On Day 6 of our 76-mile trek we reach the “outpost” named Gokyo at 15,720 feet. Gokyo is situated on one of a series of picturesque glacial lakes (Gokyo Tsho) and surrounded by high Himalayan peaks in all directions. Behind the village, a 200 foot ridge hides the Ngozumba Glacier that flows mainly from Cho Oyu, an 8,188 meter peak several miles to the north. The town consists of several lodges/inns, a bakery and bookstore, a small medical building, and a few residents to attend to visitors. It is not uncommon for the quiet to be interrupted by helicopter clatter as one circles the lake for a landing to rescue someone who has altitude sickness or a lung infection. Now in Gokyo our acclimatization for two climbs to 18,000 feet is complete.
In Gokyo, at lakes edge, lesser mountains hide views of Mt. Everest and Nuptse to the east. Cho Oyu is visible directly up the valley northeast, which contains several more glacial lakes. To our west rises Phari Lapche at 6,017 meters reflecting magically in Gokyo Tsho as the sun moves in an out of the clouds. Miles to the southwest are Kangtega and Thamserku that we passed several days earlier. The temperatures hover around 30 degrees (F) and the air is very dry.
We rise earlier on Day 7 than other days so that we can begin the arduous 2,300-foot climb to the summit of Gokyo Ri. From there we hope to see a relatively cloudless view of the entire spine of the highest of the Himalaya. The trail zigs and zags steeply through the dry landscape and we stop frequently to catch our breath. Although it is important to watch your step, it is equally as important to me to take in the views and recognize photo opportunities. After two and a half hours we reach our 18,000-foot summit and are greeted with spectacular views of Mt. Everest and its neighbors. We catch our breath, take in some snacks and absorb our surroundings. A light breeze blows the prayer flags strung across the summit, but it is otherwise quiet and somewhat surreal. After about 20 minutes it becomes apparent that late morning clouds are moving up the valley from where we had come and that our views will soon be impacted. I set up to take a panoramic (which I did take), however Everest goes behind the clouds and does not reappear.
Due to the limitations of the blog host I can only imbed one photo. Others can be viewed in the “Mountains” collection on my site. This southeast looking photo shows Everest, Nuptse and Lotse in the background (top middle) with the bottom of Gokyo Ri rising in the foreground up to the left. At the far end of Gokyo Tsho (lake), almost hidden, is the village of Gokyo (follow the trail to its far end). This photo was taken the next day as we hiked to 18,000 feet to cross Renjo La (pass).