I enjoy a final breakfast in the Marriott before pick up, up on the 10th floor overlooking Kathmandu and the mountains beyond - the weather looks good so hopefully our journey up the valley will be uneventful and we will be dropping into basecamp around lunchtime.
David, Alex and I assemble in the hotel lobby at 10am and Piotr, the hotel general manager, whisks each of us into the huge kitchens and gives us each a ‘care package’ to take back of baguettes, cheese, sandwiches and fruit, such a nice gesture and will be very welcome in basecamp to keep us going.
The Elite 4 x4 arrives with Silvia and we pile in and head to the airport, its about a 30 minute drive through the chaotic traffic of Kathmandu but were soon there the Chas becoming the norm now, through the domestic terminal ‘security’ checkpoints and out on the heli deck, there seems to be an impossible number of bags to go in the heli with us and we watch for 20 minutes as the ground staff fill it up like a giant game of jenga somehow leaving four seat spaces for us to squeeze into, doors slammed close and we’re off again, pulling up and away from the airport towards the mountains.
Lukla is our first stop and we get some extra fuel onboard, Alex and David grab 12 bottles of mineral water each to take up to basecamp and then there’s a bit of a discussion with the pilot and ground crew and its decides that the 2 x 12 bottles of water is too much and we will be overloaded (we must be right on the limit) so they are taken off with promises of ‘we’ll fly it up later for you’ - mmmm I wouldn’t hold my breath with a hope of ever seeing that again!
10 minutes in the air from Lukla and we’re down again in Pheriche, 3 passengers out plus 3 bags and the heli takes off again to drop David and its cargo off in basecamp, the clouds are coming in fast now so I think it’s going to be touch and go whether we go up today from here or have to stay and looking around at the three or four buildings that make up Pheriche I’m really hoping our pilot is back soon and will take us.
Just a few minutes later the heli is back and as it lands and the pilot gets out several people surround him asking for lifts to basecamp, everyone can see the flight window is closing rapidly, hands clasped together they implore the pilot to take them but thankfully he stays the course and gestures to the three of us to jump in and we certainly don't need telling twice.
We get a break in the cloud and basecamp comes into sight and the pilot drops us down and is airborne again in minutes, he’ll nip to Namche Bazaar and ferry up Marta, Remi and Mario from there before heading back to Kathmandu to try and bring Magda, Gabriel and Dr Bedhr up - (he’ll manage the Namache trip but weather will prevent another trip from Kathmandu so it’s another night’s lay over for them and they will come up tomorrow).
It’s good to be back in basecamp, feels like were on the final lap of the expedition now and possible summits in sight. The rope fixing team send word that they have completed the fixed lines to the Everest summit, they will rest for a day and then fix lines to Lhotse summit, our Sherpas have been busy up and down to Camp 4 to prepare the camp for us — tents, food, oxygen all has to be taken up and stashed ready for our arrival, it’s getting real now and everything has shifted up a gear in activity.
We rest for remaining part of the day and then it’s early to bed for me after dinner, I feel tired, perhaps the return back to altitude is takings it’s toll on me but I’m asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.