Thursday, April 20, 2017

RC reporting in: Epic Day to Gokyo!

April 20, 2017

RC reporting in from Gokyo after what I can only call a pretty Epic day!

Let me back up first.  As you know I was finally able to get a small post out late last night and more importantly IM a bit with Judy and the kids.  I heard the good news about Anders at Camp One and this led to a great sleep for me!

Tsewang (pronounced Chewong) wanted to get going early today because he said it would be a long tough one.  I awoke at 5:30 and we were rolling right at 6:30 after a breakfast of fried eggs and potatoes.

The first mile or so was easy as we descended from Dzonglha to the base of the climb to Chhugyuma, more commonly know as Cho La pass.  The Cho La pass stands some 2,000 feet above Dzonglha.  After the first mile the trail pitched up appreciably.  We were travelling well together and passing groups who left earlier then us.

Then we came to the beginning of a full-on Class III rock scramble that ascended a pitch that varied between 30 and 50+ degrees.  This was all hands and feet scrambling.  At 16,000+ feet this was very demanding.  I felt comfortable and not intimidated but it was really, really tough from a physical point of view.  This pitch took over an hour and finally we emerged at a plateau where we could rest and eat some snacks.

We weren’t at the pass by any means however, and the next section required us to traverse a very steep mixed snow and rock side slope that paralleled a massive, beautiful glacier that stretched out on our right.  This section required intense concentration (well, at least for me), as it was slippery in places with quite a bit of exposure.  Crampons would not have been out of place here, though nobody used them.  Slow and careful did make it feel very controlled and safe.

This section lasted just 5-10 minutes and then we crossed the glacier proper.  This section of the glacier is quite flat so there were no crevasses apparent.  To our left and rising several thousand feet above us was the top of the glacier with several large overhanging chunks.  We moved quickly through this area—no sweat.

We had one last, challenging rock scramble up another 40+ degree pitch and soon enough we were standing on top of the pass.  It took us a good 3+ hours to cover just over 2 miles at this point.  After a few pictures—I’ll try to post one below.  We headed down the other side.  This was less steep but was a very long descent.  It took us several more hours to reach Dragnag (passing a herd of Himalayan wild deer on the way), on the East side of the mighty Ngozumba Glacier—a glacier that’s even larger than the Khumbu.

Here we stopped and had lunch (Macaroni and Cheese)—we were 6 hours in and had covered about 5.5 miles at this point.

We soon left and travelled north paralleling the glacier for a while and then began the demanding process of traversing the glacier.  The Ngozumba doesn’t look like a classic glacier, in fact a looks like a giant titling rock pile, with many hills on it—some reaching several hundred feet in the air.  Every now and then we’d come across a section where the ice was cleaved and a steady stream of rocks and ice were falling into giant glacial pools of emerald green water.

The clouds rolled in, very misty and visibility was reduced to less than a few hundred feet.  All around us we could here rock fall and the occasional creak and moan of the glacial river of ice.  The ground was very rocky here and once again this demanded a lot of concentration.  Tsewang warned me to be alert to rock fall and indeed every couple of minutes we could hear (and not always see) rock fall around us.  It was spooky but the rock fall danger seemed quite modest.

At this point I was pretty tired as we hit the nine-hour mark of our climb and we had one last obstacle—a very steep 10-minute climb up above the lateral moraine until we reached the plateau where Gokyo resides.  I felt very relieved to finally be here—this was one tough challenge today!

I found a room at the Fitzroy Inn, which is hands down the best place I’ve stayed at since the trek began.  I even have a hot shower in my room, which I used for a good 15 minutes.

I’m waiting for dinner and then an early bed as I write this.  Tsewang and I have decided to modify our plans going forward a bit.  Originally, we were going to climb a mountain here called Gokyo-Ri, which has some of the most fantastic views of Everest and the surrounding mountains.  However, we didn’t get here to almost four and there were no views to be had anyways.  Therefore, tomorrow we plan to get up early, climb Gokyo-Ri with very little weight, and return here to the lodge and gather up our stuff.  We’ll have lunch here and then head back across the glacier to Dranag.

This should be a much easier day than today.  Maybe 6 hours max and more downhill than uphill.  We plan to sleep in Dranag tomorrow night and then will get up early to cross back over Cho La pass—this time it should take just 6 hours (because we are starting at Dranag as opposed to Gokyo) or so to get back to Dzonglha, where depending on how we feel and the weather we can sleep there or push on a bit more to Loboche.  In either case, we would go for Everest Base Camp on the 23rd and we should complete our five-day trek mid day that day.

Stats for today: we covered 8.97 linear miles over the course of nine hours and 16 minutes (including 30 minutes for lunch).  We ascended just over 2,400 feet and descended 3,100 feet.

I’m a bit tired but feel very good about today.  It’s not like a major summit day at Aconcagua or Kilimanjaro, but I’d have to rate this is one of the most demanding and ultimately satisfying climbs of my life.  It certainly threw a wide variety of challenges our way!

Of course, throughout the day and certainly tonight my thoughts are with Anders up at Camp One—I can’t wait to hear of his status and safety.  And also of course of my family and friends back home.

This is an experience of a lifetime for sure but I’m beginning to think more and more about returning to the life I left back home some 21 days ago.

Onward and Upward.

Tsewang and i at the summit--18,000 feet or so:

Heading down (carefully!);

1 comment:

jlchristofferson74 said...

Awesome dad! We're looking forward to having you back home. Love you!