This is day 19 of my 24 day trek through the Khumbu region of Nepal -> View all posts for this trek
My alarm went off at 4:30am but I hadn’t really been sleeping anyway. Sleep is hard to come by at over 5000 metres (16500ft) in altitude and I had been in and out of sleep all night. I got out of my sleeping bag and dressed as fast as I could. It was freezing in my wooden box of a room as there was no heat apart from that provided by my own body, but I knew it would be even colder outside. I put on my head torch and made my way out of the teahouse, ready to tackle the final challenge of my trek in the Khumbu region of Nepal. I would climb to the summit of Kala Pattar, a rocky, barren hill of 5545m situated above the village of Gorak Shep, to watch the sunrise over Mount Everest. At least that was the plan if I could make it to the summit in time.
It was a beautiful clear night and the stars were shining over the icy peaks above, which were illuminated by moonlight. The temperature was well below freezing, but I was wrapped up in layers with a thick fleece jacket and a down jacket over the top of thermal clothing, plus gloves, scarf and beanie, but the only real way to warm up was to start walking.
A short walk through the village and down across the dried up bed of a lake brought me to the base of the mountain. I have done this climb before, but that wouldn’t make it any easier. I knew what was ahead of me. It was only a couple of hundred metres that I had to climb, but I knew it was going to be tough at this altitude. I walked slowly but steadily along the dusty trail with my head torch and the moonlight guiding my way. I could see a few more lights further up the mountain. It was good to know that I wasn’t the only crazy person here. Further along I passed a few trekkers having a rest, and a couple that were heading back the other way who had to turn around. The altitude was too much for them.
I stopped often to catch my breath and as I did so the sky slowly turned from dark to purple and different shades of blue as the rising sun slowly lit up the sky from beyond the horizon. The view was simply breathtaking with Nupste and Everest taking all of the attention. I made sure to push aside the pain of the climb to stop and enjoy it.
As the sky became lighter I didn’t need my head torch anymore and was able to see the summit ahead clearly, but I was struggling and although it was just there, it seemed a long way away. Every step was hard. With the lack of sleep and the extreme altitude, plus the exertion of 19 days on the trail already behind me, I was simply exhausted and I felt like I was running on fumes. The only thing that pushed me on was perseverance and the fact that I had done it before and knew I could do it again. Not getting to the top just wasn’t an option.
It was with this attitude that I trudged on for what felt like hours, stumbling over the rocks and boulders to the prayer flag strewn summit of Kala Pattar at just after 6am, with the sun slowly rising behind the tallest mountain in the world. I now stood at 5545m (over 18000ft) with Mount Everest in front of me in all of its glory, partnered on each side by Nuspte and Khumbatse. Pumori, which marked my path all of the way up the mountain, stood close and majestic, and all around were other stunning ice capped peaks being slowly illuminated by the soft glow of the day’s first light, with glaciers and deep valleys below.
The wind on the summit was strong and icy and there was no protection. My water bottle was frozen and I could barely feel my fingers through my gloves and my face was numb from the cold, but I didn’t want to leave. The sight was simply too spectacular.
Eventually I couldn’t stand the cold anymore and had to leave the rocky summit of Kala Pattar behind. I would go no higher in the Himalayas, and from now on, it was all downhill. I got back to Gorak Shep in time for a well deserved breakfast. I still had another 6 hours of trekking ahead of me for the day to reach Dingboche, where I would finally get to catch up on some sleep.