Tuesday 28 March

Below the edge of the glacier

Up once during the night, but a good sleep. It is a cold morning and there is ice in my platypus. Very superficial wash in the warm water brought by Mindu, then I get myself packed.

After breakfast, we begin walking as we did yesterday. But despite yesterday’s acclimatisation, it seems like even more of a slog. After passing the prayer flags up on the ridge, our path more or less follows the contour of the valley, a narrow six inch strip of uneven muddy ground between snow, quite hard to walk along.

We come presently to the foot of the morraine from the glacier, where we begin to climb steeply up the side of the valley. The path is quite good, with steps constructed from large stone slabs in places.

About half way up I manage to lose a contact lens as I turn round to take a photograph. I switch to specs; unfortunately this means I can’t wear my sunglasses any more and I suffer in the brightness of the glare off the snow.

Picking our way across the snow
(magnify) The second lake

At the top, the first lake comes into view, quite small and bordered on the left by a steep rock face. Behind are stunning snow-covered peaks. The level ground is white with snow, punctated by small rocks poking through. Due to the narrowness of the path between the snow it is often easier to walk on the snow itself, but every so often my foot breaks through the crust and I lose sight of my boot.

The second lake is just over a small rocky rise. It is much larger and the near end is iced over. It is too cold in the bitter wind to stop here for long, so we press on to the third lake.

(magnify) The third lake

Just after we reach the start of the third lake, suddenly there is Purba with a kettle of hot lemon, waiting for us. It couldn’t be more welcome and we all sit down gratefully for a few minutes. The source of the hot beverage is not obvious, but I think they have set up a stove behind some rocks nearby.

We can see the village of Gokyo from some way off as we round the side of the lake. Behind it rises the rocky edge of the glacier. At the head of the valley beyond the village is a seemingly impregnable wall of snow-covered mountains.

(magnify) Nawang Friendship Lodge
The north wind shall blow…

I had expected to find at Gokyo nothing more than a tea house and perhaps a small farm, but it is in fact a jostle of lodges, all competing hotly for custom. The crew are just starting to get the tents up on a narrow terrace outside our lodge, the Nawang Friendship Lodge. Inside, we are soon served noodle soup, then a main course of crunchy peas in tomato sauce arrives, with a sort of doughnut, vegetables, and sausage. Not everyone has the appetite for it. The sign outside the lodge tells us that we are now at 4750 m.

(magnify) Far side of the lake

Later that afternoon I go for a short walk round to the other side of the lake. There is a multitude of paths skirting the lower regions of Gokyo Ri (which we will climb tomorrow morning), and I soon arrive on a kind of sandy beach at the far side, separating a low snow-covered boggy area from the lake itself.

Mid-afternoon tea back at the lodge, then I must repack so that Terry and I can share a single kit bag to go over the pass while the rest of our kit is taken with the yaks along the valley route to the Khumba valley.

After dinner it is straight to bed to prepare for tomorrow’s early start.