A day of rest and Diamox did me very well, apart from the experience of extreme fluids management. Once my headache had cleared I started taking a smaller dose of the medication and I felt I was back on a good rate of acclimatization. We packed up and moved out for our next camping spot, this time in Thokla. As far as hiking goes things are getting a lot easier on our legs. We’ve conditioned up pretty well and seeing a little incline is not really a bother. However, that all may be canceled out by the fact that the thinner air is getting to each and every one of us, and we’re all starting to make a degree of extra effort to keep moving our hiking boots forward on the trail. On these dry days the dust kicks up a bit, so it gets a little unpleasant to be shuffling through in a herd, kicking up all the dust, imagining what all kinds of biological additives we’re sucking in. Still the magnificent landscape is all in clear view. The terrain is no mystery since there is not much in the way of vegetation to obscure the contours.
As we gradually rise on the slope we pass many giant boulders and rock slabs with interesting and ancient geological patterns built in. To me it didn’t seem like there was very much erosion, the kind that takes hundreds of millions of years to soften the edges and flatten out the vertical profiles. In a geologic time frame the earth’s crust has had a couple of billion years to shape today’s distinct features, and the oldest parts have gone through so many seasons of erosion that things eventually give in to accommodate the ways of the elements. In the Himalayas, it seems that the terrain is much “younger” than all of that. Many of the mountain peaks seem to be cleft sharply without very much rounding off. I don’t know much about the region from the perspective of geology, but I’m guessing that the phenomenon of the continental plates buckling to create the extremely rugged terrain there is a relatively recent and still active event. Of course it’s nothing like a volcano that can sprout up like a weed in June, or a few decades or less in the time frame of geology, but some of the oldest mountains on earth show immeasurable years of subtle wearing away from the wind, water and ice.
Our group moved on to somber waypoint along the trail, the collection of “chorten” or memorials to those Himalayan explorers who had died challenging the dangers of nature. Two prominent markers, one for Babu Sherpa and one for Scott Fischer, really bring you mentally present to the fact that you’re entering a different part of the map where your sense of security should really come into question. These men, though a little bit more daring than most of us, stood on the edge of the abyss one time too many and tragically their lives. They both accomplished amazing climbs on Mt. Everest, but the numbers caught up with them. Seeing these chorten in person, after we had read about them in far flung adventure books, gave us kind of a heavy tone because we realized we were wandering into the same surreal territory where we could conceivably fall upon some unfortunate set of circumstances.acclimatization Diamox geology high altitude headache hiking boots mountains