Day 7 – April 4, 2013 – Dingboche to Lobuche

After spending two nights making multiple trips to a bathroom exposed to the frigid night air of Dingboche, we packed our backpacks once more to move on.

We left Hotel Family about 8:15 a.m., heading west over the hill we climbed the day before to acclimatize. The landscape on the west side, near Dusa, was mostly flat but slanted toward the dry river valley cradling the town of Pheriche, one of the few towns with a clinic able to treat acute mountain sickness (AMS). Small ridges ran through the packed dirt, creating countless paths on the hike north to Dugla.

En route, we encountered a man wearing shorts and a T-shirt and an inflated blonde blow-up doll strapped to his back. Curious about the situation and eager to introduce Paper Sis, we quickened our step to overtake the unusual pair.

“I have a life-size cutout of my sister in my bag,” Her said to the man, who had paused to lounge on an oversized boulder. “Would you mind if we got a picture with you and your friend?”

Of course he didn’t. Her unfurled Paper Sis, and I snapped a few pictures of Her, the man and the two inanimate ladies.

“So what’s the story with the blow-up doll?” I asked.

“It gets cold at night,” the man quipped. No joke.

In reality, the man, Zach of Wales, was attempting to be the first to take a blow-up doll (his was named “Helga”) to the top of Kala Patthar (a 5545m peak with spectacular views of Everest) with his friends. Their previous exploits included participation in the obscure sport of “extreme ironing” by hauling an ironing board and iron from Lukla all the way to the top of Kala Patthar to press some shirts.

Although many people stop for lunch in tiny Dugla, our early start meant we would be in Lobuche in time for our mid-day meal, just a few kilometers further (and another hundred meters or so up!). So we continued on.

Despite being just a 4-hour hike away from Dingboche, Lobuche is a challenge to reach due to the formidable, zig-zag climb up Thokla Pass (4830m). Nearly two hours climbing up a steep, rocky path sapped the enthusiasm for the trek out of me, but when I arrived at the top of the pass and saw the spectacular views of Tabouche Peak and Ama Dablam behind me with stone memorials to the climbers of Mt. Everest who never made it back, my emotional circuits went into overdrive. One of the most interesting sights of the hike, for me at least, were the memorials to Scott Fischer and the other climbers who died during the doomed 1996 ascent chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” — a book I had just finished reading.

After the pass, we emerged onto an ice field, the very beginning of the Khumbu Glacier that would lead us to the foot of Mt. Everest. We passed Lobuche Base Camp, a collection of about 20 orange tents tethered together atop the frozen stream we walked upon.

Lobuche, described as a “grim place” by Krakauer in is book, wasn’t so bad – other than the windswept cold. Unlike Krakauer, we did not see any overflowing toilets or rivers of human excrement in view. We checked into the Sagarmatha National Park Hotel, ate lunch and then crashed in our room.

Daily hiking time: 3:50 – Total Hiking Time: 27:29