My birthday dawned cloudy but dry. Perfect hiking weather. We were out of Pheriche bright and early and I was really happy to be leaving the Pumori Lodge behind.
The trail leads out of the valley via the stream bed so it's all rocky and muddy ground until you finally climb the ridge to the monuments.
I was actually surprised but I got a bit verklempt at Monument Ridge. Near Scott Fischers's monument I was surprised to see a Jewish grave - for Trevor Eric Stokol. I don't know who he was specifically but I hope someone can tell his parents that I put a stone on his grave and recited the Shema.
After that it was a long but at least gradually ascending trail all the way to Lobuche where we were to rest for the night.
Lobuche was far nicer than I had feared. I'd read about it in several books about Everest and it sounded like a horrible little hole but they've been working on and investing in this village for the tourist trade and so the hotel that we stayed in was lovely and welcoming if understandably sparse. Look, considering we were 4910m up and n the middle of nowhere, the place was at least fairly warm and clean.
Fulla, my guide, had promised me a birthday surprise. I confess that I might have been slightly delirious from the low oxygen but I certainly had visions of my boyfriend sending me a birthday gift of a helicopter to escort me to base camp and then back to Kathmandu! Having just revealed that fantasy to my BF, he quite rightly points out that he doesn't have the organisational skills to arrange something like that and waves around the lovely guft that he did get me. Nonetheless, I was crazed.
Of course once we had thrown our rucksacks in our rooms we were off for another little hike up yet another ridge.
And a crafty cigarette!
Then back to Lobuche for my first birthday surprise - some Everest whiskey! OMG, this was the first booze to pass my lips for a week and that combined with the lack of oxygen hit me deliciously hard.
And as we were drinking our tea with whiskey, I could hear frantic whisking sounds coming from the kitchen. I thought to myself, "No, they couldn't possibly be trying to make a cake for me at 4910m! They'll never get enough air into the batter.". But lo and behold, they had indeed made a cake for me. I'm not gonna say it was the best cake I ever had but it deffo got points for effort. :-) And thank goodness it wasn't chocolate.