Thursday, April 06, 2006

the trek, day 4 - seven degree freezing point

in the morning i felt better, though not 100%. apparently at least one person from another trekking party in tshoka had to head back that morning due to altitute problems. i decided not to be a hero and told our guide about my problem--at least the vomity part. he thought it was a food issue, because i didn't have a headache, and because one of the porters had a similar problem. i was sure he was wrong--i've been poisoned countless times, this was different--but i didn't push it. they made me garlic soup for breakfast, which apparently is a natural remedy for altitude sickness. safe from vampires at least, i pressed on.

again the weather was terrible. we reached the snow line. hank and trish were thrilled, having little previous snow experience. i was less excited--the trail was getting slushy and my shoes had seen better days. the last thing i wanted was frozen feet. more climbing and we reached dzrongri (13200 feet) at around 1pm. this place is a trekkers hub where a few different trails meet, though there is still no electricity or running water or anyone living up here--just a large trekkers hut and a large outhouse (3 stalls!). for many groups this is the furthest (and highest) they'll go because it was all they'd planned. for many others, it's the furthest they'd go due to altitude sickness. we had already heard of many (and met a few on the way down) who were forced to turn back from here. if we didn't succumb, we were to spend 2 nights here, for the sake of acclimatizing. i thought of the info on the wall back in tshoka--it said you should only sleep 1000 feet higher than you did the day before. tonight would be about 4000 feet higher!

i was feeling ok. not great, but no worse than before, except for the bitter cold up here. we were still socked in by clouds, only now it began to snow. again, the aussies were delighted. hank asked darcy how cold it would get. darcy said "probably about 7 [celcius] (45 fahrenheit)", which became the running joke of the trip, as snow was accumulating on the ground and the water in my water bottle was even starting to freeze. with each hour of the white stuff accumulating i was increasingly sure that if the altitude didn't send me home, the snow would, because our path would be blocked. already darcy was hinting that we might not be able to go forward from here, but this struck me more as laziness on his part.

it was hard to climb out of the sleeping bag into the cold just for the sake of dinner, but i did, before retreating back for an early sleep. this time i woke in the middle of the night with breathing issues and i thought i was going to die. this lasted an hour or two.

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