Perfect blue skies and stunning views of what must be leading contender for the best mountain scape in the world. Jangbu had got us up early, no kitchen porters to prepare breakfast and we were heading down.
The scenery made me well up inside. At one point yesterday I had come to terms with not seeing any of the 8,000 plus metre summits yet here they all were. Not a sign of anyone, just the vague hint of a trail left by the kitchen porters making there escape yesterday, but apart from that we had it all to ourselves.
|Heading down with Everest and Makalu as company|
These mountains are well known but I will describe them anyway. Far away to the west we could the first of the 8,000 metre plus peaks Cho Oyu, a long way away but with distinct white features. To the front and slightly to the left we could see the three summits which make up the Everest massif. To the west of massif Everest, the biggest of them all, with its famous dark top sticking into the jet stream and generating a flume, showing white against the blue sky as ice crystals are blown from with its summit. Everest's junior sisters, but still over 8000 metres, Lhotse and Lhotse Shar, stand respectfully to east. Running down from the summit of Everest we can clearly see the South Col and with the sun coming from east the mountain is spilt a into sunlight side and a side in shadow. We thought we could see Hilary's Steps, a bit fanciful perhaps, but couldn't you be fanciful in such scenery. Immediately in front of us, and impressive because of that was Makalu, a huge magnificent mountain with of large glacier and glacial lake sitting in front of it. And finally, and last but not least, far away to the east, Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain and once considered to be the highest. I have camped underneath Kanchenjunga and at the base camp there where you really get up close and personal. Crossing the pass to the valley leading up to the base camp I briefly saw a distant and very tiny looking Everest. From the Everest end Kanchenjunga was must clearer, slightly aloof, and a big mountain.
|Everest and me|
It's hard to get your fill of such a view, and constantly clicking your camera felt like a sort of gorging. We were going down hill but the deep snow still drained me of any energy I had left after yesterday's walk. I started to feel nauseous - perhaps the intense sun, lack of food, and of course the altitude.
The porters had emerged over the edge of the glacier lower down but were waiting for us to walk down and break the trail before setting off. The sun was intense and although every bit of exposed skin was covered in sun bloc I could feel myself burning. Despite the scenery I became desperate to get down but without energy could do nothing to increase the pace.
|Looking back to Mera|
At the edge of the glacier the path starts to descend steeply. Coming up I was full of it leading the group, but now it was one step at a time. Coming up we had changed into crampons when we reached the glacier, now there was so much snow we kept them on.
The crampons were a blessing and a curse. They provide amazing grip but on the feet of a tired novice like me were constantly getting snagged on bits of clothing and tripping me up.
|Coming down the edge of the glacier|
Perhaps for the first time, certainly the first time I can remember, the going down felt longer than the coming up. It seemed to go on forever. After falling over a fourth time I removed my crampons avoiding the curse of crampons but also missing the blessing. Still eventually we could see the final descent into Khare, the snow was getting thinner and the end was in sight.
|Arriving at Khare|
A touching welcome party had been organised by Nigel, who had been stranded here for two days and we gathered on a bench and drank hot lemon, great.
It was the first time the four of us who attempted the climb, never mind the seven, had been together for two days and we immediately started to try and construct a sense of what we had done.
We had nowhere near finished when we had to have lunch, repack everything, and start the walk down to Thangnat. Seemed like cruelty at the time, setting off on another walk, especially as the brilliant sunshine of the morning had changed to snow. It was however the right thing and meant that from High Camp to Tangnag we had dropped nearly 1500 metres. More oxygen and the prospect of a good night beckoned.
There was more post-mortem discussion prompted by questions from Russians who were staying in the same tea house as us before their own ascent attempt. Jangbu, who had had a drink or two, was very expressive, said how dangerous the crevasse was. The Russians wanted all the information we had but interestingly their Nepalese sherpa was totally unmoved and didn't think the crevasse would be a problem. Whatever the case, in the conditions and given our exhaustion after bashing through snow for nearly five hours, coming down seemed for us like the right thing to do.