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(Carried on from part 2)

Gorak Shep at 5140 metres.


When I crossed the glacial rock and entered the encampment of Gorak Shep I felt that I had entered hell’s arsehole. A dusty bowl consisting of 3 or so tea houses and a small shop with plentiful supplies of the most expensive beer in the world. Surrounded by glaciers and clocking up -17 at night this is not the sort of place you find honeymooning couples, unless they really hate each other or are from Belgium.


Welcome to hell

Welcome to hell



The tea houses at altitude all run off solar electricity and as such have suitably low wattage bulbs, if any at all, that make everyone look sicker than what they really are. The punters sip garlic soup (apparently good for altitude sickness) and huddle around the miniscule burner fueled by dried yak dung and wrappers from Bounty Bars. Everyone seems to play cards, it is the only thing to do, though often I wish these were thrown on the burner too to double the output from the less than efficient fuel sources. “Heat, I demand heat.”


A young girl inspects her fine collection of dried yak dung

A young girl inspects her fine collection of dried yak dung



Furthermore, it is too cold to wash. But at least nobody else is washing either. How can you when the water is frozen solid and a bucket of warm water will cost you more than a small flat off Highstreet Kensington. Everyone now has taken on the odor of sweat, a hint of urine, garlic and yak shit. Bottled, this could be worth a fortune – “Convince your friends that you are a world explorer – Everest by Calvin Clein as used by George Mallory……maybe”.


It is at Gorak Shep that you make the decision whether to do the 6 hour round trip to Base Camp – a journey through the glacier to find a rubbish tip surrounded by tents and hardcore mountaineer types that don’t want to speak to anyone because they are in the zone of being hardcore mountaineer types and have been stuck in hell for the last 2 months waiting for their window to go up Everest. Incidentally 6 people were killed on Everest the day I arrived in an avalanche, their bodies will probably never be recovered. Or, you do the trip up to Kala Patthar at 5550 metres to, apparently, get the best view of Everest without climbing it.


I chose the second option and instantly regretted it. Going up 400 metres at this altitude is bloody hard work. I shuffled along one step at a time focusing on breathing. If my mind wandered, which it does constantly, I would find myself desperately trying to catch my breath. It was a matter of focusing my mind and moving one step at a time. The top looked an impossible distance away. Every turn, every stone became a small goal towards the summit.


That's Everest, the grey thing in between the two white things

That's Everest, the grey thing in between the two white things



Surprising to myself I made it. The hundreds of individual goals got me to the top. And the view, well the view was crap. Snow had come in over Everest, so it was just a grey blob some un recognisable distance away. Not that this mattered as the aperture on my camera froze in the cold. I looked down to basecamp, a spec in the distance with a certain degree of admiration for those hardcore mountaineer types and a certain degree of “What on earth do you think you are doing.”


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Move on to part 4

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