Total mileage on Day 6: 0
Resting altitude (Pangboche): 13,254 ft
Steph’s sinus infection had worsened throughout the previous days, and after her light-headedness, we worried that launching into yet another day of hiking could push her too far. Fortunately for us, we were on our own and our schedule was loose, so we decided a day of rest and reading in Pangboche was in order. We lumbered downstairs, where our host made us a delicious breakfast of fried vegetable-filled momos (as large as our hands) and hot milk cardamom tea. The inn was very cold in the morning, and she invited us to sit by the kitchen’s fire, where she was flipping and frying up our delicious breakfast.
After breakfast, we grabbed our laptops and books and locked up the room. We wanted to sit and read in our own inn’s common room, but it was too cold to stop shivering or concentrate on anything. Kindly, our innkeeper saw us suffering and set up two chairs for us outdoors in the sun. We lingered in those chairs as long as we could but eventually had to head to the inn next door to see if we could secure a seat in their warm dining room for the day.
We were welcomed by Ang again and told we could hang out as long as we’d like, so we snagged a seat and ordered a pot of hot water to use with the tea we’d brought along. And so began a nice and relatively uneventful day of recovery.
Snow began to fall late in the morning, and we watched it come down while sipping tea, reading our books (The Alchemist and Midnight’s Children), and updating the travel blog. As we were the only guests in the dining room that day, we were able to spend some time chatting with our host as well.
Ang told us that a Sherpa had been killed the prior day by an avalanche while hiking in the Khumbu Icefall on the way to Everest Camp #1. It was the first death of the season, and she spoke of it like it was a bad omen. She talked about her husband’s duties up at EBC and that he actually used to guide expeditions to the summit. She used to worry about him, she said, but can rest easier nowadays knowing that he’s no longer climbing the mountain and instead staying safe at EBC. She pointed out piles of Everest memorabilia in the glass cases sitting around her dining room, including some original yellow and orange oxygen tanks that accompanied Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to the top of Mount Everest in the 1950’s. We could have listened to her speak about Everest history all day, but she eventually left us to our reading.
Mid-day, we heard a loud helicopter flying overhead (a common sight up here, we would watch at least 1 or 2 helicopters fly overhead everyday for a rescue farther up the trail). As we watched the blue and yellow copter fly closer and closer to Pangboche, we saw it get very low to the ground, like it was searching for something. Just then, it landed right outside our window!
Someone was loaded into the copter on a stretcher, and it headed back for Kathmandu. Probably a trekker with altitude sickness, we thought, but we would never find out what had happened.
As nighttime and the cold began to settle into Pangboche, we headed back to our lodge, where our innkeeper served us dinner and we spoke to a fellow trekker from Europe who had just summited nearby Island Peak (over 20,000 ft). He had experienced mild altitude sickness at the top, and his descriptions of severe nausea and headaches and thirst sounded awful. Another woman he had been hiking with, however, had gotten extremely sick to the point of stumbling and confusion and had to be evacuated off the mountain. We were glad we had been forced to take it so slowly due to Steph’s infection… as it may have unknowingly saved us from going too high too quickly.
Before turning in for the night, I ventured into the village to find an internet cafe so that I could check-in with work back home – it could very well be my last chance to do so for many days!