Trekking in Nepal – Everest Trek Schedule 12

Sunday 5th November
It is my birthday today. I am 26 years old and certainly don’t feel any older. Paul and Peter gave me their best wishes, and I posed for a photo outside the lodge holding the ‘Happy Birthday’ sign.

Paul listened to the football last night when he was in bed. He said that United had lost 1-0 at Arsenal. Newcastle had defeated Liverpool 2-1 to go five points clear at the top, and Forest are the only British team left in Europe. It never ceases to amaze me that we are in the middle of nowhere, miles away from civilisation, and yet we are still able to tune in to the football results!

At breakfast Mike, from Chester, wished me a happy birthday. Before leaving we discovered that one of the sherpas at the lodge had helped Chris Bonnington on his attempt at Everest in 1973-74. Outside, you get a better idea of what Dragnag looks like. It is an attractive yersa with an unpretentious collection of stone sheds.

At 8.30 a.m. we made our way up the valley following the stream that ran along it. To begin with it was very cold. The lower reaches of the stream were frozen in places with prominent icicles. It was a pleasant route over the shallow saddle and across the valley flats, and the views were superb. When we got to the first ridge, because the sun had come out and I was sweating, I removed my thermal clothing.

The next stage, the ascent of a steep saddle to the top of the Cho La, was bloody hard work. It is probably the toughest stretch I have walked. However, it must be remembered that I was carrying a heavy rucksack, which was a real burden. At the foot of the saddle the path did not look too demanding, but walking up it was a different matter. The climb is via rounded rocky ledges, wide and twisting, and is very slippery in places due to loose rocks and boulders. We found it hard to stay on the track as we zigzagged to the top.

It was very tricky and I slipped twice but recovered my balance quickly on both occasions. Paul and Peter were great. They helped me carry some of my gear because I had a heavier rucksack. Paul carried my sleeping bag, and Peter, my water bottle and camera. Peter sat me down when I slipped the first time. He gave me some of his pancake and told me to rest until I had got my breath back. We stopped frequently on the climb, every twenty metres or so. My second slip had a demoralising effect on me because we seemed to be making little progress. Again, Peter was brilliant making sure I was OK before we continued. After half a Mars bar and a drink of water I was ready to conquer the blasted mountain.

We gradually edged our way to the top. It was with a mixture of euphoria and relief when we finally got there. The arduous climb had taken us three hours. It was about 1.30 p.m. when we finally set foot on the glacier. I celebrated by finishing off my Mars bar. I thanked Paul and Peter for all their help, and took my sleeping bag, camera and water bottle back again as I had recovered my strength. These items may not weigh much but they did make a difference.

At the foot of the glacier we had to negotiate a small climb between the rock and the glacier. Leaving the security of hard rock, we made our way up the snow staircase cautiously kicking our boots into the ice with each step. At the top (5420m) a new valley and new vistas opened up before us. All around lay a gleaming white sweep of snow, broken only by crevasses, lying dark and silent. The Cho La is a gentle and serene place. It was breathtaking and an opportunity to appreciate the lesser, often more beautiful mountains. The skies were a clear blue and it was like being in a winter wonderland.

After taking snapshots of us in various poses we trekked across the flat snowy plain. We kept to the southern side of the glacier following the footprints of other trekkers. The pass took about twenty minutes and was not as difficult as we had expected. On the other side of a small valley there was an impressive ice structure that resembled a frozen waterfall.

After a break we made our way down the path, across some large slabs and boulders. There was a steep drop so we kept close to the wall on our right-hand side. Going down was definitely easier than going up. It didn’t take us long to reach the crest of the moraine that points into the huge rock face we had descended. The remainder of the path to Dzonghla was relatively easy and involved walking through a gentle valley.

We arrived at Dzonghla just after 4 p.m. The walk had taken almost eight hours. It had been much longer and tougher than envisaged. Paul had gone ahead and booked us a bed in a dormitory. Dinner was very filling: vegetable soup and dal bhat with vegetables. The woman who ran the lodge and her daughter made us welcome.

Peter proclaimed that anyone who had given the Cho La a miss was a sissy, and after today I am inclined to agree! I was exhausted and it was no surprise that I was in bed by 7 p.m. But not before I had warmed myself by the fire in the dining area, and taken a photo of the sun going down over Ama Dablam. It has certainly been a birthday to remember.