At day five, Evgeny and I already started to have a daily routine by waking up early and leaving ahead of the crowd. The day’s trek would take us from Tengboche (3870m) to Dingboche (4410m), with a small breakfast break at Pangboche (3930m). Now, if you are confused by the place names – you’re not alone. Most of the tourists are mixing the “Teng”, “Ding” and “Pang” of all these “boche”. Most are using altitude meters to name the places. As there is only a handful of “boches” along the climb, speaking of heights instead of settlement names is therefore quite useful.
The daily drill
The trail on this leg of the trek is the longest, but by far the easiest one. However, to my disappointment, the start of the trek is a big descent, which means the total climb of the day is quite substantial. At this altitude, we were entering the zone where “acute mountain sickness” (AMS) can show at any given moment. There are plenty of excellent resources on the Internet who can provide proper information about AMS symptoms and necessary actions – so I won’t go into too much detail. However, there is one misconception I need to clarify: AMS has no direct link to the fitness or age. We have seen young and fit trekkers returning from higher altitudes because of AMS. There is virtually nothing one can do to prepare – except to take the time for proper acclimatization.
Signs of altitude sickness?
Now – time was one of the luxuries we did not have on this trek. We planned two acclimatization days in total, which worked out well for us. But at this stage – on day five – I didn’t know that yet. Although I knew the risks, I tried to enjoy the trek and the spectacular views during the climb. Evgeny and I made the pact that, if one of us starts to act strangely, we will return down again. Well, not before long, I began to act strangely on purpose, to check on Evgeny. His reaction to this was to act even more strangely, making funny gestures. Overexcited about our trip, we kept ourselves busy acting funny. Or maybe we felt the effects of altitude sickness and misinterpreted our euphoria?
Well, although it was a fun day trekking to Dingboche, we arrived exhausted at our lodge. The effects of high altitude were now clearly showing as we made many more breaks and covered less distance between the stops than in the lower region. Our small lodge, which featured a coffee & bakery shop as annex, had warm water. We didn’t expect that kind of luxury in this remote place. After a much appreciated hot shower, we went to explore this small village. Since many people stay more than one night (for acclimatization), Dingboche features a good array of infrastructure. There is even an internet café, and some of the restaurants have (expensive) WiFi. But hey, nothing beats reading emails at the slopes of Mount Everest.