Last night I slept fairly well except for a very bad fit of coughing about an hour after getting in my sleeping bag. It finally calmed down by itself. It’s really hard to lose this cough when you spend all day in cold air breathing through your mouth. At least it doesn’t seem to be getting any worse. Also, I think I figured out something about this feeling of suffocation – I think these episodes are self inflicted. They only occur when I am lying still trying to sleep. My mind starts to worry about the altitude, and I start breathing voluntarily, rather than just forgetting about breathing and let my brains/lungs do their job. When I take over, I tend to breathe too deeply, thus triggering the loss of CO2 from my blood stream, which in turn lowers the urge to breathe. Then the cycle starts again. If I lie there doing something like playing with my phone, I just breathe normally, with no issues at all. My theory is backed up by the fact that I had no issues while hiking today, and feel fine now even though I am over 3800 m (12,500 ft). Of course it could also be because I started taking Diamox. Or maybe it’s a combination.
Speaking of Diamox, One of its side effects is frequent urination. Both last night, and today while hiking, I must have stopped to pee every 15 minutes on average. Fortunately, I bought a new hydration bladder at Namche so I was able to keep hydrated.
Today’s hike started with a stiff climb out of Namche, then a 2-3 km of contouring, before plunging down a few hundred meters to cross the Dudh Khoshi on another vertigo-inducing suspension bridge. From there it was up up up about 600 meters or 2000 ft vertical to Tengboche, the location of a famous large monastery. I passed by without even a picture, I guess I’ve seen one to many Buddhist temples in my time. The weather was sunny for the most part, in spite of clouds swirly about the high peaks. It is impossible to describe, and photos don’t capture, how dramatic it is when you are hiking directly beneath icy peaks that are more than 2 miles above you. A mountain will appear impossibly high as it peaks over a diffuse cloud.
On the part of the trail above Namche, the donkey trains have been replaced by trains of lumbering shaggy yaks. They kick up a dust storm as they plod by. The vegetation has also changed with the pines below Namche giving way to tall fir trees. Tomorrow, we will climb up above treeline, which should yield unobstructed views, but I fear the cold wind.
Tonight, the lodge’s dining room is filled with trekkers, including a large contingent of Koreans who brought their own food, compete with plates, chickens and chopsticks. I had horrible spaghetti with tomato sauce and cheese where the tomato sauce was a splash of ketchup. Ah well, I am not here for the cuisine.