Day Eight and Day Nine
These two days get their own description because of my brother.
He woke up Day Eight feeling terrible having - despite precautions - caught some kind of tummy bug.
He didn't feel too bad at the start of the day but he didn't feel well enough to eat his breakfast.
He managed to walk for about two or three hours before his body decided to take matters into its own hands and eject whatever was bothering it out of his mouth over the edge of a cliff.
And then he felt magnificent!
Until he tried to continue walking.
Because he hadn't had breakfast and his body had just emptied out whatever else it had in reserve and an amount of liquid and left him low on fuel and a bit dehydrated.
He gamely tottered on for another half hour, stopping to rest every couple of minutes as our guide monitored him, before announcing that he was definitely not going to make it to the camp under his own power and asking if he could stay the night at one of the local hostels and catch up with us at the camp the next day as it was to be a rest day.
I did NOT like this idea.
I was NOT leaving my baby brother alone in a strange town by himself while he was sick in a third world country.
Our guide was explaining to him that this wouldn't be a fantastic option anyway as he'd still have to make it to where we were stopping for lunch because the porters had his luggage and he'd have to keep a porter and a guide with him and pay for their lodging and meals.
Blah blah blah, time to take matters into my own hands.
I hired him a horse.
A shaggy little mountain pony that they saddled up and popped him on.
My father and I were sent ahead with one of the sherpas leading the way as our guide waited with my brother and the guy readying the pony. Within about half an hour my brother had caught up to and overtaken us, looking quite cheerful now that he wasn't trying to walk.
At the camp we found he'd tucked himself in for a restorative sleep with some rehydration fluids close by for sipping and was feeling much better.
At this stage it was still uncertain whether the bug had completely worked itself out of his system and left him in a state where he'd be able to carry on walking with us on Day Ten.
We stopped by every now and then to check on him and bug him about drinking water if he happened to be awake.
The next morning he stirred himself out of bed to come join us at breakfast.
He ate a small amount of plain foods for breakfast, kept sipping at rehydration fluids and had some small walks around camp after sitting in and chatting with those of us who didn't go on the optional walk for that day.
Then he went off for more naps before re-emerging at lunch and then dinner for more plain food and liquids.
Thankfully a day and a half of taking it easy and getting plenty of fluids saw him come good and when we set off on our climb to Lobuche my brother was able to keep up comfortably as we all took it easy up the ridge to the yak pastures.
The yak pastures were on a large plateau, higher up than we'd been before and were quite a sight before a bank of fog rolled in and obscured them.
As we donned our windproof gear for the first time a light snow started to fall, hardly more than a dusting but it was an amazing thing to walk through in the mist.
Before lunch we had to cross a small patch of ice, our first for the trip which made us glad we weren't on one of the icy mountain pass treks, and then it was time to climb climb climb.
Lobuche was the second highest place we would spend the night and by this point we were all carefully watching ourselves and each other for signs of altitude sickness but aside from people experiencing a lowered appetite we were all doing quite well.
The walk to Gorak Shep alongside the Khumbu Glacier was reasonably smooth if not completely flat going but was one of the tougher days of walking we'd had.
I'm not sure if it was just the altitude and lack of oxygen tiring you out more quickly or the fact that walking along on a flat surface able to see where you're going is a bit mentally wearing but by the time we got to Gorak Shep we were a bit achey and puffed.
There wasn't to be much rest yet though because after lunch it was time to trek to Everest Base Camp and back.
We got to leave our daypacks behind which was great and wear our puffy down jackets which was extra great.
The walk to Base Camp was incredible.
We saw Nepali guinea pigs, snow fowl and other birds that seemed to be doing quite well despite the lack of oxygen.
There was a bit of up and down, not too much but it was made more challenging by operating on 50% of our normal concentration of oxygen.
The trek there was estimated to take about two hours.
It did for some members of the group but for my Dad and I, who are short of leg and a little bit low on puff, it took three hours.
My brother had waited a half hour at the Base Camp for us and he was there when we arrived so we could take photos together and feel smug as a family.
Standing at Base Camp was a bit of a moment for me.
A few times during the trip I'd thought 'What the hell have I gotten myself into?' and had wondered if there was a point where I'd realise I wasn't going to make it all the way.
Each day was manageable, we were never pushed to go faster than we felt comfotable with, we were taken care of and fed well and got an adequate amount of sleep for the most part but the physical exertion along with the cold at night and the constant awareness of hygiene and altitude made for a bit of stress at times.
Standing there I got to think 'Shit, I actually did it! I trekked to Everest Base Camp! I am standing here with my father and my brother in a place where a large percentage of the human race will never come! This is incredible!' closely followed by 'Man I can't wait until we have a sit down!'
Heading back we had to hurry slowly because it was going to be a very close thing for us to get off the rocky and perilous part of the trail before we lost sunlight - the consequence of walking slowly.
We made it, just, reaching the flat approach to the town as the light faded, and leaving boot marks in the light dusting of snow that still covered the ground.
We collapsed into chairs around the fire at the lodge and sipped cups of hot tang - one of the stranger things we came to look forward to while trekking - and recovered.
Dad had been especially knocked about by the rush back and almost fell asleep in his chair.
We had to help him out of his boots and a few of his layers so we could dry them out for the next day.
He woke back up for dinner and then we all turned in for a good sleep before it was time to start heading down.
Day Twelve to Day Fourteen
On Day Twelve the Canadian son, my brother and my godfather's son were the only ones who opted to get up at 5:00am to climb Kala Pattar. The rest of us were still a bit tired, not wanting to brave the temperatures they'd encounter and felt we'd probably gone high enough.
They managed to climb Kala Pattar and get back down in time to join us for breakfast where they explained that it had gotten so cold that they hadn't been able to operate or indeed feel their hands at all for a time.
The views sounded amazing but I am not built for that kind of cold and felt satisfied with my decision to leave that part of the adventure delegated to my brother.
The next three days were a steady retracing of our steps down the mountain. Marvelling at things we'd been too tired or tunnel vision-y to notice on the way up, feeling a bounce in the step as we descended to slightly more oxygen-rich levels and high on success at having achieved the goal of our trip.
As thoughts of home started to pop more frequently into our heads we entered the 'fantasising about various foods and not having to use hand sanitiser before eating every single morsel' part of the trip.
The fact that we were returning home just in time for Christmas didn't help this at all.