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Trip Information

Sunset from Gokyo Ri
Sunset from Gokyo Ri (19)
Trip Date:2003-03-01 - 2003-03-09
# Photos:10 [View]
Countries visited:Nepal
Oglądane: 6882
The sun had already been up for an hour when I got up and wandered down to the dining room for breakfast. I was a little jaded by the climb up Gokyo Ri the night before but inspired by the stupendous and unforgettable sunset I had witnessed.

I wondered where Ally was. Perhaps he had climbed Gokyo Ri for dawn and I might not see him for a while. The morning was so beautiful, not a cloud in the sky nor a breath of wind. So I collected up some supplies and set off in the strong and warming altitude sun for a walk along the glacier.

I followed the incessant up-and-down humps of the glacial moraine, across alternating bands of rock and snow. The snow was frozen firm by the freezing temperatures overnight and was easy to walk on. I noticed that no-one had been along this way for a fair amount of time. I had heard that there had been a big snowfall about three weeks previously, the snow I was walking on was the remnants of that and there were no footprints whatsoever.

The side of the glacial moraine became much steeper and higher, a couple of hundred feet in places. So I decided to stop and try and take a self-protrait. I set up my camera on its mini tripod and balanced it on a rock. I triggered the ten-second timer and sprinted as fast as the thin air would allow, jumped onto the icy rocks and sat down hard with the glacier 100 ft below my dangling feet. I attempted to look calm and not gasp whilst my heart threatened to jump out of my chest!

As I marched, breathlessly, up towards the high peaks that formed the 8000m rock and ice wall ahead of me the confluence of four glaciers that forms the beginning of the longest glacier in Nepal, the Ngozumpa, started to become visible. The green and dirty white ice of the tumbling seracs on the face of Gyachung Kang that forms one part of the confluence is something to behold, it is not done even the slightest bit of justice by my photos. And mighty Cho Oyu (8201m), its bulk so hard-to-believe being so hugely foreshortened.

The views became more and more astounding. Towering pinnacles of rock and ice all around only interrupted by the regular creak of the downhill slide of the glacier. To my left Everest's huge dark summit pyramid slowly appeared between the jagged intervening peaks. It's famous features were obvious; the first, second and third step; the yellow band; the South Summit, all classics of mountaineering literature. But up to my left I could see the Nameless Fangs and I knew time was limited so I headed towards them.

I dropped down off the moraine and headed up the snow slopes towards the rocky summit now only 7-800m above me. The sun was strong and it was beginning to melt the surface of the snow and I started to break through the crust. It was also beginning to cloud over as it always does during the early afternoons in March. I ate half a Mars Bar, a much needed energy boost and headed uphill.

Soon I had to traverse a perfectly flat snow field lightly sculpted by the wind until it looked like the crust of a meringue. The suns rays bounced mercilessly off the gleaming white surface burning the under side of my nose. My feet plunged in a little after every step only adding to the panting effort. I meandered across the crisp snow between patches of rock trying to find an easy way. All of a sudden I trod on an iron hard patch of snow on a long slope and immediately my feet are whisked from under me and I crash to the ground. Rueing the fact that I left my ice axe in the lodge in Gokyo and quickly calculating how I should self-arrest with a walking pole I came to a sudden stop. Feeling lucky I picked myself up and resolved to be more careful.

After much toiling uphill and another half Mars Bar (you wouldn't believe how fast your metabolism burns calories at altitude) I finally left the snow and replaced it with boulders and sloping broken rock some of it coated with verglas. It steepened even more and I scrambled up the rocky mountain side feeling the altitude now with characteristic lethargy and listlessness. I had no more chocolate or water so I willed myself on.

Finally as I reached the crest, the rest of the rocky peak showed itself, curling upwards to steep pinnacles along a slender ridge. The rock was very colourful. Sedimentary rock made up of red and orange shales, paler sandstones all sandwiched between layers of a much darker stone.

But what was an even more stupendous feast for the eyes were the four or five magnificent rock ridges with strings of 5000 and 6000m peaks stretching for miles as far as the eye could see. This really was a surprise as all the time you spend trekking in the valley you can only see the nearest ridge line as the peaks are so massive and steep. But now as I clambered over the rocky slope to reveal what was behind, many new rows of spiky teeth appear as if to impress the scale of the mighty Himalaya into my mind, and reinforce the feeling of insignificance.

Sitting on top of this little, rocky, dwarfed peak I felt a very long way away from civilisation. The slog up to this humbling viewing point now seemed like an impossible distance back, especially with an empty stomach and tired legs. Definitely time to go.

I went straight downhill across the boulders being ultra careful not to slip on the thin layer of ice that covered some of them. Soon I reached the snow fields and now being much softer, I post-holed with every step. It was now clear I was in for a difficult walk back to the lodge.

I meandered up and down the slopes on the moraine looking for a pathway that was devoid of snow, to ease the journey back home. But it was no use, as I crossed from boulder field to boulder field I had to wade through 1 1/2 metre deep snow up to my thighs, sometimes my stomach and occasionally drifts up to my neck. It was very exhausting, especially low on calories at 5000m.

Praying I would find a better path down in the valley away from the glaciers edge, I moved away from the route I took on the way up but all I found was more difficult waist deep snow. After several hours of this I was beginning to feel quite tired!!

Now beginning to doubt I would have the energy to make it back before nightfall I looked around for a bivvy site mindful of the fact that I had neither a stove nor a down jacket or a sleeping bag. Not my idea of fun sleeping out in the open at that altitude but without a headtorch it might be my only option. Here and there I did see possible shelter but I knew I must go on. Cursing the snow and praying that the next step would hold firm I struggled on through each energy sapping plunge.

Dusk was falling and I headed up towards the glacier once again so that I could navigate more easily by its edge as the light faded. I wasn't sure what was worse, the deep snow of the valley or the steep, relentless underlations of the moraine. Both sapped my energy brutally.

Miraculously after what seemed like decades, I glanced down the steep slopes to my right and gradually I could make out a small track and as I followed it along, my eyes were finally greeted with Gokyo village! Never have I seen a more welcome sight in all my life!

Sure in the knowledge that I would make it back just before it was too dark to see I was rewarded with a burst of energy which my body had held back in reserve. With renewed vigour I quickened my pace down hill towards sustenance, liquid and warmth.

At last I burst through the door into the lodge only to cause a couple of trekkers digging into noodle soup to cough and splutter. Unaware as they were of my day out they looked at me with incredulity as I devoured three Snickers bars in quick succession whilst standing in the doorway covered in snow.

Feeling renewed, tired but elated I eat a hearty dinner and go to bed.

All in a days work really!!


You may notice that there aren't any photos from the return leg of this did not have the energy nor inclination to take any photos, so busy was I saving my skin!