We wake to blue skies and sunshine and so have a late breakfast with a superb view in what is sort of the village square.
We stay there for the rest of the morning chatting, reading etc. and taking the opportunity to have a bit of a wash. There are a few options in the village and mine probably comes in the middle of the range - I have a proper shower but there is not much water pressure, the room is very cold and the drain seems to be blocked.
The afternoon is as relaxed as the morning with a bit of time spent getting ready for heading up the mountain.
Today is probably a short day of about 3 hours walking so we have a fairly relaxed morning.
After crossing the valley floor, the walk out of it is fairly gentle and at first we are going through woods and rhododendron bushes but there is not the beauty of Autumn here as everything is pretty brown.
After that we have some rolling but ascending slopes until we get to one final steep and snow covered slope that takes us up to BC. Luckily there are some decent footsteps already in the slope so we don't need to change from our trekking to mountaineering footwear.
BC is on a small plateau with superb views back over the valley. On arrival our cook team excel themselves providing us with superb soup and a dining table and chairs to really enjoy the view.
Today we are pushing for High Camp from where we will head to the summit in the early hours of tomorrow morning. We head up the steep slope out of camp and the snow is worryingly soft. By the time that we have got to the top of the main slope up to BC I have joined the lead Sherpa and the porters and we have what should be a fairly easy stroll along some rolling slopes before a final steep slope onto the HC plateau.
However, it soon becomes apparent that things aren't going to be so easy. There is only a very thin crust of snow on top of deep, soft snow so we are continually punching through which makes the going pretty slow. In addition the snow is on top of a boulder field so there are a number of invisible, big holes in between the boulders which we drop into as well. The lead Sherpa is pretty light so makes fairly decent progress along the ridges. I come next frequently punching through his footsteps and then convert the mess that I have made into solid footsteps for the porters coming behind me.
This makes for an interesting and different challenge to what I have dealt with before but very tiring and slow. I struggle to see how we can make the summit unless conditions are pretty different higher up. The last team before us came down a couple of days ago for this very reason.
The final straw seems to be the steep slope up to our planned High Camp. We come across a series of the deep holes and finally get to a point where we can't find a way forward - I am now up to my chest in snow and even then falling down at times in holes between boulders! The rest of the group has now caught up and we decide to find somewhere to set up camp. We actually get a pretty picturesque spot in the end.
After a spot of lunch, the Sherpas are going to have another look to see if they can find some better conditions round here and if so have a look at conditions higher up the mountain as if they do not improve there isn't going to be much point in setting out.
We retreat to our tents in the afternoon to rest and get out of the weather. It is either very hot when the sun is shining as it reflects off the slopes around us as well or very cold when the sun goes behind a cloud. We have also got a 1am start ahead of us so it is important to recuperate and rehydrate.
At about 3pm the weather closes in and it starts to snow pretty hard for the next few hours. At about 5 the Sherpas return having had a pretty tough time repeatedly falling through holes and generally walking in deep snow much as we experienced in the morning. That pretty much does it for our chances of a summit attempt - but at least we are going to get a night sleeping at just under 5,000m which is very useful.
The snow starts to fall harder and soon we are in the midst of a thunder and lightning storm with avalanches being triggered which is all rather exciting given that we are perched on the side of a mountain and our tents have the only source of metal in the area!
The evening is spent very amusingly with all of us in one tent playing name that tune with my collections of 80s hits and power ballads. Quite concerningly, and for no ascertainable reason, I am amazingly unkeen for the summit attempt to proceed tonight. I really don't want to leave the tent and am very glad when we finally give up hoping for conditions to improve sufficiently to even have another look at whether we could give it a go. I hope that this is a one off as I am fairly sure that not only are there going to be tougher days ahead, I think that pretty every non-rest day will be tougher, and having to deal with this mental concern regularly could be disastrous!
Next morning we wake to blue skies and sunshine which helps somewhat to deal with the disappointment (for some) of not being able to make a summit bid. A huge amount of snow has fallen over night and this is bound to make the descent tricky as a few inches of soft, wet snow mask what is underneath and is also slippery in its own right.
This leads to a fairly ungainly descent by everyone - porters and Sherpas included. Being a bit heavier than the rest, I struggle more than the others as I continue to break through the thin crust of snow / ice. This comes to a head on a steep section when a small ice shelf I am standing on collapses. Together with the rocks in it, we tumble down the slope and I land awkwardly on my right foot which then folds pitching me headfirst further down the slope. I don't go too far as the soft snow cushions my fall but I have twisted and hurt my ankle pretty badly. Once we get back to Kathmandu there are a few rest days before we start doing much on Everest which will be useful recovery time, but for now we are at 4,500m and it is a long way down so a long way over which I need to protect my ankle.
The next couple of hours are pretty fraught as the going remains very slippery and I descend very slowly, doing everything possible to avoid a big slip leading to a wrench on my ankle which could be pretty terminal for my summit chances this year. But eventually I make it back to Kanjin Gumpa where we decide to rest for the remainder of the day before heading back down the valley over the next couple of days.
I have also (and perhaps rather less unsurprisingly than my ankle injury) managed to sunburn my lower lip which means that soon it will be a bit scabby and rather unattractive. I thought I had been being careful with the sun up in the mountain but the sun has been so strong there that it was obviously not enough - not exactly what you need just before some R&R in Kathmandu!
Today we are going to trek pretty much all the way back to the road head leaving only an hour or two to finish off tomorrow before driving back to Kathmandu. The weather is great and we make good time. I am in fact coming down at about the same speed as I went up as I am trying to protect my ankle. Quite a bit of the descent is steep and covered in loose gravel which makes for prime slipping terrain so I am being very cautious.
A stomach bug has been doing the rounds in the group but I seem to have avoided it so far, however as the afternoon wears on I am starting to feel the tell-tale strains - we'll have to see where this one goes.
We get to our destination 'Bamboo' which is a small group of teahouses perched on a plateau next to the river which has a great view down the river. We only have an hour or so tomorrow and as a reward for the past few days have a beer as the sun sets - it is all very pleasant but this seems to be the final straw for me and soon I have a fever and an acrobatic stomach and so head for an early bed. I don't have any clean clothes left so decide to take a rather large dose of Imodium to get me through the night.
Up early to finish the walk back to the road head which we manage by about 10am and then start back to Kathmandu at about 11am.
The roads are full and there are quite a few sets of roadworks (some even have people working on them!) so it is a long, bumpy and dusty journey getting in at about 18:30.
I am feeling pretty rotten again having felt travel sick for much of the journey and just go to bed when we get there. The others head out for a meal which (I learn when Gus stumbles in at 5am!) turns into an all singing and dancing night out.
Next morning we do a bit more shopping for last minute items and to replace those that got 'borrowed' or broken in the past couple of weeks. The afternoon is organising our gear, picking up laundry, a steak supper and then early bed as we are heading for the border tomorrow at 5am!