April 24, 2009
Gorkeshep, Nepal

Hike Day 10- Kala Pattar 5643meters

At 4:30 am I rolled out of my bunk bed and bundled up to hike 400 meters up to Kala Pattar (Black Rock). When I first got to Gorkeshep, an Aussie woman pointed to the steep hill behind the guesthouse and said, "I'm pretty sure that's it." I slowly made my way, one full in and out breath per step, up the hill, only to get to the top and find another... and then another. By this time, I could barely see the three people that started 15 minutes before me up ahead, and the group that began a half hour after me had passed on by. Clearly struggling in the high altitude, I crouched down in a ball to catch my breath and try to warm up a bit. The sun still hadn't completely risen; even with all my physical exertion, I couldn't quite warm up or feel my fingers. The other group's guide stopped by me and asked if I was ok or if I needed anything; maybe hot water or a cracker? I probably should've said yes, but for some reason I didn't. Instead I asked how far to the top, to which he replied maybe 45 minutes. What?! I thought this hike was only supposed to be an hour and a half "tops." At this point, I seriously wasn't sure if I could keep going, but deep down, I knew the problem was my mind and not my body. A few tears fell down my face when the guide said it was ok to go down if I needed. I let him know I could do it, I just needed to pull myself together. I did not come all of this way to quit. I stood up and took a deep breath as the sun finally rose over the mountain. Before taking off, the guide said in broken English, "Do you know story of the tortoise and the rabbit?" 

This made me smile – yes, I do.

"Slowly, slowly," he said, " just go slowly, slowly." 

He left me alone as I began my labored hiking. The last small portion I had to crawl on my hands and knees to carefully maneuver over big black rocks to get to the peak, covered in peace flags. I collapsed on a flat rock in front of Dave and Gary; they laughed and their guide handed me some cookies. Once I sat up and turned around, however, the two-plus hour vertical switchback hike was worth it. We were surrounded by stunning snow capped mountains, to the left we could see Everest Base Camp 200 meters below us. Beyond that, Mt. Everest looming behind. The world's highest peak just waiting to be conquered. I sat on the highest rock of Kala Pattar staring at the crystal clear sky contrasting with the illuminated mountains before heading back down. Thirty minutes later I sat in the guesthouse, numbed by my efforts, mustering up the courage to start finally heading down.

After some hot instant noodles, I packed up my belongings, making the decision to leave my heavy food behind. When I was in New Zealand, I made up this trekking concoction of Muesli, peanut butter, and jelly; I made three massive bags of this stuff before I left and had hardly touched it. I just couldn't get myself to consume it; I was revolted by it and would rather be hungry. My pack was so much lighter! I piled my clothes back on and headed toward Pheriche. Thank God it was mostly downhill. The majority of the trip I remembered, but Pheriche is down in a valley where I hadn't been yet. I walked along the river through the most fertile vegetation I've seen in a while. I hopped over rocks and mud and yak dung (which, when dried, they gather to use on the stoves to heat the restaurants) towards a little stone village where families were playing with the kids in the grass and an old woman was lifting stones to mend her "fence." I saw a couple of cute, fluffy baby Yaks, but when I went to take my camera out Papa starting inching closer, snorting and stomping. I stood for a while, trying not to make eye contact and figure out how to pass. Eventually, he turned around and I made a break for it. I met up with Dave and Gary and immediately passed out, exhausted. They woke me up for dinner and I figured today was the day to try Dahl Baht. This is basically like an Indian Thali--rice, curry, dahl (a thick lentil soup), and spicy pickled vegetables, but it's unlimited! I could barely move by the time I had finished and had never felt more satisfied. I slept like a rock. 

Total Snickers Bars consumed so far: 15