Not Climbing Mountains


On the 4th April we woke ready to begin the next part of our trek. Arriving at Deboche later I headed straight to our tent to rest. The skies had cleared as we arrived into camp and the others spent time photographing Mount Everest and its giant snow covered neighbours that were all now towering above us.

During the night I started suffering with stomach cramps and made several trips to the loo. By the morning I was feeling weak and unable to eat breakfast. My trips to the loo were frequent and Jeff suggested that André and I stay behind at Deboche so I could rest and recover. A sherpa stayed with us to carry our kit bags and tent. After repacking to have just one kit bag between us, I headed back to our tent to rest. As the day progressed I felt worse and not better. I was struggling to even drink water without having to rush to the loo straight after. I was determined that after a good night's sleep I could walk to Shomare, about half way to Dingboche. Then the following day we would still be able to catch up with the others at Chukhung.

After lying in the tent all day my back was aching and so I settled down to sleep propped up against the kit bag. I took a strong suppository painkiller and thankfully slept all night and woke up still determined to make it to Shomare. After only a few mouthfuls of porridge I was heading back to the loo. I knew that to climb higher my body would not only be working to recover from the appalling sickness and diahorrea I was experiencing, it would also have to work to acclimatise as we went above 4000 metres. As I walked back to the dining room I faced the reality of my situation. I knew the responsible decision was to walk back down the mountain and not go further up it.

Tenzing, our sherpa, came with us as we set off back the way we had come two days earlier. Our plan to reduce the weight for him to carry with only one kit bag now felt like a decision I would regret. I only had one change of underwear and my nighttime thermals in addition to the clothes I was wearing. We had planned to join the others and hence catch up with my kit bag after only a day. Now I faced at least another four days of wearing the same clothes that I'd been wearing for three days already.

After eight hours walking, André, Tenzing and I arrived back in Namche. Although I was glad to be going down and appreciating the increased oxygen in the air, I was struggling to accept that our Island Peak summit bid was over.

I was still weak and needed to rest for a day at Namche before we continued our walk back. We arrived in Lukla after another day of walking and a push to get back from Namche in one day so we could catch a flight to Kathmandu on the 10th. The sight of the archway welcoming us back into Lukla triggered my tears of relief. We had got back to where I could finally relax and the hard work was over, or so I thought. On the morning of the 10th, we woke to heavy rain and no sign of Tenzing or anyone in the tea lodge. We unbolted the door and set off to check in for our flight. We knew to get to the airport early and willed the weather would soon clear so that the planes would start flying. After hours of waiting, we were finally told that our pilot wouldn't fly due to the low cloud and we faced another uncertain wait the next day.

Leaving our tea lodge to check in on the 11th, we were more hopeful for a flight that day as the weather was looking clearer. We boarded our plane after several more hours waiting and within 30 minutes we touched down in Kathmandu.

On our first night in Phakding Jeff had briefed us about the problems we could encounter at altitude. He talked about HAPE, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, HACE, High Altitude Cerebral Edema as well as HASH, High Altitude Shit Happens. Sometimes, climbing mountains is about not climbing mountains.

C Berry

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