It was only a shortish walk to Lobuche at 4910m; it involved a steep climb up to the Lobuche pass which would take around an hour then another hour or two ascending gradually up the valley.
All the people who stayed in Dughla the night before set off at around the same time, 8.30am. The Balaji's kindly waited for us to get ready but when the time came to leave, they said they would catch us up. The trail up to the pass was really busy that day - a group of Americans (or possibly Canadians) were having great fun on the way up, throwing snowballs at each other with the snow that had fallen overnight.
The climb was another hard one and made much more difficult with the lack of oxygen which we could feel acutely now. But it was enjoyable all the same as the views were great. After many stops, we finally got to the top after around an hour and a half. We were now on the final stretch; after this, the valley slowly ascends up to Lobuche, then Gorak Shep and Base Camp.
The area at the top of the pass is dedicated to the many climbers and Sherpas who have lost their lives on Everest and it's a very poignant place. Below is a picture of Scott Fischer's memorial. You will be familiar with this guy's fate if you have read 'Into Thin Air' by Jon Krakauer (a good read) about the tragedy on Everest in 1996 (or any of the other numerous books published by the people who were on the mountain that day).
We were in extremely bleak terrain now; all rock, gravel and dust and not somewhere where one would want to spend too much time. The Khumbu Glacier, which spills out of the Western Cwm between Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, dominates the valley but could not been seen from here due to the huge mounds of moraine it deposits at its flanks.
There was also a great view of Nuptse from here.
We spent a little while looking at the memorials and taking in the new views of the huge peaks before setting off up the valley towards Lobuche. It was a fairly gentle walk and, after an hour or two, Lobuche came into view. Just before we reached the village, we saw someone setting off what looked and sounded like explosives in the middle of the valley and we could only assume they were trying to trigger avalanches on the mountainsides.
Lobuche is a bigger settlement than Dughla and there were three or four lodges to choose from. The Balaji's had said they were staying at the Alpine Lodge so we headed there. Considering its location, it was a comfortable place. We arrived at 11.45am and went straight in to book a room. It was boiling hot inside - like a conservatory - as the sun had been beating down on the plastic roof all morning. There were quite a few people mingling around when we arrived and we settled down with tea and biscuits for the long day ahead.
In order to keep our backpacks light, we hadn't brought any entertainment along to keep us occupied, however, we managed to while away the time talking to other trekkers and discussing plans for the following day. The big decision we had to make was whether we were going to go for base camp the next day. We were both suffering with persistent headaches and we were not keen to spend more time than we had to up here.
It would take all the next morning to get to Gorak Shep so what we did depended largely on how quickly we could get there and what the weather was doing. Our plan was to reach Gorak Shep by lunch, book into a lodge, dump our bags and, hopefully, have enough time to get to base camp and back before nightfall (three hours there, three hours back from Gorak Shep). It was a tough itinerary but we didn't want to spend two nights in the freezing cold at Gorak Shep. We also needed to decide whether to do the walk up Kala Patthar (5550m) which is a small peak in the valley where the views of Everest were supposedly good. We had heard mixed views on whether it was worth the hard, three hour slog to the top. Our main aim was base camp and there would be decent views of Everest on our way there so we decided to give Kala Patthar a miss.