We got up on the 26th, to a snowy grey day. We were still very much in shock and disbelief. We had been told we must evacuate the mountain, so got ready for a very long day ahead.
I still couldn’t stomach anything, so it was a very long day getting started. We set off for what was going to be about a 20km hike that day, to cover as much distance as possible. What was a scenic wander up the mountains became an almost desperate run back down. I hadn’t slept the night before, picturing all the places I had noticed on the way up that were very narrow, with cliffs slipping away underneath us.
Our group ended up divided in two, I was with the slower group on the way down. Any fitness I had on the way up was lost with exhaustion, and the insane burning in my knees as they tried to hold me upright on all the downhill. Every step I took, I had to question whether the ground was moving, as the blood was pumping so hard through my legs that it felt like the world was constantly shaking.
And then the ground really did shake.
We were on a path on one side of the valley, and I’m not sure if I heard or felt it first. We all stopped where we were and looked around. I looked up, and then down. There was nothing much except dead vegetation above us, and a few hundred metre drop into the river below us. I’ve since found out that this aftershock was centred right under the Himalayas, so it’s no wonder we felt it so strongly. The rocks on the other side of the valley formed a landslide, which went crashing into the river, dust flying up in clouds as it gained momentum. We soldiered on.
It was awful all day watching helicopters flying up and down the valley, making the trips from base camp. We knew they would be carrying the injured first, and then the ones that didn’t make it.
We had one more hill to climb before we got back to Tengboche where we could hopefully have lunch, and I was massively fatigued by that stage. This was the one time I seriously considered giving up. I just wanted to sit down but didn’t know if I would ever be able to get back up again.
We finally made it to Tengboche, and saw the poor monastery in ruins. There was huge cracks through it, after all their care repainting and rebuilding. I managed to get some lunch down, to keep me going the rest of the day.
The path was damaged badly in some places, with small landslides or boulders across it. We were lucky that all the bridges had held, and we could still find our way. We passed the Nepalese army, who were headed up further to stop anyone going to base camp.
We had to do the trek through a valley and up the other side, where Dawa hoped we could stay that night, in Khungjuma. As we neared the guesthouse, I felt myself hoping everything would hold. What had looked beautiful on our way in, didn’t look that secure on the way out. The cliffs rose out of the fog like a scene in Avatar. I had to hope that if it had survived this much, it would survive whatever tonight threw at us.
The government had advised everyone sleep outside for the first three nights, because the buildings weren’t exactly the safest place to be sleeping. Some of our group risked it and slept in the dining room, but I was more than happy to claim a mattress under the tarpaulin they have set up outside.
The family running the guesthouse will always stick in my mind, as a prime example of the Nepali kindness and love that radiates out of this beautiful country. One of them was cooking eggs to have on bread, and they were apologising that this was all they would be able to give us, as it was all they had. We were so grateful that they had anything at all. And had to remember that we had a way out. This was their life, and they didn’t know when supplies would next be brought up.
I was shocked when a pair turned up a bit later, and hadn’t been able to find anywhere to stay, so asked if they could stay here too. Many people had evacuated their houses, as there was risks of flash floods if the lakes close to base camp burst. The girls said they didn’t think they should have to pay, and our guide put them in their place. Rightfully so, the £1 we were paying for a bed and food cost us nothing, when it was the most livelihood these people may see for a while.
We got into our sleeping bags wearing everything we owned, and I was so grateful for the down jacket and sleeping bag I had hired. We had our head torches over our beanies, ready to jump up and move further away from the building in the night if need be.
There were three big aftershocks in the night, and it took everyone a while to settle after. It was really touching that the head of the family went around with his torch, and wouldn’t get into bed until everyone else was settled. He would sometimes sit up for a few minutes watching over everyone.
I ended up with conjunctivitis, and kindly had people pointing it out to me on regular occasions. Could have been a lot worse, and there wasn’t exactly anything I could do! All part of the adventure.