It’s 3:15 am and Wim is already getting up. He wants to climb the Gokyo Ri and see the sunrise on top of the summit. Yesterday I had to agree with Wim that I wouldn’t go with him if I still had a headache in the morning. And you guessed it. My head is exploding… I don’t like it, but I have to admit that it’s not a good idea to go along with him. So I turn around under the covers again, to cough, snort and moan from the headache for a few more hours. To be able to get some sleep, I treat myself to the umpteenth paracetamol.
Wim is getting into his warmest clothes. It’s still dark outside, so he puts on his head lamp. The starry sky is impressive. The climb starts at the end of the lake. And it turns out to be pretty spicy. At the foot of the mountain there are a handful of paths, all of which work their way up. Eventually they come together as a delta into one path, which climbs very steeply zigzag further upwards.
Wim stops for a drink. But that turns out to be quite disappointing. The water in his drinking bottle is frozen. I guess I don’t have to explain how cold it is up here …
When he finally reaches the top after two hours of climbing, the reward is more than worth every effort. He is completely alone on one of the most beautiful mountain peaks in the region.
Peacefully he beholds the awakening of the world. The sun is already up, but she is still busy climbing. About half an hour later she is about to throw her rays over the highest mountains on earth. And drama queen as she is, the sun obviously makes a whole theater out of it. For a moment it seems as if the world has stopped spinning. Everything is completely silent. Even the sun holds her breath. And then it happens … Like a bright golden lightning bolt, the sun’s rays shoot right past Mount Everest to make their way to the Gokyo Ri. No matter how grotesque Mount Everest may be, at this moment the sun is lord and master over the Himalayan mountains. Because the sun is exactly at the place where the Everest rises, the entire mountain top has become invisible and in the place of the Everest you only see a beautiful fireball that dazzles the whole valley with its bright rays. It could never get any more symbolic than this…
When the Everest regains its place in the landscape and the sun seeks even higher places, Wim descends again.
About three hours after his departure, Wim is standing next to my bed again. And I have to admit, I’m jealous. And not even a little bit. Normally I am the one who’s eager for crazy adventures like these. Normally I am the one with these silly ideas to climb a mountain in the middle of the night. But this time I have to let it all pass me by. My body simply thinks otherwise and I can’t really argue with that.
After a simple breakfast we get on the route to Dragnag. To get there, we have to cross the Ngozumpa glacier. We leave Gokyo behind us, but not before I have given our snoring, but sweet hostess of the lodge a big farewell cuddle.
We immediately climb up fairly steeply towards the mountain bedding which has been the ground for this impressive glacier for centuries.
When we get a view of the glacier we see that it’s covered with lots of snow and stone rubble. That the glacier is in constant motion, is proven by the falling stones above us.
To get from one side to the other, we meander from left to right and from top to bottom. Drawing a straight path over this glacier is completely impossible. The glacier is immensely large and very impressive. When we’re halfway we lie down for a moment. I let my shoulders and head rest on my backpack. I lie comfortably and enjoy the sun on my face. It’s cold, of course, but the sun’s rays give just enough heat to give me the impression that I am lying on the beach of some subtropical island. We eat an energy bar and I add to that a painkiller or two, as usual. I just wish that head of mine would stop pounding!
Further on we arrive at a beautiful lake. The imposing high ice layer of the glacier is sinking deep into the water. Continuously we hear stone and ice shifting. Large pieces of ice break off regularly and dive into the lake with a loud splash.
A final climb brings us to an indescribably beautiful 360 ° viewpoint. When we look back we are impressed by the vast glacier, which we have just crossed. A person could look at this for a lifetime.
After a while we choose to continue our path to Dragnag. Sitting on a wall, a man receives us there, as if he had been expecting us all day long. We get a room in his lodge for free when we order a meal at his place. Even before we ever got the chance to answer, our backpacks are already in the room, which looks like every room in every lodge here: tiny, two beds with a shelf and some mousse on it, one light, no socket, no heating, more slits than window and a clothes hook hanging on the wall. But instead of complaining about the fairly rudimentary conditions in our honeymoon suite, we have a lot of respect for the local population. Every day we are amazed again with how little people have here to come around. The things we consider at home as the most basic needs is unaffordable luxury here.
Like electricity for example. Don’t we all take this for granted? The constantly missing of sockets in the rooms is of course no coincidence. The only energy one has here is gained from a few small solar panels. And since the sun loses the battle against thick fog almost every afternoon, most lodges fall without electricity on a daily base. In other words, the light switch of that one little light in our room is out of service most of the time.
Or how obvious is it for us to have a cozy and warm house? The temperatures here are between -5°C and -15°C, but there is no heating. In each lodge there is only one stove, which is always installed right in the middle of the building. It’s usually only lit at around 5 pm. And that is, if it’s even being lit. Because what is being used to lit the stoves is also scarce here. And I’m not talking about wood. Logging is strictly forbidden in the entire Sagarmatha National Park. Which makes sense, as a tree needs at least three times more time to grow on this infertile region. That is why they use – how can I put it neatly – yak poo, to lit the stove. It’s true … Every night we warm our hands to a stove that burns on the droppings of yaks. In front of and between the houses you see large piles of poo, which is dried to eventually end up in the stove. The burning of the yak poo comes with a very specific, penetrating smell. Not the smell of poo, as you might expect. But it smells kind of chemically and the vapors irritate the airways and the eyes.
But that primitiveness also has something to it. Every evening a cozy circle of chairs is formed around the stove, where everyone takes place. On top of the stove is a huge kettle, in which the water is heated for the tea that we’re all drinking. Tales are told – the one more spiced up than the other – about events on the trip, about who is sick and has to give up, about the most difficult passages, about the coldest nights and about the man who unfortunately died on the trail a few days ago. For a moment no one says a single word. The realization kicks in that it could happen to all of us. Here. At home. Everywhere … All the more reason to grab life with both hands and to enjoy the beautiful things that will come on our path tomorrow.