Sunday 11 January 2015

Day 217: Renjo La - Everest has company

Everest with Gokyo lake in the foreground
The allure of our wild camping spot evaporated overnight.  Its beauty slept in pools of shade but its height and exposure had no intention of disappearing so easily.  In the biting cold we filled water bottles, cooked porridge (with chocolate Angel Delight for Paul and Ian - the sole luxury of a hostile location!) and got underway as quickly as we could.  But once we left the campsite behind, things rapidly improved.  A few hours' easy plod took us up to the Renjo La, even if it was a little icy underfoot at times.  This was no Tesi Lapcha.  It was just a walk, a plod, a bit of a stomp with the mother of all mountainscapes waiting at the top.

On the Renjo La, a long photography session did not carry the risk of hypothermia so we made the most of it.  There was plenty to photograph.  Ahead of us lay Gokyo Lake with a picturesque resort / village on its far shore.  Behind, in our foreshortened view, lay Lobuche, with Everest behind and Lhotse to the right.  Makalu also put in an appearance as did many other gargantuan shards of rock and ice that I could not immediately put a name to.  Only Cho Oyu played hard to get and hid behind a shoulder of the mountains to the north.  Never mind, we would track her down tomorrow.

As we gazed at Everest we remembered staring at the same mountain from the Tibetan side only a couple of weeks before.  Everest itself looked more impressive from Tibet because it stood alone, rearing its great bulk above surrounding albino mole hills while Makalu and Lhotse (the nearest mountains capable of giving it a run for its money) lay hidden.  But from the Nepali side, so many great hulks of snow sprouted from the earth that Everest was just one guest at this vast ice-themed tea party.  The view as a whole dwarfed its Tibetan counterpart, but the single peak of Everest lacked the supremacy it had enjoyed in Tibet.

Flying high: the team celebrate crossing the Renjo La.
With so many mountains strutting ahead of us, the descent to Gokyo village was frequently obstructed by the call of the camera but eventually we made it down to the waterside where new delights awaited.  Our lodge boiled a bucket of hot water for each of us so we could have a full wash and scrub our clothes.  After fifteen minutes of bliss greater than that offered by Lindt chocolate, Michael Ondaatje's writing or a cheetah sighting on a barren plane, I changed into clean clothes and hung a second clean set on the wall to dry.  What more could any mountaineer want after crossing two high mountain passes?  We become primitive beings in the mountains; a lyrical phrase means nothing, a few drops of water or a large (if tasteless) meal means everything.  We all become the lowest of common denominators.  This seems like a good reason not to spend too much time in the mountains.  Without the things we don't actually need - the lyrical phrase; the swirl of cloud in the time-lapse photo - what is the point anyway?

We settled for counting warmth and plentiful food as the point, for this evening anyway, as we huddled around the stove and ate enormous helpings of fried noodles.  The cards emerged again.  Twenty-Eight scored more than twenty-eight points; Snacks, Itch and Twenty-Eight high-fived each other whenever Choc-Ice lost; Snacks's dealing continued to outmatch continental drift for tardiness so we took the cards off him and dealt on his behalf.  The world had returned to normal.  Outside the window, Gokyo Lake tickled the shoreline while Everest and Lhotse awaited dawn and another day-long photo shoot.  Don't worry Everest, our cameras are waiting.

Yaks on the approach to the Renjo La 
Large glacial lake. The path to the Renjo La skirts the left side of the lake before ascending to a notch in the ridge
just to the left of the area in shadow. 
Looking back at the lake from near the pass
Susan taking the final few steps to the pass
Everest and Gokyo
Surely more good luck?
The West Face of Big-E (looks more rocky than I'd imagined)
Descending the Renjo La to Gokyo 
Approaching the lake and once again I'm glad to be on snow-free south-facing slopes.

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