Day Six: Dengboche
We spent a second day at Dengboche. How or why these villages came to be is baffling, but there appear to be numerous men tilling frost and rock, and women weaving jerseys so that they can do so. There are also a good number of small children running about - I can only assume a by-product of the cold management and heavy breathing exercises that are required for living at such altitude.
One the second day at Dengboche we tabbed up to 5,000m, a peak above the small village. It was misting in, but we bimbled up in the manner of people not entirely sure why or where we were going. We sat at the top for a bit of acclimatising and then marched back down. With more purpose this time, as I had started whistling the Angolan National Anthem, and so was acutely aware that HACE was probably setting in.
Day Seven: Loboche
After a pretty poor nights sleep, We set off for Loboche. We would leave “Los Yankees” behind at Thukla. We will meet up with them next at Base Camp. Kirstie, understandably, is taking the trek slower with the uneven ground not easy on her prosthetic. (Although truth be told, she goes at a pace no different to ours!)
On the way there we passed the Everest memorial. We stopped and took our packs off. No one spoke.
Suddenly, the seriousness of what we are attempting hit us all. The laughter and chatter from 15 minutes ago seem incongruous as we take in our surroundings. Across the pass to Loboche, underneath squawking crows fighting the wind, we are surrounded by hundreds of cairns dedicated to the climbers and Sherpas who have died in their attempt to summit these magnificent mountains.
The mountains Nuptse, Lhotse, Taboche, Loboche and Tolatse, stare down on the scattered cairns, like forbidding parents overlooking tiny children – children who have fallen trying desperately to gain the respect of their mountain mothers.
We wander around the cairns, reading the names of all the men and women seduced by these towering pillars of rock and ice. Some are famous – Rob Hall, the subject of Krakhauers harrowing account of modern commercial Everest, “Into Thin Air”. Most, however, are unknown. On many of the memorials, the stone is too weathered to see the names.
On one I read a poem:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
This was in remembrance to a climber called Peter Ganner. It feels appropriate that his name is mentioned. He died in the arms of his sherpa.
It is apparent that this memorial not only honours the climbers but more importantly, pays respect to the great sacrifices of their families and loved ones that they left behind, the real victims of this maddening obsession with rock and ice.
We may desire with all our heart to summit this mother of all mountains. It may satisfy our egos and our lust for adventure. But we have only one real objective to strive for. One objective that is the sole purpose of all the previous climbs, the training and the planning – to come home.