23 March 2012
Dingboche to Duglha (4,600 m/15,090 ft)
Today’s trek was to be considerably shorter. We had tried to talk Mindu into letting us climb farther, up to Lobuche, where, according to him, facilities were little better, but he stood firm with his itinerary and said it would be better for us to climb gradually, to continue out acclimatization to the thinner air. We were in no position to argue with him.
We all felt as if we had lost our appetites—we didn’t know whether it was because our food choices were getting more limited or the air was affecting our digestive systems, but we did try, almost every day, to have some apple porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast. Delle had advised that starting the day with complex carbohydrates would give us sustained energy, and so we took her advice and gulped it down each morning.
After breakfast, we started our climb to Duglha (also known as Thukla), through Khumbu Valley. As we continued up, we had a breathtaking view of Mt. Pumori, and then we descended to the river again, and crossed. This routine was a repeat of our past three days; the descent was easy, but then we needed to regain the altitude with a steep hike back up again.
With the diminished oxygen, climbing was becoming more difficult for most of us, but Anil was actually finding it easier. He had been able to stop taking his insulin altogether, and he was delighted to find that, here, he had found a way to manage his diabetes! When we reached Duglha, we could see Nuptse and some other peaks in the Everest region.
After our usual noodle-soup-and-sandwich lunch, Mindu suggested that we take a hike to the lake. It was his “climb-high-and-sleep-low” rule to help us acclimatize. The theory is that you could climb more than 1,000 feet (305 meters) in a single day—as long as you came back down again for the night, and slept at a lower altitude. This helps to prevent the symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). We loved the idea.
The hike to the lake was short but steep. We discovered that we needed to take frequent breaks to catch our breath, but, later on, we would find that there was a reward for the strenuous climb. In the evening, the view of the frozen lake was stunning as the clouds started rolling in. We sat at the lakeside, unable to take our eyes off the magnificent scenery, until evening approached, and the air started getting cooler.
With backward looks, we came back down to the town and headed for the fireplace. Suddenly very tired, we wolfed down our food and our Diamox (medication for coping with the altitude), and slipped into our slipping bags for a good night’s rest.