Hiking the Himalayas: Day 7
As we climb up,
my body breaks down
Day 7 was supposed to be an epic day, the culmination of our journey so far. Unfortunately, it sticks out for a different reason.
After another night without sleep I tried to choke down a few bits of granola Dain ordered for me but I just didn't feel well. My cold was at its worst and at only 7:30am I'd gone through most of our tissues. It wasn't just me; Laboche is a common place for people to really get sick from the altitude. Even as I was picking through my food a woman next to me with twin nosebleeds was getting oxygen treatment and breathing from a canister.
Insisting I felt fine enough to travel, we went on as planned. This is about the time I mentioned I stopped taking Diamox, the altitude medication, because I was worried it dehydrated me too much. I also decided against taking an ibuprofen for my pounding headache because I didn't want to thin my blood too much at this elevation and risk getting dizzy. In hindsight, taking that medication would have likely changed everything.
Instead, I was in excruciating pain mainly from a headache pounding like a sinister pulse right behind my eyeballs. With each step, no matter how hard I tried to put my focus elsewhere, the throbbing intensified. Twice I had to stop hiking because I was crying from the pain and couldn't see straight with the tears in my eyes. Dain was very patient with me and at one point made us stop and forced me to eat. For whatever reason, I found the mango fruit roll-ups he had very appealing and agreed to eat. The sugar spike and the rest must have done me some good because before I knew it, we were at Gorak Shep, the last town before Everest Base Camp.
Most of the week we've been alone on the trails but on the final push to EBC hundreds of hikers had come out of the woodwork! We couldn't believe how many tour groups joined us on the trail and it made for some crowded passes. When it gets busier, tour groups will send their fastest porter ahead to the next town to reserve a bunch of rooms so the group has a place to stay. Gorak Shep was the most competitive place we've seen due to the number of hikers coming up and going down then and the limited number of teahouses. At this point, we knew we weren't making it to Base Camp that day and decided to stop in Gorak Shep for the night. Dain managed to get us a room, tucked me in, and ordered me some pasta.
While I got some much needed sleep and sustenance, Dain explored the trail ahead a little and reported back that it would probably be our easiest day yet once we had the energy to get to EBC. That afternoon, we ran into friends we met on the trail that happened to be staying at the same teahouse as us. They gave me some hot cocoa powder that's actually an electrolyte and dietary supplement and we showed them how to play Gin Rummy. I ate another big meal at dinner, drank plenty of water (although the Steripen had run out of batteries and we had to use our iodine tablets), and got back on the medicines I needed. I also think that staying in Gorak Shep longer helped me adjust to the altitude, although it's not a great idea to spend too much time that high. This time, I went to bed feeling confident that tomorrow we'd get to Everest.