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Nepal 2014

Day 10. Everest Base Camp Trek. Rest Day in Namche

NEPAL | Saturday, 31 May 2014 | Views [646]

I spent the night completely sleeplessly, gasping for breath every 30 seconds. It was worse than that. All night I had the terrifying feeling I was suffocating, drowning, the feeling you get if you dive too long under water and are fighting to get to the surface before you drown. A strong fear grabbed me from behind the knees all the way to the back of my neck and I'd start to tremble: "You're drowning!" screamed in my sleepless ears. It was as real as if I were fully awake. I was terrified all night. If I presented myself at any immigration port in the world I'm sure I could plead for asylum on the grounds of fear of imminent death by water boarding.

This phenomenon (Cheyne-Stokes Respiration) is very common at altitude apparently. Normally your breathing rate is triggered by the concentration of CO2 in your blood and your breath regulates this, speeding up to shed CO2 when you exercise, slowing down in periods of inactivity. At lower ambient oxygen concentrations you breathe harder which lowers your blood CO2 levels artificially, so you stop getting normal signals to breathe, and stop breathing altogether. Your body switches control to maintaining blood O2 levels, a far less precise method. When O2 levels fall to dngerous levels you breathe rapidly to restore normality, whereupon your breathing slows and stops. In the process of rapid breathing you again lower your CO2 level below its control point and you get into an endless yo-yo of bretah/no breath. The result of not breathing for up to half a minute until the O2 sensor triggers, is you struggle and gasp and pant for air, waking up in fear and repeating the cycle endlessly. I suffered from this every night for the next week.

After breakfast we set off for the obligatory rest day 'high hike' to the National Park HQ to condition the body to the new altitude and ready it for the next. As it was early in the day we were rewarded with a 360-degree clear views of the Khumbu Valley and the gallery of 7,000+ metre peaks lined up for the photo op: Everest trailing a cloud plume of its own making, Lhotse and Lhotse Shar, Nuptse and the three peaks of fantastic Ama Dablam. Tomorrow’s trail stretched out on the ridge ahead of us. 

I felt unwell and struggled after my sleepless night, dropping out when the others continued up to Everest View Hotel, at 3,880 m the highest 5-star resort in the world. 

Namche is set in a marvellous natural amphitheatre surrounded by massive black rock- and snow covered peaks. It's as bustling as it's name suggests, a focal point for routes to- and from the Khumbu and Tibet. Tibetan traders and their artefacts are on all sides as you enter the town that is noticeably prosperous and commercial with bakeries, cyber cafés and restaurants. I spent the rest of the day trawling the gear shops and pharmacy for last minute items. Streams of hikers were returning from EBC with hacking coughs and tales of icy winds, frozen toilets and freezing nights at the high elevation lodges.

Remind me: Why am I doing this? For fun? I need to rethink my answer.

Went to sleep with the temperature diving and snow falling fast. I hope this means a good day tomorrow?

Tags: cheyne-stokes, everest base camp trek, namche

 

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