It would take three days to reach our high camp under Island Peak's summit, so we were off bright and early with the yaks and the locals. Alongside us on the trail were those who had just stepped off the plane from KTM and were taking their first tentative and unacclimatised steps into the Himalaya. Not so us - with 10 days or so on the trail under our belts, we pretty much flew up the trail, which was stunning - villages, lodges, river bridges and loads and loads of people of all nationalities - a trekking motorway which I know some people hate, but I loved.
For those just starting out, the journey to the Sherpa capital, Namche Bazaar, would take either 2 or 3 days of slow walking and rest. For us, 7 hours would do, arriving in gloomy overcast weather, but excited to be in the big city.
Little more than a mid-size village in Western terms, to us it was a metropolis - lights! internet! bars! bakeries! By now it had become clear that switching from tents to lodges was a genius move on Pemba's part - every night in a bed allowed proper rest and recuperation. The lodge in Namche was warm, bright and cosy, with trekkers from around the world to chat to and compare notes - a very happy late afternoon of exploring the Tibetan market and bargaining for face North Face and Mountain Hardwear gear.
The next morning dawned clear and cold and, as we climbed above the village, the remarkable mountain ridges South of Namche revealed themselves for the first time - believe me, the pictures don't do them justice - stunning, stunning view. Then, as we rounded the shoulder, the view up the Khumbu unfolded - Lhotse in the distance, and the incomparably beautiful Ama Dablam on our right - today would be another fine day on the trail.
We dropped down to the river then hacked straight back up the hill to a fine and memorable lunch at Thyangboche - veg fried rice with a frostbitten Korean climber chain-smoking away at the next table, a famous monastery behind us and the summit pyramid of Everest visible in the distance, coyly hiding behind Nuptse.
Another couple of hours on the trail our home for the night was in front of us - Pangboche - another warm and friendly lodge with great noodle soup and rice dishes. With the cloud closing in there was nothing to do but rest and read old magazines, but that was fine for me.