Friday, September 9, 2016

An attempt at 3 passes - Day 7, "Excursion" to Gokyo Ri

I woke up at 6 am even though we were not going on a long hike today. Today's plan was to climb Gokyo Ri (aka Gokyo Peak) that stands at 5,357 m or 17,575 ft above sea level. The views of the entire Gokyo region and the Everest Range are simply amazing from the top. Gokyo lake is at 4750 m, this translates into a climb of 600 m/ 2000 ft to the top. As per the itinerary, the climb up and back down would take us about 3.5 hours.

We started at 8 am after our breakfast - my appetite hadn't returned to normal yet but I could manage to eat something. Today my pack had only an additional jacket and water and since we all had already been to similar height yesterday (Renjo La), it was expected that today's climb would be easier on the lungs.

AA was practically running, AD & I were moving slowly and our guide was with us two slow movers. Around 9 am we noticed a few folks coming back down - they had started at 6 am in order to get clearer skies and hence better views. One hour into the hike and I could see that we were only one third of the way up...which meant that climb up alone would take us 3 hours.

View of Gokyo Lake while climbing Gokyo Ri
 Since AA was doing well, we suggested that he go at his own pace and not wait for us. AD & I continued slowly - the previous day's altitude gain hadn't seem to have helped us. We were both struggling to breathe and hence were finding this climb quite tough. AA reached the peak around 10:30 am and while we could see the peak, we knew that it would take us another 30 minutes to get there. As he was waiting for us to catch up, weather started to turn bad and he decided to start back down - without any physical activity the cold feels much colder.

AD & I, finally reached the peak at 11 am. It had taken us 3 hours to get to the top - most of the folks take only 2 hours. Just goes on to show how much we were struggling with thin air. We were tired but jubilant at having finally made it to the top. The views at this height were simply amazing. We could see all the lakes in the region, the Ngozumpa glacier and the Everest Range. Ngozumpa glacier at 36 kilometres / 22 miles, is the longest glacier in the Himalayas. It lies below the sixth highest mountain in the world - Cho Oyu (8201 m).
View from the top

The sun, however, had gone behind the clouds and the wind chill was quite bad - forcing us to start back down just after 15 minutes at the top. The way down ofcourse felt much easier and we made it back to the Gokyo Lake (our lodge was next to the lake) in just over an hour.

View of the lake from our lodge

We wrapped up the so called excursion to Gokyo Ri with a cup of hot mango juice (yes, again!) - Though I still can't believe that the itinerary called it an excursion. Climbing 600m from Very High Altitude zone to Extremely High Altitude zone, cannot be called an excursion - at least not in my dictionary!

I was quite exhausted to have lunch. so I had some snacks instead and decided to get some rest while AD & AA continued to enjoy the view of the lake from the dining room. As I drifted off to sleep, I had only one question on my mind - can I really cross Cho La day after?

As I came back to the dining room around 4 pm, I posed this question to the group and our guide. Given my performance at Renjo La yesterday and today to Gokyo Ri, I felt that Cho La was something I will not be able to manage because it's a bit tougher than Renjo La. Of the three passes, Kongma La is the toughest and Renjo La is the easiest.

We had already decided to drop Kongma La as it requires higher level of fitness because there aren't stone steps like Renjo La and slopes are steeper. The question was now, whether we cross Cho La or not? AA & AD wanted to visit Everest Base Camp (EBC) and going via this pass would make sense. This route would mean going to Thagnak next day, crossing Cho La day after and reaching Dzongla, reaching Lobuche 3rd day and then Gorakshep & EBC.

But I had been to EBC already and I wasn't sure I could cross another high pass in my current state. After much discussion, it was proposed that we take a longer but easier route to EBC. This route meant going to Phortse next day, Dingboche day after and Lobuche on 3rd day. In terms of number of days the two routes were same, but this one meant skipping another pass from our list. Thankfully neither AD nor AA were too hung up on crossing Cho La. AD even said that she is quite happy with one pass, one peak and EBC - for someone to do this much on her first high altitude trek is more than enough.

Even though at this point I wasn't sure if I want to do EBC again, the group felt that if we lose some altitude and take additional rest, my body may get ready for the climb back to EBC. This was the key reason they both decided to join me in the descent to Phortse next day. I was so relieved at the thought of not crossing another pass that I ordered a big dinner and managed to eat well for the first time in 3 days!

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