Everest Base Camp 5364m and Kalapatthar 5550m Trek
Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
77Trip End Ongoing
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Okay, so despite being pretty done in from my Annapurna Circuit and Poon Hill expedition, I have, as long as I can remember, wanted to go to Everest Base Camp (EBC). Not only for the challenge to make it into base camp, battling against the altitude and climbs, but also for the views of the highest mountain on the planet, and the incredible Khumbu glacier. So even before I’m down from Annapurna, I have decided to take on my next challenge and head into Everest Base Camp. I met a lovely older couple in Ghandruk on the way down (who live in Stornoway) who educated me in this trek and provide me with details of a company in Kathmandu to contact, I think it would be a beautiful way to spend Christmas, and take my mind off missing my family.
So once I arrive back in Pokhara, I only stay one full day before heading off for my first visit to Kathmandu
The bus journey is exciting, the chaos and noise of horns, the swerving and careering up steep, narrow mountain roads with sheer cliff edges which make up the main highway! Phew, I really am a petrol head though, and I loved every near miss! On arrival, I drop my bags at the Tibet Peace Guest House and call the company recommended, who came and collect me by motorbike. Before I know it my trek is booked and I’ve a flight to Lukla Airport the following morning. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it has the reputation of being ‘the world’s most dangerous airport’, the tiny mountain runway sends you off a cliff (as I was to find out) is impressive, and sends you off through mountain valleys with stunning views of the Himalayas, so let the adventures continue!
This trek I buy a ‘down jacket’ before I even get back to the guest house as the last trek was freezing, and after a quick turnaround, and a repack (leaving luggage with hotel), I find out there is some sort of strike ‘banda’ on here tomorrow, so I might not be able to get a taxi to the airport in the morning… great
Next morning I leave the hotel around 5:30am to head to the airport however, the 'banda' is on and the streets are deserted. I asked the night security guy to walk me down for a taxi (which he somehow found) but then he legged it before I could ask how much to pay, the driver tried to rip me off for 2000 Rs but what a journey. A car had been set alight on a bridge on the main highway to the airport and the driver tried to put me out to walk, ‘only ten minutes past the burning car’ he said... yeh right! Needless to say I refused to get out and he eventually ‘found another route’, it was scary enough though and not a good first impression of Kathmandu.
Anyway, I got to the airport safely (giving him 500 Rs) and got chatting to a large group from the UK. I had no delays at all and before I knew it, I was first on board the first flight of the day, and sitting in the prime seat to take in the clear mountain views. ‘The Himalayas’ are mind blowing. The whole flight, with a smooth take off and landing was incredible, we made our way between the mountains to Lukla and to the start of my trek to EBC and Kalapatthar and I loved it
So after taxi, a crazy bus ride, walk, motorbike, walk, another taxi past burning car and flight to ‘the world’s most dangerous airport’, I meet my guide ‘Psang’, who is a local lad of only 17 years, and we head off up the mountain to beautiful clear blue skies which stayed with us throughout the trek. The scenery is stunning, huge pine trees, clear glacier rivers and snow capped peaks, I’m so glad I’ll be out of KTM for Christmas, which, with the pine forest, smells like it’s nearly here! Young Psang is a bit slow (did I really say that?) but he seems to be a nice kid, and we discuss our route. I don’t want an acclimatisation day in Namche Bazar and he doesn’t seem to need one either (being from the mountain), due to the altitudes we need one somewhere and decide on Dingboche instead.
On the way up our first stop is Monjo (2880m), our walk starts with lush green fields and a beautiful green glacier river. We walk through small villages and everyone on the trail says hello to you, 'Namaste'. We walk over rope bridges and through huge pine forests, the day is bright and sunny and it's lovely being back in the mountains. At the first tea house I met 3 South African guys from Durban who are good company, their guide is older and wiser and I end up seeking advice from him regarding where to stop etc. as we are planning on doing the same route.
We walk up to Namche Bazar (3445m) the following day, and as strange as it sounds everyone who passes me today smells of fresh laundry, they must all stop in Namche for the day and get everything cleaned
I'm really impressed with the village, it's surrounded by mountains and all the the waterfalls are frozen! I am amazed by the size of the village, it’s huge, I mean there are no roads to bring any materials up here, it’s all very labour intensive. Every brick, every corrugated iron sheet for the roofs, every door, toilet, everything, has been carried up here on someone’s back. Bags of sand from the river bed below, water tanks, gas bottles, food and drink, alcohol i.e. crates of beer for ‘the tourists’, clothes, shoes, jewelery etc. it really is amazing. Donkey’s and yak’s are used also, and I love the noise of the sleigh and cow bells chiming away as they approach, but on the whole, it’s tiny Nepali men carrying up to 100kgs up the mountain, (although the porter limit is around 20-30kgs for luggage), they’re an unbelievably strong bunch.
As i was in a bit of a rush leaving Kathmandu I need to find a bank here before heading on or I'll be tight for cash. So after checking into a nice tea house (100Rs plus food) I head out a wander of the village
The following day we head to Tengboche (3870m), leaving Namche via the Shyangboche Airstrip, minutes after I’ve taken a photo a plane comes into land, missed it… but at least I got it on the way out. The airport is too high to fly directly into as altitude sickness would kill you, which is scary stuff. We head up to the Everest View Hotel which does indeed have an Everest view, although my young guide couldn't tell me which one it was and I had to ask the hotel staff! The scenery in stunning and I sit for a while with a pot of tea and take it all in.
We next head over to Khumjung for lunch but many places turn us away as they are taking the kids to school, that's a refreshing change. It's another lovely day and I sit outside in the sunshine with my sherpa stew. After lunch we walk up to Tengboche Monastery which is all up steps, and is a killer
The Monastery is really impressive and I take a walk back up before dinner and I’m welcomed in to observe, pray, whatever. It’s fascinating, the sounds of some of the instruments the monks are playing are very unique, I’ve never heard or seen anything like them, their music combined with chanting and praying is a real insight. When I return to the digs I met a lovely Scottish couple Lindsay and John, who I’ve become firm friends with, we sit round the fire (of yak dung) and get to know each other, once the fire burns out we all head to bed though for an early night as there's no convincing the guest house to top it up.
Next day we head to Dingboche (4410m), where we stay for our acclimatisation day, it’s a really beautiful walk up here today, clear skies and stunning mountain views. It’s a really cold start though and the icy glacier rivers are half frozen, big rocks are covered in snow, it almost looks like icing on a cake (Christmas cake perhaps). It’s not too strenuous a day, although people around are starting to suffer from the mountain sickness and some are even turning back
On arrival at Dingboche we get checked in and manage a hot shower, I then take a walk round the village and talk to a number of people that I've met on the trek so far. I meet up with Lindsay and John and their guide Ajay and spend the evening with them playing cards round the fire. For our acclimatisation day the next day, we walked up to Chukkung Village (4790m) which has great views of Island Peak. I loved the walk up here today you get a real scale of height and distance travelled, the rivers are all frozen but the sun is splitting the sky and we get great views all around but especially of the glaciers up here, lovely. It’s now 23 Dec, and if all goes well it looks like I will be spending Christmas Day at Everest Base Camp, which I’m delighted about.
We continue to Lobuche (4910m) which is a fairly easy walk, stopping for lunch in Thokla before heading up quite a steep climb to the ‘tombstones’ of climbers who have died on the mountain, although it’s amazing it just makes you realise the challenges people take on, and don’t always achieve.
It’s now Christmas Eve and I’ve been thinking about all my family who I miss sorely, this is my first year away from home and by the time I see them again there will be changes with new babbies due in Feb and Mar 2012! I start Christmas Day in Lobuche and at breakfast I get big Christmas hugs from Lindsay & John, Podge and Steve before having breakfast. First we walk up to Gorak Shep (5140m) to check in and drop out bags before having a quick lunch before heading to Everest Base Camp 5364m, and the incredible Khumbu Glacier. I’ve always wanted to get here, so it really was a Merry Christmas for me!
The walk up into base camp was over rocks and glaciers and although really sunny it was bitterly cold. The surrounding mountain views are so incredibly impressive that I feel I'm walking in a bit of a daze, mesmerized by it all. Actually walking over the glacier and into Everest Base Camp for me was such a thrilling experience, the glacier and being at base camp is so amazing, I need to pinch myself, I just can’t believe I’m here. What an incredible sense of achievement, this really is some Christmas present! One life time dream accomplished!
For my Christmas dinner I treat myself to pizza, but it’s fairly rotten, I should have stuck to my Sherpa Stew or Dhal Bhat that I’ve been living off for weeks. We again sit round the Yak dung fire (which really does have a unique smell) and chatted and sang a few wee carol's to celebrate the day. Boxing Day arrives with a very early start and a brisk walk up to Kalapatthar (5550m). This was a really tough climb today, partly because I'm done in but it was so bitterly cold during the night that I didn't manage to get a great sleep
It was well worth the effort though, I have clear views of Mount Everest and it’s my highest climb yet, what a Christmas Pudding Hike to tell the family about! On the way up though the first false peak was a killer, you realise how much further you’ve still got to go despite being exhausted… and all this before breakfast! Thankfully I just plod away and I make it to the top and meet up with John, Ajay, Steve and Podge and a young Oz couple, but no-one else made it up, the altitude knocked a few back but boy what a view… Mount Everest right there in front of us! I take loads of picture and stay up here a while because there is just so much to take in it's like being on another planet!.
When I decided to leave it was a quick run off the mountain, literally I ran the whole way down off the mountain. When back at Gorak Shep I had a quick breakfast and headed on down to Lobuche for a quick tea stop. There's a helicopter landed but it's here investigating the crash of a helicopter not long ago, it just makes you realise how bad it can get up here, the weather can change in an instant. I met up with everyone again when we reached Tholka where we all had lunch and decided to stick together for the trek down. When we eventually left after lunch we stopped at Pheriche (4240m), all in all from Kalapatthar that’s around 1300m down, and I did feel that one in the knees, unlike last time
John, Lindsay, Podge, Stephen, Chris, Cedric and I, all have another fun night round the fire and we all arrange to meet up in the Everest Steak House in Kathmandu when we get back for a celebratory steak dinner, which should be good fun. It’s a long, long walk next from Pheriche to Namche Bazar, I’m tired and dusty but thankfully I manage a warm shower and meet up with everyone in the Liquid Bar to watch a movie, but it turns into a great night. After the movie there are lots of celebrations and dancing and generally having fun although the night ended with John, Lindsay and I getting stuck in a random garden trying to get back to our guest house which we were locked out of. We ended up having to wake one of the guys to come and let us in.
Next day was painful though, the long walk to Lukla started at 8am until roughly 3:30pm, it was so dusty and dirty and I feel my throat closing in. I really struggle today but I guess I'm pretty much exhausted and slightly hung over, I started the Annapurna Circuit Trek on 29 Nov, it's now 29 Dec 2011 and I’m done in! Once again I walk down with John and Lindsay but it really is tough, especially nearing the end of the day I real don't have any reserves left!
I'm relieved when we get into Lukla and finish our trek and get booked into our accommodation
So my last early rise and down to Lukla airport for the flight back to Kathmandu, I know a lot of people are nervous about this flight but I just love it... I;m on the second flight of the day this time but heading off the runway cliff edge is exhilarating, I'm dead excited by it all and my nose if glued to the window the whole way down just taking in the views. I start to get a bit nervous though when we're approaching KTM and I can only see valley's full of fog.. mm. Thankfully it clears and we have a safe landing but for a moment I was worried! So touchdown, bags collected and taxi back to the guest house and straight to bed. I'm absolutely freezing though, I'm wearing thermals etc. but I just can't heat up, and when I go to get up I can't see a thing! Honestly I was so exhausted that I was blind for almost a whole day, well what I can remember between sleep, I felt my eyes were almost glued together with the dust and dirt but I was too exhausted to care, I just curled up and slept on and off for pretty much a full day! But it was all worth it and I loved every second! Next trek... well not yet anyway.