How does one even begin writing about something like a trek to Everest Base Camp? Doing something like this is one of those ‘Life List’ kind of experiences that is just as surreal to recall as it is to imagine doing.
On April 4th Wes and I set out on what would be a 19 day trek to Everest Base Camp, one of the most challenging outdoor endeavors I have ever experienced on every one of my human levels, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Majority of people these days begin their trek from Lukla, where there is an airstrip that was sight selected by Sir Edmund Hillary and his gang. Prior to the airstrip being built people had to trek in from a village called Jiri, where the road from Kathmandu ends, and so this is exactly what we did.
The Jiri trek to Lukla takes 6 to 7 days and will hold it’s place in my memory as the best part of my EBC adventure. For 7 days we walked narrow paths, some earth, some intricately laid stone, that weaved through amazing terraced farmland, snaking in and out of valleys covered with blooming Rhododendrons and up and over pass after pass. Each day was physically tough, climbing and descending at least 1000m in each direction. We were blown away by common Nepali life, touched by the friendliness of the people we encountered and fell totally in love with the little villages that hosted the tourist “lodges” we stayed at each night. There is only a small percentage of trekkers that do this stretch of trail and it was cool to bump into the same faces every few days and exchange stories of our journeys. It was a treat, especially in hindsight, to be one of a few tourist faces on a trail mostly travelled by porters hauling their heavy loads and yak and donkey trains.
The guts of the trek, Lukla to Base Camp and back, really is a grind. It felt like an overwhelming super highway after the tranquil week we had just experienced and there were times over the first couple of days when we questioned if we even wanted to continue, the whole vibe of the trek changed. There were people everywhere all racing up the trail and the tendency to share a namaste had thinned out considerably. At this point it’s just up, up, up but since it’s recommended while partaking in higher altitude adjustment to only climb 400m each day and to take an extra day of acclimatization every 1000m, it takes such a terribly long time to reach the final goal. Each day’s trekking dwindled to between 2 and 3 hours. The higher we went the colder it got and by the time we reached 4600m my ability to sleep soundly had gone. Those of you who know me well know that I don’t sleep very well at the best of times, therefore, thinning amounts of oxygen, especially at bedtime, which I’ll admit was around 7pm each night, wasn’t something I was enjoying.
On our 15th day, after what felt like a journey of truly epic proportions, after battling a sinus infection, a number of fevery nights for Wes, and a generic menu that followed us all the way up the mountain we set off for our final push to Kala Pattar (5545m). After much discussion we decided not to walk all the way to the sight of Base Camp proper. We were able to view it very nicely with Everest’s ice fall behind it and the peek of Everest itself from Kala Pattar (something that is not at all visible from base camp). We both felt we had seen mass human assembly such as this in many other capacities in our lives and since we reached a vantage point 195m higher than base camp it was time to start the journey back.
We raced down the mountain making it all the way back to Lukla in 2 days of trekking, with an extra day spent relaxing in Namche Bizarre with our crew of lovely Auzzies and our token South African friend. It was really nice to hook up with another crew of awesome people.
The last challenge of the trek presented itself in our final hours in Lukla… actually flying out back to KTM. I had heard hundreds of times about bad weather and the cancellation of flights in Nepal, so it should have been no surprise to show up to the airport to find no one at any of the flight counters to check anyone in. As the hours burned on there would be clusters of planes leaving followed by long lapses of nothing. We were there to “check in” at 9:45am and finally by 3 we were ‘assured’ that “planes should be coming”. It was hilarious how much cheering took place each time a plane landed and took off. At 4:30 our plane finally began to taxi down the runway and I literally held my breath until we were in the air. The runway runs downhill and the planes virtually become airborne as the land gives way to a cliff… eek!
From the beginning to the very end, as I had said before, the whole journey was truly a surreal experience… definitely one off the ol’ life list!