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  • Writer's pictureHiker Heather

Everest Base Camp: The Call of the Mountains

Blog detailing my journey to Everest Base Camp Camp in September 2018...

January 2018 was, how shall we put it... a difficult month, recent life events had left me desperately craving and needing a change in perspective, a shift in focus and so, I set out to find whatever it may be that would perhaps allow for that change in perspective to happen. I already knew that this would involve the outdoors, that much, at least, was unquestionable since the outdoors has always been my safe place, the place where I turn to find comfort and peace and so my search continued until eventually I came across the Exodus Travels website, which I would spend the next few weeks scouring and finding inspiration from their many adventure packages, I then came across their Everest Base Camp Trek which I knew immediately upon finding, would be the adventure of a lifetime that I was seeking... Shortly after, I would book onto the Everest Base Camp Trek which would mean that I would be travelling to Nepal in the following September, this gave me sufficient time to prepare for the trek, save up, buy the gear items I needed and most importantly, it would give me time to train for the trek, this in itself would provide the focus that I had desperately been seeking and before I knew it, September soon arrived and I was standing outside Manchester airport ready to take on this adventure of a lifetime...


About the Everest Base Camp Trek

As the name of the trek would suggest, this hike would take us to the most iconic base camp of all, Mount Everest (8848m), the base camp itself sitting at 5364m. The Everest Base Camp Trek is considered to be one of the world's classic treks.

You walk though Sherpa country, past colourful temples, small villages and farmland before higher elevations are gained and the views of Ama Dablam, Everest and their magnificent neighbours come into view. The trek itself is an 'out and back' trek with a distance of around 80 miles in total covered.

The trail is usually reached by flying in to Kathmandu from where you then take a flight on the very small passenger plane (carrying around 12 people) to Lukla. Lukla airport is considered to be the most dangerous airport in the world. The 'airport', for want of a better word, is surrounded by steep, mountainous terrain on all sides, the 'runway' itself is incredibly short (only 1729 feet, to put this into perspective, most runways are around 10,000 feet long!) and the runway is perched on little more than a mountain shelf... Weather in the Himalayas is, of course, highly unpredictable meaning that the risk of these flights being cancelled is highly likely... we would encounter issues trying to fly out of Lukla on our return journey...


Itinerary

Day 0 - Travel to Kathmandu

I stand alone outside Manchester airport, early one September morning, after being dropped off by my sister, filled with nerves, excitement and everything else in between. Thoughts were circling around in my head - Would I make the trip to base camp? Would I be effected by the altitude? Was I fit enough? What would the other people on the trip be like? With these thoughts circling, I continued on my way, through security, oh another thought to add to the already circling thoughts - what about my luggage? What if this was lost during transit? Surely then the whole trip would be sacrificed? My luggage contained all of my hiking gear and boots - surely I would not be able to replace all of this in Nepal should it be lost? I have come to learn since this trip that thoughts and worries of this nature are completely normal when undertaking such a trip, these are all valid concerns, these are all things that could potentially go wrong, this wasn't just me being neurotic... eventually, my anxieties started to dissipate as my journey through the sky continued, soon Kathmandu and the Himalayas would come into view through my little plane window, it was at this point that my anxieties dissipated completely and turned to pure excitement and joy!! I was collected at Kathmandu airport and taken to the hotel in Kathmandu where I would meet the rest of the group later that evening for a welcome meeting and full briefing...


Day 1 - Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakding (5 miles)

Myself and the rest of the group waited anxiously at Kathmandu airport for our flight to Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the world, whilst you may not be nervous about flying in normal circumstances, I can guarantee that you will feel nerves of some sort whilst waiting for that impossibly small plane to land in Kathmandu to collect you to take you to that airport! If not, then you must have nerves made of actual steel! Alas, the little plane arrived and we all anxiously embarked, sooner than we knew it we were up in the air, amazed by the views of the Himalayas surrounding us, we all knew, however, that it was the landing of this little plane that carried the most risk, so to say that we celebrated when we touched down on the runway was understatement - what a relief!!!!! We had all made it, in one piece, to Lukla airport, now the real adventure would begin!

Leaving Lukla, we set off on our first short leg of the trip, heading northwards up the valley of the Dudh Kosi (Milk River). We descend down into a forested valley before reaching the very small settlement of Phakding (2652m), where we would spend our first night. Settling into the teahouse, we sat down as a group where it would be determined who we would be sharing a room with, our guide placed me with an amazing lady called Katrina, who, during the course of this trip would become a very close friend and who I still keep in touch with today. Katrina and I made our way to our twin bedroom and spent the night talking, laughing and faffing around with our luggage - the faffing and laughing would become a common occurrence on this trip - Katrina and I laughed later than evening, thankful that we had been coupled together because who on earth else would put up with our level of laughing and faffing and talking crap?! We ate as a group that evening before returning to our rooms and bedding down - apparently Katrina and I kept the others up in the group with our chattering and laughing! We would be sure to keep the noise down in the following nights, or at least we would try!


Day 2 - Phakding to Namche Bazaar (9 miles)

Leaving Phakding the following morning, we continue to follow the Dudh Kosi valley north through forests, occasionally getting views of the giant mountains ahead of us, we cross the river several times on this day, using those suspension bridges. One final bridge takes us to the foot of the climb up to Namche Bazaar which you eventually reach after a steep climb. I absolutely adored Namche - what a place! You just do not expect it, it is the Sherpa capital and an important trading centre, you will find everything here from gifts to outdoor clothing and equipment, bakeries, coffee shops and grocery stores - all perched on the side of a mountain! The town is bustling at all times with trekkers and mountaineers and is such an amazing place to experience! Of course, Katrina and I toddled off into Namche, spending far too much time browsing the stores before returning to the teahouse and our group, where we would eat together and celebrate the journey ahead. Today hadn't been without its difficulties, however, one of our friends in our group had fallen ill that morning before leaving the teahouse, he had been sick and continued to be sick as we walked, he was determined to continue since this was only our second day but on one occasion he turned to be sick and slipped and I when I say slipped - he literally slipped off the side of the trail down into a ravine, luckily he managed to grab at a tree root which stopped him falling completely into the ravine and one of our guides quickly helped him back up onto the trail! Had he have not grabbed at that tree root then I am sure that this would be a different story completely.... Chris was seen by a doctor in Namche and would continue on the trail with us, like an absolute trooper.... Needless to say, our group quickly formed a close bond, after all, we were all out here with the same dream, the same purpose and ambition to reach Base Camp, we supported and helped each other in so many ways, we were determined that we would all reach Base Camp together, it was as if a silent pact had been made - that we would stick by each other to make this mutual dream happen. I mean, you know you that a group is close when you start to share your bowel and toilet habits over your morning's coffee - right?!

Day 3 - Namche Bazaar to Kyanjuma (6 miles)

Leaving the wonderful Namche behind us, we climb steeply up to the Everest View Hotel, this would be our highpoint of the day at 3880m. The Everest View Hotel was built by the Japanese and offers amazing views of Everest and Ama Dablam, we stopped here for a tea break and to admire the views. Descending down through forests, we come to Khumjung where we had lunch close to the Sir Edmund Hillary School. Continuing on through Khumjung, we pass the monastery where we were shown the only yeti skull in the world before heading to Kyanjuma where we would spend the night.


Day 4 - Kyanjuma to Thyangboche (4 miles)

This morning, we descend to the river and cross at the little settlement of Phunki Thangkha and then climb steeply through the forest to Thyangboche at 3867m. We would arrive in Thyangboche at lunchtime meaning that we would have time to visit the famous monastery in the afternoon. From our little teahouse, we had views of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and Ama Dablam which was just magic!


Day 5 - Thyangboche to Dingboche (6 miles)

I woke up this morning feeling rotten and proceeded to be sick... a lot! Was this the altitude effecting me? Or perhaps it was a stomach bug? Either way, I was suffering immensely. Nevertheless, we carried on the trail where we would descend through the forest to Devoche before climbing steadily to Pangboche at 3990m, this is the highest permanent settlement in this valley. We continue on, stopping for lunch at Shomore. A short steep climb later, we arrive at Dingboche at 4350m. Later that evening, my guide checked my oxygen levels and determined that I was not suffering from altitude sickness and that I was instead suffering from food poisoning or a stomach bug, my guide prescribed me some antibiotics and anti-sickness medication and I just hoped that this would take effect over the course of the next day or so to enable me to continue onto base camp...


Day 6 - Dingboche Acclimitisation Day

I woke again being sick, the medication hadn't yet obviously started to take effect. Thankfully, today was an acclimatisation day, so we would be staying in Dingboche again. We would head out as a group to hike Nangkartshang Peak at 5100m which offered views of Makalu, Lhotse, Chalotse, Tawoche and Ama Dablam. I decided that I would at least give the hike a go, hoping that a bit of fresh air would serve me well but it appeared to have the opposite effect and so I returned back to the teahouse to rest some whilst the group carried on with the acclimatisation hike.

Day 7 - Dingboche to Lobuje (4 miles)

I woke feeling a little better than I had done on the previous two days, hopefully the antibiotics were now working their way into my system which was just as well, whilst today would only be a 4 mile hike, it would be a tough one to say the least as we would have a large ascent gain and would break the 5000m mark. It was here that we would start to witness people being airlifted off the trail due to altitude sickness, this made things feel incredibly real, especially when you are not feeling 100% yourself. In the late afternoon, we hiked up onto the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. The night spent in this teahouse was harsh, it was a freezing cold night despite sleeping in all layers including hat and gloves, the toilets in this teahouse were the worse that the entire trail had seen - clearly an indication of the illnesses that people were now suffering...


Day 8 - Loubuje - Gorak Shep - Everest Base Camp!! (9 miles)

Today is THE day! We were told at our group meeting the night prior that this would be a hard day and so we left very early that morning, following the Khumbu Glacier northwards to Gorak Shep which stands at 5184m. This section of the trail is undulating with some steep sections. It would take us around 3 hours to hike to Gorak Shep where we would rest and have something to eat before walking to Everest Base Camp. The entire group was starting to feeling the effects of the altitude at this stage, as we hiked across the sandy flat of Gorak Shep, back onto the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier, the trail then ascends to the side of the glacier for a couple of hours before finally descending onto the glacial moraine itself. The trail finally winds up and down, through ice seracs to Everest Base Camp! WE HAD MADE IT!!!! Words will never truly express the feelings felt upon reaching base camp, there were so many tears of joy, elation, relief, happiness and everything else in between, none of us could quite believe that we were here. We were now standing at Everest Base Camp - it was utterly surreal. We were even lucky to see some expedition tents pitched at base camp, the climbers were preparing for an out of season climb of Lhotse - we heard as we made the descent back down from Base Camp that the climbers had been successful in their attempt and had summitted Lhotse! Leaving Base Camp, we trace our steps back to Gorak Shep, where we would spent a second night.


Day 9 - Climb Kala Pattar and descent to Periche (9 miles)

Today would see another early start with us climbing steeply above Gorak Shep to the peak of Kala Pattar at 5545m. The climb up affords magnificent views of the Khumbu Glacier. My only advice here is that you have a really warm down jacket for this stage, the down jacket that I took was not sufficient for this climb and I decided to descend shortly before reaching the summit of Kala Pattar as I was just too cold and felt it dangerous to continue. We then continued on the trail from Gorak Shep back down to Lobuje where we had lunch before continuing further back down the trail to Pheriche where we would spent the night.

Day 10 - Periche to Kyanjuma (8 miles)

Descending through Pheriche, we follow the valley down to Pangboche through alpine meadows and rhododendron forests to the village of Devoche from where we climbed back up to Thyanboche for lunch before once again continuing on to Kyanjuma where we would spend the night.

Day 11 - Kyanjuma to Monzo (7 miles)

Leaving Kyanjuma, we head towards Namche Bazaar where we would stop for lunch before heading onward to Monzo where we would stay this evening.


Day 12 - Monzo to Lukla (8 miles)

We continue from Monzo slowly back to Lukla and the airport. We had hoped for a flight out of Lukla this afternoon, however, flights from Lukla had been suspended for the previous few days due to bad weather, we only hoped that we would be able to get out of Lukla in the next day or two, to facilitate our onwards flights out of Kathmandu to our home countries...

Day 13 - Flight from Lukla back to Kathmandu

We all woke nervous and anxious, hoping that we would be able to get a flight out of Lukla this morning and I am happy to report that we managed to get the first flight back to Kathmandu! The rest of the day, for me, was spent in Kathmandu whilst the others rested in the hotel/ did their own thing, I didn't want to waste any precious time here in Kathmandu so off I went into this vibrant city where I would spend the rest of the day and evening...

Day 14 - Free day in Kathmandu

I just love Kathmandu, I love the hustle and bustle of this crazy city, with its colourful flag lined streets, I spent a lot of time here wondering the streets on my own, taking in all that the city had to offer. I felt safe in Kathmandu wandering the streets as a solo female, I guess the only consideration is making sure that you are not getting lost in the maize of streets, market stores and vehicles whizzing by. I have a strange sense for direction and so didn't get lost whilst navigating the wonderful streets of Kathmandu. I browsed bookshops, ate fresh foods in cafes that the trail had been lacking and spent time in Durbar Square which was the royal Nepalese residence until 19th century and consists of temples, idols and water fountains. The city is quite simply, pure magic! Our group would meet back up later that evening to have a farewell dinner, our guide took us to a traditional Nepalese resturant where we all celebrated together as a group.

Day 15 - Onward travel home

Today we would say an emotional goodbye to the rest of the group before we all travelled onward. Our group had become so close during this trip, we had been through so much together, supported each other and been a shoulder to cry on for each other, so the farewell was an emotional one, to say the least, we all agreed that we would keep in touch using a WhatsApp group and we still keep in touch now, nearly 4 years later, we have met once since Base Camp, we met to hike Scafell Pike in the Lake District, we have hoped to meet since but of course COVID put a stop to that, I have no doubt that I will see this wonderful group of people again and that we will be friends for many years to come...

Choosing the right tour operator/ guide

One thing that I came to learn whilst on my trip was that it is extremely important to book with a reputable company when undertaking the Everest Base Camp Trek, I am sure that this probably applies to other expeditions of a similar nature too. My guide disclosed to me that Exodus are one of the better companies to book with, this is purely because Exodus are one of the leading tour companies over there which means that Exodus have priority flights into and out of Lukla, meaning that the lesser known companies may not be as successful as getting you into or out of Lukla. I met a couple of people who had booked with smaller tour companies and indeed, they were not successful in getting flights into Lukla (despite them flying in on the same day as us) meaning that they had to fork out around £1000.00 per person for a helicopter to take them into Lukla, if they hadn't have paid this additional cost then their entire trip would have been cancelled... safe to say that I was happy to have paid the extra few hundred pounds for my trip by going with Exodus, rather than the a lesser known company.


In addition, my guide advised that a lot of the cheaper/ lesser known tour companies try to push the trek over a shorter duration, to save cost, meaning that your risk of altitude sickness increases since you are travelling at a faster pace toward that higher altitude, this puts their clients at an unfair risk of not being successful in this trip, simply because they have not been allowed to acclimatise properly. As you will note from our itinerary, we did not walk many miles each day, in addition, we always walked to a higher elevation to where we would be staying that evening, which is also meant to help your body prepare for the altitude. We also had an acclimatisation day once at a higher elevation which helped incredibly.

Altitude

One of the main concerns when embarking on a trip such as Everest Base Camp Trek is the altitude. Altitude sickness, sometimes known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), it is a disorder that people can experience at high altitude, if not acclimatised properly. Not to be confused with the normal side effects of being at altitude like mild headaches, shortness of breath and nausea, AMS is an extreme version of this and should be taken very seriously. It should also be noted that AMS can be triggered by dehydration so it is important to keep hydrated at all times during your trip. To put the risk into perspective, I witnessed around 5 rescue helicopters during my trek that were coming to collect those suffering with AMS, so this is a very real concern. The strange thing about AMS is that you simply do not know if you will be effected, it can effect the fittest of people and in addition, whilst it may not effect you on one occasion, this isn't to say that it wont effect you the next time that you travel to altitude... I chose to take Diamox with me on the trip, my logic being that I was happy to take anything that would help minimise the risk of me getting AMS and not being able to complete the trip and I am glad that I did take it with me! Those that didn't take it with them ended up getting some from the guide anyway. My advice would be that you speak to a doctor and also the tour company that you are booking with, our guide carried Diamox and I would like to hope that every tour company would carry this also but it would be worth checking if you don't intend on taking it yourself. Well, I say speak to a doctor, like this will be some easy feat, I had an appointment with my normal GP who would not prescribe Diamox as they advised that they were not trained to provide such medication (!?!), I therefore obtained a private prescription for my Diamox. This is not a common issue, many of the people on my trip were successful in obtaining Diamox from their usual GP, I was just not so lucky in this case....

Insurance

Whilst on the note of altitude and injury, you must ensure that you are adequately covered in terms of insurance for the duration of your trip. Your insurance needs to cover repatriation costs, helicopter rescue and air ambulance costs up to the altitude that you are travelling to. Your tour company will advise as to the correct level of insurance. I personally use Snowcard for my insurance for these types of trips as they are specialised in insuring for adventure holidays of this nature. Exodus did also offer their own insurance if you wished to purchase it, however, I already had an existing multi-trip policy in place with Snowcard so I was able to use this policy.


Accommodation/ Facilities

The nights spent on the trek are spent in teahouses (lodges) and whilst in Kathmandu, we stayed in a 4 star hotel which was in walking distance to the bustling Thamel District. The teahouses are very basic but adequate; you really must be realistic here about what to expect in the mountains! The main hub of the teahouse is usually the dining room, decorated with colourful traditional rugs and sofas, sometimes with a stove or heater (which are usually heated by dried yak dung!). Most teahouses sell snacks and other essentials such as tissues, soap and toilet paper, of course everything is sold at a premium due to the effort required to get said item to the teahouse at such elevation, you will appreciate this when you witness the yaks or porters carrying insurmountable amounts of luggage/ groceries etc up the trail! Almost all lodges have electricity but it is not reliable and lighting may not be bright enough to read by – a torch is essential. Electrical charging facilities are generally available only in the dining room (charged at approx. Rs150-350 per hour per device). Many of the lodges use solar power so sometimes there is not enough electricity for charging. Many lodges have Wi-Fi – in some areas it works well but in others, it is slow and temperamental. The Wi-Fi was usually provided via Everest Link and you would purchase a card from one of the teahouses.


We would share twin bedrooms throughout this trek, the guide would determine who you would share your room with if you were not travelling in the company of someone else. The beds are generally a thin foam mattress with a pillow and blanket provided. Bedrooms are unheated and can get very cold at night so you will need to bring or hire a sleeping bag. I hired a sleeping bag on this tour and I would recommend that you DO NOT do this, the sleeping bag was damp and smelled horrifically, I had bought a sleeping bag liner but this didn't help matters in the slightest... Please do yourself a favour and take your own sleeping bag!


Most lodges have only one or two basic toilets and sometimes these are located outside the main lodge building. Toilets are usually Asian ’squat’ style; although many lodges have now installed ‘western style’ seated ones. Toilet paper is not provided so you should bring your own or buy it locally (please dispose of it in the bin provided – do not put it in the bowl). If there is not a flush handle, there should be a container of water to pour down – if it is empty (or frozen) then you either refill it or ask the lodge to. The toilets are often unsanitary to say the least due to the illnesses that people incur on this trip, hand sanitisers and wipes and anything else you can bring of this nature will be your best friend during this trip!


Some lodges now have hot 'showers' (charged at approx. Rs250-500 per shower). Sometimes a hot shower is simply a bucket of hot water and not a showerhead.

Standards of cleanliness vary especially in the peak trekking season and in winter when the water freezes at night.


As a general rule, the higher the altitude you go to, the more basic the lodges and the more expensive food and services become.


Food and Drink

Breakfast was included throughout the trip, this usually consisted of porridge, bread and tea and coffee. Lunch would be taken at a teahouse en-route and again, dinner would be at the teahouse that you would be staying at that night. Although most lodges have identical menus, they are reasonably extensive. Dhal bhat is the staple diet in Nepal and comes in different forms but will generally consist of curried lentil dhal and meat and vegetables, some rice and a pickle/ chutney. Another popular snack is momos; a type of Nepalese dumpling, dried or steamed, filled with either meat or vegetables (not dissimilar to gyoza). Whilst meat is available in teahouses, it is advised that you do not eat meat during your trek, this is due to the fact that the meat has often been carried in the heat from lower altitudes for several days before reaching the lodges and can cause stomach upsets or illness. I am a vegetarian so this would not be an issue for me. If you do have any specific dietary requirements, for example, gluten free, it is advisable to take your own snacks and food.


Visa/ Entry Requirements to Nepal

Most nationalities require a visa to visit Nepal. I was travelling from the UK and I would require a visa. It is recommend that you apply for the visa in advance, I therefore arranged to apply for my visa a few months before the trek. Applications need to be made direct to the Nepal Embassy, either by post or in person. The current cost for a visa is $50 for 30 days. You can apply for a visa upon arrival in the airport but it is not recommend that you do this due to the queues as they can be very long.

If you have any questions about Everest Base Camp or anything else then please do use the contact form to drop me a line, I will get back to you as soon as possible.


You can follow my adventures live over on my Instagram @hiker_heather

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Леонид Громов
Леонид Громов
20 במרץ 2022

wow🔥 simply AMAZING. I know one girl she climbed on Elbrus. Amazing view,hard route but so emotionally .

Thanks for this moment

לייק
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