Day 9: Gorak Shep to Pheriche

Pheriche, Nepal
14,340 feet above sea level; 53% oxygen

Who would have thought that you couldn’t actually see Mt. Everest from Everest Base Camp? It’s crazy but true.

After climbing into bed at 6 p.m. last night, my pounding headache prevented sleep. So, when our guides came to wake us at 3:45 a.m. for a trek to watch the sun rise over the tallest mountain in the world, it was pretty simple for me to get up.

With headlamps, we set out into the pitch black and began almost immediately an ascent. Stopping frequently to catch our breath, we watched as my altimeter showed our rapid climb that quickly broke 18,000 feet as we reached the summit of Kala Patthar.

The temperature outside was barely above the single digits — which we were frequently reminded of as we attempted to drink water from our frozen Nalgene bottles. As dawn slowly broke, we were blown away by the views, not just of imposing Everest (although impressive), but the surrounding landscape.

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When we finally reached the summit, stamping our feet to stay warm and sucking down air, my watch indicated we were at nearly 19,000 feet.

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We had just enough time to snap a few photos of Everest before we (literally) jogged down the mountain in order to escape to the warmth of the lodge.

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After breakfast, we began our accelerated descent back to Lukla. Because our flight had been canceled and we had lost a day, we now had just three days to cover the same ground that we had checked off in the previous eight — about 40 miles and 3 vertical miles.

Luckily, the sun warmed up the temperatures and our acclimated bodies had less difficulty tackling the Nepali Flats. Indeed, the afternoon trek felt almost leisurely as we all had an opportunity to breathe a big sigh or relief. For the first time in over a week, we could also walk with our heads up – and continue to try and take in all of this amazing natural beauty.

Our altitude quickly dropped as we retraced our steps. A few miles beyond the Everest memorials, we descended a steep hill into a valley. Here, our next stop, Pheriche, came into view. The Panorama Teahouse offered just that — stunning views, but more importantly, a comfortable place to rest our weary heads.

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Which was the first priority.

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