30 October, 2016. Sunday
Phortse Guest House
Phortse Village, Khumbu Region. 3790m asl.
15:49, Tea house dining area.
And I thought I’d never make it to Phortse. Or even lunch.
The trek today was supposed to be fairly easy with bulk of the morning trek to Mong-La Pass on level ground. But with the altitude, Mong-La was at 3,975m, even a terrain as level as the plains of Negros Occidental can suck the life out of you.
It seemed perfect–snow-capped mountain views, level trail and fall colors. But it didn’t last long. After trekking for barely an hour the effects of altitude or the side effects of acetazolamide started creeping in.
At breakfast this morning, I had to force-feed myself with apple pancake just so my stomach and intestines could churn something other than acid and themselves. I downed half of the pancake, unsure if that would last me until lunchtime but confident that my Twix and Kitkat bars would nourish me if I ever felt hungry.
But throughout the morning trek, I did not feel hungry nor thirsty, just weak. So weak that I was just waiting for that moment I would slump on the trail then ask for a mule or a yak to take me to Phortse. Or back to Namche.
By mid-morning I was already angry with myself for doing this. I wouldn’t see Everest from base camp! I already saw Everest many times for the past 4 days! If anything, the most I could take home from this were gigabytes of photos I wouldn’t sort until about Christmas time and probably sore legs and thighs.
Multi-day hikes aren’t always dandy and exciting. It can be excruciating and, today, I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
One of EBC trail’s stone steps.
More of Khumjung-Phortse route’s fall colors. A couple more days and the landscape would turn into a desolate and lifeless one.
By the time we got to this part of the trail, at about 9am, my energy was depleted. I was so frustrated with myself that I couldn’t walk continuously for 10 minutes. Was my training not enough? I asked myself. Was I really this weak that my rest stops were longer than actual walking? My trekking buddy, Leo, was way ahead of me, he couldn’t even be seen in the photo. Jangbu, our guide, was just behind me, patiently waiting for me to start walking again and probably irritated by my grumbling.
Trail traffic rule number 1: Yield to yaks and Sherpas carrying loads. But even Sherpas have to yield to these beasts. And make sure to be on (and cling to) the mountain side of the trail because one nudge from these yaks can easily make you another climbing accident statistic.
I’m guessing this adorned yak is a female. Among Tibetans and Sherpas, a female yak is called ‘nak’; yak only refers to male but in English yak refers to both the male and female of the species.
After almost 3 hours of walking (3.90km) we finally reached Mong-La Pass (elev 3,975m) for lunch.
The settlement on the right side of the frame is Phortse, where we’d be spending the night. Its elevation is 3800m almost 200 meters lower than Mong-La Pass. The small village in Mong-La Pass can be seen in this photo as a white strip on the ridge, almost the same level as the trail on the left side of the frame.
Never loved dining out in the midday sun as much as I did while trekking in the Himalayas. And fearlessly without sunscreen.
Seeing Phortse across at what appears to be the same elevation as where we were wasn’t very encouraging. It only meant we would have to descend only to walk back up again.
I spot a yak! Cool shady trail before the assault to Phortse.
A segment of the Dudh Kosi River. This river, popping in and out of view while trekking the EBC trail, drains the Everest massif, exits the Sagarmatha National Park and flows to the west of Lukla before joining other rivers draining other parts of the Himalayas.
For a change it wasn’t a suspension bridge. After crossing this bridge, Jangbu told us it would only take us about 30-40 minutes to get to Phortse. Fat chance, I said to myself. With my pace, yes, it could take me 30-40 minutes. Plus one hour.
And I thought I couldn’t finish today’s trek!
I finished the trek but not the food. On a normal day after trekking or mapping, this soup, rice and scrambled eggs would be gone in less than 20 minutes. Tonight, about 45 minutes already passed and I only consumed half. Jangbu approached me shortly after I took this photo and told me, rather politely, that I shouldn’t order food I couldn’t finish. Then I was reminded they’re Buddhists so wasting food is somewhat taboo. All I could do was say sorry that I could not eat any more of my fried rice and literally drank my garlic soup from the bowl. I felt like a sh***y brat.