Everest Base Camp Trek - 16 days
Trip Start Oct 01, 2011
8Trip End Aug 20, 2012
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WOW what a day, we walked all the way from Lukla to Namche it took us 8 hours. After having waited 9 hours at Kathmandu airport the weather finally turned to give us a small window to fly to Lukla. We were originally disappointed to hear there was going to be a 1 hour delay, by the 9th hour we had embraced 'Nepalese time'. We seemed to be the last to fly out even though we were the first to turn up at the airport…. It turns out it doesn't matter if you have a flight booked whoever gives the largest back-handers or shouts the loudest gets a boarding card – wish I had known that then and also wish I had known our guide didn't have a clue what he was doing!
The flight was incredible. We were sat in Kathmandu airport and suddenly seen a man running around shouting the number of our flight. After 9 hours of sitting on plastic chair, they rushed us out of the airport and made us run onto the 11 seater plane and it was off up in the air in less than 15 minutes. They came around with cotton wool for us to stuff in our ears. The scenery was incredible and so was the landing, it was then that I heard and quickly realised that Lukla is the most dangerous airport in the world. The runway is so short and very steep in order to make the plane slow down! The landing was smooth, apparently the pilots need to be the best in the world – I’m not surprised! They made us run off the plane so they could pile on trekkers going back. It was crazy. I got a fit of giggles when a guy dressed in army gear told me off for taking a photo, he then laughed too. They had to get as many flights in while the weather was good, this is how it is all the time when flying into the mountains as the weather is so volatile from one hour to the next.
We ended up having to stay the night in Lukla which meant we had an extra long walk the next day to catch up on 2 days walking. Our first lodge experience was interesting; we were welcomed by the toddler of the family peeing in the plant pot. They served up a delicious dinner, although anything would have tasted nice after not having eaten for 12 hours. In the middle of the night I jumped up out of bed, positive that there were chickens trying to break into my room from under my bed. I’m sure Vanessa thought I was crazy, we shared a room for the next 16 days. I investigated in the morning - we were sleeping above the chickens, I hadn’t dreamt it and altitude mountain sickness symptoms were not kicking in.
Had porridge and toast for breakfast, veg fried rice for lunch & potatoes fried with veg for dinner. The food is really nice, staying away from meat as there are no fridges on the mountain and if there is the meat is not as fresh as we are used to. No meat for 16days and lots of carbs on the menus – hope I don’t get fat!
The Nepalese Sherpas are the nicest people I have ever met, there is such a community feel, they all look out for each other and I feel really safe here. They have such a hard way of life especially in the winter months. They farm their own food, hand wash all their clothes in freezing cold water & trek huge loads on their backs up and down the mountain with the help of yaks. Yaks are everywhere with bells around their necks so you can hear them coming, else you would end up with a yak horn up your arse. I saw a girl who had her thigh sliced by one of them. They can be quite vicious so you have to be on guard. The Sherpas are extremely religious; there are prayer wheels and magnificent monasteries all over the mountains.
Our Sherpa is called Mr Rye, is 17 years old and carries our bags hanging from his head and walks way ahead of us! They are like athletes.
Our Guide (aka The Mountain Donkey named by himself):
Is called Achu. The last and only time he was in the Everest region was 12 years ago. He does not speak English and did not know what First Aid was or how to control or treat Altitude Mountain Sickness.
After 8 hours of walking with many steep inclines I was so pleased to see the 'Welcome to Namche Bazar’ sign. Turns out there was no lodge booked for us, after walking around the small village we finally found a lodge that had a room. Enjoyed a huge dinner and talking to other trekkers, they couldn’t believe we had walked from Lukla in 1 day. Tomorrow is a rest day though so we can acclimatize then.
This is an amazing trip not sure how I am going to feel in a few days time, the people we met walking back down seemed very miserable which is worrying…… wonder if I will be like that after 16 days!
Day 3: Acclimatization day at Namche
Not exactly a rest day like I was expecting, we still walked all day but came back to the same place! Was a brilliant day though. We started off in the morning with a huge steep incline up to the Everest View Hotel which is supposedly the highest 5* hotel in the world. There were loads of people making their way up to this view point and our guide was walking up past everyone as if he was in a race. We had to follow half apologizing for him, I secretly liked it but it was also a bit embarrassing at times as everyone on this route was on an acclimatization day so there was no rush. We didn’t see Everest when we got to the top as it was too cloudy, had a nice pot of tea though and chatted to other trekkers. We walked through a village which is funded by the Edmund Hillery Trust, it was lovely and you can really see how developed this village is due to the money they receive from the trust.
On 29 May 1953, at the age of 33 Sir Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Nepalese Sherper mountaineer Tenzeng Norgay became the first climbers known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest. He was named as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
We had lunch here – homemade chips from the family’s own grown potatoes, they were delicious. I tipped the little girl that was serving us and she didn’t know what to do with the money and ran off embarrassed, her mum then came out and thanked us. Another heart felt pang.
My left knee started to hurt today from the steep incline and then the steep descent with huge steps all the way back down. My tendon on my left heel was also very sore on my 2nd of trekking – not happy. Might see if I can wear my trainers tomorrow rather than my boots. Seen the highest airport in the world today.
Day 4: Thami (3800m)
Had an easy days walk today, left at 8am and arrived at 12 to a tiny village called Thami. Our guide once again marched us on as if we were in an army camp only to arrive at our destination at mid-day, what on earth are we going to do here all day ? The scenery today was amazing it was like walking in Les Calanques in Marseille except with snow-capped mountains in the background. Would have been really nice to take our time OR I would have preferred to walk onto the next destination. We are the only trekkers staying at this lodge, we have gone off the main route now so won’t see many trekkers for a few days.
Food: Had a lovely plate of pasta with tomato sauce and cheese for lunch. Fried veg & cheese momos with tomato soup for dinner. It’s amazing how hungry you get and I am feeling hungry all the time which is a good sign. The slightest headache and Vanessa and I are joking that we have AMS.
We have met and heard a lot of people being ill with AMS or food/water poisoning, so far we have been fine. Met a guy today who was on his way back down on his own, he didn’t make it to Everest BC due to AMS. Diamox didn’t work and his heart rate was 120 beats / min poor guy, I felt so sorry for him. Seen lots of yaks today carrying HUGE loads, felt so sorry for them too, they looked like they were going to topple over the edge with exhaustion all the time.
Was a bit boring when we got to our destination, we played cards, read a bit and went to our Sherpa’s accommodation. He was staying with an old lady in a tiny cottage which was filthy. The old lady cooked us some boiled potatoes from her room full of potatoes. They were delicious we had them with salt and a spicy pickle dip. Her hands, clothes and face were filthy but since the potatoes were boiled I hoped they were safe enough to eat. Looking back it wasn’t really boring at all I think I just wanted to get going and didn’t want to stop walking at 12!
The Sherpas have underground storage for potatoes for the winter months. In the summer they work hard farming and drying out cow dung on the rocks to use as fire fuel, preparing for winter.
The toilets out here are now holes in the ground and its £6 for a ‘hot’ shower. The thing is, it’s so cold you don’t really sweat too much & your clothes don’t smell as you would imagine them to. In this cold taking your clothes off to shower is HORRIBLE - Baby wipes & a hat suffice perfectly for a few days at a time.
Day 5: Lungde (4380m)
Today’s walk was fine, quite baron but we walked a nice pace. Didn’t have too far to go so stopped a couple of times for a drink and some lunch which consisted of boiled potatoes with salt and a chilli pickle again – delicious. There is only 1 lodge in Lungde and it was freezing there. Our room was so cold we could see our breath. We spent the evening in the dining room where there was a fire. There was a large Spanish trekking group staying in the lodge too, they were well experienced trekkers and were going to summit Island Peak after Everest BC!
We had our first pass the next day – Renjo La pass. This is a break in between the mountain to get over to the other side. The Spanish group expressed their concern about us doing the Renjo la pass from this direction without having an acclimatization day at Lungde. They measured our heart rate and we were OK, we trusted our ‘experienced guide’ and weren’t concerned at all. The only thing that was worrying me was waking up at 5am in the freezing cold. It took them ages to be able to read my heart rate as my fingers were so numb from the cold and that was when we were in the dining room with the fire.
Day 6: Renjo La pass (5360m) then down to Gokyo (4790m)
Worst day of my life! And very angry with our guide. We left at 6am after a breakfast of watery porridge. Had an incline the whole way to the top of the Renjo La pass, my breath was really short today & I felt as though I had no energy all day. Saw foot prints of a snow leopard which was exciting, I didn’t take a photo as I was too cold. There were small water pools in the distance so it must have come for water. Also seen a mountain rat and a mountain spider. It is so baren, we saw 4 people today coming the OTHER direction, they had already acclimatized for the pass. Our guide told us we would get to Gokyo by lunch time so didn’t bring any lunch for us, of course he didn’t have a clue as he had never done this trek before. So it was the 4 of us in the middle of a huge mountain in thick snow, freezing, struggling to breath and no one else to be seen !
The day was LONG & SO hard. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to push my body through. We walked up hill in snow for hours & it was torture because of the altitude. We climbed from 4380m to 5360m, 980m in 1 day above 3000m is very dangerous. My head hurt so bad I thought it was going to explode. I was holding it either side whilst walking. I dragged myself over the top with the help of Mr Rye, poor guy was only wearing fingerless gloves, a pair of combats, trainers with holes in them, a checked shirt, a thin jacket and a thin hat. He dropped the bags and walked down about 10 meters to take my hand after our guide shouted up to him to help me. He was further down helping Vanessa up. To see the flags at the top of the pass was an amazing feeling ! We smiled for a photo & then looked up to see the view.
Vanessa and I collapsed on our beds, our guide brought pasta with cheese into our room but the smell of the cheese nearly made us sick, I managed to eat mine but Vanessa was too ill. We had AMS and it felt awful, you are not meant to ascend more than 500m in 1 day and we almost did double that. We started to take Diamox from then on and it helped me immediately, Vanessa was still very ill the next day.
Day 7: Acclimatization trek to Gokyo Ri summit (5357m)
Straight out of our lodge at 6am and ascending up Gokyo Ri. Was really difficult as we were still very drained and had headaches. I am really glad we done it though as it got rid of the AMS going up and then coming down again. I was still so mad with our guide I couldn’t bare to walk with him so I walked on ahead.
The Gokyo Lakes are amazing, huge bright blue lakes surrounded by snow and mountains.
Day 8: Thanga (4700m)
Vanessa is much better today and her appetite is back (I never lost mine surprise surprise.) We both had fried eggs on Tibetan bread, it was delicious. 2 hour walk today was easy, an overall descend of 90 meters. Got to the lodge and met the same trekkers which is nice it’s not just us anymore. Had a huge plate of cabbage & a huge veg spring roll for lunch, best meal I have had so far. Was so good to get lots of veg, the higher we go the less veg is in the dishes but this place had loads of veg. A lot of the trekkers washed their clothes in the stream running past the lodge, I didn’t – I think my fingers would have fallen off in the freezing water.
We went for a little walk today and found ourselves in the Sherpa’s accommodation. The lady in there offered to make us tea so we sat ourselves down and had an amazing cup of chai. We have had either chai or ginger tea everyday. The Sherpas drink chai all the time. I started to show off the Nepalese that I had learnt all 7 phrases (hello, thank you, how are you, very delicious, very good, not so good, lets go) and was trying to teach them to Charlotte and Vanessa. A while later our guide walked in and was pleased to have found us, I thought we had managed to escape from him. The room fell silent so I piped up and said in Nepalese hello and he asked how I was I replied with ‘very delicious’ the room fell into fits of laughter. The once extremely shy Sherpa people were laughing their heads off for ages.
Looking forward to the challenge of the Cho La Pass tomorrow
Day 9: Cho La Pass (5368m) then down to Dzonglha (4830m)
The Cho La Pass was fine nothing like the Renjo La pass. I was freezing in the morning though, my hands were so cold (I have Raynaud’s Syndrome) the sun was shining in the distance so I ran on ahead to get into it quicker. It was a bit of a scramble over rocks to get the top but it was nothing compared to the Renjo pass so I really enjoyed it. The top was amazing, every time you get to those flags it’s such a sense of achievement. The views here were magnificent, the sun was shining and it wasn’t windy at all. We stayed up there for about an hour and took photos. We had lunch – our guide was again peeling the boiled eggs with his dirty hands and mauling the Tibetan bread. I said to him that I didn’t want him to touch our food, we can peel our own eggs, he has not got a clue. Sometimes I feel sorry for him but other times I am so angry with him and more so with the tour company.
We descended after having eaten. We walked in thick flat snow for miles it was so beautiful, it was like skiing except we were walking. The pace was getting slower which was starting to annoy me a little.
Day 10: Lobouche (4910m)
The porters walked on ahead of us this morning to make sure we got some accommodation at the next village. It is peak season and there are so many trekkers. It was a really easy walk today but the pace was so slow again, it was frustrating me. I would walk on and then wait. We finally reached Lobouche. I went for an extra walk with the guide whilst the others showered and rested. I went to see the Italian funded EV – K2 CNR Pyramid Research Centre. It is the highest laboratory in the world and hundreds of scientists from all over the world come here to carry out research projects. It was really interesting, I was able to go inside and read about it but they wouldn’t let me upstairs to the lab. The "Pyramid" is a high-tech, solar-powered research station. There are several meteorological stations throughout the Khumbu region that radio transmit real-time data to the Pyramid. It’s a whole other world, what a job !
On the way back to the lodge I spoke to our guide about the Renjo La pass day and let him know that I would be talking to the tour company. It was then that I found out he hadn’t been the Everest region for 12 years and had never done this trip before – I was fuming ! He had tears in his eyes saying that it is the fault of the company, they gave him an itinery and he was just following it. He said he wouldn’t have known what would have happened if Vanessa or I fell ill on the pass, that he wouldn’t have been able to carry us, he had no phone signal and helicopters can’t land in that area anyway. He was actually feeling sorry for himself. Going to have serious words with the owners of the company when I got back to Kathmandu.
Day 11: Gorak Shep (5140m) to Everest BC (5364m)
Today is the day we get to Everest BC. I woke up really excited this morning and couldn’t wait to get going. It took AGES to walk to Gorak Shep, the pace was unbelievably slow I was really frustrated now. I saw people on their way back from Everest BC who we had been walking with in previous days, which really got to me. I told myself to chill out. So I walked ahead alone and would sit and wait on a rock. It was really nice to walk alone and I chatted to people I recognized who were on their way down, I just couldn’t wait to get to BC now. We finally got to Gorak Shep and our accommodation was the worst so far, we were outside in a shed basically and had to kick the door really hard to open it.
We had some lunch and then headed off to BC, the walk was flat but it was really far. We just chatted with anticipation most of the way. Charlotte was very quiet as this was an emotional trek for her, she was doing it to raise money for a hospice in Brighton that her dad lived in during his last few days of illness. We walked for ages next to huge glaciers where you can see huge slabs of ice almost breaking away. It was absolutely surreal.
We finally approached Everest BC and were the only people there for some while which was amazing. It felt so good to get there, such a triumphant feeling. Maybe more so as I could see how emotional Charlotte was, she did it for her dad and I did it for a challenge. The Khumbu Ice Fall looked amazing, it is huge and that is the obstacle between base camp and 1st base. There was an expedition at the time, we could see all the tents but we didn’t walk over there out of respect as I’m sure they get hundreds of trekkers everyday at this time of year. I hung a prayer flag for my great aunt who has since passed away. Rang my mum for half an hour, the first time I had spoken to her since I left. Was very strange to be standing at the foot of the tallest mountain in the world and talking to my mum on the phone. I was very happy and so pleased I had decided to do it, thanks to my friend Alan who encouraged me to do it and said I would be fine going alone.
We took our time walking back! At dinner an American guy was sitting at our table eating porridge and jam on toast. He was certainly not the smallest of men, I asked why he was having breakfast for dinner, his reply – ‘I need to eat plain food, if I don’t then it upsets my stomach and just have to let it rip’. He put so much sugar in his porridge and jam on his toast he was actually having sugar with porridge and jam with toast. It was disgusting. Turns out he was sleeping in the room next to Vanessa and I with only a piece of plywood between us we could hear everything. I don’t know how he managed to get to Gorak Shep but fair play to him! When you are taking Diamox you have to drink lots of water and it also makes you need the toilet all the time. In the middle of the night I had to go outside to the little hut with a hole in the ground, decided I wasn’t going to go inside for fear of not being able to get out again and its much cleaner outside. So, I decided to go next to the hut, squatted looked up to find a horse staring at me, frightened the living daylights out of me. Put me off and I couldn’t go so I shuffled around the back of the hut out of view from the lovely white horse. He did not look impressed, it was absolutely freezing and he had no coat on and we were probably sleeping in his room ! Myself and Vanessa got a fit of giggles.
Day 12: Kala Patter (5550m) then back down to Dingbouche (4410m)
Sunrise trek up Kala Patter was hard! It was freezing. I had never done a trek in the dark, it was really exciting setting off in the dark seeing all the head torches at different points on the mountain. I ended up walking up it alone as I wanted to get up there in time for sunrise, I wasn’t quick enough for the start of the sunrise but I did catch the moon going down 2/3rds the way up and then the sun rising over Everest as I was approaching the top. It was amazing. As soon as the sun rose those that had been waiting at the top, descended straight away as they were too cold. I got to the top and understood exactly why they left seconds after they got a picture of the sun rise over Everest, it was FREEZING.
Absolutely loved today, we took it easy and casually walked through amazing scenery. I was no longer in a rush to see anything, could completely relax and enjoy every bit of the walk back to Lukla.
Had our first beer at Dingbouche, played cards and chatted to trekkers on their way up. It felt SO good to say we had done it and were now on our way down.
Day 13: Rest day at Dingbouche
We were meant to walk to another village today but we heard that you see the same views as Dingbouche which is actually a much nicer place to stay and the lodge we were at was lovely so we decided to stay there for the day - played pool, cards, read and talked all day.
Day 14: Tengbouche (3860m)
This village is amazing. On the way there Vanessa had left her SLR camera on a rock, our guide ran all the way back and found the Sherpa who was carrying a load on his back up the mountain had picked it up. He gave him some rupees (a day’s wages) and he gave it back to us. Tengbouche has a fantastic bakery that we had heard about so we indulged in delicious cake and had it again for breakfast.
Day 15: Namche Bazar (3440m)
It felt really good being back here again, completely different state of mind this time. This is the biggest village with lots of shops selling outdoor clothes. Went shopping and bought Mr Rye (our sherpa) a completely new outfit jacket, trousers, under layer, gloves, socks, hat. When we gave them to him he just ran off, not sure if he ever wore them! We also gave him 6000 rupees to go towards his school fees but he may have sold the clothes too.
Day 16: Lukla (2840m)
The walk today was long, it just felt like we were walking forever. It took us 8 hours to get to Lukla the same as when we were coming up. There are a lot of ascents and descents on this stretch. I guess we were tired by this stage. We got the march on towards the end and stormed along we just wanted to get to Lukla for beer and pizza. Walking through the arch that we walked through 16 days ago was such a relief and boy did that pizza and multiple cans of beers taste good !
Had a meeting with the owners of the company as soon as we got back to Kathmandu. They blamed the guide, the guide blamed them. In my opinion the guide took a job that was offered to him, which meant money to feed his family. The tour company risked our lives. To keep us sweet they put us up in a 5* hotel for the next 3 nights and took us out for dinner and drinks with other trekkers each evening. They were actually nice guys. The food was amazing and so was the Everest beer.
Trip of a life time:
Highly recommended! To get the most from it I certainly suggest doing a longer Everest BC trek similar to what we did, rather than the direct route in 11-13 days. Add a few more days, go off the main route - we walked a couple of days and barely saw another trekker. You don’t need to be super fit at all. Having the right clothing and footwear is key. I didn’t get 1 blister in 16 days and I’m prone to blistering from sport.
The whole experience was AMAZING, even the Renjo La pass day and having the guide we did have made it the trip that it was! I would do it all over again. I loved getting up each morning looking forward to a big walk, not knowing what the day was going to bring or what we were going to see. It is incredible how much distance you can cover on foot. Looking back at a huge mountain that you just climbed over seems unreal but it’s simply not :)
Everest is a beauty and I can not explain the feeling you get walking towards base camp - Being at the foot of the top of the World !