Today we left Tengboche for Pheriche, a net gain of 1350 feet (or about 415 m). Our trek initially took us down from Tengboche through a wooded valley and wound along a scenic river. After crossing yet another bridge, we began the long slow climb to Pheriche. The journey is always up – we are heading to 18,513 feet (5643 m) and the summit of Kala Pattar and thus we will be climbing for the next few days. Eventually, the we left the tree line as we are now too high and the landscape turned very barren. We hit our daily summit of an unnamed peak at 14,107 feet (4300 m) and then descended down into Pheriche.
There is not a lot in Pheriche – the town only exists as a midpoint on the route to Base Camp. Indeed, most of the towns in this region are uninhabited for most of the year and are only open during the trekking and climbing seasons. Shortly after we arrived we attended a session at the Pheriche Aid Post about Acute Mountain Sickness. We all laugh as they walk us through the symptoms as we have all experienced some of them. Trekking at altitude basically means you are sick or sore each and every day. The pounding on knees, ankles, and muscles is relentless from the trail. We are fighting all forms of illness as our Western diets are unused to the local food and water. On top of all this, altitude plays havoc with our systems. All of us are taking Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and other medicine on a regular basis.
Tomorrow is a rest day to acclimatize and we will follow the advice of the doctor at the Aid Post, we will complete an acclimatization hike up to 15,750 feet to expose out systems to this altitude but we will return to Pheriche for an afternoon of research testing and sleep. The general rule at altitude when trying to acclimatize it to climb high and sleep low. This we will do tomorrow. So far, our trip has been an amazing success. We have collected EEG data from 27 monks and we have collected altitude data at 4 different altitudes, and we will collect data here in Pheriche tomorrow and in a few days at Everest Base Camp. To my knowledge, the most comprehensive study of brain function done with EEG to date.