Rugged Tales

Wherever my feet may take me…


What goes up must come down

Everest Base Camp is a watershed: your choices are to climb up or walk back down. Climbing (as the attentive reader will have spotted from my last post) is not for me, so down it was.

The day of our departure dawned sunny and mild. I drank in the views from my tent for the last time as I packed up and headed for a final camp breakfast. The climbers were also leaving that day, heading back down to climb Lobuche for the next phase of their preparations. We all walked out of camp together, pausing by the entrance sign for a team photo before heading off back down the trail to Gorak Shep.

The IMG Hybrid team and their trekking companions - together for the last time!

The IMG Hybrid team and their trekking companions – together for the last time!

As we descended, the weather – and my mood – clouded over. I was sad to say goodbye to the climbers, and although I had nothing to add to the proceedings it felt somehow wrong to just abandon them to the challenges ahead. But abandon we must: a little past Lobuche, they headed up along the right hand side of the valley and back to Lobuche Base Camp, whilst we climbed the left hand side back to Dughla and Pheriche. It started to snow as I watched them grow smaller and smaller in the vast mountain landscape until, finally, they disappeared round the curve of the hill. I already missed their company, and wondered when I would see them all again.

In the chilly, gloomy weather and this sombre frame of mind I came upon the largest concentration of memorials to those who have lost their lives on Everest. Rising stark against the leaden sky on a hilltop above Dughla they were an unwelcome reminder of the risks my friends will face in seeking to achieve their ambitions.

The memorials to those who have lost their lives on Everest.

The memorials to those who have lost their lives on Everest.

I remarked to my fellow trekker, Dale, that I would prefer not to be passing so many memorials just after having said goodbye to everyone. “Why couldn’t we have come upon monuments celebrating all those who’ve climbed successfully instead?” I grumbled. “Well,” he replied, “for one thing there isn’t nearly enough room.” And it’s true: the thousands of successful summits dwarf the fatalities, the ratio is still improving and IMG has a particularly impressive safety record. Thankfully, there has never been a safer time to climb Mount Everest.

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Family matters

Today was another unexpectedly sunny day. At this rate I’ll start to assume that it will be sunny and warm whatever the forecast says! It was also another fairly easy day – relatively flat and not too long a walk. I could get used to that too. As it was I used some of the left-over energy to get a closer look at the famous line of stacks at Bedruthan Steps. As the tide was in I was only able to do 114 of the 142 steps available, but it was still worth the effort.

It was a slightly sobering morning, passing a couple of benches in memory of people who died too young. I had a definite sense of ‘there but for the grace of God’ as I read the inscriptions. And I felt a renewed commitment to walking the Coast Path and all the other things I want to do in life while I still have the chance; who knows what’s round the corner?

I stopped for lunch at Berryl’s point, to enjoy its views over the turquoise waters of Beacon Cove, and Newquay hazy in the distance. It was a bonus to discover that it also boasted a good 3G signal! It was an idyllic spot to write my blog and upload some photos, and with the weather so good I spent well over an hour lounging in my little spot.

But the highlight of my day was Newquay. My father was evacuated there in the war and it was fascinating to see today the places he recalled from that part of his childhood, including the cliff-top house where he lived for two years (one of those on the left in the photo), and the niches alongside the footpath leading up from the harbour where he watched the bombing raids on St Mawgan airbase with his mother, wrapped up in bedclothes against the cold. I’m still smiling at the thought of my Dad as a naughty schoolboy wrecking his shoes by taking a shortcut along the beach as the tide came in.

One of the people I met on the path today told me his father was once a junior airman stationed at St Mawgan airbase – it really is a small world. He (the son, that is) is also aiming to complete the whole Coast Path. After going so long without meeting anyone else embarked on the same task now I’ve met two in as many days. I guess it’s not only campsites that resemble busses in coming along in groups!