Getting Oxygen in Pheriche

Carina Räihä and Apa Sherpa WWF

While the rest of the expedition is resting at Base Camp, I decided to take a time out from the throat infection I’ve been suffering for a while now, and I descended a kilometre to get to 4300 metres to Pheriche. A kilometre’s difference in altitude helps your body to recover faster and the higher oxygen level will hopefully strengthen my immune system, so that I will be in better shape the day after tomorrow when we will continue climbing.

The first night “down here” showed me that my body is in a state of change. I coughed more than ever before and the rhinitis that had already gotten better, started to bug me again. In the morning I went to see the doctor and I finally got a diagnosis and medication for the sore throat and the cough. My oxygen saturation is good and my lungs are fine but there is still an infection in the upper respiratory ducts. The increased heart rate reveals that I am fighting a disease. I’m hoping that the five day course of antibiotics and a couple of days here at lower altitude will do the trick. I am actually quite surprised that my climbing has gone as well as it has, considering that I’ve been fighting the infection for nearly three weeks now. The next ascent straight to Camp 2 and from there to Camp 3, will tell quite a lot about whether the disease will ease up and what my chances are of reaching the top.

While I was heading down to the mountain valleys on my own, all kinds of thoughts were whirling in my head. It was like going back in time, passing the same paths and villages that we did on our way to Base Camp. Every time I got to a familiar village, all the memories from the way up came back to me and I felt kind of sad. It felt like I was returning home already. Then it occurred to me that after leaving Namche Bazaar, I haven’t run into Anastasia, a charismatic Greek woman, who is the first Greek woman trying to summit Everest. We were introduced to each other in Lukla, when I met Davis, the guy I shared a tent with when climbing Aconcagua.

In the evening after getting to the Himalayan Lodge in Pheriche, I sat down for the first meal of the day and I noticed that a woman at the next table was staring at me. It was Anastasia, who had come down from Base Camp after loosing her voice completely. We had some catching up to do and we talked as much as we could: coughing and sore throat made it somewhat challenging. Neither of us were giving up. The following night someone knocked on my door and told me that a man was waiting to meet me at the restaurant. It was 60-year-old Nawal, the oldest member of our expedition. He too, had come down but he was there to stay. Nawal’s Khumbu cough had not shown any signs of recovery and to continue climbing would have been a health risk. This morning I said goodbye to both of them: Nawal, who will get back to warm and “normal” life in Kathmandu, which is only an hour’s helicopter ride away, and Anastasia, who was about to head back to Base Camp. When the helicopter flew behind the mountains, I stood there for a while and thought back to those great moments we shared at Base Camp: we sat on our “terrace” listening to music and Nawal was sketching his drawings. Although it was sad to see him leave, I am happy for him. After all, he made it this far and now he gets to enjoy the civilization again.

After I got back to the lodge, I noticed a writing on the wall. These are the words of an 83-year-old woman: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid sideways, totally worn out, shouting “Holy shit, what a ride!” At this moment, it really hit the nail in the head!

Tomorrow I will be trekking back to Base Camp, which will take about 10 hours. The day after tomorrow, early in the morning, I will head to Camp 2, where the rest of the expedition will have ascended the day before. We are aiming to climb all the way up to Camp 3 at 7400 metres, which will be my personal record. This ascent will pretty much determine whether I am ready for the summit attempt. I will keep my fingers and toes crossed and hope that the antibiotics are effective and the climb will be a success! You’ll be hearing more from me when I will make a satellite call from Camp 2!

Greetings to all!