The alarm went off at the right time of 2:30am. It hit me that I had forgotten to change the time zones so I was already 15 minutes late.
The bowel gods showered their blessings upon thee and I couldn't have been happier. The water in the sink pipe was frozen so I ran back and grabbed my water bottle to wash hands. I'm sure there was some leftover Fast n Up still floating in it.
When I woke up Abhishek, he asked 'What time is it?'
'It's 2:50 am' I replied.
Without saying a word more, we both rushed to get going.
I peed 5 times that night. Everytime I would come back I could hear Abhi snore like a bear. Around 1am I heard noises of trekkers moving around. Sounds of things being removed from plastic, backpack being zipped up, boots creaking on the wooden floor. It wasn't a peaceful night of sleep.
It was a few minutes past 3 am when we reached the dining hall. I quickly grabbed my packed breakfast and swapped the boiled egg for a sandwich with Sam. Can't eat uncooked egg. There was some confusion about boiling water that delayed us for an hour.
It was drizzling outside. I had 3 layers on and wore a Gortex on top of it. To cover my head I had a buff, a woolen cap and finally the rain jacket head cover. The wind hit the ears so hard that it woke me up faster than any cup of coffee.
The route was decent, fairly plan, few steep sections. The sun didn't rise till 5:50 am so for the first few hours we were walking in the dark. Very frustrating, fighting sleep and feeling agitated. Like miners, with their head lamps shining, we dug our poles in search of Gorakshep.
I remember having a chat with myself half hour before sunrise 'bas addha ghante ka khel hai, keep moving.'
We reached Gorakshep at 7:00am. It took us roughly three hours and headed straight to Yeti Restaurant for a cup of tea. Then someone ordered toast, someone ordered and egg. Next thing you know, we are there for an hour having a full blown english style breakfast.
Flags of countries and soccer clubs hung from the ceiling. This was a popular place with foreigners. I laughed thinking I was a foreigner there too.
Kala Patthar stood next to Gorakshep towering at 5545m. A 500m gain awaited us. Honestly, I did not think too much of it except that it would be a good drill for Island Peak. I did not expect for my wind to be blown off this early in the expedition.
You start by crossing a giant field from Gorakshep and start climbing a 200m hill. No big deal. This opens up to a valley and a few minutes you hit these huge, black boulders. Climb them for about 250m and then 50m push to the summit.
I kept lagging behind. The rest of the team seemed to be doing really well. What was wrong with me? Why was I struggling? Am I slow or these bastards are too fast? Bharath could sense my frustration and said 'Relax, you're doing fine.'
We spent half hour at the summit, taking pictures, cracking jokes. Not knowing that further torture remained.
The plan was to hit EBC from Kala Patthar. We skipped the route we came from and started making our way down on a different path. A bunch of climbers leaped from boulder to boulder as if it was a game. Anirban and I were struggling, stopping every few minutes to map our way down and which boulder to step on and which one to avoid. It was only when I told myself to stop being afraid of falling that I started to enjoy the way down.
By the time we all reached the bottom, it was decided to skip EBC and start making our way back to Gorakshep. Hasvi, along with a sherpa decided to give it a shot. Brave girl. When I walked into Yeti Restaurant, Sam, Awang and Reena were fast asleep on the dining table. Rest looked like zombies. Somehow we ate our lunch, not much chatter, knowing we still had 3 hours walk back to Lobuche.
As usual, I got separated from the group. It was an overcast day, hardly any sunlight made its way down. I was walking along with one of the guides, Sabin. It was dark now and I kept asking him if we were lost. Looking back the situation wasn't anything to panic about but we had been walking for 14 hours and the mind was exhausted.
The last half hour gave me chills. Not a man in sight, darkness all over. Two men walking with no end in sight. When I first saw the lights of tea houses I whispered 'wahe guru da khalsa, wahe guru di fateh'. I had wondered several times during those three long hours, what would happen if we do get lost? How long would it take the rest of the team to find us? I stopped drinking water, saving it for later if we are still out in the open. I took a big swig when I spotted the tea house.Later that night, I told Abhishek that I was sorry about my speed today and it was really beginning to bother me that I couldn't keep up with the others. Like a brother he asked me immediately delete this thought and stop adding unnecessary pressure.
No marathon, no stairs, no weighted walks can prepare you for the real thing...
We were exhausted and I don't even remember trying to fall asleep. I do remember telling myself 'one bad day doesn't make you a weak climber' before I dozed off into la la land.