain. The snow and wind made visibilty difficult at times. But when it did clear up, the Khumbu Glacier was spectacular... the bluest ice formations I've ever seen, perhaps only rivaled by Fiji's brilliant blue water. I don't think the pics we took could do justice to it.
I thought we had finally arrived at EBC when I saw this sign etched into a rock (Go Blue!). Nope. Govinda told me that we still had another ~2 km to get to the real BC. The terrain is a potpurri of small and large rocks that when combined with snow and ice make it quite difficult to traverse. We finally got to the real BC, and I was struck at how uncomfortable it would be to set up camp on these rocks. Though, I'm sure the expedition camps are quite elaborate. After taking some pics, I asked Govinda if we could head down to the glacier to see the ice formatons more closely. He obliged and it was "real and spectaular". We took a bunch of pics of these sheets of ice. it was pretty incredicle to be on the glacier that gets its water from Everest. The best part of the trip was that we had the entire BC and the glacier to ourselves. Absolutely no human around... we were the only stupid ones to visit EBC in that afteroon.
The trek back wasn't too bad as the snow had stopped and the sun was actually starting to peak out from the clouds. We made it back to the lodge as it was getting dark. Overall, exhausting, but a fantastic afternoon in front of the tallest structure in the world. Govinda likes to say that EBC is where earth ends and heaven begins. Can't say I disagree with him.
Our daily stats:
Start Location: Lobouche
Time Started: 6:40 AM
Destination: Gorak Shep
Time Reached: 10:44 AM
Final Altitude: 5140m
Total Distance: 6km
Destination: Everest Base Camp
Time Started: 11:44 AM
Time Reached: 2:30 PM
Final Altitude: 5364m
Time Back to Gorak Shep: 5:45 PM
Total Distance: 6km each way
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Location:Gorak Shep, Nepal