Duglha – Loubuche (4940 m/16,207 ft)
Our eighth day began with a steep climb to Loubuche. After an hour and a half, we had reached the top of the ridge, and were puzzled by what we saw: arrangements of stones decorated with colorful prayer flags. Mindu told us they were the memorials to different climbers who had perished on the climb to Mt. Everest. We noticed particularly the memorials for Scott Fischer, an American mountaineer who had died in a 1996 disaster, and for Babu Chiri Sherpa (a mountain guide and 10-time Everest summitter from Nepal, many of whose world records—including one for the fastest ascent and longest time (21 hours) at the summit without oxygen—still stand.
It was a sobering moment, and it seemed like the time to take a break. While we rested, Mindu related some stories of past expeditions, we were fascinated. Then, after a last look at the stones, we resumed our trek.
On our way up, we encountered a group of trekkers returning from Loubuche. They were suffering from altitude sickness and could not continue. The story was that they had decided to omit the recommended stay at Dugla, and had climbed up to Loubuche without having acclimatized sufficiently. We had wanted to go farther ourselves only the day before, but we had Mindu to thank for not letting us continue!
The trail up to the Khumbu Glacier and the great peaks of Khumbutse, Lingtren, and Pumori now appeared in front of us. We were very close to the Everest, but the majestic mountain was still hidden from our view. Nuptse was to our right, behind Khumbu Glacier. Finally we had arrived at Loubuche.
We checked into our rooms at the lodge, then went down to the teahouse for some hot orange-and-mint-ginger tea. After relaxing a while from our trek, we decided to take the climb up to Khumbu Glacier, to help with our acclimatization. The steep path took us to the top of the glacier, where we were amazed by the panoramic views of the great peaks around us. We heard a crunching then, the sounds of ice breaking off from the glacier. We realized it was suddenly becoming darker and cooler, and we decided it was time to go back to the lodge.
Exhausted and cold from the last climb, we “crashed” by the fireplace and with some more hot tea. The lodge’s dinner menu offered vegetable pakora (fritters) and aloo paratha (flatbread stuffed with mashed, spicy, potato filling). We ordered some of both, and found it to be the best pakora we had ever had outside India. For the first time in many days, we were really enjoying our food, and we couldn’t stop eating.
After dinner, we spent some more time by the fireplace, while Mindu briefed us on the next day’s plan. Tomorrow would be D-Day. The final trek to the Everest Base Camp would be one of our longest and toughest days. I was already exhausted, cold, and breathless, but excited in anticipation of the next day’s trek!