It’s Day 10 of our trek to Everest Base Camp. After climbing Gokyo Ri yesterday we’re leaving this valley and heading from Gokyo to Thangnak. This means we’ll trek over and then down the lateral moraine of the Ngozbuma glacier, before finding our lodge at Thangnak. Its only a couple of miles.
There’s also a landmark event today. This is Manny – our youngest trekker at the tender age of 24 – he’s also our deepest sleeper and world champion snorer. As well as toting a huge camera and lenses he’s consistent in the fact that he’s last to arrive for breakfast each day.
Emotional pressures last night have created a miracle. It’s 0653 and Manny is at breakfast, look there’s proof!
And that’s because today we are only taking a short walk, but we have to climb up and over the lateral moraine of the Ngozumba Glacier and then walk across it. Then we’ll walk down the side of it for a while and head towards our lodge for the night at Thangnak – where we’ll start for the Cho La pass tomorrow.
Gokyo to Thangnak Logistics
If you’re interested in the details of how far we trekked each day and what the altitude gain is, here are those details.
Gokyo to Thangnak Distance
The distance between Gokyo and Thangnak is 2.3 miles or 3.7 kilometres.
Gokyo to Thangnak Altitude Gain
The altitude of Gokyo is 4790m, the altitude of Thangnak is 4700 m. We haven’t made much progress on altitude today!
Gokyo to Thangnak Time Trekking
It took us 2.5 hours to walk from Gokyo to Thangnak.
Gokyo to Thangnak Map
Spring Melt Means an Early Start
The problem is the spring melt. And the fact that as the day warms up and we head down the side of the glacier we’re in an area of high rockfall, or avalanche. Ramesh wants to get us past that point before it becomes too dangerous. Yes, he actually said “too dangerous”. While I focus on what that means, Manny is early.
Trekking at altitude carries risks. We insured ourselves through World Nomads – buying specific altitude coverage in case of altitude sickness. We were also able to renew our policy while out of our home country. Get a price for your travel and health insurance now.
Most of our boots have dried by the stove overnight and with thoughts of imminent rockfall in our minds we’re off pretty quickly.
Upwards of course. Always upwards.
Then, there’s a short tricky downward slope, where some just take to the snow rather than the clamber down the boulders,
a few nervous looks to the right as we hear the trickle of small stones and then we’re onto the glacier. Its not so pretty up close.
The lateral Moraine of Ngozumba Glacier
And it’s not flat by any stretch of the imagination, but before long we’re on the far side, and leaving 10 meters or so between each person, we string out and make our way both quickly and tentatively (yes you can do both together) along this more dangerous spot.
It’s never just flat, so there are a few ups and downs and then we’re walking alongside a small stream, most of it under ice – and it’s a short day. We’re there.
The tea house at Thangnak
Our home for the night is another eco lodge – where we sleep in rooms of two beds.
Where there are inside toilets.
A mirror that we all avoid. And a dining room heated by a yak poo stove.
How Tea Houses are Heated
We’ve been in the Sagarmartha National Park since just we trekked from Monjo to Namche and there are strict rules about the burning of wood. This whole area has suffered massive deforestation over the years and the burning of wood is not only forbidden, but there’s probably not enough to go around. Of course here, we’re now also above the tree line, and it doesn’t make sense to haul in wood to burn.
These stoves, that are never centered in the room, always slightly or most definitely off centre are stuffed full of dried yak poo. Usually they seem to be stuffed so full that there’s no air either in the stove or allowed in, so heating up takes a considerable while, then it burns fiercely for a short while and goes out. The boys can’t help themselves from wanting to help out and fix the situation.
Watching them being lit is fascinating. – there’s a check to see that they’re fully stuffed, then anywhere between a few dribbles and half a liter of what looks like petrol is poured in and a burning set of matches or rags is dropped in, until flames pour out of the hole at the top and then the lid is slammed down.
We all instinctively move towards it until the heat starts to spread out through the room. Even when the stove is going full steam most of us keep our red down jackets on. The red down jackets were provided by our trekking company, World Expeditions. Here’s the rest of the list of trek gear that we brought with us. You cool down pretty quickly here.
Treatment for Head Colds
The red jackets also serve another purpose. Some of us have a runny nose, some of us have a cough. Rod even has the worst cold in the world. It might even be man flu. So, when Dr Ramesh makes his evening rounds (he does morning and lunch time too) there’s the offer of a “steamy”. A washy water bowl of hot water gets an addition of eucalyptus oil or balm, then – keeping your eyes tight closed – you stick your head over it, pull the red jacket over your head and try and hold on breathing in through your nose (whatever part of it isn’t blocked) for five minutes.
It works. It also ensures that you heat up to lava like temperatures. And it adds another layer of sweat to your hair. But honestly, now who’s counting or looking.
Tomorrow is one of the big days of the trek. Tomorrow we attempt the Cho La pass.
The Cho La Pass
We’re now at 4790 meters, we’ll go up to 5420 and then head down to Dzongla for the night at 4830 meters. It’s not just the climb there’s a “rocky, icy – we might have to use ropes” conversation going on as well. If anyone says that they are in their comfort zone , I suspect there’s a few lies going on. But heck, this is what we signed up for.
Reading the promotional materials it doesn’t mention that of course. And when you read the details that tell you what altitude you’ll gain and how long the walks will be it doesn’t REALLY register. At all. When you read that the trek will be 6 hours and if you’ve never been to this altitude it’s not at all possible to consider how different it is to wandering around for 6 hours at sea level. Or even 2000 meters. At 4,000 metres plus its a completely different ball game.
So it’s with that in mind that we all head off to bed. It will be a long day tomorrow, the promotional materials say 6-7 hours. So on our recent experience we can add 25% to that. It’s going to be a long difficult day.