Day 10: Convergence

November 13, 2022
Start: Dzongla 4830m (15,846ft)
Stop: Lobuche 4910m (16,105ft)
Distance: 6km (3.7 miles)

As usual, we go to bed about 8pm. It feels like I actually get some deep sleep even though I do have periods of sleeplessness. I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night for a little adventure. I don’t know if it’s the tea house staff that do cleaning or if it’s guests who can’t put the flushing water down the squat toilet hole, but there is often water all over the floor. The water has now frozen and it’s like an ice rink in there. Guys don’t get to level up until they take a dump. Us ladies are grand masters at the squat and get bonus points for doing it all on ice. Extra street cred for changing a tampon while hovering on ice! Time to flush? Nope. The 55 gallon drum of flushing water is frozen over with a thick layer of ice which is impenetrable by the plastic scooper. Why oh why, did I not take a picture of this wonderful game?

I eat a plain omelet as the sun beams through the window in the dining room. We’re all there for breakfast and I can hear Sophie talking with Silke. I hear her say something like Dipak has one job. Well, that makes a whole lot more sense now because they are always together and it seems they must be ahead of everyone else at all times. We start joking about the skating rink bathroom and I hear Sophie complain that her room was next to the bathroom. She got to hear all the guests traipsing down the creaking hallway all night long. Smile. The tea house gods gifted Caspar and I the room farthest from the bathroom. Smile.

After breakfast, Caspar and I wait outside Mountain Home for the rest of the group to convene. The porters Jiban, Mangal, Santosh, and Arjun are preparing their loads. I hadn’t noticed it yesterday, but there is a massive mound of yak dung drying in the sun.

We are far above the glacial Chola Lake as we start our hike down the valley. Several times, a large bird of prey circles above us. Today Silke has her own personal guide as Tiger sticks right with her. Bikram, Caspar and I are a very short distance behind the front group of Dipak, Sophie, Jeremy and Clearance. We stop to take a few pictures and watch the bird of prey as the front group hurries on.

We follow the valley down until we bank left across its flank. We descend into the adjacent valley as we approach the main Everest Base Camp route. I can see the train of people going up and down this trail and it looks packed. We are on the other side of the valley from them, separated by a stream with yaks milling around. One of the yaks is making a guttural, grunting sound and it seems that a couple of them might be getting ready to fight.

We cross the frozen fingers of a braided river wash before our trail finally converges with the main EBC route. There’s a woman standing there next to the Cho La Pass trail marker watching us walk up. With a kind of awe in her voice, she asks if we did Cho La Pass. I confirm that we did and suggest she check it out. It feels like grand central on this trail. They’re loads of people hiking in both directions. And of course we yield to every horse and yak train, also going in both directions. Some hikers blast down the valley and don’t yield the trail to those of us going up. Other hikers are happy to yield and give a quick hello. I’m already missing the peaceful and calm trail that we took up Gokyo valley and across Cho La Pass. Just before we reach Lobuche, a hiker headed downhill notices Caspar’s Tanzanian flag on his backpack. It turns out that through the tourism industry, they know the same guy in Tanzania. It’s always fun to make these little connections around the world.

Lobuche is a small village and we are staying at EcoLodge Lobuche. Because today was a short hike, we arrive in time for tea and lunch. The shared bathrooms are very nice and clean. It definitely feels like a luxury to have a sit toilet and no ice rink. My calcium symptoms are much improved today and it feels like I’m getting my calcium levels under control. Because I have the energy, I take a very short walk around Lobuche to see what I can find. There’s a sign for the world’s highest bakery. It’s mostly just little lodges and I see Tiger doing some laundry. Tiger uses his feet to clean his socks against a cement slab at the edge of the creek. The near freezing stream water seems like it would be so painfully cold but clearly, Tiger is unfazed. Caspar and I lounge around in our room most of the afternoon and Caspar is able to get a little internet from his Everest Link sim card. I squeeze my sleeping bag onto his bed to cuddle while he looks up election results for me.

By the time we return to the dining room, it is full of people and bustling with energy and conversations. There’s barely enough room to sit as we tuck ourselves into a corner with the rest of our group. The yak stove is pumping out heat and as usual there’s an eye-irritating haze in the room from the yak dung smoke. It’s too hot and I have to strip off my beanie, buff, down jacket and wool jacket. Food flies out of the kitchen as all the tea house guests get their dinners. Mine is a plate of boiled potatoes. We hang out for a little while after dinner and then are fast asleep not long after 8pm.