April 16: Gokyo Ri

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On April 16, we hiked up Gokyo Ri, a hill just west of Gokyo that is known for its nice view of the high peaks of the Khumbu region. We left right after breakfast in order to be able to take in the views before the afternoon clouds set in. On this day, however, the weather pattern was different — high clouds set in early, and not the puffy clouds we were accustomed to seeing in the afternoon, but long streaky banks of clouds.

It’s around a 2000-ft climb from Gokyo to the summit of Gokyo Ri on a relentless swithchbacking trail. I settled into a rhythmic pace, my breathing timed with my steps, by now a familiar habit that allowed me to gain elevation without wearing myself out. However, for John, today was different. For some reason, things just clicked for him this day — and he busted loose from the group setting a pace that only Clay could keep up with. John made the summit in 1 hour, 52 minutes from camp.

The views from the top were not the sunny vistas we had expected, but were still impressive. We could still see all of Everest from the summit, so we knew that the clouds were higher than 29,000 ft.

We headed back down to Gokyo in time for lunch. John was on my heels as we started down, and after a couple of minutes I stepped aside to let him pass. He took off running down the trail, kicking up dust and scree. Even the Sherpas laughed and shook their heads as they watched him descend.

A couple of years ago, John did something similar when we were descending from a hike in the Columbia Gorge. At that time, hiking companion Marc Sansoucie watched him descend and remarked — “He’s like a golden retriever. Sometimes, you’ve got to take him off the leash and just let him run”.

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