I decided to put all the links to my day by day account of the Everest Base Camp Trek in one post. It is easy to access them from here and easy to point it out to anyone who is interested in reading it all!
Many thanks to all of you who read my accounts and a little more to those who shared their thoughts in the comment section or in person. This has been a journey of a life time! I had so many doubts in the beginning but in the end I was able to haul myself all the way up their and get down too! They say in the mountains, it is the mountain that decides whether you can complete a trek or not. I am glad they decided in my favor this time. So here are the links to the detailed day by day account of the Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal.
What do you do when you have trekked to Everest Base Camp and have finished writing about it? You get Low altitude sickness! And you want to throw tantrums. But on the brighter side I can still write about my Lukla-Kathmandu Flight. The Tenzing-Hillary Airport is probably one of the scariest in the world.
This is a Tara Air Plane and I asked someone if it was a new airline? He replied, “It was known as Yeti Air and they crashed a lot of planes. So they renamed themselves.” I also took a Tara Air flight, no wonder the candies still said Yeti Air.
If the weather goes bad the flights in and out of Lukla get cancelled. At the end of a trek you don’t want that to happen.
While we were waiting for the plane I saw the Everest climbers from Pheriche once again.
It was the gentleman on the left who had said at Pheriche that even though he had climbed Everest it was not a happy day because his friend died. At the Nest also someone pointed out an extremely thin gentleman and said in hushed tone, “He successfully climbed the Mount Everest.” The person was so unassuming that if it was not pointed out to me I could have never guessed.
It was interesting to see the Buddhist prayer cloth tied to his bag while they were waiting to board the Sita Air flight. Ours was the last flight in the morning and Deepak remarked at one point, “The weather is turning bad.” But after a while our flight arrived and for the first time on the entire trek Deepak raised both his hands in the air and shouted, “Yes.”
This time I knew if I would get close to the cockpit I could take pictures.
This was the co-pilot with his set of gadgets to look after! And at one point the pilot took out a newspaper!
I have to say it was quite a site but soon after we landed at Kathmandu safe and sound.
And I will leave you with this video of a landing and take off from Lukla’s Tenzing-Hillary Airport.
I had told Deepak the last night that I would not get up early as it hardly made any difference to when we would reach Lukla. Namche Bazaar to Luka was also two days worth of going up which we were descending in one day. But as I went to sleep at 8.00 pm in the evening I was up once again by 5.30 am and we were heading out after breakfast at 7.30 am. I ate roti (flat Indian bread) with Omelet without any difficulty. Namche Bazaar was about to host a festival in a few days time and it was gearing up for it.
As there was a festival when we were going down a lot of people were walking up to Namche either to participate in the festival or carrying supplies for the festival. So there was a bit of a merry crowd on the way. Soon we reached a point where Deepak said this was the last view of Everest. The sun was shining brightly over the view but I had to click a picture and share it as well. While coming up we had not seen this as there were clouds.
I met the South African group once again. They were getting a certificate made at a check post that they completed the Everest Base Camp Trek. I decided to give that a miss. Also they reminded me, “If we meet so often, rumors will fly!” I once again laughed at it.
I am told that April is the main season for trekking to the Everest Base Camp and it can get really crowded then on the suspension bridges as well as the lodges.
Talking of suspension bridges at the either end there used to be a notice saying if you spot anything amiss with the bridge please call this number. The notice was in Nepali language but it would create a small flutter in my stomach. I am not really scared of heights but even then when I would reach the middle of the bridge sometimes I would feel it a bit.
And talking of lodges I was told one can trek in May without pre-booking the lodges as there was less traffic but in April this might mean walking up to the next village to get a lodge!
Soon we had climbed down to the bridge with the prayer flags. On this day I was using my 70-300 zoom throughout the day. So I clicked these lovely ladies crossing the bridge from a distance.
I was quite cheerful up to now and it felt like Namche to Lukla was doable without falling apart. How wrong I was! Still I was walking cheerfully with some music playing in my head constantly. There were a lot of birds chirping along the route and this streaked laughingthrush had no fear for me or my camera.
Then there were a lot more flowers too but the mighty peaks had vanished from the sight.
We soon reached another check post after which Deepak gave me my trekking permit saying, “Keep it as a souvenir.” And I have done so. I met other people on the way who had trekked along the same dates and they asked how much my 70-300mm weighed? I told them it was 2 kg hence I didn’t use it much on the way. We walked together for a while and saw this kitten and we had to click.
I kept walking thinking we would eat lunch at Phakding but after a while Deepak suggested we should stop for lunch before Phakding and I was surely hungry. So we stopped at a lodge and I was the only customer in the dining room. I asked for Daal Bhaat (rice and curry) again with a fried egg. It was very peaceful inside and I was quite startled to suddenly hear a child crying. I didn’t notice the crib till the child cried! It was a 3 month old baby belonging to the daughter of the lodge owner and he got pacified very soon. My meal also arrived quickly and after a tea it was time to walk again.
The path was still full of flowers and I was happy clicking them. I am quite partial to flowers actually. So when I saw this riot of colors in front of the lodge I had to click again.
By 4.00 pm we reached another place where we decided to sit down for tea. We had already crossed Phakding. From there Deepak started pointing out the route to Lukla to me and I told him, “The way you explain it sounds like 3 hours away!” And he didn’t say much and that was ominous. By now I was tired. My knees would protest whenever I tried to get up after a break. There were still waterfalls and prayer flags on the way but I was reaching for my camera less and less.
By now whatever was downhill was giving me pain. I was still fine with a bit of uphill as my knees would behave then. There was a particular bird call that I was hearing since morning and by evening it had started to irritate me. But then there would be something on the way that would cheer me up temporarily.
The surprising part was that even though I had walked this route while going up, I remembered very little of it. So I did not had a clue how far I was from Lukla. Then Deepak reminded me of the gate devoted to the first Nepali women Everest Climber, Pasan Lamu Sherpa and I eagerly started waiting for it as that was the entrance to Lukla. Somewhere I saw a bit of color in a field and I clicked another picture.
Finally in the late evening I stumbled through the Pasang Lamu Sherpa gate once again thoroughly tired and exhausted. Then we walked through the narrow roads of the main market to reach our lodge, the Nest which is right next to the airport. Trust Deepak to choose the lodge which was the last one on the route till the end!
It was past 6.00 pm when I finally stumbled through the gates of the Nest and it had been another 11 hour day. But then it was over. I only had to stumble up to the airport the next day to catch the Lukla flight, if it took off! However much I love mountains I was longing for some clean clothes, hot water shower (it was available in Lukla too but not the clean clothes, all my clothes were dirty by now) and cakes. Hence I wanted good weather so that the Lukla flight would take off. I had tea and apple pie and then mushroom soup and bread for dinner. The room at the lodge was big and clean and it had an attached bathroom. It was enough for the night. The cakes and the shower could wait for one more day.
You can read the account of the other days of the Everest Base Camp Trek too-
Everest Base Camp trek has been on my radar for long. However I would always let it go thinking it would take too much time, the season will not suit my teaching schedule etc etc.
But all this changed when I met Sir Chris Bonington. During his talk he asked if anyone of us had been to Everest Base Camp and seen Khumbu Icefall? No hands went up. I was determined to change this for his next year’s talk! Also while chatting with him I asked if mid May was a good time to trek up to Everest Base Camp and he said it was indeed a very good time. What more encouragement would I need?
Then came the task of finding an agency to do my bookings with. Since Chhavi is too small to trek with us my husband and I take turns to trek and I was going to do this solo. For a lot of my travel needs I have relied on the recommendations from Indiamike and this time also the good folks gave me the name of Puru Timalsena and his agency Above the Himalayas Trekking. We talked over email and I liked what I heard and decided to go with them.
To Nepal via Malaysia: While I was counting days to get started on the trek, an speaking invitation from Malaysia came my way. The dates to Malaysia were not clashing but I was on flying from Malaysia on Thursday (May 10, 2012) working on Friday in India (May 11, 2012) and then flying to Kathmandu on Saturday (May 12, 2012). That made it so tiring. Thankfully my trek started only on 14th May.
There was a pick up arrangement for me at the Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu. I stayed at a basic lodge called Wonderland, the Trekker’s Inn. Puru had offered me accommodation at a 3 star property but I told him I needed a clean room and hot water and that is exactly what I got. The free wifi at the inn was a big bonus.
I tried to recover as much as I could on 13th and that meant catching up on sleep. I also managed to get a Ncell sim at Kathmandu so I had a local number in Nepal. Apart from two places it worked on most of the route including at the Everest Base Camp itself.
I met my guide Deepak for the first time on 13th May too. He was going to be my guide and porter as I am not good at carrying weight and walking at an altitude.
Air Rescue? What Air Rescue?: While Puru was taking down the details like emergency contact numbers, health insurance policy etc, he asked if my policy covered air rescue too? I was stumped, I had no such deal, it didn’t even occur to me. So I asked if I could get one from Nepal. He said both Nepal and India were not known for offering it and in the end I decided to go ahead without any air rescue coverage. I have lived to tell the tale but I would like to highlight this to you if you are considering trekking up to the Everest Base Camp. Apparently it is easy to get from many countries but I was not even aware of this before starting from India.
And the Journey Begins: We were flying from Kathmandu to Lukla. Deepak was to pick me up from the hotel at 5.20 am. There was another girl Diana trekking with Above the Himalayas and staying in the same hotel and her guide’s name was Gokarna. So at 5.20 4 of us boarded the taxi and started upon our adventure.
If you do not wish to fly, Lukla can be reached from Jiri by land but as I have not done it I do not know much about it. I just thought I would mention this as an option, I think Jiri Lukla is a 7 days trek.
Lukla Airport: We had the flight with Tara Airways (formerly Yeti Aiways) and it was a small 1X1 plane. I hate such planes because they get thrown around like anything in turbulence. Thankfully the flight is small about 30 minutes. I was lucky there was hardly any turbulence on this day. Within no time the plane was making a touch down. And by god what a runway it was! The Lukla runway is on an incline and not straight! So the plane goes up after the touch down. Anyway by the time this would sink in we were already at a lodge called ‘The Nest’ ordering our breakfast. I ate a banana pancake with honey and tea!
Walking from Lukla ( 2860 meters, 9383 feet) to Phakding (2652 meters, 8700 feet): If you compare the heights you can see Phakding is actually lower than Lukla so it meant most of the journey was downhill.
We walked through the main bazaar and it was a lively affair. I was also found intriguing the signs like snooker and bar.
Soon we crossed a gate that is devoted to Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali women to climb the Mount Everest. Many considered this day’s walk to be a cakewalk. I would agree that terrain wise it was not too difficult. But I still found it tiring.
The beautiful scenery along the way helped in keeping the mind off fatigue, for fatigued I was. After all Lukla itself is at 9000 plus feet and walking immediately on this height was not so easy for me.
I walked through looking at the peaks and prayer flags but the major concern was to reach Phakding. And for me it was talking its own time in revealing itself.
Photography while walking is a task in itself, most of these pictures were also clicked when I was out of breath and needed a reason to slow down!
Finally after walking for something between 3-4 hours we reached the Beer Garden Lodge at Phakding and this was my room for the day. Deepak left my luggage and I promised him to show my face in a while in the dining hall. Even though this was an easy walk I was completely knocked out. This room had an attached bathroom and people who trek can imagine what a luxury it was!
I collapsed on the bed and slept for 45 minutes without stirring. When I woke up I was not sure where I was, in Malaysia, India or Nepal. I have to admit I was quite upset as well. If I was this tired after such a small walk, I was left wondering how would I cope up with more strenuous days and higher altitudes?
Anyway pushing the doubts aside I went to the dining room and ordered Daal Bhaat (Rice and curry with vegetables) for lunch (you can buy T-shirts in Kathmandu which say ‘Dal Bhaat Power 24 Hour’). I also had many ginger tea. In city I drink tea without sugar. On the trek every cup of tea that I consumed had a thick layer of sugar in it. I also met Diana at lunch and she had walked the same distance in one and a half hour!
After lunch I slept for 2 more hours. Dinner was around 6.30 pm and I ate noodles but couldn’t stand the smell of the cheese (which I otherwise like so much). I hit the bed around 7.00 pm and I had sincere doubts about my survival on the trek, I was still feeling so lousy. But then I decided to take one day at a time and get a good night’s sleep. Our next stop was Namche Bazaar.
You can read the account of the other days of the Everest Base Camp Trek too-