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Kala Patthar means black rock. It is a hill behind Gorakshep which offers splendid views of the Mount Everest Panorama. It takes about 2 hours to climb Kala Patthar and the trail begins near the lake bed in Gorakshep close to the helipad.
Most people choose to climb Kalapatthar in the morning to catch the sunrise so that they can head to Lobuche the same day without having to spend an extra dreaded night at Gorakshep. In doing so I think they are missing out on the most splendid sunset. Kalapatthar is a sunset destination and not a sunrise destination in my view as the sun rises behind Mt Everest.
I was particular about catching the sunset on Kala Patthar so I waited until afternoon to make my summit climb. Meera was tired with the previous days base camp trek and she decided to stay back. She already got a good view of the panorama when we climbed a third of the way in the evening on the first day at Gorakshep. The conditions at Gorakshep are such that you have very little energy for anything so Meera was sure she didn't want to strain herself with another tough 2 hour climb. I was however very keen to going up to the summit although my energy was also low.
The trail starts out really steep and we gained height steadily taking very frequent breaks. The younger Tserring accompanied me on this climb. We are looking down at Gorakshep. Gorakshep is situated right next to the Khumbu glacier and it was at one point a base camp for Mt Everest until they identified newer spots up the glacier.
Mt Pumori in the background. The first summit of Kala Patthar is on the left in the pic
A wide angle view of the Kala Patthar landscape
One can see a lot more of Everest as we climb higher
The second summit of Kala Patthar is visible now.
As I approach the summit, the trail disappears and have to walk to rocks to reach the summit. It is also getting very windy.
As you approach the summit, if you look behind the mountain you can get splendid view of the Changri Shar glacier. Further up is the Gorak Shep glacier.
Weather monitoring equipment on top of Kala Patthar
It is so windy that Tserring has selected a relatively less windy spot. It is impossible to stand in the wind that was blowing there. The wind appears to come in waves and there are periods of calm that last about a minute.
There are two lakes at the base of Pumori. South Col on Everest is visible from this height. South Col is the dark shoulder to the right of Mt Everest in the picture. Further to the right is the Lhotse peak. The South Col is where climbers begin to enter the death zone. Everest and the South Col are so high up that they are in the jet stream. All snow is blown off the mountain by high speed winds.
Mount Everest Base Camp as seen from Kala Patthar
Mt Pumori as seen from the summit of Kala Patthar
It was so windy, had to be real quick to get the 'i was there' shot
Mt Ama Dablam in the distance
This is shot in the normal view. I made sure the image in the viewfinder is exactly the same size as it would appear to the naked eye.
Its a long way down to Gorak Shep
The summit of Mt Pumori
The ice fall on the slope of Mt Pumori
The show begins. What I have been waiting for. The sunset was even better than what I imagined. Here are 4 pictures as I pan the camera left to right.
1 of 4
2 of 4
3 of 4
4 of 4
In still photographs its hard to know how windy it was. It was over whelming to say the least. I planned to getting some shots in a particular order and video. But all those plans went haywire. I couldn't find a spot where my tripod wouldn't fly. Yes, I saw my tripod rise up in the air even though it had its legs positioned to keep with very low on the ground. It tumbled to its side and I had to quickly run to grab it so that it wouldn't fly off the edge. There were extended periods where I just had to wait for the wind to pass lying very low. If one stood up the wind can very easily knock you off balance. So I ditched the tripod, went on to Auto ISO and took many hand held shots in the fading light. To review my pictures I had to get my gloves off that was an ordeal by itself. The conditions are really crazy there. I should have probably descended a bit where I speculate it would not be so windy but you wont get the same view. It was a great experience and what I felt was a lot more than what I captured in pictures. Watching the changing light as the sun set and the twilight afterglow was very beautiful. We were the only ones on the summit that evening.
As the sun sets, the quality of light changes rapidly and Mount Everest is glowing a Golden Orange
Here are a series of photographs of the fading light
Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse are the 3 tallest peaks here. The light is still on them even though the valley is becoming dark
Nuptse is losing light
Everest and Lhotse are the only ones having light
Lhotse has lost light too. Everest is the last peak to lose light
Sunset is over
Looking west, there is still light in the sky. We begin our decent in the fading light. This is the start of the long descent, not just Gorakshep but all the way down to Lukla in the coming days. I was feeling sad that I was leaving the place, since its so hard and takes so long to get to this place. I just love the landscape here. There is more to the place than what the eye or the mind sees.
I deliberately slowed down. There was no need to hurry down. I kept watching the mountains in the twilight as I walked down. Soon the stars began to show. That night it was wonderfully clear and bright with stars.
As we descended in the dark, I could still see all the snow peaked mountains in the starlit night. But Everest was different. It appeared as a dark shadow blocking a portion of the sky. I knew it was there, but couldn't see it. The absence of stars revealed its silhouette.
I used a point and shoot to take this long exposure shot. I could have gotten a better picture but there was a lot more to experience than to take a picture of something.
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