Everest Base Camp 10: Machhermo and the Gokyo Valley

Machhermo had some amazing mountain views…

 

And stunning sunsets on the mountains

Like many of the mountain villages, Machhermo is tiny and took about 15 minutes to slowly explore. There is 1 shop, half a dozen guest houses, a helipad and a rescue/ medical post.

Coloured writing on the prayer stones for a change

The rescue post is staffed by 4 volunteer doctors each trekking season. Mike, Katie, Karen and Susie were so easy to talk to and knowledgeable about anything mountain/ medical related. They gave free talks every afternoon about staying safe while trekking and how to avoid (and recognise) mountain sicknesses.

The post also promotes the safety and well being of porters (www.ippg.net). Many porters do not have adequate clothing or gear for the conditions, some are not paid well and a few succumb to mountain sickness and other illnesses each season. It was a timely reminder that I am an employer here and have responsibilities for the safety and well being of the guys I hire.

Can’t miss it!

The medical/ rescue post
Carrots for their snow-yak

The snow had stopped falling but was still deep above Machhermo. People had been stuck in Gokyo for up to a week with the storm! Some had walked out, while others had called helicopters so they could make their flights home.

On a ridge above Machhermo

We’d heard mixed reports of icy trails and avalanche danger, as well as the trail being fine if you took care. Being more of a scuba diver and less of a mountaineer, I opted to hang out in Machhermo while Kent and Sarah headed up to Gokyo for a day hike. The pair basically ran there and back, making the trek in well under the estimated time. They were some of the first ones to make the trip, with other groups starting to go the next day.

Dining room where I spent most of my afternoon
Looking out the dining room window
The dog stayed inside ALL the time!

I met Bob, Denise and Tom from Colorado in the afternoon. They were a team of well-experienced and very humble mountaineers and trekkers. They have summited peaks all over the world, and Denise completed the NZ Southern Traverse a few years ago (a gruelling multi-day race through the NZ Southern Alps). They had planned on climbing Cholatse (a peak near Machhermo) and were at their base camp when the snow hit. They spent 4 nights in their tents, having to shovel the snow away every 40 minutes or so to avoid the tents collapsing.

Entrance to our guest house
Washing out to dry – it got mostly dry too!
View out my bedroom window…almost obscured by snow!

Day 18 was the start of our trek back down the mountain. It was sad to be leaving the snowy peaks and vast open spaces behind. Nothing quite compares to standing on top of a snowy ridge with a ring of towering mountains encircling you.

Clouds came…
…and went

There is so much to take in. Every crevice and rock face, the glaciers and avalanche paths, the perfectly defined ridges and peaks highlighted against the dark sky. Photos don’t do the beauty and majesty of these mountains justice. I happily clicked off a bunch of pics but mostly just stood and stared, and took in the amazing spectacle in front of me.

Kent
Finally walking out

It was at this point I decided I had to come back here again. Up until now, returning to the Everest region was only a minor possibility for me (there’s too much of the world still to see!). I realised I would love to have another go at reaching EBC and Gokyo, seeing the Gokyo lakes, crossing Cho La Pass and seeing uninterrupted views of Mt Everest. All the typical touristy things I know, but I would still love to see them.

Looking up towards Cho La Pass

Yeti foot prints???

Back to the trip down… Gokyo valley is unofficially known as ‘death valley’. This is because you have to descend to about 3400 metres, then ascend to around 4000 metres to get out of the valley. All well and good if you’re fine, but if you suffering from mountain sickness, the hill can be an impermeable physical barrier, impossible to overcome (without a helicopter)!

Heading out of the valley
The boys were easy to spot!
Going down always means there’s an up coming

We were about half way up the hill when some AMS symptoms came on again. A headache, I wanted to be sick, I felt nauseous and my limbs were shaking. Nothing to do but stop, rest, wait for my body to catch up to the altitude… and think about descending. After a decent break, some snacks and handing my day pack over to Chakra, I felt better and we started up again. This time with me in the lead and going at only a fraction of the pace set earlier. It helped! Deri, deri bistari – very, very slowly – is the only way I seem to be able to make it up these mountains!

Photos don’t do the landscapes justice

 

 

Such a cutie!

We finally reached Mong La, a tiny hilltop village and the birthplace of Lama Sange Dorje (the famous Lama who flew around the Himalayas and predicted where the Tengboche monastery would be built).

Mong La
Hilltop guesthouse at Mong La

Small changes started to make me feel like I was nearly home. The snow line was high above us, it felt much warmer and food prices were cheaper. Oh, and every second person had a cell phone glued to their ear!

Looking out towards Khumjung
Steepest stairs we came across
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