I met Mr T the day before we reached Everest Base Camp (EBC) at his teahouse in Thukla, some 4620m high. We were in Sherpa country and he gave me some advice.
“If you’re going to climb Kala Patthar, you get to see the roof of the world. You’re very lucky. The summit of Everest is only 6km away. Many people see it on the Internet or hear about it. You get to see it. Keep it in your memory and you’ll have it [the view] until you die.”
Admittedly, everyone that we met on the trek was going to EBC and/or Kala Patthar – the viewpoint for Everest, so I didn’t feel lucky. But you can’t argue with Mr T, especially when he offers you apple pie.
Tshering Sherpa – or Mr T – summitted Everest three times, with the last in 1996. That year was a year of the worst disasters on Mount Everest where 15 people died in that season. The May tragedy was documented in the book ‘Into Thin Air’ by journalist Jon Krakauer, then into a film. Eight climbers died and several others were stranded by a storm. It also ended Mr T’s climbing career.
“It was a bad dream,” he said. “I told my five children not to become a Sherpa. They now study in Kathmandu.”
The stove, which heated the room, was turning cold, so I hurried to my unheated box room. The sky was clear and full of stars. I didn’t have time to gaze, it was much to cold. With my numb fingers, I fumbled at the lock of my door, quickly put on my pj’s over my thermals and dived under my down sleeping bag and blanket. I was freezing, but my cheeks were burning.
It had taken us nearly seven hours to get to Thukla. We passed a group of memorials dedicated to lost climbers and Sherpas, including those who died in the 1996 disaster. It was a sobering thought that these people gave their lives trying to reach the highest point on earth.
On a happier note, we celebrated Phil’s 30th birthday with a chocolate cake, baked by our guides.
It was a dusty, but a gradual climb and we saw the treeline stop at 4000m. From now on, it was a moraine with bushy scrub. It was hard for me to get proper lungfuls of air and the steps became more difficult for me to climb. I was thankful for my trekking poles, which is supposed to save you 20% of your energy. I wasn’t sure if the altitude was zapping my energy, or the Diamox. All I knew was I was exhausted and I was loosing my appetite. I just needed to keep drinking.