This was a day of changes. From the temperatures, to the terrain, to the altitude, to the moods, this day ended very differently than it began. I found this to be the point at which it really began to feel like an Everest trek. This was more like what might pop into your head when you think of hiking in the Himalayas.
The day began deceivingly warm and sunny, you may notice that both Jon and I are wearing short sleeved shirts in the first half of the day. Even then, I still found myself overheating and needing to slow down and rest a little more often. This was probably responsible for the then-mysterious lack of energy which I mentioned during my interview with Jon. However, by the end of the day it was overcast and snowing! The cold weather gear had been unpacked, at least by those of us who packed any that day, and would not be stowed back away for quite a while.
This was also the day we ascended above the treeline. There was still no shortage of trees and other foliage around us as we set out that morning, but little more than moss was on the ground by the time we reached Dingboche. I suspect I wasn’t alone in my surprise at how high up into the mountains there was still so much flora. When you think of the Himalayas, it’s all rocks and snow and ice that’s likely to pop into your head. And yet, here we were above 12,000 feet and still surrounded by trees, bushes, and flowers.
Okay, that’s enough on the plant life. I’ll leave any further discussion of that topic to Andi, who has actual botanical knowledge. Let’s talk about altitude instead. The official height for Dingboche is listed as 14,800 feet, making it almost 300 feet higher than any point in the continental United States. And at almost 2,000 feet higher than where we began the day, it was no small altitude gain to be sure. It seemed like a lot of the group were really starting to feel the negative effects of the altitude now, though it was beginning to have the opposite effect on me.
Strangely, I seemed to keep feeling stronger the higher up I got. For a guy who once got mild altitude sickness spending a few days in Fort Collins, Colorado, this was a rather welcome surprise. I had been really nervous about how the altitude might affect me because of this, a fear only heightened by the illness I had experienced earlier in the trek. But, as I mentioned in my post for the previous episode, I had let go of my fear at this point. And I think that emboldened mental attitude played no small role in carrying me all the way up to Base Camp.
All in all, for me this was a day (along with the previous one) that really marked a turning point for me. I was rid of the sleeplessness, the nausea, the Nepali-style digestion, the nervousness, the fear. I was rid of the baggage I had brought with me and the extra baggage that was piled on during the trip so far. I was finally really hitting my stride, things were truly heading uphill now.
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