Sam: This is it.
Frodo: This is what?
Sam: If take one more step, it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been.
Frodo: Come on Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say, "It's a dangerous business Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 1 part two

The plane ride to Lukla was not scary to me because I felt completely safe in the hands of the pilots. There was no demonstration of oxygen masks because the plane it not pressurized. But no matter, because I would be walking in higher altitude in the next week. There is no radar. The pilots fly by sight, which is why clouds = no flights. 

But it is a very dangerous airport. The runway is like this: imagine a diagonal side of a mountain, take a wedge out of it to make a flat bit. One end of the runway is the sheer side of the mountain, the end where we need to stop is solid mountain. Our plane landed before we hit rock, thankfully. 

Unfortunately we were very behind schedule for the day. We had expected to have the whole afternoon to make a hike out Of Lukla. We needed to reach Phakding 2-2.5 hours away minimum but our goal was to go a hour beyond that because to break up a difficult Day 2 hike. 

But it was 4pm when we touched down and 4:30 when we met up with the guide-porter and finished a small argument over the amount of weight he could carry. Now our only option was to make it to Phakding. Sunset time in Phakding was 6:30pm. We had two hours before dark and the temperatures would plummet.  

 I hadn't eaten lunch at the airport yet and I had no energy to walk at all, let alone at 2800m. I already felt winded walking down the stone lane from the airport to a nearby shop. Lukla was already the highest elevation I had ever been. It was also noticeably colder in Lukla, probably in the 40s. I wolfed down the most accessible food I had: a jar of crunchy peanut butter that i ate plain from a spoon. I ate about four spoonfuls. That brought my food intake that day to 2 eggs, 2 apples, and about 800 calories worth of peanut butter.

The two hour power walk to Phakding was my second low of the day. I was exhausted, hungry, in a strange place, and breathless walking as fast as I could toward some basic, unheated teahouse. If this hike wasn't hard enough in daylight, I really did not want to do it in the dark. I couldn't even remember if I had my headlamp in my daypack or in the duffle the porter had sped off with. 

Trek mate and I made it into the teahouse at 6:30. By 6:45 it was completely dark outside. When I finally sat down I felt my heart racing. Opening the zippers of my pack seemed like an impossible task with my clumsy fingers. I can't even remember what i ate for dinner that night. I fell asleep as soon as I crawled into my sleeping bag. 

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