Photos and Words by Oliver Lee.
Our trip began with a whirlwind 72 hours in Paris and Dubai but quickly landed us in Kathmandu, with the welcome of a huge culture shock. After being landlocked with no oceans or mountains, our bodies yearned for a climb. Little did we know this would turn out to be the beginning stage of our spectacular scenic trek to Everest Base Camp. Go big or go home right? Or for us, go big THEN go home.
Our trek first began in Toronto, our home at the time, where we found ourselves with a five-week window of time before moving back to Vancouver to squeeze in a little, or not so little, adventure. It was a logistical nightmare as we decided to do the trek ourselves with a porter/guide instead of an organized tour like most sane people and planned everything two months prior to leaving. The traditional route to Everest was to enter Sagarmatha National Park via a quick 30min flight to Lukla – the world’s most dangerous airport, but instead, once again challenging the norm, we opted to take jeep ride into the Solukhumbu region followed by a three day trek to Lukla to help get us into shape and acclimatize.
What we imagined to be a pretty scenic drive through the mountains quickly turned into a death defying 18hr off road jeep ride into the clouds with a sheer drop off thousands of feet down on one side. Just to make things more interesting, my knee gave way after day two. It had seemed like we ascended only to descend and my poles turned into crutches. An obstacle that also affected our more ambitious plan to cross three high glacier passes on the way back (Kongma La, Cho La, Renjo La), but poor weather conditions, the bad knee and altitude sickness forced us to reconsider.
Altitude sickness was a major concern for us as we had a tight schedule to keep and couldn’t afford to lose too many days. The higher up we got, helicopter evacuations became more common and two days before reaching base camp, Keri came down with altitude sickness at 15,190ft. Loss of appetite, vomiting, and headaches that put migraines to shame will have you yelling mercy. The thought of not making it to base camp started creeping into my head. Who wants to be that guy to say they went on a trip to Everest Base Camp, but didn’t actually make it? Not me, but that was quickly becoming a reality. I came here with Keri to accomplish a goal… together.
I had decided that if she wasn’t able to go on, I would stay with her instead of leaving her behind. We descended back down to Dingboche (14,800ft) and her symptoms went away. The next day we attempted the same route only to get sick again at the exact same altitude. This time we descended further down to Periche (13,900ft) to pay a visit to the doctor at the Aid Post. As we approached the village, we noticed a Nepalese Army transport helicopter arriving.
It was only then that word spread about a tragic avalanche in the Khumbu icefall just above base camp. News at the time was nine sherpas were missing and the toll went up as the day went on. Periche was the base of operations for the recovery mission and helicopter after helicopter returned with victims of the tragedy. At the end of the day twelve bodies were recovered with four still lost on the mountain.
After being on Diamox for altitude sickness, Keri’s symptoms were a thing of the past, and so were my thoughts of not making it to base camp. We knew though the Diamox was buying her time, Keri’s time at high altitude was limited, as the doctors had concluded that 15,190ft could’ve well been her body’s physical limit.
As we were heading out to base camp from Gorak Shep, walking along the Khumbu glacier, we heard a creaking noise growing in volume. With the afternoon sun barreling down on the snow, cornices started giving way causing numerous avalanches on neighboring Lhotse, Nuptse and Pumori. With Keri’s sickness, we shortened our plans to get to Kala Pattar (18,500ft) as quickly as we could and descended immediately.
As we descended, it was hard to imagine that two months prior, we were living our simple life gearing up to move back to Vancouver with no thought of ever reaching Everest and now we’re standing at its feet. We had the adventure of a lifetime and can’t wait to see where life will take us next. Until then… Hello Vancouver!
Reblogged from Arc’Teryx’s The Bird.