Shit! I think as my alarm goes off at 2 am. Quite literally. I’m in a tent at Lobuche High Camp, at about 5100 meters, and I just spent the entire night tossing and turning in my sleeping bag, freezing cold, and with my stomach bubbling and gurgling.
I’m not even supposed to be on Lobuche Peak right now. I was in the middle of the 3 Passes Trek when I met up with a Nepali friend based in Lobuche village for the season, guiding climbers up the mountain. After some internal deliberation, I decided to shell out the money for a Lobuche climbing permit, borrowed my friend’s gear (luckily we have the exact same shoe size), and tagged along with a different guide and group of climbers heading up the mountain as an acclimatization hike to prepare for Everest.
That’s how I ended up here, hurriedly shoving on my shoes and running to the toilet while my insides threaten to explode.
Typically when climbing Lobuche, climbers spend one night at high camp, then wake up at about 2 am, eat breakfast, and start the climb by 3 am. The “alpine start” is important for a few reasons: it gives climbers plenty of extra time in case something goes wrong; it allows them to take advantage of the better weather in the morning before the clouds come in; and the snow/ice conditions are safer for climbing in the morning, before it gets too warm and things start to melt. It’s also pretty awesome to start a climb and see nothing but the stars and the circle of light illuminated by your headlamp.
Slowly, the early morning light softly illuminates the landscape, and then the sun rises and reflects brilliantly off the snow-covered mountains.
The climb to Lobuche East Peak would take about 5 hours. It starts with just hiking on rock, up until crampon point, about halfway up, and then donning harnesses and crampons and following fixed lines to the summit, at about 6100 meters.
I must have developed a bad stomach bug overnight, because now I can’t eat anything for breakfast, and by the time my group is ready to leave our camp and start the climb, I’ve already made multiple trips to the toilet. Despite the stomach pain, I don’t want to give up on the mountain. So I start the long climb up with my team, which consists of two other foreign male climbers and one Nepali guide.
On the way up, my stomach continues to bubble and gurgle, and I have to stop about every hour to go to the toilet. I start to think that maybe I need to turn around, but my stubbornness and determination persist, and I continue moving upwards. Just as the landscape starts to light up from the approaching sun rise, we reach crampon point and have to put on our harnesses and clip into the fixed lines for the remainder of the ascent. I haven’t eaten anything all morning, so I think that there can’t possibly be anything left inside my stomach, and hope that I will make it all the way to the top without any more problems.
Such wishful thinking! About 30 minutes from the summit, my stomach feels like it’s about to explode. I have to swallow my dignity and ask my fellow climbers to go ahead while I try to figure out how to safely go to the bathroom on the steep snow and ice. Fortunately, I’m wearing an alpine harness that allows me to unclip the leg loops and do my business while still safely secured to the fixed line.
While squatting on the side of this big mountain as far away from the climbing path as the harness will allow me to reach, I laugh a little to myself at the hilarity of the situation, and decide to just enjoy the “poo with a view”.
When I finally reach the summit of Lobuche East Peak, it is a moment of victory. Not victory over the mountain, but over myself; despite being sick, having eaten nothing all day, and being quite dehydrated, I have still managed to drag myself up my first 6000 meter peak. I’m rewarded with spectacular morning views of the magnificent Himalaya.
I sit down, drink a bit of water and try to eat a Snickers bar. I bask in the sunlight and gaze out over the tallest mountains in the world. It was all worth it.
Want to go? Have a look at some of the treks Royal Mountain Travel offers in the Everest region:
Inspired? For more ideas about what to do in the Everest region, have a look at Inside Himalayas:
Tips for Tackling the Everest Base Camp Trek; Trek to Everest Base Camp; 20 Photos of the Everest Region We Cannot Stop Looking At; One Everest Base Camp Trek Is Not Enough; Everest Base Camp: Nepal vs Tibet; Tibet Overland Tour With Everest Base Camp; Scenic Flight to Everest: Third Time Lucky