Stats: Dingboche (14,460′) to Lobuche (16,347′) . 5.9 miles. Lunch at Thukla. Overall elevation gain= 2320′. Net= 1,887′.
Once again, we are graced with bluebird skies as we trek uphill to a flat ridge. Mountains rise above us with snow-capped peaks in every compass direction. I turn in circles, filled with awe. We pass deserted stone crofts where trekkers stop to rest. The walking is easy in this section. For a bit.
Ahead there’s a hard slog up to the stupas that honor lost Everest expedition members. Mountainers such as world renown guide, Scott Fisher who died descending Everest in 1996 during a blizzard. Fisher refused to leave his weakened client and when his lead Sherpa radioed that a rescue was being mounted, Fisher threatened to throw himself off the precipice rather than endanger more lives. Eight people trapped in whiteout conditions were hammered by snow flying at 75 miles-an-hour. Temperatures plummeted and they died.
Too many climbers were on the mountain that day, slowing ascent. This is a frequent story and the main reason so many are dying at Everest. Too many permits. Too many people rushing to ascend. Delay’s eat up oxygen. This leads to many questions: What kind of drive makes such risks worthwhile? What do surviving parents, wives or husbands, and children feel about this? Climbing is an addiction of sorts.
In many relgions, the visual reminder of a stupa means inmortality. Prayer flags flap in the wind, gentle pleas for peace, rememberance and perhaps forgiveness. Here we are, standing on the rooftop of earth, not only experiencing the raw power of creation under our feet but feeling the spiritual creator in the surrounding air.
Leaving, we wind our way down to the river, where yaks stop to drink milky aquamarine water.
White boulders fill the lower plain, remmants of last monsoon’s flood. Now we climb back up and where the ridge levels, we stop for lunch at Thukla/Dughla. I sit drinking lemon-ginger tea and smile. The most difficult part of the day is behind us.
After lunch, we pass Lobuche base camp where orange tents dot the flood plain and a line of colorful trekkers dressed in rainbow colors cross to the start of the upward trail. It’s amazing to me that Everest is not the queen in the crown of technical mountaineering. There are many other peaks to conquor in this region that are more difficult. Our walk continues along the ridge line, with gentle elevation changes before we drop down to the small settlement of Lobuche. Tonight we’ll stay at Oxygen Altitude tea house. Appropriate name, since tonight we’ll sleep more than 3 miles above sea level.