Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Day 15: The Earthquake (& Descent) Day

Chukhung (4730m) → Tengboche (3867m)

Earthquake! Email to loved ones, discussion of why we didn't run for it.

Yep, that's how we were awakened on this morning – with the building shaking all around us. We learned later that it was a ‘moderate-intensity’ quake of 5.5 – but the epicentre was also nearly on top of us, right in the Solokhumbu/Everest region. We sure as hell felt it. Ultimately turned out there was no damage or casualties from this, the 475th aftershock of the devastating quake from the year before.

I was also really struck by the fact that we just sat there eating it – despite having had time to exit the building, or at least get in a damned doorway. I think I felt like I froze. I forget Darby's exact explanation, but I think it had something to do with her having lived in the Bay Area for ages, and being used to just riding these things out.

Not quite incidentally, note-taking started getting really sparse from here, and petering out fast. I think, emotionally, the trek was done. (As was, for the most part, Michael Work.) Now it was just Enjoy-Getting-Out-Of-Dodge time. [As is, come to think upon it now, my current feeling about these dispatches. Producing this series has honestly been its own epic – and another one I'm anxious and happy to wind down…]

Speaking of which – did I happen to mention we unanimously decided, the night before, to completely bag the ascent of Chukhung Ri (the third peak)? Well, we decided to bag Chukhung Ri. As shattered as we were after the back-to-back exertion extravaganzas of Kala Patthar and Kongma La – and as over-the-moon as we were to be effing descending – and as topped up for life as we'd got on amazing mountaintop settings – the last thing either of us fancied was a side-trip climbing our exhausted asses up 700+ metres, all the way back to 5456, for another really nice view. No – we were very happy to bank our trekking winnings and get our precious arses the hell down out of the Himalayas. Downward!

First, though, on our way out, I had to approach the counter to pay for my beers, coconut crunches, and second dinner. (I had still been hungry, so had basically just ordered a second dinner the night before). But before I could do so, Aakash appeared from out of nowhere – forbidding me to pay for the extra meal.

Aakash: “You could have three dinners. I don't care.”

Man. That's quality. But then I slapped my British Airways Premium American Express card on the bar. The man behind it – who was also called Aakash, and had proven to be a very cheeky chappie –

…actually laughs out loud at me – plus gives me a "What have you been smoking?" look. Over his right shoulder, mounted behind the bar, is an "All major credit cards accepted" sign, with a string of credit card icons that stretches the full vodka section and half of gin. Above that is an "American Express accepted here" sign, identical to the one on the door to the room. I point them both out but I point in vain. Nepal.

Oh, well. Now! – downward!

Darby and I, presumably more happy and relaxed to be descending, had some of our best chats on this segment.

Talking life, friendships, ST:tNG, Bay area.

Presumably the notes below are also from our conversation.

It's all gravy now. No peaks, no passes, no climbing anything. Late wake-up calls, coffee breaks. O2. And bragging rights: EBC trek? Annapurna? We did the 3 fucking high passes of Everest.

And trust this jaunty spirit comes through in narration of video below.

Talking family, sisters. Relationships. Careers. Life: funny old thing. D & I really connecting in a very nice way.

There were, let's say, a few interpersonal challenges along the way. (Few or none of which made it in here, due to me trying to cleave to my general principle of limiting said things to nice things.) Anyway, it was very nice that we were ending the trek in a way that was very nice, interpersonally speaking.

Darby: “Hey, you notice how we managed to have a conversation all the way down the hill without gasping for breath?”
Me: “We're under 4500.” [checks altimeter] “4374.”
Mossy mane stones like untended tombstones.

We stopped for lunch in a “sweet, true mountainside village” that I initially thought was Tengboche, but became clear that it wasn't when we only stopped for lunch. :)

The Charmin Man
Endless march through misty forest. D avers that she really enjoyed the fog.
Me: “Trekking with you really is like trekking with Mark – neither of you are here for the things that other people are here for.”

And at long last into Tengboche, where we toured the famous monastery there, and where pictures are forbidden, which was kind of a relief honestly. In conclusion, I shall let my last note on the day – lapidary, but no less exuberant for that – speak for itself.

Shower! Khumbu Kolsch x 5!
Tomorrow, Day Sixteen: Back to Namchee

close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

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ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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