My group of climbers, which included the 7 Chinese and 3 newly arrived trekkers, set off for Lobuche base camp today. As there was no rush, we got up at the usual time, had breakfast and then set about packing our heavier climbing gear for the porters to transport by yak.
This gear included our -40 degree Celsius sleeping bags, crampons for walking on ice, 6,000m climbing boots, climbing harness with carabiners, ascenders and descenders, helmet, down jackets and trousers, inflatable sleeping mat, heavy duty gloves, thermals, goggles etc. Although it sounds a lot, and it is, the key attribute to climbing gear is lightness. So the whole lot weighed less than 10 kg per person.
After an early lunch we set off on the 3-hour journey back to Lobuche base camp. Initially it was tough going, but as we descended from 5,300m to 4,800m above sea level I could feel myself getting faster and faster, as if I was chewing oxygen like it was rocket fuel.
By the time I reached Lobuche base camp I was completely energised. I even jogged to the bathroom, a 100m journey that left me breathless a week ago when I was only walking!
To put it into perspective, I was now at the same height as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe, and I was so acclimatised I felt I could play a game of football. Whether I could or not was another matter, but I was feeling infinitely better than the last time I had stayed at this altitude.
We had missed the other group, as they had already left for high camp at the same time we had left Everest base camp, so all that was left to do was choose a tent, settle in, have dinner, climbers segregated from trekkers to prevent them giving us an infection, and get some sleep before the move to high camp the next day.