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It was a High Khumbu
High Khumbu and Island Peak (Imja Tse), Dec 2000
What happened? Lukla used to be one of the scariest landings on the planet, now they have fixed and reshaped the runway. Addicts Joel and Jamie escaped Namche without buying the gear shop, only by promising to do so on returning. Instead we found Chinese Budweiser, which is just as pissy as its American cousin, but luckily the company wasn't. Ken (sutherrnn yaannk) and Ivan (canuk) duelled and duetted. And we suffered Martin's 'chang-Stoke' breathing.
Seven. And then there we six. It was a trip of firsts for us too. After an episode with a squat toilet, Robert decided trekking was not for him and bailed at Namche. And then there were five, Frank was sick and having altitude niggles (or trouble from that pre-trek tent and all the drugs he was taking for his ailments, the cynics said) and so took an easier itinerary, perhaps also so that he didn't have to admit to being slower than racing Rosie, his wife. This of course split the group into three but we had the staff to be able to do this, myself, Joel and Yangji (a female mountain guide). Every other company would have sent clients packing, true.
And then there were four (but only temporarily), Martin knew that the sunset from Gokyo Ri was the best there could ever be and was so spellbound (we all were), he forgot to take pictures so wanted to do it all again. So he did - thanks Yangji - and they caught us on the pass, then were there were nearly only three as Rosie decided to see how far she could slide on the ice, but we never did see the bruise. Over the other side, Joel and Frank decided they had had enough of taking it easy so we were back to full strength and full laughter, even if 'hypoyakemia' struck Joel and Terry en route to base camp. The bed was too soft, Joel complained of the luxury of the 8000 Inn, it was too much for Ivan too, who thought a hard night's camping on the Kongma La would be a cure, and Ken had to come along since he couldn't answer no to the offer - he couldn't speak, we are hoping to get a thank-you from his wife and work mates for this ailment. So while we braved the sun and staggering views, the ice, wind and a 5800m peak, the rest braved cloud and the hot shower and pizza at Dingboche.
Next to brave was Island Peak high camp, and despite being warned that it is the dustbowl-hellhole of the universe, Martin still had the cheek to complain - that tent has got to go to Ladakh, and the Ferrino to hell, destroyed by birds. Frank was still drugged and Rosie chesty (real shame), so it was left to Joel, Ivan and Yangji to show how not to knot a rope (just cut the f***ker, and tie a knot like my shoe laces!) while Jamie climbed. Knowing what sort of knot he had tied, Joel stayed to mind the rope while Ivan and Yangji topped out, the real summit mind, none of this wimpy 'stopped by a serac' that we kept hearing.
The next day it was the turn of Martin and Ken and the new arrivals, Wendy and Nigel. Yangji preferred to watch the tents so Ang Dami topped out, his first time up here too. And of course, Jamie had to go and collect al the gear from the summit down.
And the race was on for Namche pizza and beers. In a first for Jamie (Joel gets this all the time!) he walked into a bar and when he sat she said you look nice, want to be my friend? Then topped his rum up behind his back to the point he forgot what he was supposed to do.
The gearoholics bought modestly since the addiction has been fed in Thuglha with Lhakpa's tents, but still managed to clean out Chedam's imported wool socks.
Back in Lukla Joel took fright at Kathmandu and flying there and stayed to trek the Tengboche Christmas. Perhaps he knew something we didn't for despite having a sexy female pilot, we had a flight out so turbulent that the rest of the flights that day were cancelled.
It was a million dollar trek, or more accurately a half million rupee trek, and it only took a week before two were begging for more punishment. Or is it the temptation of horses after yaks?
Addendum from Martin:
... My friend's colleague attempted Imja Tse but were thwarted by a huge
crevasse near the top.
The crevasse - in fact a high and insurmountable serac, like a small ice cliff, was still there, looming like a bad conscience. However Jamie boldly led (and fixed a rope) down onto the face and got round the obstacle from below. Although all we had to do was clip into the rope and jumar up to the summit on the other side, the exposure was quite impressive. But we were a small group and your colleague can be reassured that a quite a number of parties (maybe the majority) stop at the col anyway.
as for the serac: hope it doesn't fall over one of these days. But "que serac serac"...