There was soul searching upon arriving at lobuche at 5000m. Obie ate some pizza and went to sleep for the rest of the day. His oxygen saturation was low at 60% and I told the Sherpas that I was thinking of descending. Karina said wait until morning. By then Obie was a perky 90% to my 75!
We headed to Gorak Shep, 300m higher. Obie said he had a headache but his spirits were fine and appetite good enough (for him). Wally Berg, an American climber who was with Scott in 2010, showed up and babysat while Scott and I hiked up to see base camp from Kala Pattar. By the time we got back, Obie had ditched Wally in favor of Lara, a 9 year old German girl.
April 12, Obie was emotional and once again I considered descending – but only after a few rounds of Go Fish. Obie came right and we headed to Base camp with Scott. I always feel weird upon arriving at 18000 feet and the whole place was surreal anyway. Hundreds of tents arranged around glacier features, rocks like mushrooms perched on narrow pillars of ice, yaks amongst the ice formations….Farewell time was difficult on the edge of the moraine overlooking the field of coloured dots. Glaciers hung above us in immense scale. Khunga and our porter, Kaji stood around awkwardly. The sadness of leaving was somewhat relieved by the sight of a pika/mountain mouse with no tail scurrying among the boulders. Obie was delighted and talked about it for days.
The next morning I awoke with a fearsome headache and the Khumbu cough. Combined with the distress of leaving scottie, i was not at my best. Obie was fine. Only the thought of thicker air got me going. At Pheriche I crashed out on some couches. Obie ate noodles with an American group and I could hear them urging him to eat up and him explaining how his mum had caught his headache and the Khumbu cough. He would occasionally pop over and pat me sympathetically. Finally awakening after two hours, we continued to Pangboche and the lovely lodge of my friend Yangzing. There we met three generations of the bishop family. Barry Bishop was one of the summiteers on the first American expedition to Mt Everest in 1963. His widow Iila, now in her mid 70’s, was a delight and we enjoyed spending time with the family and getting a perspective on the changes in the Khumbu region over the past 50 years. We even got to hike some of the way to Phortse (the surprisingly high route) with Ilana the next day.
From Pangboche, we took a direct line up hill with Guy Cotter, Suze Kelly and other members of the AC group headed for Lhotse. We were off to visit Lama Geshe (who blesses expeditions) then our parties would split. The Obie Simper party would take the long and high route to Kumjung. Long and high it was, the track climbed and descended and wound in and out of the folds of the mountain. We passed the Tengboche monastery so close but so far across the valley. Phortse was a gorgeous village, it’s organized terraces and rock walls contrasting the steep backdrop of mountains. Descending through almost blooming rhododendron forest to the river, we crossed the torrent then climbed again, up, up up to Mong-la and a diagonal descent to join the Kumjung junction and into Kumjung – a larger version of Phortse. Less terraced, Kumjung is cozily placed in a large notch with plenty of flat terrain. The center of much of Sir Ed Hillary’s philanthropic work after his Everest ascent, we looked forward to exploring the village the following day. Oh how things can change in the space of one night….