Everest Base Camp Trek
Trip Start Oct 31, 2006
7Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Some people dream of this trip for a lifetime, to come and visit these giants, the tallest mountains in the world. Some have seen many movies on the region, read multiple books, researched these mountains and are very familiar with them. They know the climbers who have succeeded in climbing these mountains and also know the less fortunate ones who have lost their lives. The come here to finally meet and experience for themselves these valleys and peaks.
For my part, I must admit that I had little preparation. I was looking for an adventure and found it suggested online. Perfect one I thought! So I told myself that I would proceed the opposite way; first to visit these mighty mountains and then select movies and films with a better understanding of what challenges climbers face in the region: weather, thin air, altitude, cold, avalanches and so forth.
DAY 1 - 11.08.2006 - Katmandu to Lukla (2845m) to Phakding (2650m)
5am start to catch our flight to Lukla (2845m). The 40 minutes flight aboard the small propeller plane, perched at a few thousand meters, offered spectacular views of the rivers, valleys and some of the highest peaks in the world.
After our arrival, we had breakfast in Lukla while the porters loaded up our gear. We subsequently started our walk toward our first camping site, Phakding (2,650m), about a 3 hour walk for our first day. For those working in feet, to convert meters in feet, it is a simple multiplication of 1 meter times 3.33 to arrive at the equivalent. ;-). Time didn't allow me to convert all of them, my sincere excuses!
Oh yes, for those who read the previous posting, the guy I mentioned did not make it with us. Unfortunately for him, he has an alcohol problem combined with some anger management issues. He didn't follow some rules set for him prior to departure (no alcohol obviously) and that cost him his spot on the trek. (we later heard he hired another local company to take him. Good luck to them, wrong place on these trails to be having alcohol related problems; narrow trails and significant drops). Our team now consists of 7 clients (Steve, Roger, Adam, Carol, Mark and Courtney), a leader, 4 guides, many porters and a large kitchen staff.
It is a rough start for me; the lack of sleep and a cold have taken an early toll on me! Oh and a member of our team already suffers from traveler's diarrhea. Yes, that would be me. Bad start!!!
DAY 2 - 11.09.2006 - Phakding (2650m) to Namche Bazaar (3440m)
After a 12 hour night, I am starting to feel better. Better be because today is a 7 ˝ hour day walking with steep up hills.
I survived the first real challenge considering my condition, we arrived at Namche Bazaar (3,440m). It is quite an elevation gain versus yesterday, it will be our first acclimatization day tomorrow. We will be returning for a second night here after trekking in the area tomorrow to reduce the risk of altitude sickness issues. The acclimatization process recommends 2 nights at the same location during our trekking with a limit of about 300m elevation on the other nights. It is recommended to go higher than 300m during the day as long as the night is spent within the 300m limit. On the acclimatization days, it is recommended to trek around to obtain a level of exertion at that altitude.
Namche is the main administrative and trading centre in the region, lots of building and a market can be seen in this village. We got our first view of Everest today, a small peak at the summit. Weather condition are so far perfect, a rarity we were told. Dinner at 6pm and straight to bed after, everyone is exhausted from the walk.
DAY 3 - 11.10.2006 - Namche Bazaar Acclimatization (3440m)
The day starts early at 5am in order to catch up the sunrise against the mountain backdrop. The views are amazing; we are surrounded by huge mountains standing high above us. The valleys below are descending so far, the proportions here are just difficult to imagine without being here. The pictures don't make them justice.
We walked around for 4 hours today to get some work at this altitude. Tomorrow, packing up and moving on up.
Cooking in the Mountain Our cooks are equipped with very basic equipment, a few portable cookers and metal plate and cutleries. However, you wouldn't know it, each night they prepare a feast for dinner: pizza, pasta, cake, you name it! There is plenty to eat. Our guides tell us that our chef is one of the best in the mountain. Thanks for that!
DAY 4 - 11.11.2006 - Namche Bazaar (3440m) to Khumjung (3780m)
Half-day of steep climbing leads us to Khumjung (3780m), an altitude gain of about 350m, we arrive at destination around 12h30. The rest of the day is spent doing some laundry and exploring the village. I am starting to recover and feel better!
Weather When the sun goes away in the mountains, the temperature drops quickly. Day temperature can be around 15 Celciuss. The evening temperature hovers around -10 Celsius (10 Fahrenheit). There is no where to go to warm up. I did not quite expect us to stay in tents every nights when I sign up for this trek. I was expecting a few tea lodges along the way. Should have read the small print better! But oh well, will go with the real thing!
My sleeping bag is rated -25 Celsius and the guide told me that I may need all of it as we ascend in the mountain... grrrrrrrrreeee it's cold! You can imagine the difficulty one has of getting out of the sleeping bag at night to take care of business! And business calls more often in altitude as we drank a lot more fluid.
DAY 5 - 11.12.2006 - Khumjung (3780m) to Phortse (3810m)
2pm arrival at camp! More fantastic views on the way. The morning starting with a steep climb up the mountain above the village we spent the night.
Once on top, we paused for some air and a few pictures. It is at that point that my heart stopped for a moment. My co-trekker Steve handed me his camera for a shot with our guide Baburam perched on a rock closely. In his excitement, Steve rushed to top of the rock without being careful, especially considering the lack of grip along that rock to reach the spot. The spot was 7 feet away; Steve went for it and slipped for a moment at the worst spot with no point to grab. The guide and I were too far to help and the most likely scenario was Steve falling to his death on the cliff below. Somehow, he regained his footing, I don't know how?
We are walking most of the day on narrow trails hanging on the side of mountains with straight drops below. Very little room for mistakes. This near death incident in front of my eyes has been on mind since. I had a hard time trying to sleep tonight!
DAY 6 - 11.13.2006 - Phortse (3810m) to Dingboche (4410m)
Long day walking to Dingboche; 7am start - 3:30pm arrival. The head is pounding a bit upon arrival from the exertion and a higher altitude. Believe it or not, there is a billiard room in this village, a place to refine your skills at 4,400m above sea level.
It is strongly recommended to avoid alcohol on the trek to avoid complication with the acclimatization process, but I can't wait to have an Everest Beer back in Kathmandu or the last few nights in the mountains.
Talking about altitude, Courtney does not feel well at all, it seems to be a combination of altitude sickness and a sinus infection. Others are stating to show some signs also.
Getting ready for another freezing night in the tent!!!
DAY 7 - 11.14.2006 - Dingboche Acclimatization (4410m)
This morning was a long walk towards Chukung, a village from where Island Peak is clearly visible and a Lhotse is just ahead in his splendor. We returned at 1pm for this acclimatization day. Time for a well deserved shower and washing some clothes. We went for an afternoon discussion on altitude sickness, presented by an American doctor.
Although variations occur when we have a long walking day (4:45am start), the typical day is as follow:
6am wakeup with a cup of black tea served at the tent. Washing water in a bowl served at 6:15, a chance to wash your face and brush your teeth. Breakfast is served a 6:45am in a tent sitting just about 8 people. In the meantime, dressing up, trying to warm up and packing up gear (sleeping bag, air mattress, clothes...) into large duffel bag. Our guides pack up our tents for the porters or yak. We depart around 7:15am. Our walking time varies from 3 hours on a short day to over 7 hours on the long one. A lunch is prepared along the way by the kitchen staff, which rush before us on the trail. We arrive and have tea around 4pm, dinner around 6pm followed by bed time.
DAY 8 - 11.15.2006 - Dingboche (4410m) to Dughla (4,620m)
Short day to Dughla, 3 hour walk followed by an afternoon walk up the see Chola Che Lake, spectacular views.
Avalanche nearby We noticed an helicopter in the afternoon exploring one of the nearby mountain, Ama Dablam. Our leader thought it was a fortunate group of tourist getting a close view via helicopter.
Unfortunately, news of an avalanche which had claimed 6 climbers (2 Swedish and 1 British and 3 Sherpa guides) while in their tents at the advanced camp on that mountain. The helicopter was seeking signs of their bodies. These tragedies are common in this area.
DAY 9 - 11.16.2006 - Dughla (4,620m) to Lobuche (4,910m)
Steep climb above Dughla where we reach the memory grounds for climbers that died in the region, many on Everest.
Early day to outside of Lobuche. Tomorrow, a very big day as we get a shot at climbing Mt. Kala Patthar (5,545m), our highest altitude on this trek. It is an elevation of over 600m versus tonight. Ouff good luck all! A few additional team members are starting to show more symptoms of altitude sickness, which does not look good for the next two days, Kala Patthar and Everest Base Camp.
DAY 10 - 11.17.2006 - Lobuche (4,910m) - Mt. Kala Patthar (5,545m) to Gorak Shep (5,140m)
The day starts really early (4:45am wakeup), 5:30 breakfast and 6am on the trail to Gorak Shep, a tiny hamlet at 5,140m where we will spend the night. We arrive at this point at around 9am after a difficult up and down trail. The altitude plays an effect, at 5,000m the oxygen rate is 53% what it is at sea level. On top of Everest, it is 33%. Each step is made more difficult by the lower oxygen rate. I feel tired after the first 3 hours, but high above us, 400m up is the top of Mt. Kala Patthar. Ohh what fun awaits us!
Steve and I arrived in Gorak Shep before the rest of the group and we began our ascent. Only a few minutes in, I realize the task at hand will not be easy, I tire quickly. Little by little, I go up with regular pause to catch up my breath. My legs are tired and when I look up, I can't see the end. I dig deep, probably like never before in my life and after 3 long exhausting hours, we reached the top. Happy and exhausted. One more member of our group will make it that day.
From the top, incredible views of Everest and its ice fields, where so many died trying the ultimate challenge around here. The Khumbu glacier lay in front of us from Everest all the way across the paronama. We return to camp after taking pictures, completely exhausted. Altitude sickness is claiming additional members of our group. Steve, after reaching the summit with me is suffering from severe headaches. Steve is over 60 and worked really hard to make it. What he accomplished what quite impressive, but unfortunately he is paying the price now. Courtney who had shown symptoms much earlier in the trek must be taking down this afternoon as her headaches have worsened and it is caused for concern.
Tomorrow, Everest Base Camp awaits the remaining, another challenging day.
DAY 11 - 11.18.2006 - Gorak Shep (5,140m) to Everest Base Camp (5,380m) to Dughla (4,620m)
6am: our guide Baburam, Mark and I take off ahead of the group for Everest Base Camp. The status in the rest of the group precludes some to attempt base camp, others will go slowly. Mark and I are laboring hard through the ups and downs to base camp. We make it in a good time of 2 hours. We walked along the Khumbu Glacier and arrived at Base Camp (5,380m), the closest we can get to Everest without mountaineering equipment. Base Camp is situated on the Khumbu Glacier, a mix of ice and rocks. Base camp is empty at this time of the year, in spring more than 200 tents can be seen all over the glacier. 20+ expeditions attempting to climb up Everest during that time; a real little village!
After taking pictures of the area, including the near crashed helicopter, we returned to Gorak Shep for a short lunch. Missions accomplished so far. We continue on at a very fast pace through Lobuche and then back to Dughla where we will spend the night. This will be last night with the group where I split up for a 5 day extension to Gokio, another valley on the other side of the mountain range.
Now that everybody has returned to lower altitude and warmer weather, headaches are disappearing. My spirit is good and physical condition appears good. Tomorrow is a short day towards the Cho La Pass. The rest of the team is returning to Lukla and Kathmandu now over the next 4 or 5 days.
DAY 12 - 11.19.2006 - Dughla (4,620m) to Dzonglha (4,830m)
Short day, about 2 ˝ hours to Donghla to relax in preparation for Cho La Pass (5,330m) tomorrow.
My physical condition, which I thought was great after yesterday, seems to be less than perfect from the difficulties I had during this short day. My legs feel heavy and my lungs are not fully effective, they feel congested. I think the last two days have taken a toll.
The day is spent in the tea lodge relaxing, reading, playing cards with the guides and porters. I hope tomorrow will feel better for the big day over the pass.
A bit about SHERPA The Sherpa are an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal, high in the Himalaya. In Tibetan shar means East; pa is a suffix meaning 'people': hence the word sharpa or Sherpa. Sherpas migrated from eastern Tibet to Nepal within the last 500 years.
The term 'sherpa' (the preferred spelling with a lower case first letter) is also incorrectly used to refer to local people, typically men, employed as porters or guides for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas. They are highly regarded as experts in mountaineering and their local terrain, as well as having good physical endurance and resilience to high altitude conditions. However, a sherpa is not necessarily a member of the Sherpa ethnic group. A female sherpa is known as a "Sherpani".
Historically, the most famous Sherpa is Tenzing Norgay, who climbed Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary for the first time in 1953.
DAY 13 - 11.20.2006 - Dzonglha (4,830m) to Cho La Pass (5,330m) to Dragnag (4,700m)
Rough start, legs still feel very heavy and I must stop often early on to catch my breath. I am now following an Italian group which is setting a very slow pace up the valley towards the pass. The worst is yet to come; the pass is a straight climb up, about 500m. It is very difficult to find the energy to climb it. But eventually of course, after much effort, I reach the pass between Cho Lo Che and Chu La. Snow covers the pass at 5,330m. From here we can see Lhotse, Nuptse and Lobuche Peak.
The descent on the other side of the pass is steep and covered with snow and ice, very tricky. After reaching the Valley, we take a long break bathing in the sun for ˝ hour. We went on down to the camp. The terrain is very rocky and up and down many. Please spare my knees!!!
We finally arrived at a large tea lodge, which fills up with people, many we met the night before.
Mountain Pass In a range of hills, or especially of mountains, a pass (also gap, notch, col, saddle, bwlch or bealach) is a lower point that allows easier access through the range. On the route through the range, it is locally the highest point on the route. Since many of the world's mountain ranges have always presented formidable barriers to travel, passes have been important since before recorded history, and have played a key role in trade, war and migration.
Topographically, a pass has the general form of a saddle between two mountains (the elevation as a function of two position coordinates is mathematically a saddle point).
DAY 14 - 11.21.2006 - Dragnag (4,700m) to Gokio (4,790m)
A two hour walk brings us to Gokio where a nice lodge awaits us in this larger village.
We left later today around 8:30am, arriving at 10:30. Today will be an easy day in planning for the next couple of days. Tomorrow, a 6 hour days going up to see the 4th and 5th lake for, which the Gokio valley is re-known for. This location seems to offer a lot of amazing views. The following day will be a climb of Gokio Ri about 500-600m above Gokio, followed by a lunch and a long and steady descent for about 5 hours. That should bring us to Dole on our way back to Lukla. I have to push hard the next two days.
So on the way to Gokio, I saw the first two amazing blue lakes. The tea lodge is located next to the second lake and has a great view of it. Weather has been fantastic so far.
DAY 15 - 11.22.2006 - Gokio (4,790m) to 4th/5th Lake(4,930m) to Gokio
This morning, the weather is not complying, it is cloudy and strong gust of winds are shaking the valley. Regardless, my guide, porter and I take off around 8am. We make it fast in about 2 hours. Typically, the location offers outstanding views of four of the highest mountains of earth: Everest, Nuptse, Lhutse and Choyu (all 8,000m and higher).
The skies are cloudy so we don't get to see 3 of these mountains and the lakes are not as nice without the sun. Our walk followed the glacier all the way to the lake. Once there, we get pushed around by strong gust of wind. Thanks for that Gore-Tex jacket at last. We returned to the lodge and the skies clear as we arrived. We went too early!!! I slept and took it easy the rest of the day as I was exhausted.
Tomorrow we leave early up Gokio Ri to get a chance to these views again. A hard day ahead!
DAY 16 - 11.23.2006 - Gokio (4,790m) to Gokio Ri (5,360m) to Dole (4,200m)
Tomorrow, Nanche Bazaar, if you remember from earlier, the centre of the region. I should be able to send via Internet sign of life to the family. I can only imagined mother wondering where I am and in what condition.
DAY 17 - 11.24.2006 - Dole (4,200m) to Namche Bazaar (3,440m)
My friends, next time you sit on the toilet, may it be today, tomorrow or beyond for those with some kind of problem, take a moment to enjoy it. Stretch you arm back and let a loud gasp and tell yourself that life is good. That is pretty much how I felt today upon discovery and use of a western toilet in the lodge I am staying. Yes that simple and yet so good! My spirit is elevated one crank higher today!
An 8am start from Dole direction Namche Bazaar, a much larger village with lots of shops and electricity in the lodge. Need I mention a real toilet? Along the way, a steep climb awaited, probably the last real challenge remaining in the trek. I remembered the group going down the trail, fearing when I would have to go up. I worked through it with the motivation that upon arrival I would be able to write my family via email. We arrived at noon, we made a decent time. Then to the internet café for emails and news of the world, more specifically the Montreal Canadiens and Baltimore Ravens. Wow, both doing very well.
Two short days ahead of about 3 hours each. Final destination is Lukla where on Nov. 27th, an 8am flight will take us back to Kathmandu. I leave on the 30th for Bangkok. The initial idea is to head south for some diving lessons in tropical temperature water. Yes that is what I need!
Oh I did have a much deserved beer today that felt wonderful... almost as good as the sit-down toilet!
DAY 18 - 11.25.2006 - Namche Bazaar (3,440m) to Lukla (2,840m)
Change of plan this morning due to the recent cloudy weather in Lukla and fog in Kathmandu. We heard our group left two days behind their planned departure in Lukla, possibly compromising their flight back home. Therefore we decided to get there early to increase our chances of returning on time. We made the 5 ˝ hour walk back to Lukla.
We arrived at 2pm. Upon arrival, Baburam and I treated ourselves to some beers. After what Baburam had to pay a customary visit to his in law in the village. This was a nice cultural experience. She is the older sister of his wife and therefore a visit was needed. It was very formal and little conversation occurred. She served us beers and food in her tea house for porters. Simply a large room with a few old wooden tables. Relations in Nepal, especially in the mountains, are still very hierarchical; porters with porters, guide with guide. Porters very courteous to Guides and so forth. A chicken and her three little ones were inside this modest building. We drank, ate and were out of there.
We heard the weather had been much better the last days and the backlog of travelers has cleared. We may be leaving for Kathmandu a day earlier.
It was a fantastic adventure from the views, the group of people I shared it with, the stories from my guide, as well as him trying to learn some western songs. Just a wonderful experience.
The timing was just about right, I am happy to be heading back down and to continue on to another chapter of the 6 month adventure. To the pleasure of seeing you all my friends.
During these walks and long night, one has also a lot of time to think about his love ones, make some plans upon his return about family, career and making sure to enjoy the little things in life, the important ones.