May 15, 2013: Active Day 10, Dingboche to Lobuche

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Epic Valley Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

Epic Valley
Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

Before tackling the enormous valley on the way to Lobuche Mike and I once again warmed up with some of our favorite P90X yoga moves. The others showed us some other good stretches on the flagstone patio outside. First stop was a cluster of yak herder shacks, almost completely made from stone, and utterly picturesque. We shared some gummy candy and posed for the photo op.
Posing with a mouthful of gummy candy.

Posing with a mouthful of gummy candy.

Classic pose and classic buff. It just needs to be shared. Photo credit: Amanda Tutton

Classic pose and classic buff. It just needs to be shared.
Photo credit: Amanda Tutton

To pass time on the way up, DK tried to teach us a guessing game similar to 20 questions. Someone would think of a celebrity. We had to first stump the person with a question of our own before we were permitted to ask a question that would help us guess who they were thinking of. The altitude made it damn near impossible for me to play. It was just plain hard to concentrate. Still, I doubted I would have been any good at it even at lower elevations. It had been three years since I had any regular contact with TV or US magazine, more than enough time for the mainstream to turn over. Still, it was fun listening to the others guess.
Meanwhile, trekkers in the US are trimming the corners off their maps... Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

Meanwhile, trekkers in the US are trimming the corners off their maps.
Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

One the trail to Lobuche. Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

On the trail to Lobuche.
Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

The landscape transformed to little more than sand and rocks. We crossed a suspension bridge that crossed over ice melt from the Khumbu glacier and walked up to Thukla for lunch. It was the first and only place I can remember being crowded. We had more tea and some soup to keep hydrated. DK told a funny story about the outhouse on the nearby hillside. Imagine a long-drop toilet with a big stalagmite of poop that had frozen up to a point at the top where you tried to squat. ("Poop is funny!" -Ele) This was where the facilities on the trek became mildly reminiscent of what Jon Krakauer described in Into Thin Air, though much improved from what he endured seventeen years earlier:
Late in the day we reached a village called Lobuje, and there sought refuge from the wind in a cramped, spectacularly filthy lodge. The three or four stone toilets in the village were literally overflowing with excrement. The latrines were so abhorrent that most people, Nepalese and Westerners alike, evacuated their bowels outside on the open ground, wherever the urge struck. Huge stinking piles of human feces lay everywhere; it was impossible not to walk in it. The river of snowmelt meandering through the center of the settlement was an open sewer. The main room of the lodge where we stayed was furnished with wooden bunk platforms for some thirty people. I found an unoccupied bunk on the upper level, shook as many fleas and lice as possible from the soiled mattress, and spread out my sleeping bag. Against the near wall was a small iron stove that supplied heat by burning dried yak dung. After sunset the temperature dropped to well below freezing, and porters flocked in from the cruel night to warm themselves around the stove. Because dung burns poorly under the best of circumstances, and especially so in the oxygen-depleted air of 16,200 feet, the lodge filled with dense, acrid smoke, as if the exhaust from a diesel bus were being piped directly into the room. Twice during the night, coughing uncontrollably, I had to flee outside for air. By night my eyes were burning and bloodshot, my nostrils clogged with black soot, and I'd developed a dry, persistent hack that would stay with me until the end of the expedition. Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
Further up the hill we reached a site of memorials for climbers who were killed on Everest.
Twenty stone monuments stood in a somber row along the crest of the glacier's terminal moraine, overlooking the mist-filled valley: memorials to climbers who had died on Everest, most of them Sherpa. Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
I walked around and didn't recognize any names, other than Scott Fisher.
Scott Fischer Memorial

Scott Fischer Memorial
Seventeen years and five days after the tragedy.

Everest Memorials Photo credit: Michael Allen

Everest Memorials
Photo credit: Michael Allen

Everest Memorials Photo credit: Amanda Tutton

Everest Memorials
Photo credit: Amanda Tutton

Rocky Trail Photo credit: Kevin Cordova

Rocky Trail
Photo credit: Kevin Cordova

More Rocky Trail

More Rocky Trail

Walking into Lobuche Photo credit: Kevin Cordova

Walking into Lobuche
Photo credit: Kevin Cordova

More accurately, Hotel Stink Photo credit: Kevin Cordova

Hotel Stink XV
Photo credit: Kevin Cordova

On reaching Lobuche (16,210 ft. / 4,920 m) we walked into what would be our home for the night. Gah!! It was like hitting a wall. The oxygen at this altitude was around 50%. The other 50% of the air in that building was kerosene fumes. I immediately began trying to breathe through my sleeve. "Is it me?" asked Stacy. Normally I would have laughed at a comment like this, but when I turned my head she looked as unwell as I was starting to feel so I assured her I was only trying to filter the fumes. I knew I wouldn't want much to eat in this place so when the menu got passed around I asked for tomato soup for dinner. Sudip in his parent role told me that wasn't good enough. "I'm not carrying you to base camp," he said. "Add some toast." "Okay, tomato soup AND some toast." As soon as we were settled in our rooms I made a beeline for the front door and started walking through the village with no particular destination in mind. My only goal was clean air. I walked until the fumes cleared and then looked around. There wasn't much up there. I saw a creek and thought that would be as good a place as any to pass some time and walked down closer to have a look. Sudip was above me on the hillside and caught my attention to ask what I was doing. Still in the parent role, I see. I walked up to him and said I was just seeking fresh air. He told me that kerosene is the only fuel available most of the time, even in Kathmandu. "I totally get that, and I'm grateful to have it to cook our food and boil our water. I've just been doing well so far, and am afraid the fumes will give me a headache," I said. "I want to avoid breathing them for as long as possible."
View above Lobuche Photo credit: Amanda Tutton

View above Lobuche
Photo credit: Amanda Tutton

We talked for a while.  I always enjoy one-on-one time with people, because that's when I'm better able to get to know them. He pointed up a nearby hill where we could see Amanda and DK climbing for a better view of a nearby glacier. Wow, they're keen. He also taught me the names of some of the surrounding peaks. "That one's Lhotse?" I repeated, pointing at one in front of us. "Nuptse," he corrected me. He pointed up the Khumbu Valley past Everest Base Camp at mountains that were actually in Tibet. THAT was cool. I could almost feel my eyes sparkle when I looked at them. I'd love to visit Tibet someday, and it was a good feeling to be so close in the moment. I told him he was very lucky to do what he did, because everyone in the trekking community seemed so close. He said true, but it wasn't like that in Kathmandu. I said it was like that in the States too. When I lived in the city I never knew my neighbors. It took moving to a smaller town to get some sense of community. He told me of his plans to summit this mountain and then that mountain before finally tackling Everest. It seemed he had his life all mapped out, for the next five years anyway. "Ah, so you're going to go for it then? It must be tempting after so many visits to base camp." He said yes, but when it was done he was going to retire. "No more trekking," he said. No more trekking?!? I didn't believe him. I thought if it's in your blood, it's there to stay. At the time I didn't know about the 80 year old man about to summit, he would be a perfect example. So I asked, "Really? No more trekking? Well, then what? Settle down and raise a family?" "Yes!" he said, smiling. "Good plan." This man would make a great dad. Hopefully he's not so "done" with trekking that he doesn't teach his kids to love the mountains. I was getting cold and had to use the bathroom, so I said I'd see him at dinner and resigned myself to the kerosene. Besides the smelly common room downstairs, there was another sitting room upstairs along with the community sink and toilets. Why anyone would put these two facilities in the same place was beyond me. Hey everybody! Listen to me pee! Watch me wash my face! Ooops, I farted, did y'all catch that while you were playing cards? Still, the air was cleaner up there and we asked if we could please eat dinner upstairs. They agreed and we played cards while we waited. First Rummy, then Gin Rummy, or was it the other way around? Just before the food arrived, I instantly won a round of whatever it was with an epic hand. "Lucky at cards, unlucky in love," Dovile said. I laughed and said, "That explains why I'm so good at cards!" It really wasn't true, I tend to be mediocre at both. You know, win some, lose some, and there's always another hand to play. As they say in Nepal, "two legs, many shoes." The thin tomato soup arrived and I was glad to see the toast. "You were right!" I told Sudip, who had an of course I'm right air about him, but said nothing. Stacy and Kevin were down for the count and chose sleep over food. The rest of us traded remedies for headaches. I taught them the basics of EFT and had them tapping away in the darkening room. Ele taught us an energy healing technique she said was supposed to help us sleep. We put the tips of our fingers together and pressed down. The minute I did this I felt the energy swirl around my body as if in a big vortex. "Woah, I felt that! Thanks!" I exclaimed. We listened to some music on DK's phone for a while, then one by one, trickled off to bed.

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