Practice Run No.4: Battling a Chest Infection

In Practice Run No.4by Steve

Rest Day in Lukla Now Heading Up the Everest Trail.

Since summiting Mera Peak last Tuesday, I had a second night at high camp for a bit of extra acclimatisation, then took three days to descend back down through the Hinku Valley, up and over the Zatra La Pass and return to Lukla. It was a lovely trek out with great variety from initially descending the icy glaciated slopes of Mera Peak, to rock hoping along the Hinku River (not sure if that’s what it’s called, but it runs through the Hinku Valley so Hinku River sounds like a good name to me), to climbing up and over the windy, snowy Zatra La Pass, and finally walking in relative warmth amongst flowering rhododendrons back to Lukla. It was a trek made all the more enjoyable by having the pleasure of spending time with friends I’d met along the way.

Descending down off the Zatra La Pass was particularly interesting. The snow, icy in sections and slushy in others, interspersed with rocky patches required great care in order to stay upright. Delicately testing the grip of each foot placement before applying full weight made for painfully slow going down the steep slope. Some were stopping to put crampons on, but that didn’t sound like much fun. There had to be an easier way.

Part way down I traversed across a steep, snow filled gully that terminated near a cluster of tea houses which we had to reach. Why fight gravity when you can let gravity do the work for you. I knew this was likely to be another one of my “brilliant” ideas that inevitably ends in tears, but I was sick of tip-toeing down the hill. I tightened my backpack, sat down, leant back, lifted my feet and before I knew it I was off, building speed quickly. By digging my heels in as needed, I could just maintain some resemblance of control as I slid down the steep gully. I was down in a matter of minutes and pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. A great rush, saved me considerable time and not to mention the risk of multiple falls. Although next time I decide to slide down a long snowy slope on my butt, I might wear long pants instead of shorts.

After nearly two weeks, it was wonderful to be back in the relative luxury of Lukla. A hot shower and I know I should probably omit this next bit of information, but a fresh pair of undies, was bliss. I only have four pairs of undies to see me through eight weeks so you can do the math.

The sore throat and congestion I had appears to have turned in to a full chest infection so I am now on a course of antibiotics, just to add to the fun. Before I left home, I went to the doctors to get a range of prescription drugs to treat the likely illnesses I may encounter. The doctor was very reluctant to write out scripts when I wasn’t actually sick, but when I explained what I was doing, she slowly came around. Some of those drugs are now coming in handy.

Yesterday, considering I’d had a fairly big two weeks, and recognising I need to shake this chest infection before going too high again, I decided to have a complete rest day in Lukla. Spent the day sitting in the sunny courtyard of our lodge with a friend, eating cake and chocolate brownies, and watching the planes and helicopters take off and land just next door. Also went for a slow walk through the village, read my book, and was just generally lazy. It was magic.

Today we trekked from Lukla to the historic trading village of Namche Bazar arriving in time for lunch. It’s the same route I took to Ama Dablam last year so becoming familiar with the trail.

We’ve just been down to the authorities at the Sagarmartha Pollution Control Committee in Namche to obtain our climbing permit for Lobuche Peak. Tomorrow we’ll head to Pangboche, then on to Lobuche on Tuesday. Wednesday we’ll climb Lobuche Peak, up and down in the day, then Thursday head up to Everest (or for me, Lhotse) Base Camp. That’s the plan, but like all good plans, it’s subject to change.

“Go with the decision that will make for a great story”.