Overcoming the odds, Sacred Lakes and Cho La Pass
23.12.2016 12 °C
? Wake up/6hrs Hiking/180m gain
Ariel had a bad night of food poisoning(?) and didn't get much sleep so we agreed to meet the team at Phortse-Tanga. It was a long exhausting day (especially for Ariel) with lots of stops. Kev was the champion by taking most of the load and making sure we were fed with chapati and peanut butter. As we walked, instead of huge teams of mules, yaks were now everywhere! Such cool looking animals. Big rocks were painted with Buddhist prayers and shrub and rocks now dominated the landscape of the long valley we were following. We went up, up up, then dropped down at the end where we found Richard at the only lodge. Soon after Dee and Erik showed up. Ariel wasn't the only one that was sick that day but luckily we all powered thru and the team was back together!
8am Wake up/3hrs Hiking/520m gain
We all felt much better the next morning however it was quickly evident that Dee and Erik were slower hikers so we left “Team Turtle” behind with plans to meet at our next destination. The trail was studded with rhodo's and we were greeted with more and more stunning views of the mountains. And then we had arrived in Dhole! It was a windy, exposed village and we enjoyed the rest of the sun with some other Sherpas and watched the local dogs try to play with the yaks. NO DICE. That evening it snowed and we huddled inside with our sleeping bags over us around the yak-dung fire as we played cards and ate soup.
8:30am Wake up/3.5hrs Hiking/210m gain
We treated ourselves to a bit of a sleep in and shared a plate of fried rice and got some stream laundry done before setting off around 10:45. Was another short walk as we needed to be careful not to go up too fast and get altitude sickness. We had already heard from other groups the horror stories of being flown down via helicopters and ruining whole treks just because people rushed or didn't pay attention to the warning signs of going up too high too fast.
The days trek was nice long winding paths along the tundra hills, passed hairy majestic yaks and little villages of mountain stone. The further we were getting the closer we were getting to the wall of snow-clad mountains. Kev had started to feel heaviness with the altitude but we were already at our village of Machermo. The lodge we had planned to meet at (recommended by the last village) was already full! But a relative of the locals walked us to his brothers lodge and we were happily accommodated. We played Yahtzee and cards over tea and soup. It snowed again and had long chats about each others' spirit animals and everything in between.
6:45am Wake up/7hrs Hiking/349m gain
Had a punctual brekky in order to get up to the Sacred Lakes. There are 6 Sacred Lakes and our sleeping quarters were after the 3rd one and we wondered how many we could see in 1 day. So as we set off in high spirits until Kevin's health became worse . We stayed a bit longer before leaving the lodge when he felt better and then took it slow. The altitude was getting thinner and tried to distract with the incredible views as we got higher. We passed a village that was destroyed by an avalanche in '95 and more yaks...and finally we could see the whole mountain range we had been walking along and the first of the Sacred Lakes!
The first was a small pond size, but a beautiful bright turquoise. Soon after was the second, bigger sacred lake which was surrounded by prayer flags and rock towers...had to build an inukshuk!
The last sacred lake was uber blue and the town of Gokyo was set up next to it.
The Turtles were well behind so Kev went to bed while Ariel and Richard went to see the next lake. It was a ways past Gokyo but surrounded by ice and small boulders. They turned around to arrive back at the lodge just in time for the end of the sun and joined the others and ate some Sherpa stew and pizza. Just a few card games before we were all keen for bed.
7am Wake up/4 & 3hrs Hiking/550m & 629m gain (max elevation 5340m)
We didn't have very good sleep dealing with the altitude but we were quiet keen to get up Gokyo Ri, or the veiw point next to the village. If the weather co-operated we would have some epic views...but first we had to get up there. Team Turtle decided to take their time to get to the next village so we started up with Richy.
Gokyo Ri was much more challenging than anticipated but it was definitely worth it. Not only could we see all of the Sacred Lakes we past but Everest, again!!! Got oodles of photos then headed down.
We had a small lunch then collected our bags to get to our next lodge of Tagnag. We had to cut the breaks short to make it past this ice/rock field before sunset. We could hear ice falling into pools around us and small rock slides as we went. It was a little daunting with some rock hopping but we finally made it to the other side and to the one village before the Cho La Mountain pass. The others had already befriended a small group of Czechs and a German who were all much more experienced in mountain climbing and it looked like we would all be taking the pass tomorrow.
7am wake up/8hrs Hiking/ Max elevation 5419m
HUGE day. Started off strong with sunshine and muesli and got some lunch pre-packed as going over the Cho La Pass would be the longest stint without any villages along the way. As we wound our way past fuzzy green boulders and little streams Kev started to feel worse... It looked like we might have to turn back and find lower altitude but with the help of Richard we lightened Kev's load and with lots of breaks kept going. The trail was highlighted by little rock piles and we continued through rockier terrain. Just before the rock face of the pass, we caught up with the Czech boys! They were happy to have us tag along and we huffed and puffed up the pass. Finally, finally at the top we had a rewarding view of more epic peaks of the Himalayas but also the daunting huge glacier we had to pass next. We also got a good view of the rest of our team who had caught up with the German! It was slightly terrifying to watch them pick their way across the glacier and wondered why we didn't get clamp-on's (spikes) for our shoes....but barely anyone else seemed to have them so tally-ho!
We finally got down to the ice field and one of the boys had a good map to find our way across. It was very unnerving walking across the ice and after what felt like ages we finally got across..to a boulder field.. ACK. These boulders were huge and not all sturdy to stand on so it was a good thing we bought our walking sticks.
We finally picked our way to flatter ground but then we were still WAY up and more boulder clumps in our way. We skirted along the side of the valley until we could slowly get down and back to a real path. By the time we could stop paying so much attention to where our feet went, we were in awe of the mountains we were now completely surrounded by. The scale was immense! By the time we hobbled into the lodge at Dzagnag we were not far behind the rest of the group. Apparently they had a tougher time getting through the boulder field and were close to calling a helicopter to get down! Luckily they found a way and we celebrated with big dinners.
Rest day for Kev
Woke up to the sound of Kevin nearly being sick on Erik...stomach was not made of steal unfortunately. We decide to take it easy and take the day off for Kevin to recover so we said bon voyage to our travel mates and hoped to catch up with them the next day. Spent the day sleeping, reading, splurged on a can of Pringles and playing cards.