Again, this specific day will be difficult for me to explain totally, but I will try my best. I don’t have too many pictures of this day (because I was too busy not dying lol).Since we set out to do the three main passes in the Everest area, this day was our day to do the first pass- the Kongma La Pass. On our map it didn’t look to bad, but it was hard. We started off the morning really early, a little before dawn, so that we could make it to the glacier crossing before dark. Prakash picked our breakfasts to assure that we would have enough energy (and I hadn’t been eating too much because altitude makes you not hungry).
We spent the morning going up for what seemed like forever. Just as we would come over the crest of one hill, there would be another even bigger hill. And we couldn’t even see the high pass yet! At one point, one of the uphills was practically shards of rock from a rock slide that we were clamoring over and holding onto rocks hoping not to fall straight down 30 feet. At several points, it was so steep that if it was in America we would’ve probably used ropes and climbing harnesses. Anyways, we made it up. Eventually we came to a lake that was right before the pass. We could finally see the pass, but it still seemed so far away. The pass sat in the lowest part between two mountains that I forget the name of. At this point I was drained as we had been going up continuously for 5-6 hours and my body was feeling the altitude gain. Each step was difficult, even on flattish ground. I was panting, my head pounded, and my balance wasn’t great.
We began up the pass, which was another rock slide with a little path with less boulders to move around. I never thought I’d make it to the top and turning around crosses my mind too many times, but I refused to quit. Finally, we all made it to the top at an elevation around 18,300 ft. I felt so sick, but this was the place we had agreed to eat lunch and we had worked so hard to get this view. At the top of the pass, I only took a few pictures despite the beauty because my head hurt so bad that I couldn’t think or concentrate on anything with my eyes. There were these cute little hamster looking animals there though that Luca kept throwing bread crumbs to. I ate a boiled egg and two bites of snickers bar (so nutritious).
The view from the path was gorgeous. We could see into the two valleys on each side: one side showing a beautiful frozen lake and being almost eye level with the daunting Ama Dablam with the other side having views of a glacier and many other mountains. I watched Prakash, our porter, and some porters from another group eat and as usual I was amazed at Nepali people’s selflessness (as I was countless times during our trip). One porter had a small bag of cold rice and another had a small bag of raw potatoes and they kept offering them to us and to others crossing the pass when that is all they had to eat. Luca and I had many things in our packed lunches and they had so little, but still continuously asked us to take some of their food. Nepali people are some of the most selfless and kind people I have ever met. My head was throbbing, Luca and I both began to feel worse, and the weather was getting worse so we decided to begin heading down.
Usually down is a relief, but in this case, down was almost as difficult as going up. Down consisted of partially jumping from the tops of boulders and from walking (more like sliding) down a zig-zagged path through a rock slide of sharp rock shards. I fell once (and may have possibly bruised my ribs) and part of the bottom of Luca’s boots were sliced right off by the rock shards. We were exhausted and actually even sang (panted) hymns together part of the way to stay awake. We got to the bottom of the hill and we happy to be down from the pass and decided to take a quick recharge break.
I had to pee. I tried to use one of those GoGirl pee things where girls can pre standing up. I practiced at home many times and thought I had mastered it. Instead, I ended up DRENCHING myself in pee. So there I am, standing behind a boulder with some yaks, with no pants because I peed on them, and waving at the helicopter flying right above my head whose passengers probably saw my bare bum and thought I had lost my mind all while Luca and Prakash were on the other side of the boulder laughing their heads off. I’m glad I could be some comical relief in our long day.
However, we were not done yet; there was still a glacier to cross. I had always thought of glaciers as cute, nice little pieces of shiny blue icy on the side of a mountain. WRONG. I have since learned that glaciers are scary, big, dangerous creatures with crushing power and no empathy. Be scared of glaciers. Prior, I thought the pass was the hardest part of the day, but actually the glacier was the hardest and scariest part.
There was a big uphill to access the glacier moraine and Prakash sprinted to the top to try and find the path across the glacier, while Luca and I ascended a bit slower. When I made it to the top, he still didn’t have the path. He ran back and forth on the first hill of glacier moraine to look for the path. What made it even scarier was that it was almost dusk so it was getting cloudier and darker so the path was difficult to see. The problem with glaciers is that they are melting and moving so quickly that they path is always changing. I thought for sure I was going to die. Prakash got a glimpse of what he thought was the path and we clamored in that way. Glacier moraine is basically just piles of rocks so it requires lots of jumping from rock to rock and trying to not slide in rock piles. The path was possibly found, but a glacial lake stood between us and the path.
Luckily for us there was some boulders that could be jumped across. Slowly, carefully, and holding each other’s hands to help each other across, we made it. After crossing the lake via boulder-hopping, crossing the rest of the glacier consisted of going over multiple moraine hills and finding the right way after each hill. Eventually we made it across. I realize as I write this, the glacier doesn’t sound that bad, but it was one of the scariest moments of my life. Oxygen depletion, exhaustion, and freezing temperatures surely didn’t help me feel any better in the moment.
After about 13-14 hours of straight trekking, we made it to the next place we stayed called the Italian Pyramid, which is the highest research lab in the world and is a partnership between the Nepali and Italian government. We were thrilled of some of the small Italian amenities such as lukewarm water and electrical plugins. We both felt dead so we took our first showers in almost 2 weeks (it took 3 days for my hair to fully dry with the altitude even after blow drying it partially!). In addition to tiredness, I was feeling sick so we decided to sleep in a little bit the next day. I never fell asleep so quick. This day was the hardest physical day of my life and even though I never want to feel like that again, I am so so thankful for this day and the memories made in this day. I definitely learned that you can push yourself farther than ever imagined.