Our fourth day on the trail came after a euphemistically named “rest day” in Namche which involved climbing to the Everest View Hotel, approximately 440 meters in elevation gain, and back down again. It’s a technique used to help the body acclimatize to high altitude.
Day four would bring us above tree line at times and we would reach 4,200 meters by the end of the day. The morning was still clear, but a bit of haze was rolling up the valley and a few clouds clung to the highest peaks.
Today we would discover that Sagarmatha (Everest) had her own plans for us.
We headed out around 8 a.m. but Ken seemed to be struggling from the start. Lakpa set a slow and steady pace, appropriate for our sea-level abilities. By late morning, it was obvious that Ken’s condition was more serious than simply not hitting his stride. He was showing signs of Acute Mountain Sickness.
That evening we changed our itinerary so that we could sleep at a lower altitude, a step that can alleviate the symptoms of AMS. The next day, we did the same, returning to Namche in the hopes that Ken would feel better but, just like the weather which was closing in and shutting out the spectacular views, we were getting a clear message that we were no longer welcome in Sagarmatha’s domain.
On day six, with no improvement in Ken’s condition, we requested a helicopter evacuation to Kathmandu so that he could get medical attention for his AMS and a serious sinus infection that had developed at the same time.
The Sherpa people believe that Sagarmatha, the name they call Mount Everest, has her own designs and she will be respected. I believe that she chose to only show us her beauty from afar, on the first few days of our trek, and then she turned us away, putting an end to our trekking adventure.