Nepal Trekking Days 12-14: Kala Patthar, Lobuche, Dengboche, Chhukhung

Day 12 was a long one: we started with a pre-breakfast trip up Kala Patthar, which as mentioned I don't believe is actually as nice as the view from Gokyo-Ri. That's not to say that it isn't stunning, of course! It was probably however the one time the weather really didn't cooperate for a major view point, and was quite over-cast (again, fortunately we didn't bother attempting the sunrise view, of which there was none). There was a periodic gap in the clouds however, so all was not completely lost.

Also, you may have heard by now, there is actually a 3G tower up the top.

After breakfast we actually made a second trip to base camp, because Susan had taken sick and had to turn back the day before, but really wanted to go. So, we made a quick return trip (no photos from the second time around!), had a hurried lunch back in Gorak Shep, and headed back down to Lobuche. The weather all this time was getting progressively worse, and from base camp onwards we were walking through worsening snow.

Unfortunately, this ultimately had the effect of changing our plans. From Lobuche we were supposed to cross the third pass in the three-passes trek, Kongma-La, but when we woke up to a heavy blanket of snow we realised that was going to be off. Kongma-La is apparently the only "pure tourist" pass, by which I mean it has amazing views but is not actually otherwise used as a transport route; the porters on this section go around the base. It is also more of a rock scramble than a track, which would have been fun but when combined with the prospect of snow and ice probably also a lot more dangerous.

So, instead we headed to Chhukhung the long way around; just outside Lobuche we walked through a field of monuments to people who had lost their lives on Everest... make sure you read the placard for Babu Chiri Sherpa! (He no longer holds the record for the fastest ascent though, which is now a ridiculous eight hours and ten minutes). Rather than push all the way to Chhukhung, we ended up having lunch at Dengboche and staying there for an extra rest (Susan was still recovering), and instead a few of us headed up into the hills behind for a beer in the clouds! The walk the next day through to Chhukhung was surprisingly fast, just over an hour, and in very pleasant weather. After an early lunch, we set off for the Island Peak base camp. Island Peak is a "trekking peak"; at 6189m it is no easy feat (and many still have to turn back due to the altitude), but is none-the-less accessible without having to be a trained mountaineer, although crampons are needed. The base-camp of course is just a collection of tents, so we headed up to the ridge off to the side to explore, where we unexpectedly ended up with a magnificent view all to ourselves! Directly on the other side, the ridge falls vertically down to a glacial lake with a dramatic mountain face on the other side. We spent probably an hour there, basking in the sun and view, and listening to the constant roar as the ice cracked in the sun and rocks broke loose to tumble down in to the lake, frequently causing mini avalanches.

Mark Hepburn 27 December 2010
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