Monday, 2 June 2014

Everest Marathon - The saga continues - May 27th/28th

Throat much better, fever seems to have subsided but now the headache and tummy flu have kicked in. This marathon is a pharma company’s delight. Hope I get these two out of the way by tomorrow, and focus on the run down. This I was told by our doc that this could be cold induced so I had to wait till tomorrow to see how things go. Meanwhile the snow continued unabated and the dry land we had walked into, with Kala Patthar black as stone, now white as snow. Incredible change over the last 24 hrs.  Took some paracetamol and went to sleep waiting for the big day to get to base camp.

Tue May 27th
The snow was coming down thick and fast as we made our way through breakfast looking out of the window, downing the porridge and egg and waiting to get out.
The loos in each of the lodges as we went higher got more and more basic with running water and flushes in Namche with a separate bin for TP, to no running water and water to be chucked into the flush, to flushes not working!!! With the temperature dropping as we gained altitude from 13000 ft in Namche to 16500 ft in Gorak Shep.
Each bit we ascended was a learning in how important the basics of life were, and how much we had to be grateful for.
So off we went while the snow continued to fall incessantly and we trudged up and forward gradually. My child hood dream of getting to Everest Base Camp was on its way to being fulfilled. I was not focused at all on the run now, it was all about the trek to EBC from Gorak Shep. Another ridge and then we had great views of glacial pools and seracs on Khumbu Glacier. Then a descent to cross a gushing river and up again to get closer and closer to EBC.
A great cheer came up from the leaders of the group as the view of the tents came into sight. The amazing porters had already carried out big bags and made it to Base Camp to set up the tents, the toilet tents and mess tents – while the snow kept on its onslaught.

Hot tea and soup later we had another round of diamox to act as a preventive for altitude sickness. The only downside was that you had to drink tons of water and pee every few hours including at night. Kurt and I got into our tent and set up our thermarests on top of the mattresses that had been laid out, and set up our tent. Got out for dinner after an attempted snooze with heavy breathing wondering how I would last that night and another night. I thought about all the nights in our college expeditions or school treks, staying at similar altitudes and I realised I was now tending towards being claustrophobic and would need to give up my sleeping bags and tent living after all these years now when I had great equipment.

The dinner was great. It was luxury to get served hot food on our plates at Everest Base Camp. Everest did not want to be seen and the tragedy of the Sherpa lives lost on the mountain was fresh in everyone’s minds and all we could see were clouds and tents and a few bits of the Khumbu icefall whenever visibility improved. We then trudged back to our tents and got ready for our 1st night at base camp while the snow kept coming down- every 5 minutes the tracks to the 70 tents were obliterated as we slipped and went waist deep in parts, as we went off the ‘track’, It took 15 minutes to get inside our tent as Kurt and I dusted the snow off our jackets, snow off our shoes, and pause to catch our breath. Were we actually going to be able to run(?) over here J I t was going to be one exciting and challenging night. I hoped I was not going to have to pee often given that we were still on diamox for preventing acute mountain sickness. No stars, no view, just snow coming down like crazy – we were lucky there was no wind else that would have been crazy. Our tent was on a bit of a slope and that was going to be a challenging sleep particularly as I was still coughing like crazy and was worried that Kurt would be the next group casualty.

Wed 28th May
The decision had been taken to move back to Gorak Shep – there was too much snow for us to have the run start at Base Camp – it had NEVER been so bad in the 13 years of this event. So we were to pack up and move back to Gorak Shep.
I was happy since the night had been rough on me and I would rather start from a sleep in a lodge at Gorak Shep as opposed to starting from EBC in the tent – wet, cold, a bit claustrophobic and then having to pack everything back before the run. The 15 times we had to kick and hit the top and sides of the tent to get the snow off and reduce condensation, and the 2 times the staff cleared the tents again, and the incessant snowfall all added to the excitement but also took it’s toll as I coughed and spluttered through the night.
The tea was great in the morning but for the life of me I could not find my sunglasses either in the mess tent or our tent and my running pack. I have to thank Pasang our leader and 7 time Everester - for gallantly lending me his sunglasses for me to use on the way down, to prevent snow blindness – even though it was overcast and snowing. We took quick pics as we then packed and began our slow and somewhat dicey descent down on a freshly made slippery track. The glacial lakes were beautiful, made somewhat more ethereal by the low visibility and the clouds and the falling snow. That 5k trip took a loooooong time to happen. It was almost as if Everest did not want to reveal her face and yet wanted us to be close by for as long as possible. We had stayed a night on base camp – a privilege kept only for mountaineering expeditions and now the marathoners. That was a treat in itself.
Since many of the porters had already been sent back down, we were carrying heavier loads down than when we were coming up, and the conditions made it quite and exercise, not the best for a total rest day before a grueling marathon.
Two of the Brazilians who were just behind us seemed dehydrated and we gave them water and some munchies and later the next morning we were horrified to learn that both were down with snow blindness since they had now worn sunglasses that day, and were helicoptered down to Kathmandu, as was another couple also down with snow blindness, and another participant who had to opt out after an hour of the race for the same reason.

Reaching the start line with no injury and in a fit condition was a feat in itself as many of us were depleted with one or more of headache, tummy flu, fever, poor acclimatization, and more. Over the last few days I had been hit by laryngitis, tummy flu (which luckily only lasted a day), fever which was more off than on particularly in the last 3 days, and a headache – something that under normal circumstances would have gotten me to pull out of the run. But running was also the quickest way down the mountain – and so I quickly scratched out any plan B from my imagination. Paracetamol for getting the mild temperature down, lozenges for the throat and cough were popped and sucked while I got into my race gear, added a few layers, and the post a great dinner, went off to sleep.

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