Mt Everest Trek: Day eight

By Ian Connellan November 7, 2013
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Our editor is on the rise as he treks deeper into the Himalayan landscape.

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Ama Dablam Everest Trek in Nepal, run by World Expeditions.

DAY EIGHT: Tea comes to tents at 5.45; there’s a plan afoot to walk as high as possible on the ridges to the south-west of Ama Dablam, and the earlier we start the less likely we are to be disturbed by winds.

It’s a brilliantly clear morning and even a short walk from the tents reveals what we couldn’t see yesterday: that we’re high above the Imja Khola with Ama Dablam close to the east, and surrounded by high peaks, including – unseen until now – Pumori, a beautiful pyramidal 7165 m peak near Everest.

A quick breakfast and we’re on the way. It’s immediately noticeable that we’re higher than before on this walk and that every step is going to take some effort. The sun hasn’t come to this side of Ama Dablam and it’s awfully cold. It takes about an hour to get to Ama Dablam base camp, a broad open area just below the Mingbo Glacier. It’s empty — Lincoln says most expeditions tackle Ama Dablam in the winter, because it’s safer — but you can easily imagine how crowded it must be here when the place is in full swing.

There are three separate stone latrines and dozens of small hearths for burning juniper. The omnipresent prayer flags flutter from poles above different parts of the camp and from rock cairns made on the hillside. We carry on up the spur, now rising above the vast scree slopes that are piled at the bottom of the Mingbo Glacier. The walking is slow, slow, slow — one foot after the other, keep a regular rhythm breathing, stop if you feel over-exerted.

It takes about two hours to reach the top of the spur, where more prayer flags flutter between cairns. If you were going to climb Ama Dablam, this is about the point it starts getting more serious. According to the map I’m carrying we’re at 5000 m, and trekker Peter Campbell has a GPS with altimeter that’s reading 5019 m. Either way, it’s pretty high for a bunch of softies from Australia (Lincoln excepted), and just 300-400 m lower than Everest Base Camp. The views are otherworldly. To the north-west we can see beautiful, steep Pumori and the line of high peaks that roughly join it to 8201 m Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth highest mountain, from which a plume of high cloud is billowing in the jet-stream wind. Views south and south-east are, if it’s possible, even more spectacular. Steep peaks guarded by bare rock and fluted ice cliffs dominate   6685 m Kantega (the “horse saddle”) and 6573 m Malanphulan are standouts, but there are unnamed peaks to the south-east, covered in snow and ice hundreds of metres deep, dangerous and entrancing, that aren’t even named on the map.

The descent seems a little long — always the case on out-and-back routes – and we’re back in camp mid-afternoon, just as the cold swirling clouds close down the day.

Read more from Ian’s daily Himalayan blog.