Everest Home Home
DAY TEN Pangboche, 13,200 ft. to Khumjung, 12,300 ft.
I awake to the sound of the sherpa boys banging pots and pans as they
prepare breakfast. I sit up and the whole tent begins to spin. Everything
seems to be on its side. If I turn my head one way everything falls one
direction; I turn it the other way and everything falls in that direction.
A serious case of vertigo will not allow
you to stand up. It has something to do with your inner ear. Your equilibrium
is totally gone. Unless someone is there to support you, you'll fall over.
One of the horrible side effects produced by vertigo is nausea.
I've had vertigo twice in my life. The
first time I couldn't get out of bed for seven days, couldn't read, couldn't
watch television, and had to be assisted into the doctor's office. The
second time it bothered me for a little more than a couple of hours. I
lie back and wonder just how severe this is going to be, and if it IS
bad, how will I get down from the mountain?
I sit up again, very slowly. To my great
relief, the room doesn't move and I'm not nauseous. Maybe the sensation
I had experienced several minutes ago was a result of coming out of a
deep sleep and sitting up too fast at high altitude. I continue to move
very slowly, eat breakfast, and we hit the trail at about 8:00. So far,
so good. A little dizziness, but not enough to be of any serious concern
at this time. The trail today will take us to Khumjung at 12,300 ft. The
air will be richer and thicker as we go lower.
That's the good news. Here's the bad news.
Pangboche is on one mountain; Khumjung is on another. Short of flying
there, there's only one way this can be accomplished . . . by crossing
the Dudh Kosi River which is over 3,000 ft. below us.
So here's the picture. We will hike approximately
3,000 ft. down, cross the river, and then hike 2,000 ft. up to our camp
AH HA! Now I understand what Mike meant
when he said that this would be a "very" long day.
I find the way they constructed these
trails to be very interesting. Take a hill that is 16,000 to 18,000 ft.
high. We might refer to elevation of that nature in the U.S. as a mountain.
In the Himalayas it's just another hill. The slant of the hill could be
as much as 35 to 40 degrees, and the path as wide as four and five feet
in some areas, and as narrow as two feet in others. An oncoming yak train
forces one to scurry very quickly to find adequate high ground.
We start down. There are some places
where very steep, sharp steps have been cut . . . they are a challenge
to negotiate. I turn to look down into the valley and all of a sudden
everything starts spinning again. I stop immediately and grab the large
boulder nearest to me. This is truly a frightening situation. Any
misstep at all would be fatal. Not only would I fall 10,000 to 12,000 feet, but since
I am hiking alone no one would know where I was or what had happened.
At this point I have very few options,
none of which are appealing, but one must be acted on. I decide to proceed
very slowly using my hiking poles, placing one foot in front of the other
and looking at nothing but the ground immediately in front of me. When
I get to a particularly difficult area with steep, sharp, narrow steps,
making a turn and going straight down, I sit down and inch my way down
each step, one at a time, until I am able to stand up again.
Again, it is one foot in front of the
other looking only at the trail immediately in front of me and plodding
About 40 minutes later I come across
Mike, Tom, Joe, and Maureen who are taking a brief rest break. Sitting
down with them I debate whether or not to tell Mike about the mild case
of vertigo I am experiencing.
Once again I weigh the options. I have
done this entire trek on my own and want to continue to do so, but from
the standpoint of my own personal safety it certainly would be good judgement
to tell him. Secondly, because he is the leader and does have responsibility
for the entire group, and the lack of knowledge on his part that one member
of the group has an ailment which could potentially put the entire group
at risk, makes it advisable to discuss it with him.
Mike sincerely appreciates my telling
him that I am experiencing some vertigo and then proceeds
to offer me some medication which he claims will help. I wonder
for about a half a second how this medication will clash with the antibiotic
I had taken in the morning and then with a big gulp of water swallow it
down. We press on . . . Mike is now walking with me.
We finally reach the bottom, cross the
river, have lunch, and start out again. This time it is all uphill, and
remarkably I am feeling much better. All signs of vertigo seem to have
I can now look at the mountains, enjoy
the scenery, and feel much more comfortable except for the fact that,
once again, we are going uphill.
Granted, we are at a lower altitude and
the air is thicker and richer, and even though we're acclimatized, hiking
at 12,000 ft. is still no piece of cake.
Tom points out the top of the hill. I
see it. I wish I didn't. It's a long, long way away. Finally after what
seems like an eternity we crest the hill. There is a sherpa home that
has been converted into a teahouse (most teahouses along the trek are
also homes to sherpa families). Warm, hot milk tea never tasted so good.
Departing the teahouse we strike out for
camp. I am led to believe it is just around the corner. It just so happens
it is around several corners. I am aware of the vertigo returning so I
go back to my old routine, placing one foot in front of the other and
looking only at the trail immediately ahead of me. This serves me well
until we arrive in camp.
The food has finally gotten to me. The
breakfasts are okay, typically a bowl of cooked cereal, eggs, pancakes,
and coffee. But lunch and dinner are something else. Every meal starts
with a lentil or curry based soup followed by rice with some sort of a
lentil sauce, curried potatoes, and maybe some sort of a bean dish. It's
gotten so that I can't stand the smell of curry and eating has become
very challenging. Not to worry, the Camp 5 staff accommodates me by preparing
my meals separately, without curry.