Everest Base Camp Trek

 

 

 

 

 

After completing the 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago across Spain, we were wondering what challenge we could tackle next. Whilst walking in Spain we met Barrie from Dunedin, New Zealand, who at the age of 50 decided he had 25 more summers left in which to do great things, the previous year he had been to Everest Base Camp. This was a trip we had thought about completing but being just over 50 thought we were maybe too old, however meeting Barrie inspired us to arrange the trip. Our daughter had been trekking in Nepal to Annapurna Base Camp, and highly recommended us visiting Nepal.

Everest Base Camp(EBC), in Nepal is a medium to tough trek. We flew to Lukla airport from Kathmandu, the trip then takes between 12 to 16 days, with a distance of 115km. The thing which makes the walk difficult is the altitude, EBC being at 5364m (17,598feet), with the corresponding lack of oxygen. It is a definite top ten walks in the world, the beauty and majesty of the mountains did not disappoint. The tea houses we stayed in were clean, the Nepalese always friendly, and helpful. 

We went on line and booked the trip with Himalayan Wonders, booked flights, and spent a few days shopping for the correct kit. We were pretty fit following our walk across Spain carrying all kit, even so knowing that we would be part of a group we did spend a couple of months doing additional training.

Arrival in Nepal

We caught Turkish Airlines via Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, even the name of which  is evocative of adventures. We changed planes there marvelling at the scale of grandeur of this brand new airport with lots of expensive shops, bars and restaurants, some even showing English football. A further seven hours and our plane came in to land at Kathmandu airport, the contrast to Ataturk Airport could not have been greater. The first thing we noticed was the broken perimeter fence and monkeys running amok on the runway. This would be the first of our many experiences of monkeys across Asia. This airport is the only international airport in Nepal. In 2015, a year before we arrived the country had suffered a massive earthquake and it must have really struggled to transport  the international aid arriving, due to the poor infra-structure throughout the country.

Upon disembarkation, our bags took at least 90 minutes to arrive. But this gave us the opportunity to buy our 30 day visa at $20 USA each. The airport seemed chaotic even with few planes landing, no shops, and very poor toilets. Himalayan Wonders had booked us to stay at Hotel Pilgrims in Thamel, the traveller district of Kathmandu. A taxi provided by them was waiting for us outside the airport, which was lovely.

We walked through the fascinating area of Thamel, taking in sights and sounds, obtaining some cash, and going to meet Nishi at Himalayan Wonders to settle our balance. Kathmandu is an easy place to buy trekking kit, even though we thought we had everything. We purchased a few further supplies, including altitude tablets from a nearby chemist! something I should have bought at home. There is a substantial shop selling travellers' essentials like peanut butter and snack bars. We spent a few days in Kathmandu and visited the surrounding area including Durbar Square, Bhaktaphur, and Patan.

KATHMANDU: Altitude: 1,350m/4,428ft

The night before the trek began we were in the reception of our hotel at 5pm keen to meet our trekking buddies. We met Bryce and Steph a 26 year old married couple from Sydney, and Adam and Steve friends from Sydney, who were also 26. Just  a coincidence being from the same city. We received last minute instructions, and more information. Before the trip, I had three worries, one was meeting the other people that we would be trekking with, the flight to Lukla airport, and thirdly whether I could make it to base camp. Having met the guys we would be spending the next 12 days with, we could not have asked for better travel companions - there was never a dull moment. So just two more obstacles to be overcome.

We had followed the kit list extensively back in the UK, getting very prepared for the trip, making numerous shopping trips. Adam and Steve having just flown in from Sydney, spent a quick hour going to the numerous  walking shops in the area buying lots of fake North Face kit. Fortunately their clothes kept them as warm as our very expensive ones all the way to base camp.

After eating a pizza in a nearby restaurant, we retired early to our rooms, packed up, charged phones and spare battery packs, all ready for a 5am start. As was common in Nepal at that time there was a lack of electricity with power cuts at regular intervals over 24 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 1 - KATHMANDU 1,350m/4,428ft  TO LUKLA FLIGHT 2,800m/9184ft  AND PHAKDING 2,652m/8,698ft

Walking Distance: 8km (4 hours)

200m Descent  50m Ascent

We were up at 4.15am, the electricity was off, but the hotel provides emergency low level lighting. By 5am we were all in the taxi, with bags strapped on the roof, through the empty streets to the airport. I was apprehensive of the flight to Lukla airport with good reason. Lukla is described as one of the most dangerous airports in the world, as the plane lands on a very short runway surrounded on three sides by cliff faces. Over the years there have been a few fatal crashes, the worst being in 2008 where 16 trekkers and 2 crew members died when the plane hit the cliff. We boarded the twin engine plane at 6.15am for the first flight of the day, the weather tending to be better for flying before 9am.The stewardess issued us with cotton wool for our ears, and sweets to eat and securely fastened herself in for the trip. The journey takes 35 minutes, flying over numerous valleys, however if the plane had a sudden problem there would be nowhere to land! We were all very relieved when the plane landed safely, we disembarked looking at the memorial to previous flight passengers and crew who had died there.

Lukla is at 2,800m/9184ft  and the main jumping off point that the majority on this trek take. If not wishing to take the plane an alternative would be to take a bus from Kathmandu to either Jiri or Phaplu then trekking for about 5 days, to arrive in Lukla. However, this option is not that popular, even though it would avoid the flight and aid acclimatisation.

We met our friendly Sherpa guide Pasang, and the porters who would be carrying our bags and accompanying us for the trip. All were very friendly. After some breakfast at "The Nest at Lukla" we started our trek, the group was buzzing with excitement to start our trek. It was a truly beautiful walk with a couple of suspension bridges over rivers - no time to be scared. Made more frightening when, herds of yaks are driven onto the bridge at the same time!! After 3 hours of walking we checked into the first of many tea houses, this one owned by Pasang and his wife. It was lovely inside, with real wood floors, a shared outside toilet and basin, with a mirror!!. After a lunch of vegetables and rice, we were treated to a walk with the guide up the valley to an old monastery which was being repaired after the earthquake. Back at the tea hut at 3pm, resting before an early dinner and early to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 2 - PHAKDING 2,652m/8,698ft  TO NAMCHE BAZAAR 3,440m/11,283ft

Walking Distance: 12km (7-8 hours)

1000m Ascent 100m Descent

We were so excited for our first full day's walk to be getting under way, breakfast was served at 7.30am Then we left at 8am for the walk to Namche Bazaar. The first section of the walk was fairly flat, but after a while we started to rise on the east side of the Milk River. It was amazing crossing from side to side along narrow bridges. Eventually we reached the Hillary Suspension bridge, which was truly breath taking. To us the bridges felt very flimsy, high above the roaring torrents of water below. We reached the entrance to the Sagarmatha national park, showing our trekking permits obtained by our company. Otherwise they can be bought at this point. At this point we were greeted with a tough climb up through the forest for two hours to the majestic Namche Bazaar for two nights. This is the biggest Sherpa village in the area, with shops, a bakery, and bars so make the most of it. I was feeling ill with a headache, and dodgy stomach, so missed dinner, this unfortunately became a pattern for the trip. Bryce had been ill the previous day.

Each walking day followed a similar pattern, up early for breakfast (7.30am) cooked by the Sherpas, walk steadily for a couple of hours. Stop for drinks in a tea hut, stop for lunch, arrive at the destination at about 2/3pm, order dinner, chill out in room, then dinner at about 6pm, cards, then early to bed. The days themselves are relatively short with breaks, allowing all to acclimatise. The paths are well used connecting all the villages. We were the first party of the season, so fewer trekkers were on the trail than normal. Many local people were out, carrying supplies up the trail, building materials, even cement and doors!  This is the only way supplies reach Everest, except by donkey or yaks, and the occasional helicopter. For obvious reasons the food/bottled water got progressively more expensive the further from Lukla that we got. Many Buddhist shrines are passed along the way, most very pretty with prayer flags draped over them fluttering in the breeze. Always give way to the donkeys/yaks, let them come past, always step onto the hill side (never the river side) of the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 3- NAMCHE BAZAAR 3,440m/11,283ft  REST AND ACCLIMATISATION DAY

Today was the first of two acclimatisation days, where short walks are taken that will improve fitness and help the body to adjust to the altitude, without sleeping at a higher elevation. This is done to try to avoid acute mountain sickness (AMS) further up the trail. We went on a relatively short walk to Hillary/Everest View point, where we were so excited with our first glimpse of the mighty mountain. This is definitely worth doing. As I was still feeling ill, one hour up and one hour down was all I could manage. The others went on a longer four hour walk from the viewpoint. Namche is a beautiful village with houses of all colours, and a few shops to top up supplies. We also visited the very interesting Sherpa Mountain Museum. There is even an Irish pub showing English football. On Saturdays, the Hatt Bazaar is open for trading and would be interesting to visit.

The view from our room was fantastic with mountains looking resplendent in the distance.  We took turns to have our last shower for ten days. It consisted of a small cabin with a tub of hot water, and a small bucket to pour the water over yourself with. There was a gas shower but this was just cold water, due to a lack of bottled gas caused by the Indian Fuel blockade-more later.

After dinner we returned to our room. Other trekkers may have taken advantage of the bars here and even had a game of pool.

DAY 4 - NAMCHE BAZAAR 3,440m/11,283ft  TO TENGBOCHE 3860m/12664ft

Walking Distance:12km (7 hours)

750m Ascent  350m Descent

We were up at the standard time of 6.35am, packed, and ready for breakfast at 7.30am. A flat walk at the start, then downhill to the river, followed by a long ascent for about two hours to the Buddhist Temple near Tengboche. The slopes of the mountains were once covered by dense juniper forests but these have now been cut down for use as firewood, primarily for trekkers for cooking food, hot water and warm rooms. We were allowed inside the Monastery, toured round it and stood up to watch the monks praying and chanting. In different circumstances this would have been interesting, but it was so cold inside, and as we had been walking all day we just wanted to arrive in our room. The monastery visit was followed by the last mile downhill to Tengboche. Pizza was on the menu again and I managed only to eat half of it as still not feeling great.

The trek sometimes goes from Namche Bazaar with an overnight at Phortse then the next day to Dingboche. Phortse, is known as one of the most beautiful places in the Everest region with legendary views. This route is not used if there is any chance of snow on the trail, going via the route we took to Tengboche instead.

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 5 - TENGBOCHE 3860m/12664ft  TO DINGBOCHE 4,400m/14,435ft

Altitude: Walking Distance: 12km (7 hours)

Ascent 540m

Today was a real test of character as both Steph and I were feeling ill. Dave (my husband) was concerned as it was a long way and would be a long day. I was slow and at the back, but as we were with a trekking party no-one is allowed to be left on their own. Even though Dave was with me one of the porters had to accompany me too, I felt really sorry for him as he kept having to wait whilst he carried about 50/60kgs on his back. He was always cheerful though. We stopped for lunch in Pangboche, I could not manage to eat anything. The trail today paralleled  the canyon of the raging Imja Khol River with its glacial blue waters. We were now above the tree line. Most of the day was a bit of a slog uphill arriving in Dingboche at about 2.30pm. By the time we arrived at the Paradise Lodge, Bryce was not feeling well either. I went to bed, and got up briefly to eat the only thing I could manage-a piece of pizza again.

DAY 6 - DINGBOCHE 4,400m/14,435ft  REST AND ACCLIMATISATION DAY

This was a rest day and the last chance for me to get better, whether I had altitude sickness or just a headache and a bad stomach it is hard to say. Pasang our guide did check to make sure everyone was ok, and eating sufficient food, not that that was a problem for Adam and Steve, who ran round the whole thing! Before the trip began Dave and I had discussed what we would do if one of us was sick. We decided that the other person would continue and the sick one stay behind, as this trip really is "A trip of a Lifetime." 

We set off to do another acclimatisation walk of three hours, unfortunately after 15 minutes I was too tired to continue, also thinking that I needed to save my strength for the next day. We sat and enjoyed fantastic views up and down the valley, empty blue skies, beautiful mountains all around, and a peace and serenity not normally found. We returned  to Dingboche, bumping into Steph and Bryce, who as they were both feeling ill had stayed behind. We all went to the small shop and bought more peanut butter. Adam and Steve enjoyed the full exploration of the surrounding valleys of Chhukung and Imja. Dave was concerned about Bryce and I as to whether we would be able to continue at all, so taking it easy was the most important thing. We all ate dinner together and played cards, the boys introduced us to a new card game called Shithead.

As is common around the Tibetan region, outside the lodgings was a very inventive use of an upside down metal satellite dish, by putting a kettle on it and using the heat from the sun to warm the water.

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 7 - DINGBOCHE 4,400m/14,435ft  TO LOBUCHE 4,900m/16,076ft

Walking Distance: 11-12 km (6-7 hours)

Ascent  500m

I was feeling a little better for the penultimate day, but Bryce was feeling worse, and there was a thought that he could not make it to Lobuche. But as he said "Running on Hopes and Dreams." Bryce had spent the previous eight months at sea in the Australian Navy, only returning to Sydney the week before our trip began. His wife Steph had booked the trip as a belated honeymoon for him, having got married 10 months previously.

For some reason Steve wore shorts today!!

The trek took the right-hand side of the valley and again fantastic views. It was a slower walk, due to the higher altitude. Crossing a bridge over a glacial stream we arrived at Thukla, half of the village was washed away by floods in 2007. We reached Yak Lodge and Restaurant  Thukla 4620m and had warm drinks in the sunny courtyard, being joined by the small child who lived there, who enjoyed the sweets that Adam gave to her.

After this there was a tough, steep walk to the top of a high hill. Here is a large area of  memorial stupas dedicated to the climbers, trekkers and Sherpas who lost their lives to Everest over the years. It is a very moving sight, with the names of many climbers and Sherpa painted on the rocks. There is a large memorial for Scott Fischer on May 10th 1996, whom people who have seen The Everest film will have heard of. The film covers the disastrous trip in which groups of mountaineers get caught out in bad weather at the top of Everest resulting in ten sad deaths. We would recommend watching the film and reading the book. This brings to life the dangers of summiting for both mountaineers and more so the Sherpas, who may not have the required kit/nutritious food/ and the choice to be there unlike the mountaineers.

Our weary legs struggled over craggy loose moraine, arriving at Mother Earth Guest House Labuche 5000m.  Part of the building had collapsed in the 2015 earthquake and repair work was ongoing. Wow, we were so happy to have made it so far. Lobuche is a small settlement with amazing views of Mt. Lobuche, Mt. Pumari and the Nuptse. Originally it was a summer village for herders, Lobuche now exists purely for the trekking industry.

To view the Khumbu Glacier, it was a short walk up over to the ridge opposite our lodge. I was so excited, and even though every step was tough, I could not miss this opportunity. Eventually the ridge was reached, the glacier was not what I was expecting. It was a ribbon of dirt coloured ice, covered in rock falls. Apparently it moves at up to one metre a day, creating the very famous Khumbu icefall on Everest itself. Due to global warming it is now much smaller than it was even 15 years ago. This was February and we could see where it no longer came up to the valley sides that it had previously carved out.

In our Lodge, there were the 6 of us, 3 other trekkers and 11 Sherpa, all sharing one semi frozen indoor toilet. I went upstairs to see if there were any other bathroom facilities, finding only a sink blocked with ice. I think the outside world was heavily used on this occasion! The toilets on the trip tend to have a large barrel of water next to them, together with a small bucket to use to pour down the toilet after use. Sometimes there is a bowl of water to wash hands in, but for seven days a lot of hand sanitizer was used. No one had showered since Namche Bazaar, as especially at this time of year-February-everything is frozen. I think we actually kept our five layers of clothes on for four days, wearing our hats and gloves and coats inside. In the lounge areas there tended to be one stove in the middle of the room, and definitely no heating in any bedroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 8 - LOBUCHE 4,900m/16,076ft TO EVEREST BASE CAMP 5364m/17,598ft TO GORAKSHEP 5180m/16,994ft

Walking Distance: 15km (8/9 hours)

Ascent 465m descent 200m

No one slept well, mainly due to the high altitude, the thin air making breathing harder  than normal even when lying down, the cold, and the very vivid dreams that everyone was having-again caused by the altitude. We were also so excited as this was the big day, hoping that today we would all manage to reach Everest Base Camp (EBC). We were up for breakfast at 7am. But it was apparent that both Bryce and I were going to struggle with the increase in elevation, Steph having recovered from previous altitude problems. The first stage was hard but ok, and we reached Gorakshep at about 10.30am and had an early lunch.

The next two and half-hours were extremely demanding for Bryce and I and for the first time Dave was struggling too. Adam and Steve were as usual storming it, not noticing the increased altitude and thin air at all. Oh to be younger and fitter!!! We continued along the relatively straight trail, consisting of rocky moraine and glacial debris, with views over the Khumbu Glacier and many mountains around.

 We arrived at EBC at about 2.00pm, crossing the remains of a small glacier to arrive. It was a major achievement for us all. We were joined by about 20 other trekkers, including some youngsters from Singapore, who finding out that we were older than their parents, were amazed that we were there at all. The day we were there Tuesday 23rd February 2016, we were two of only 25 people in the World to be there-so exciting. Mountaineers don't tend to arrive until March/April in preparation for the weather window in May.

Base camp had suffered a terrible disaster the previous year, and the walk had only just been re-opened. During the earthquake on 25th April 2015 a massive wall of ice, snow and rocks were dislodged and had rained down on base camp unfortunately killing18 climbers and guides. Since then Everest  had been shut for the season, some Nepalese blamed too many trekkers having upset the mountain gods. EBC has subsequently been cleaned up, and there were no piles of rubbish that we had been expecting.

Nepal is a very poor country and parts of it have become reliant on trekking and tourism, how they cope here with a sudden disaster and total loss of income we can only imagine. How tough life can be. If arriving here during the climbers' season it would be a completely different experience with upwards of 500 tents set up at one time, the paths would be busy with climbers arriving, and porters carrying suppliers, as most things are carried in. We had not seen a road or vehicle since arriving by plane at Lukla airport, the cacophony of Kathmandu feeling like a world away. We were so fortunate not only to arrive at this point, but to be here without crowds of people, that would make it a completely different experience. On the other hand, maybe by arriving later in the season, it would not have been quite so cold, but this was a small price to pay for such a serene environment. We felt honoured even to have the opportunity to be here at all. Adam, Steve, Steph and Bryce all gazed in the direction of Everest, and said they would all like to return one day to summit Everest. Both Dave and I admitted it was a lovely idea but under no circumstances would we be even be contemplating it.

After many photos, and congratulations all around, reluctantly we had to leave. The walk back to Gorakshep was so tough and most of us were worn out. Adam  and Steve then set out for a two hour walk to see the sunset from Kala Pattar 5545m. This mountain provides a 360degree panorama with the entire south face of Everest clearly visible, as well as surrounding mountains. Adam said it was one of the best days of his life and it felt good to be part of it. Alternatively climbers ascend Kala Pattar in early morning before clouds roll in. I was just so happy to have made it to base camp, any additional walking being well out of the question. 

Apparently on the ridge above Gorakshep are a number of memorials to expedition members who have died during the various ascents of Everest since 1921. Over 250 Sherpas, porters and climbers have died.

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 9 - GORAKSHEP  5180m/16,994ft  TO PANBOCHE 3930m

Descent 1436m  Ascent 242m

Walking Distance: 18km 8 hours

We were all up early, and again it was hard to sleep soundly due to altitude and the cold. I had made a mistake of leaving a bottle of water by my bed, by the morning it was completely frozen, it was maybe -10 C in our room. An elementary mistake of not placing the bottle in my sleeping bag with me. Here I experienced my first frozen indoor squat toilet, which was covered in ice!! Leaving after breakfast, the walk was still hard in parts. After we had descended about 1200m the air seemed easier to breath. We passed the shrines in Tukla again, and then walked down one of the most beautiful valleys I have ever visited to Periche. We felt like the Magnificent Seven, marching down the wide Imja valley. The complete silence was only broken by one helicopter making its way to base camp. It was truly amazing, words cannot describe the feeling of complete solitude. It took us one day to walk down the same distance as four days walking and acclimatising had taken us. We arrived in Panboche in time to have a hot chocolate and a quick nap before Spaghetti Bolognaise for dinner, and more cards were played. It was very cold again with ice on the inside of the windows. There was one squat toilet between ten rooms, this one fortunately not frozen.

DAY 10 - PANGBOCHE 3930m TO NAMCHE BAZAAR 3,440m/11,283ft 

Descent  545m

Walking Distance: 12km 6 Hours

After a breakfast of toast with honey and lemon tea, an earthquake caused the room to vibrate. There have been many serious ones over the past few years in Nepal, causing much loss of life and damage, fortunately this was only a small tremor, but was also felt in Kathmandu. This walk was like "coming home" and back into relative civilisation. It was a lovely trek again, along the valley past rhododendron bushes, passing Tengboche  Monastery, before stopping for lunch of tomato soup and toast,  being joined for lunch by a horse! Over the past few days we had met a trekker called Andy from Denver, USA, who joined us for a few hours today too. It is always nice to meet new people. This trip being so early in the season there were very few people around.  

On arrival in Namche we were so excited to find running water, flush toilet and a warm shower- the first in over a week-where we were staying. After a dinner of pasta with cheese and tomato, it began to snow. We all went outside and had a snowball fight-something our friends from Sydney were not accustomed to doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 11 NAMCHE BAZAAR 3,440m/11,283ft  to LUKLA  2,800m/9,184ft

950m descent 250m ascent

Walking Distance: 16km (6-7 hours)

We were sad that it would be our last day of walking with our team, but happy as we would be heading downhill. After a breakfast of toast at 7.30am we left at 8am. It was a beautiful day with the previous night's snow still on the ground and in the trees. The path wound up and down through the forest, crossing a few bridges. There were noticeably more porters going uphill carrying building materials, and climbers' supplies, than ten days ago. All getting ready for the climbing season. Some people may struggle with so much descent, reputedly to be hard on the knees, but we were fine. Again we passed through the checkpoint showing our passes for the final time.

Arriving in Phakding we at lunch again at Pasangs' house. Here he told us stories about his life, including from the age of 8 he used to walk the 5km from his house to school in Lukla each day with friends from the village, very different to the school runs back home. We arrived back in Lukla, checking into The Nest at Lukla Lodge where we had stopped for drinks previously. Exhausted from the trip, we again ate pizza, and had a few drinks to celebrate the trip, but were still in bed by 9pm. There are several bars in Lukla if you fancied a party, some with happy hours.

"Thanks to great teamwork and perseverance, you’ve accomplished a physical feat of which others only dream. This is your last night on the mountain, which can be bittersweet". Quote from Himalayan Wonders.

DAY 12 - LUKLA 2,800m/9184ft  TO KATHMANDU 1,350m/4,428ft  

Flight time: 35 min

We were up at 5.30am for the flight back to Kathmandu, breakfast at 6am. After sadly saying goodbye to the Sherpas, there was just a short 200m walk to the airport. It was pouring in rain, and all planes were delayed due to the cloud and rain .

Eventually the flight got underway, with the Sherpas all standing outside the lodge to wave goodbye. If I thought the landing was frightening I actually think taking off was even worse. The plane begins at the back of the runway against the cliff, then has only one attempt to take off, as the runway ends with 100ms of drop into the valley below. Fortunately it did not stall! As previously the stewardess had given us cotton wool and sweets before strapping herself in securely for the journey. The plane seats about 16 people, and we could see the 2 pilots operating the plane. It was a lovely journey back, flying over many valleys and villages, before arriving back in Kathmandu, situated on a wide valley floor. We were again very relieved to have landed. We collected our luggage and caught the taxi arranged by the hotel. It was great to be back in our room with a shower, some electric, and some WIFI. We went for a wander and lunch in Kathmandu.

Meeting at 6.30pm in the hotel we were all trying to look our best for our farewell meal, which was hard given the lack of choice of outfits!! We went to The black olive Restaurant-a steak restaurant-together with our fellow trekkers, David who runs Himalayan Wonders and a couple of other people. It was a delicious meal, but I could not manage it all, as I think I was still feeling ill. The six of us then headed off to an Irish Bar, before going to a night club with a band playing western music. It was a great night out. Culture shock hit me when I heard a woman in the lovely complaining that there was a lack of soap. Compared to where we had been this would have been the least of her problems. I did remark that at least there was running water, she looked strangely at me. I thought I could not begin to explain the unsanitary conditions we had experienced over the previous 12 days.

We said our final sad goodbyes to Bryce and Steph who had decided to go for the luxury option of a different hotel to us. Adam and Steve were last seen heading for another bar.

One year later we were in Sydney and met up with Bryce and Steph, who subsequently had had a baby. Turned out Steph was one week pregnant on the trip! We met their gorgeous baby called Evie Everest. On a different night we met Adam and Steve, out with their friends at a rugby league game. It was so lovely to catch up with them all, and see if their hopes and dreams for their future had been realised. They certainly seemed to be.

On the same trip down under we met up with Barrie in New Zealand, whom we had originally met on the Camino de Santiago  and who had inspired us to do this trek. Lovely to meet Barrie again who gave us more ideas for the next 25 summers....... 

"There is nothing impossible to him who will try"
-Alexander the Great

 

 

Further Information

We cannot rate this excursion highly enough, over the last four years of travelling, it is definitely one of the best trips we have been on. We were so lucky with our fellow companions, virtually beautiful weather for the whole 12 days, a great Sherpa team to help us, and more importantly the plane from Lukla to Kathmandu not crashing!! In addition the trip being so well organised by Himalayan Wonders, including lifts to and from the airport. It could not have been bettered in any way.

We certainly could not have done this trip without the Sherpa's and the guide-Pasang. They never left us, waiting for me at all times, and never complained. Frequent stops were made throughout the day at tea houses for drinks and lunch. The young people from Australia are some of the best friends and travelling companions that we could ever have met. They kept us amused for many hours with stories of their world adventures, sports, home lives and films to watch. Without their encouragement  of "Barb you ok?", in an Aussie accent, I really would have given up. During the day they even carried my day sack for me, leaving me with just my hat, walking pole and water to carry. Adam and Steve made the walk look so easy. The resplendent scenery and fantastic weather, and company were certainly reasons to get up each morning, overcome illness and carry on.

It may be possible do achieve this trip without booking it with a company. But we would not recommend this at all. This is the only time we have booked a trip with a company, we usually book flights, accommodation etc ourselves. But on this trip having everything booked with such efficiency, Sherpa's, a guide, etc made it possible to achieve. Pasang even sorted me out with an extra quilt everywhere we stayed. If we had fallen really ill then we would have been well taken care of. The paths are easy to follow, and many villages with accommodation,so you may imagine you can trek it alone. There were sad notices searching for single walkers who had disappeared while trekking alone and not been seen again. Don't be one of these sad statistics. It was also a lot of fun with the whole group.

Website Used

https://www.himalayanwonders.com/ Company we booked with, fantastic informative website

http://hotelpilgrimsnepal.com/ Hotel in Kathmandu

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g293890-d5482410-Reviews-Black_Olives_Cafe_and_Bar-Kathmandu_  Restaurant in Kathmandu

https://ebctrekguide.com/lukla-airport-gateway-mount-everest Lukla airport

Resources Used

Everest Base Camp Map 1:75000 Hillary-Tenzing Route

Lonely Planet trekking in the Nepal Himalaya

Rough Guide to Nepal

These are interesting especially when travelling round Nepal, but not necessary for the trek.

Books to Read

Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer 1996 Disaster

Left For Dead: My Journey Home from Everest, Beck Weathers 1996 Disaster

The Mammoth Book Of Everest: From the first attempts to today, 40 first-hand accounts by Jon E Lewis

 

The film Everest, made in 2015, based on the 1996 disaster

 

Nepal things to take

There is a very extensive kit list on the Himalayan Wonders website.

But a few additional items:-

USA dollars- always useful when travelling anywhere in Asia.

Nepalese money can't be obtained outside Nepal. There are exchange desks at the airport. Or once in Thamel in Kathmandu the money exchanges offer a better rate of exchange. Or use Cash machines.

Phone chargers, and spare battery packs, and torches/head torch.

Lots of hand sanitizer and baby wipes, as we did not have a water for 7 days, no snow on the ground even to wipe hands on. Toilet paper.

I took snack bars, glucose tablets, chocolate, peanut butter etc. Bought in the shops in Kathmandu.

Take a pair of indoor shoes. Drink container for carrying water in during the day.

We bought altitude sickness tablets in Kathmandu, but really should have bought them from home, to ensure they were the correct ones.

Others took energy drink sachets to add to the bottled water - a good idea

Most of the kit is carried by the porters, and you carry a small day bag. So pack accordingly, but bearing in mind the weight that the porter can carry and the weight allowance given on the plane.

Basic Information

Whilst going on the trek, we left some of our kit behind in the Hotel Pilgrims in Kathmandu. We were visiting India later, so certainly different  items would be needed.

It has to be remembered that Nepal is a very poor country, with a lack of infrastructure and resources. Ensure you manage your expectations before you go.

The accommodation was basic but always clean.

Bottled water is readily available to buy, obviously the price increases steadily all the way to EBC as it is being carried further by porters.

The Nepalese people are polite, friendly, and helpful. They have suffered from numerous disasters over the years, but somehow remain resilient. We were there a year after a huge earthquake, there was lots of damage to buildings, with pit props holding some of them up, piles of rubble on the floor, and people living in red cross tents. We did met some westerners helping with the situation.

There is a lack of electricity throughout Nepal due to daily power cuts, so when there is power charge items. On the trek, try to use the phone sparingly to conserve power.  In our 4 weeks in Nepal, there was never a day when there was electric all day, WIFI was always patchy, as was hot water. Western problems, but we did wonder how their economy manages to function at all. When we were there the Indian Government had suspended trade with Nepal, blocking fuel deliveries at the borders. As a result queues of 6 hours for petrol for private cars, taxis and buses were common unless purchasing from the black market. People also stood for hours in long queues to fill gas bottles, to cook with. Another repercussion of this was in the countryside people were cutting down trees to burn, as a result whole swathes of valleys were covered in smoke, not aiding climate warming.

Obviously being a mountain region there is a lack of WIFI, it can sometimes be paid for at some of the lodges.

Food on the trek mainly consisted of pancake/ omelette/toast  for breakfast. Lunch and Dinner was Pizza, Spaghetti bolognaise etc

Everyone had very vivid dreams, probably due to the thin air.

Only do this trip if you don't mind a complete lack of sanitary conditions. Maybe when we trekked in February  things were worse than normal as the water and some toilets were frozen. On the positives though at least hopefully the germs would be dead in the cold! On the other hand if you went later in the season the water would not be frozen, but there would be many more people using the few facilities- mostly there was only us 6 staying anywhere, but this would create long queues for what facilities there were. Out of interest we never slept in dorms, we each had our own double room with shared bathroom facilities.

The walk is kept at a steady pace, you are also always with a Sherpa who carries a first aid kit. The pattern for the day seemed to be up, pack, put out the bag for the Sherpa's to carry, breakfast at about 8am, leave, walk for an hour or two then stop for a drink or snack, a further couple of hours then stop for lunch, and we always arrived where we were staying by 3pm, in time for a rest, and order dinner. This would be at about 6pm, we then played cards, and were in bed by 9pm-probably as it was so cold.

Without the altitude/thin air and my dodgy stomach this trip would have been relatively easy. I am sure that especially Adam and Steve - 2 of our companions got bored waiting, and could have done the whole trip faster had they not booked with us. I felt ill for the majority of the trip, eating little, then struggling to walk. But determination and sheer will-power drove me on.

 What was concerning about the whole trip was the lack of snow, both on the ground, on the mountains, and lack of water in the rivers. The weather was beautiful for most of the time. We had a small amount of snow when in Namche Bazaar, which the Australians loved. It is a real worry in the current age of climate change. We later went to the Museum of Mountaineering in Pokhara, Nepal. There was a whole section about climate change, and the 3 billion people that rely on their water source coming from the Himalayan area. This trip really brought  home to me for the first time the direct impact that man is having on the future of the planet. 

The day after this trip our 4 companions returned to Sydney, we continued our adventures catching a luxury bus to Pakhora, staying at the sister hotel of the Pilgrims Hotel. After a couple of days in Pakhora, we embarked on another trek to Annapurna Base camp via Poon Hill. This trip would be different as we organised it ourselves and carried all our kit. Finally we caught the bus back to Kathmandu for our international flight to Delhi. Spending 2/3 weeks in India, before flying back to Manchester. But these are stories for another time.