I slept a little better in Pheriche, knowing that we didn't have a day of hiking ahead of us the next day. Zev, however, did not.
The higher we got on the trail, the more trouble he was having sleeping, and when I woke in the morning feeling slightly more rested but still incredibly nauseous, he looked like he'd been hit by a bus.
We dragged ourselves into the common room like zombies, and had some breakfast - I managed half a piece of toast and some tea, and Zev scarfed down a set breakfast and hot lemon. Clearly his appetite wasn't suffering.
Over breakfast, we started chatting to the people at the table next to us, who we overheard speaking with some good old kiwi accents about summiting Everest. It turned out we were sitting next to three (soon four, and later five) of the Adventure Consultants climbing team who were attempting to summit in the next couple of weeks.
Adventure Consultants is a kiwi owned company started by Rob Hall, an well respected mountaineer who died on Everest during the 1996 climbing disaster. The terrible events of 10-11 May 1996 are well, if not consistently, documented, most famously in the book and film Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer; Left for Dead, by Beck Weathers; The Climb, by Anatoli Boukreev; and most recently, the blockbuster epic Everest. Ownership of the company has since passed to one of Rob Hall's mountaineer friends, another kiwi, Guy Cotter.
Kiwi connection aside, we loved picking the brains of the folks who were attempting to summit. They were down in Pheriche on what they called an 'oxygen holiday', having been up at base camp and above for nearly a month. They explained that they'd only been as far up as camp three so far (some of them only camp two), and that they wouldn't go to camp four at all until they were going for the summit. The push to the summit can take as long as seven days return - that's seven days with very little food or sleep, as you body tries to cope with the dwindling oxygen supply. Above camp four (7,950m), all the climbers would be breathing bottled oxygen.
One of the women in the group had joined the expedition last year, and made it as far as the south summit, but not all the way to the top. She explained that she was perfectly happy with that - she was here to climb Everest (and get home alive) - not to summit it. But everyone there agreed that they all hoped to make the top this year.
We were interested to hear that Guy Cotter was leading the expedition this year, and as we were chatting, he was still up the mountain getting things organised for the summit push.
Many days later, on 19th May, when we were back in Lukla, we saw on the Adventure Consultants instagram page that the entire AC expedition had summited Everest successfully, so that was pretty exciting! We were glad to hear they all made it safely.
Acclimatisation hike to Dingboche (4410m)
With breakfast done and dusted, we left the climbers in peace after answering our many questions, and headed on our acclimatisation hike to nearby Dingboche. Supposedly a 30 minute 1.9km walk over the hill, we thought we'd head up for a hot drink and a tasty treat at the bakery, then be back by lunchtime for a much needed relax.
We followed the trail out of town and up the hill. Already we were struggling. We both felt like our feet were made of lead, and the icy cold wind wasn't helping. At the top of the hill, it became difficult to discern exactly where the trail was, so we followed our noses. That backfired when we ended up going over a far steeper hill than we needed too.
We were both shattered. We were stopping every ten steps to catch our breath or sit down. As we reached the top of the hill and started climbing down into Dingboche, we started to feel a little better, but on the whole, we both felt like death.
Finally, we found the right trail again, and walked into Dingboche. We headed straight for the bakery, where I was still too nauseous to eat, but ordered a cup of tea (average), and Zev got a bag of stale homemade cookies and a juice (1000r/$10USD). We consumed our goods in miserable silence, dreading the thought of the return hike to Pheriche.
When we couldn't put it off any longer, we headed back to Pheriche. This time, we followed the correct path. While it was a little kinder, neither of us were feeling much better, so it didn't really make much difference.
As we reached the top of the hill again, it started to snow lightly, and the temperature dropped as the wind picked up. Zev was motoring, which I thought was a good sign - he must be feeling better if he's moving that fast. Soon, he informed me that he was not feeling better. Rather, he was hurrying back to the accommodation to use the toilet. I let him run ahead while I staggered down the hill.
For the rest of the afternoon, we relaxed in our room, grateful to be staying in a warm, dry lodge, while it alternated snow, hail and rain outside.
Zev divided his time between the room and the toilet, but wasn't experiencing any of the other symptoms I'd had, so I put it down to over exuberance at breakfast.
Eventually, we rejoined the common room for dinner. I was finally feeling less nauseous, so braved fries and a coke for dinner, while Zev's appetite was again unaffected by his questionable bowel movements, and he inhaled veg fried rice and apple pie.
We headed to bed early, again hoping that we'd be able to catch up on some of the sleep we'd been deprived of over the last few nights due to illness and altitude.
Lots of love,
S & Z
Distance: 3.8km return
Time: Around 45 minutes each way, moving VERY slowly
Elevation gain: 410m up to Dingboche, but returned to Pheriche to sleep