Everest base camp to Island Peak

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Molly and Minky – Chukhang

Base camp to Chukhang via Kongma La Pass
Part of the teams acclimatization process was to climb Island Peak. Situated to the south east of Everest and close to 6200m, it would be an ideal opportunity to climb high without having to contend with the Khumbu ice fall on everest. The less time spent going through the ice fall, the better! Let’s not forget, 14 Sherpas lost their lives last year in the ice fall, calling an early end to the season!
We packed just what was needed and together with 2 Sherpas, we departed Everest base camp.
Molly and I were keen to spend a night in Loboche and catch up on a bit of wifi! Nico had left the day before and Sean and Wilmien we’re going to leave the next day. We would all meet in Loboche and head up over the Kongma Pass.
We did not dilly dally! As we descended, the air got thicker and we got quicker! The only hold up on route was the many Trekkers and yaks making their way up to base camp. It was busy, too busy! But then this is the season I suppose. We even came across road kill. A yak had succumbed to altitude sickness and died in the track. Ok, maybe old age or overloading. No weigh bridges here. I could see the plan was to get it off the path, and butcher it at a later stage. Right now it was causing a traffic jam!
Loboche was pumping! The place was full of Trekkers and we battled to find accomodation. Eventually Molly found us a room and gratefully we settled in for the night.
Next morning, as planned, the team congregated outside the tea house and looked up towards Kongma Pass. We were at 4900m, the pass at 5400m, a vertical climb of 500m! Haibo!

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Molly and the team coming up Kongma La Pass

We set off across the Khumbu glacier. It can be best pictured as a world war 1 battlefield, amplified 10 times! Craters of rocks and ice, desolate, cold and dangerous! This glacier was slowly making its way down the valley, churning up rock and stone on its way. Every so often we came across a ice rink! A frozen lake with rocky vertical sides. Good to look at but not a good idea to go in to! After an hour and a half, we exited the glacier and arrived at the foot of the pass, and it was intimidating! High up above all I could see was ice, snow and a misty covered mountain. The ascent began. I took us a good 3 hours to reach the top, climbing through some tricky snow and ice banks. The going was slow but at about 2pm we summited the pass and began our descent towards Chhukhung.
Again the going was tough through thick snow and then down in to the rocky valley. 6.30pm and we arrived at our overnight accommodation, relieved and tired!

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Chukhung

The next morning we woke up to a white out! It has snowed heavily during the night and it was white everywhere! And not just a sprinkling, but a 50cm covering that would keep kids happy for a few days! Again we got ourselves together and after a warm breakfast headed off towards Island Peak base camp. Oh, not before a pic of the team outside in the snow, Sean with no shoes, and in his licra cycling pants!

Island Peak
The walk to Island Peak base camp was not too difficult. Cold, but a gentle climb up following a frozen river. The Sherpa team has set up camp for us and we slept the night at the base camp.

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Island Peak Base Camp
Next morning was the climb to high camp. This was not a long way, but a vertical climb of some 500m. Slowly we edged our way up. The higher we climbed the greater the view and all around us were high snow covered mountains and below river glaciers. A truelly stunning view! It was hard going and occasionally we passed climbers descending. Many had not summited, a few had. This was going to be a tough climb!

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Minky, on the way to High Camp

We reached high camp at 5600m and with great relief sat down to a cup of lemon tea and a view to die for! Nico has been suffering from a bad cough, commonly referred to as the Khumbu Cough. Not well, he headed off to his tent to relax. The afternoon was spend eating and chatting and watching a few climbers descending down past our tent.
That hight I was cold! With at least 5 layers of clothing, my -10 sleeping bag and Wilmiens down jacket as back up, I did my best to get a few hours sleep! It snowed durning the night and I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable. With so many layers of clothing, and in my sleeping bag, it got quite claustrophobic! Not a comfortable night! Every once in a while I could hear avalanches rumbling away in the distance. Again, quite intimidating!
We woke up at 2am, set to commence our climb to the summit. However the weather had closed in and it did not look good. 3am, up again and a weather update. Sean made a call to postpone the summit attempt until the weather cleared. Back to bed.
Sunrise and a bleak outlook. Sean made a satalite call to Kath in S.A. to get a weather update. With 3 days of snow predicted, we decided to leave the camp established and head down to Dingboche for 2 days. We would return when the weather cleared, now predicted for a summit attempt on Sunday.
Departing high camp, we tucked in our ears and made the 12km or so descent to Dingboche in record time!

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Descending after weather gets bad at high camp

Rest days at Dingboche
Although “rustic” with facilities that would not impress most, for us it was a well deserved break from snow and tents!
Top of the “to do” list was wifi and access to work and family. That evening I spent 2 hours getting updated from Elaine and the team at Edge Logistics, and catching up with family and friends on Whatsapp! What a luxury!
The whole of Saturday was spent chilling! Lemon and ginger tea with a dash of honey. Work on our blogs and warm showers. Outside, we watched a Sherpa family working their fields. The whole family was involved with dad ploughing the field with a wooden plough and 2 yaks. Behind him came his family, dropping in potatoes. Mom then stomped the potatoes in. Not an easy task, but everyone looked happy and each had their role. Wilmien, Molly and I chatted through the cultural differences. We were poles apart culturally. This was a hard life, up in the mountains, subsistence with no holidays to the coast!

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