Days 8-9: The Day We Almost Headed Back Down

Waking up in Tengboche, I was relieved to find that my headaches were gone.  I was even more relieved when I checked the itinerary and the estimated time for today’s trek was 5 to 6 hours (compared to the previous day’s 6.5 hours — which turned into approximately 8 hours including breaks).  We started off with a downhill trail, so that was manageable.  We were told that today’s trail would not be as difficult as yesterday’s so I was looking forward to a good walk, like the ones we had to and before Namche.

Getting ready to leave our room in Tengboche

Getting ready to leave our room in Tengboche

Unfortunately, about an hour and half later, I had started developing a headache.  Again.  It started out the same way the other ones did, minor and manageable.  However, it eventually started building up and as I have written on my journal that day “it was hell from that point on”. If on the previous day I found it hard to maintain a slow pace, this time I found it hard to maintain any pace at all.  I was slow without deliberately being slow.  Ang Dawa pointed out where Shomare was, our scheduled lunch stop.  It was the next village and I could see it in the distance, possibly an hour away.  I had to push on.

It took us more than an hour to get there though, as we were stopping every  5 or 10 minutes.  I was desperately trying to regain my strength which was being slowly drained by the effort of dragging one foot after another in an attempt to walk while nursing a throbbing head.  I also had to concentrate and make sure that I didn’t fall off the edge of the mountain and, if I had to climb over rocks, I had to make sure that my footing was stable.  It had gotten so bad, that on the final uphill to the village, I was in tears and desperate for some rest.

Me, dying on the way to Shomare

Me, dying on the way to Shomare

When we were finally seated, I ordered garlic soup.  That came in a small bowl, but even that was too much for me and I couldn’t eat.  I wanted to sleep, I wanted to rest.  I wanted trek days that were like to those on the way to Namche.  I had enjoyed those treks and taken photos, this day’s trek was purely to survive.  My headache had not gone away and we had to tell Ang Dawa that I couldn’t make it to Dingboche, our destination for the day.  It took Ang Dawa and Dil (who was quite handily walking with us for a change) a while to find a suitable lodge, but when they did, it was straight to the sleeping bag for me and I slept for 3 hours.

By 5 pm I was up and we were at the lodge’s restaurant.  By this time even Allan had developed a headache and mine was still bad.  At point we both thought that this was it.  It was the end of the EBC trek and we had to turn back and head down.  There was no point in continuing if we couldn’t enjoy the trek because of altitude sickness.  After another almost untouched meal for me, Allan and I had said that tomorrow, we would descend so there was no point in taking Diamox.

The following day, I woke up still with a headache while Allan was much better.  Realizing that we would not get close to EBC because of me was a crushing thought, but if I didn’t feel well, we couldn’t go higher.  We told Ang Dawa over breakfast of the decision to head down and he suggested that he could take Allan up while I waited somewhere lower OR we could both go lower today and then try to head back up the following day.  Allan didn’t want to go higher without me, and I didn’t want to go lower as it only meant going back up the same way.  So we decided to stay in Shomare for the day to give me time to recover.

That meant I had to take Diamox, as we were not heading down.  Two hours later, I was starting to feel better and even brought up the possibility of trying to continue today.  Allan and I went uphill to the top of the village to see how I would feel — normally a few steps up already brings on the headaches already.  While I felt alright, I was not 100% confident that I could manage 2 hours or so of walking.  Especially since I wasn’t sure how easy the trail would be.  The memories of the previous day’s struggle to get to Shomare were still fresh and it affected my confidence.  It would be Shomare for another night.

So we spent the day trying to learn how to speak Nepalese and even managed to ask the 2-year-old girl from the family running the lodge what her name was (she asked me as well, but of course, I couldn’t understand her until someone interpreted for me).   I also managed to sneak in some laundry time in a nearby water source.  By dinner time, I ordered Dal Bhat and managed to eat more than the previous day, a sign that I was getting better.

Laundry time

Laundry time

2-year-old Elena

2-year-old Elena


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