Kala Patthar to Dzongla (Three Passes Trek, Nepal) Part VI
FOR A CLOSE-UP OF MT. EVEREST, Kala Patthar is the place. At over 18,000 feet, it’s still roughly 11,000 ft shy of Earth’s highest peak. Anybody who’s anybody goes there to get their panoramic fix. And you gotta see the sunrise. Everyone's just gotta see the sunrise. Sunrise trumps all. Anywhere. Everywhere. It's cloudy? You're sick? The earth's magnetic poles just switched auguring end of days? Doesn't matter. See the fucking sunrise, pal. Otherwise, you’re a complete asshole. Don't wanna be an asshole, do ya?
As it happens, notwithstanding the brilliant reflection of matutinal light off the nearby mountains, morning isn’t great for Everest views. Better chance for clear weather? Sure, but the sun rises from behind, blanketing it, Nuptse, and Lhotse in darkness. Everest might be the draw, but it’s not the highlight in my humble opinion.
The morning is cold. Stupid cold. I cared little for seeing the sun “magically” break the plane, but I knew a morning hike would be rewarding. I tried to time my departure so the rays would fall across the trail as I ascended. Sunlight equals warmth. I left about 6:30 am (as opposed to the normal tourist yak train departure of 4:30 or 5 am), but this was still premature; the trail was shrouded in shadow. It was nippy. Very nippy. Anybody beating the sunrise to the top wouldn’t be there for long.
If you own a dead horse, beat it. The view was marvelous. You get a three-hundred-sixty-degree vista of the surrounding valley that can steal your breath. If not, the wind will oblige. Everest isn’t much more than a silhouette.
Cosmogonic cocaine. That’s what you snort when you’re up there.
I lingered for a time braving the periodic bouts of butt clinching icy wind. I had to tear myself away. Not because I was cold. Not because I had somewhere to be. Never loiter too long in a place like that. I think it’s important to leave wanting a little more.
Cosmic bliss. That was my state as I descended. No “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” this time, but my slow trot turned into a near sprint. When the gradient permits, it’s often a blast to run down a mountain, any mountain. So, it was long, hopping strides down Kala Pattar—a jackrabbit on amphetamines. I passed an elder group of Irish lads and lasses I'd met before. They thought me foolhardy and full of youthful, if not irrational, exuberance. Their guide advised me to slow down. I wasn’t human. I was a force of nature. In other words, I was a child. Stop me? Might as well piss into a hurricane, pal. And yes, it was stupid. Very, very stupid.
Back to the lodge in Gorak Shep for the standard breakfast banquet. I reflected on a lesson I’d relearned the previous evening: Don't judge a book by its cover.
So trite. So cliché. So true.
I watched bemused as two trekkers with Mohawk haircuts entered the lodge with enough gear to cross the Arctic. They didn’t look friendly. My imagination conjured up an image of "DOUCHBAGS" written on a Lite-Brite. Turns out they were Italian doctors and had just walked from Jiri (some people opt to take a bus from Kathmandu and walk from there in lieu of a flight to Lukla).
Polite. Personable. Friendly. The hairstyle was a “shits and giggles” approach to their hike. A crowd in Kathmandu looked on with glee as the barber carved their noggins. Very funny. Everybody plays the douchebag. My turn.
It was time to head for mountain pass number two, the Cho La. This day would take me from Gorak Shep to Dzongla, the starting point. I spent most of it alone, passing trekking groups sporadically.
Here I go. Beat the dead horse! Beat it!
Striking Himalayan panoramas that might lead atheists to reconsider. Who am I? What am I? Where am I? What’s the meaning all this bullshit?
The wind slapped me in the face like nobody's business, but I didn’t give two fathomless shits. I was mesmerized, high on yet another hit of cosmic crack, tuning like a fork. Lonely, haunting, wonderful.
The track was gentle enough for me to let my mind wander. And wander it did. My thoughts were soaring higher than the Flying Lama, the fifth reincarnate lama of Rongbuk Gompa in Tibet. Known as Sange Dorje he allegedly brought Buddhism to the Khumbu region via a supernatural flight plan. Alone, bathed in magnificence, I could almost buy it. Two songs practically wrote themselves as I trundled along—The Cho La Song and The Cho La Song Rap Remix (see below). They served as motivation for the pass to come. Please blame the altitude. I do.
After a long slog, I arrived at the Green Valley View Guesthouse in Dzongla. I stashed my gear and ate like a death row inmate. My early arrival afforded ample time to relax, soak up the scenery, and finish my masterpieces.
I met a German fella who also had designs on crossing the pass. He too was without a guide and suggested we form a Cho La alliance. Always good to have a playmate.