Saffron, Linjon and I were sharing a room. Here at ABC, space was limited, and they were putting us three to a room, instead of just two.
I didn’t mind the extra company — Linjon had been an amigo on the trail, and after all, we were just going to be sleeping. Why would the presence of another person in the room matter to me?
We petered out of the common room pretty early. I asked Anker for a bottle of boiled water for my sleeping bag — a trick I’d picked up when researching for the Everest Base Camp trek, which goes to a considerably higher elevation. Saffron and Linjon both did the same.
We hopped into our narrow twin beds wearing all of our clothes. Each of us snuggled up in our sleeping bags, then draped blankets on top. Linjon flicked the light switch, and we tried to sleep.
Trying to sleep at 13,500 feet (4,500 meters) is difficult for two reasons. Number one is: altitude fucks with your sleep. This is somewhat subjective from person to person. I have a friend, for example, who grew up in Denver, the Mile High City, spendng his whole life at 5,280 feet, and still gets puking sick at anywhere above 11,000 feet. He certainly doesn’t sleep well at that height. Other people can come from sea level and be relatively unaffected. But a slim night’s sleep is definitely one of the most common symptoms of altitude sickness, or altitude acclimatization.
Number two, and less subjective: it’s cold. The snow on the ground aside, it just gets colder the higher you go in the air. Anyone who’s ever been on an airplane will understand this. There’s less atmosphere to insulate you from the cold expanse of space.
And for me, that night, there was a number three: a poorly-made Nepali sleeping bag. The sleeping bag I’d rented in Pokhara felt flimsy at the altitude — unable to handle the cold. I felt happy I hadn’t tried to take such a thing to Everest Base Camp. I was sleeping like shit already at 13.5. EBC trek was 17.5. I just wouldn’t have been equipped.
And as measly as my journey to 13.5 felt in my mind, failure on the road to EBC would have been even worse. At least I had accomplished something, getting here, even if I wasn’t quite sure of the significance yet.
I’ll have accomplished something if I survive the night! I thought to myself, darkly. I scrunched up tighter, making my body more of a ball. It wasn’t cold enough to kill me — but it was cold enough that I couldn’t sleep.
I threw in my earphones and put on a podcast. I’d heard this one three or four times already — it was pretty hard to download new episodes in the Himalayas. Don’t get me wrong — I’d tried — but as it was, I was pretty familiar with the content of this one.
I shivered off to sleep in the mountains of Nepal, listening to the comforting sounds of home.
3 thoughts on “Nepal 97: A Cold Night”
Nothing seems to be as bad as gear which cannot keep you warm. As you say, response to heights can be idiosyncratic.
I’ve been very keen to do the EBC trek for some time but a friend recommended the Annapurna trek. You have done both? Any preference?
I would say it largely depends on your time and budget. Everest holds the appeal of being “Everest,” but it is usually costlier (and scarier) for most people because you need to fly into Lukla- a notoriously sketchy airport near Everest.
The Everest Base Camp Trek goes considerably higher than the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, which means altitude sickness is a much more serious concern at Everest. Additionally, you’ll have to pack nicer clothing to handle the colder weather up high.
There’s more side trips you can do in the Everest region, too. The gyoko lakes are supposed to be spectacular.