We set off on our epic Everest trek on the 14th October – 16 days, more than 155km, and one of the most challenging but rewarding adventures we’ve found ourselves on yet. Breathtaking, tough, fun, freezing, smelly, boring, entertaining, filthy– words can’t do it justice and, while they say a picture paints a thousand words, our photos only show a fraction of the beauty that we had the good fortune of experiencing.
Our Guide – Khari Jang Rai
Many people take on the base camp circuit without a guide and, while it would be easy enough to do, we’re so happy that we made the decision to get ourselves a guide and a porter. We lucked out with our guide, Khari – while only 24, Khari had years and years of experience trekking in the Khumbu region, fantastic knowledge of the area and mountains and amazing English so he could explain everything about our trek properly. Fun, funny, friendly, smart and caring, Khari made sure we were looked after and made our trip even better than it could have been if we’d gone it alone.
Ok, sounds good, why not?
Don’t worry, it’s my pleasure.
Big challenge, good experience, double like.
Day one – Kathmandu (1400m) to Lukla (2860m) and onto Phakding (2610m)
Crappy weather in Kathmandu meant absolute chaos at the airport. We arrived early only to sit around for a few hours until we finally managed to force our way onto a flight. The planes are absolutely tiny and, after 25 odd minutes of bouncing around in the sky, we landed at Lukla airport whose runway is so small that it needs to be at an angle so the planes can stop in time. Scary, but amazingly efficient. The quickest turnaround I’ve seen yet.
Khari met us at the airport and, after a quick cup of tea, we took off on our first days hike which was only 2-3 hours of easy downhill walking to a small village called Phakding. The weather wasn’t really good but the walk was nice through a bunch of small villages with Buddhist rock carvings everywhere. We made it to the Tea House just in time before the rain started and continued, along with thunder and lightning, all night.
Day Two – Phakding (2610m) to Namche Bazaar (3400m)
Up at 7am for a 7.30 breakfast and on the road at 8am. Day two was supposed to be one of the hardest on the whole trek thanks to the constant uphill but we didn’t find it too difficult. We started with a few hours of relatively flat walking through greenery and past waterfalls and over a huge suspension bridge that signalled the start of the constant uphill to Namche Bazaar (600m climb in altitude). The climb was tough but manageable – we actually made it up a lot faster than we thought we would and even caught glimpse of Everest on the way up. We made it into Namche and spent the afternoon chilling out and stocking up on cheap Mars Bars for the trek. We stayed in a lodge that ex-US President Jimmy Carter once stayed at and spent the night chatting to a guy called Dave who had a lifetime of adventures to talk about, from Everest attempts to dragging an old ram across the Andes.
Day Three – Around Namche Bazaar and Khumjung (3790m)
Acclimatisation day to get us used to the higher altitude, not to be confused with a rest day. Up early to climb up and out of Namche Bazaar for our second glimpse of Everest behind the amazing Himalayan range. We climbed up for around two hours, which we thought would be tougher but wasn’t too bad. We trekked up to a hotel called Everest View Hotel, which is apparently popular with Japanese tourists and comes with oxygen canisters in each room.
From the Everest View Hotel, we made our way down to a town called Khumjung for lunch. The walk at this altitude seems easy enough when you’re heading downhill, but as soon as you hit the slightest uphill it’s easy to lose your breath. After chilling out for a while we made our way back up over our last hill and down a very steep hill to Namche for an actual rest – uphill may be hard but downhill really works the legs!
Day Four – Namche Bazaar to Deboche (3734m) via Tengboche (3870m)
Stunning day today – sun was shining and we had a beautiful 1.5 hours of flat walking with amazing views, though Liam had a coffee for breakfast and got some wicked heart palpitations as we started our walk out of Namche. No more caffeine for Nem. After our easy start we had a non-stop 2 hour, 600 meter climb to Tengboche.
Tengboche is a stunning little village, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and famous for its monastery that dominates the town. We spent a few hours wandering around and then attended a “ceremony” at the monastery, which mainly consisted of monks drinking tea. After that we walked for about 20 minutes down to another little village called Deboche where we stayed for the night.
Day Five – Deboche (3820m)to Dingboche (4350m)
Liam was really feeling the altitude today – definitely not a good night sleep the night before and light headed in the morning. You can definitely feel the altitude as you walk – today was a fairly easy climb so the walk wasn’t really difficult but long (8am-1pm) and altitude is taxing.
We made it to Dingboche not long before it started to snow. Liam was feeling even worse than he was in the morning and we started to wonder if this was the start of Acute Mountain Sickness, which hits you weather you’re fit or not. At this altitude you start to hear the rescue helicopters buzzing around regularly. We huddled up in the common room next to the fire for a few hours while it snowed and chatted to a nice couple from South Africa/Israel. The girl, Danny, had just descended from a higher up town because she had experienced proper altitude sickness – nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, migraines, light sensitivity. All of it made Liam’s symptoms pale in comparison, but it was good to know what to keep an eye out for.
After the snow stopped we climbed a tiny little hill behind our tea house for an amazing view of the valley covered in snow and the sunset turning the sky pink.
Day Six – Acclimatisation day in Dingboche
Acclimatisation days are designed to make you “walk high, sleep low” and get used to the altitude, so it was up and at ‘em early to climb up to some glacial lakes (4700m thereabouts) that we’d been told about the night before.
Luckily the sun was shining and had partially melted as our guide, Khare, hadn’t been up to the lakes before and snow would have made it impossible. Eventually we found our path and struggled our way to the top over a few hours. The altitude and slippery snow leaves you puffing for breath and it seemed as though we were never going to get there – whenever we got ourselves over a little summit there was another one there waiting for us. It was all worth it in the end though, with perfect weather, the mountains closer than they’d been yet, and Mount Ama Dablam reflected in the lake. Digicreep heaven for Liam.
We made our way back down the mountain to the teahouse, which should have been faster than the way up but Khare decided he was going to try and cross the river early, which ended up in us bushwhacking through thorny shrubbery for an hour or so and then, admitting failure, heading back to the bridge we originally crossed. A fun but tiring day – 5 hours trekking and a 350 meter gain and then loss again.
Day Seven – Dingboche (4350m) to Loboche (4928m)
A fairly easy day of trekking today – fairly flat for a few hours, an hour’s climb and then a few more hours of easy incline. Definitely learning to appreciate the flat. We arrived in Loboche fairly early so decided to do a quick acclimatisation walk up a snowy hill to help avoid AMS. You could definitely start to feel the cold here – the wind is freezing, snow is everywhere and sneaky patches of ice are everywhere on the ground where snow has melted and frozen again. The nighttime is awful because you get so cozy and warm in the dining room where there’s a lovely fire and then have to skulk back to your room where the temperature is below zero. Any exposed skin is definitely something to avoid, so you learn to get ready for bed very quickly (change, baby wipe shower, brush teeth).
We’re actually enjoying the walks in the morning more than the afternoons of relaxing, which we just spending talking about food we miss (anything but potato and rice) and the things we want to do (hot bath #1 on the list).
Day Eight – Lobuche (4928m) to Gorak Shep (5180m) with a side trip to Everest Base Camp (5364m)
Big day! Up at 6am to trek from Lobuche to Gorak Shep. The walk wasn’t too tough but it was freaking freezing walking in the shadows of the mountain range until the sun reached us. As cold as it was, the walk was beautiful through a valley surrounded by mountains and right next to the Khumbu Glacier.
We made it to Gorak Shep at around 9am and had a quick half an hour break to have a tea and soup before we set off again for Everest Base Camp. EBC wasn’t too far away, but it took us around 2 hours to get there because every little hill hurt. We saw a “little” avalanche come down off Lhotse mountain on the other side of the glacier. I say “little”, but in perspective the size of the avalanche as it fell would have been a few hundred meters high.
A lot of people knock base camp as you can barely see Everest while you’re there, but it’s actually an amazing place to visit. Not many people realise that Base Camp is actually ON the Khumbu glacier, which is moving at a rate of around 3-4 feet per day. You can literally hear the creaks and groans of it moving as you stand there. You can see the Khumbu Icefall in the distance, which is the first major challenge, and apparently one of the most dangerous, that mountaineers have to face when attempting to summit Everest. No gracias.
While it only took us an hour to get back to Gorak Shep, the whole day had left us exhausted as well as headachy and nauseous from the altitude. We were going to attempt a summit called Kala Pathar to see some sunset views of the range, including Everest, but the clouds set in so we wouldn’t have seen anything. Probably luckily considering how we were feeling.
Part Two to come soon (enough).