Monday, October 24, 2011

Nepal 23

On our way back down the trail, we (being way more bad-ass than most hikers on the trail) asked if we could do a side-trip up and over one of the high passes. Our guide, exhausted by all his work not explaining things along the trail, was not thrilled, but eventually agreed to show us the way over the Kongma La pass.

The day started inauspiciously. We were not 100% certain our guide actually knew where he was going, and the first step of the day was walking across the Khumbu glacier. As you may or may not be able to tell from the picture above, the glacier here is mostly covered with rocks and scree. But the ice below is always shifting so the terrain is uneven and things that looked stable can slide into sinkholes at a moment's notice. The guide sort of seemed to know a path across, but he didn't seem to have any sense at all that there was any danger at all. Above, The Lovely Katherine and said guide cross a narrow path between a very deep sinkhole to the left, too steep for rocks to collect on the ice, with a pond of certainly extremely cold water at the bottom. To the right, less steep but certainly no fun to fall down. And as we were walking we could often hear and sometimes see small ice- and rockslides crashing into just such holes. So in this case, your correspondent stopped to watch the other two cross so that if it did fall at least one of us might not go with it and be able to mount a rescue. Impossible to detect from a picture is The Lovely Katherine telling the guide to hurry because it didn't seem very stable and the guide literally stopping, turning around, and asking her "What's that, do you want to go faster?" Anyway, we made it across unscathed, although we did witness a huge (perhaps fifty feet across?) slab of ice collapse on the opposite side of this sinkhole once we were safely resting on solid ground on the other side of the glacier. People do this walk all the time without (as far as we know) incident, so maybe we were just paranoid, but it did seem like we were rolling the dice a bit more than we bargained for on this one.

Once across, we climbed the Kongma La. This was a fair bit more strenuous than any of the standard days on the Everest Base Camp trail. Not surprisingly, it was also a lot more peaceful. We saw one other group of two coming over the pass the opposite direction, and other than that, saw nobody, which is a pretty good day in such a heavily touristed region. The pass at Kongma La is supposedly 10 meters lower than Kala Patthar (or exactly the same, depending on who you listen to). Your correspondent decided it couldn't be that hard to just scramble up the saddle another 10 meters. It was harder than he thought, but reliable estimates indicate he bested the more commonly climbed Kala Patthar summit by at least two to four inches.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As usual, I am always happy to hear about your extreme adventures after they are safely completed!