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.
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-
How difficult could be getting down on a trek? That depends on how your knees behave and mine behave very badly. So even though getting down is not as tiring as going up, it actually becomes painful for me. On my last year’s trek in Uttarakhand, I was almost unable to walk for the last bit of the trek, my knees were hurting that badly and I was very scared of a repeat performance.
But then the day had dawned fair with some clouds later in the sky. I had my Muesli and Milk for breakfast and we were ready to go by 7.00 am. After 10 days of trek, the mind starts craving for some of the city comforts. Diana had mentioned a bakery in Thamel called Pumpernickel! I was already dreaming of cakes and pan cakes. I needed such cheerful thoughts as while coming down I was covering two days worth of going up. So this was like walking from Dingboche to Namche instead of Tengboche. Being at Pheriche is roughly the same as being at Dingboche in terms of walking.
So off we went and it was a beautiful route. Many times on the trek I got to see helicopters. On Lobuje to Gorek Shep walk a helicopter had made a touch down as well quite close to us. Deepak would sometimes mention that already a certain number of trekkers had been air rescued. But my medical insurance did not cover for air evacuation.
And then I met this caravan of animals that are a cross between cow and yak called Dzokios. The walking path was quite good without any sharp ups or downs. But I knew the climb down from Tengboche to Namche was waiting for me.
On this trek, I was asked many times why was I trekking solo, mostly by my fellow Indian trekkers. The answer is very simple. I could not get anyone to trek with me with whom I am comfortable trekking. My husband and I anyway take turn these days because our daughter is small. My young nephews have trekked with us in the past but Brat 1 is working now and Brat 2 is looking for a job so both of them refused. And in the end I prefer my own company to the company of complete strangers so I decided against joining a group. One of the Indian ladies at Pheriche commented, “You are brave, you are trekking solo.” But the region was full of solo women trekkers and people are used to it. I never ever felt unsafe on the trek.
After walking for a few hours we were approaching Pangboche which is in between Tengboche and Dingboche. At a tea shop I saw the group of South African gentlemen once again. They asked if I would like to join them for tea but I told them I need to go as Namche was a long way from here and I walk slowly.
After walking for some more distance my 3 year old shoe which never gave me any trouble in all the 10 days suddenly started pinching above my heel! As if walking in itself was not tiring enough, this was the last thing I needed. I cursed my self for not keeping my jogging shoes as I could have easily used them on this terrain. But then as I do not carry my bag myself I am very conscious about carrying anything extra. Anyway I knew even with a pinching shoe I had to go and and after a while I would get used to it.
After walking some more, the South African group overtook me and one of them remarked with a twinkle in his eye, “If we meet this often, rumors are going to start.” I had to laugh at that. I kept walking slowly and kept clicking pictures.
The prayer stones reminded me of a story from Dingboche. On the acclimatization day I saw a guide arranging stones in the prayer formation. So I asked him, “How do you know how many stones to keep?” He replied, “You keep one for everyone you want to pray for.” It was that simple! My head was full of stories and walking next to the River Dudh Kosi was soothing in itself.
But my shoe and knee both were giving me trouble. However as so many of us on the trek used to say, “If you don’t think much, just take one step after the other, you reach there in the end.” And so I reached the lunch spot which was Tengboche. It was the same beautiful Tengboche and how I wanted to stop there and not go to Namche. But then our Lukla flights were booked and changing them could be tricky. By now I was saying to Deepak, “Let me meet Puru and I will tell him that he is running the return leg as a weight loss program. I will tell him when I need one but this is supposed to be a vacation. I am tired, I have vacations, I have money and I want to go no further, why am I being rushed down?” On cue Deepak received a phone call from Puru and even though he was speaking in Nepali I think he told him what I felt. Puru promised he would look into Lukla flights for a day later and for 10 minutes I was happy thinking maybe I will get the sunset light on Ama dablam after all! Then Puru called back saying it was difficult to change flights.
So on we went again.
By now I was seriously tired but lunch made me feel a bit better. I assured Deepak that from now on I would not think of changing plans, not only would I walk up to Namche, we would do the Namche-Lukla bit as scheduled too.
And then we started descending from Tengboche to Namche. And like the way up, it just kept going down and down and down. I was really marveling at how did I ever managed to climb it all the way! There were people going up on the route and their condition reminded me of my own a few days before! Of course it was not tiring while I was coming down but my knees were hurting. All the while the eyes would be firmly on the path accessing which stone would not move if I stepped on it. I was not only longing for a bakery, I was also longing for a road which had no stones and there was no decision to be made about where to put the next foot.
Deepak by now knew I like to watch birds. So whenever he guessed that I was very tired he would point out a bird for me and I would walk for some more time with a more cheerful face and then go back to feeling tired. We stopped twice on the way, once to drink tea and the other time to have soupy noodles! Even then I was making very slow progress. When we were getting closer to Namche Deepak pointed out these mountain goats to me. He had shown me one before with big horns on the way but by the time I put my hand on my camera it had vanished.
One of the predominant thoughts on this day were about trekking misery. I was really truly and completely miserable while coming down as my keens would hurt badly. I was moderately miserable if the way went up for a while as I was quite tired by now. And I was just plain miserable if the walk by some miracle was relatively flat for a while!
And finally at 6.00 pm in the evening I stumbled back to the Everest View Lodge at Namche again, it was a 11 hour day after a 13 hour day.
At the lodge I was a familiar face now. I stayed here while going up as well. I had another Apple Pie and tea and some more food. Even though I was tired I had appetite and my head was not hurting.
The only thing now standing between me and the bakery was the walk from Namche to Lukla and the Lukla flight.
You can read the account of the other days of the Everest Base Camp Trek too-
For me this was one of the toughest day of trek. Of course the last day of climb was even more strenuous but Namche Bazaar (3440 meters, 11286 feet) to Tengboche (3870 meters, 12696 feet) was also quite killing. I hope I am not giving the impression that this is an incredibly difficult trek. What I write is just how I reacted to the trek and a reflection of my own fitness level.
The start of another day: The start of the day gave me no inkling about what it had in store for me. As usual I had an early breakfast at Namche (roti and omelet with butter and a layer of sugar in my tea) and we started around our usual time, 7.30 am. Part of the way was the same as the military museum which we had visited the day before. Deepak and I maintained a steady chatter as we started walking. After a while we stood aside to let a group of army men pass who I think were doing their routine exercises. The day was bright and sunny, I had applied my sun block and it looked like all was at peace in the world. After a while we had to stop again to give way to the same group of army men who were coming from their exercises.
The donation appeal: Deepak had told me beforehand about an old man making an appeal for donation to improve the trekking route and he believed in his cause. We reached that point also without much trouble.
I did donate a small amount. I asked the old gentleman if I could take his picture as well? He agreed.
A merry walk till lunch: As we left this spot the way was still quite flat and I was having a happy time on the route. I was using the kit lens because other than that I have a 70-300 and 50mm prime. So managed to catch this moth on a wide angle because showed no interest in flying away.
And though there were not many, but still there were some Rhododendrons to be clicked as well. You can see from the pictures I was not in trouble till now, I was with nature and I was enjoying my trek.
Then we came to our lunch point. It was still early in the morning, I was not too hungry but if Deepak said this was the best spot for lunch then that was it! I once again ordered Daal Bhaat and had a bit of difficulty in gulping it down as I was not hungry. After that we crossed this bridge and then I had it.
Where the hell was Dingboche: I had been given the itinerary by the good folks at Above the Himalayas. If I would have looked at the height gain for this day even though it was less than Namche Bazaar it was still more than a 1000 feet. And it was at a higher alleviation. That would have given me a clue. But I chose to ignore it as I knew most of the times I didn’t like what I saw! Also I am more comfortable with feet rather than meters and the itinerary was in meters so that was another convenient half truth for not being in the know of the demands made by the trek.
So after the bridge, the way started going uphill. Deepak casually said the way from here to Dingboche was all uphill, he just didn’t mention for how many hours! At the beginning I was OK, I just kept walking up at my slow and steady pace. Then I walked some more, and more and more. And then I got desperate. In between Deepak once pointed out that my shoe laces had come undone and I should tie them.
Then I climbed some more even though I was desperate and then some more. The only solace was that a few others on the way looked as tired as me.
After climbing for even more time Deepak said Tengboche was now half an hour away! It didn’t register at all, I was just way too tired and not mentally prepared as I was for the climb to Namche. Then after a while he said it was 20 minutes now. There were two Australian gentleman trekking together who got up when they heard this and started walking again. Later they told Deepak, “You were good man, it was just 15 minutes from where you said.”
I reacted in another way, I sat down, saying, “If it is just 20 minutes away, I will sit for a while.” And then I flopped on a stone. Then came Pankaj from behind and said a few kind words to me, like “you are doing well, you are no too far away” etc. His guide also said that it makes sense to walk slowly etc. I told him I don’t know any other way and I am too old to care about how slow I am.
Finally there: After a while I got back and reached Tengboche, Deepak was right it took around 20 more minutes and the gate to the village arrived even earlier. Tengboche was a small village with the most imposing monastery and you see it as you enter the village. It took me around six and a half desperate (OK, the desperate bit came only in the end) hours to complete it. Diana did it in roughly three and a half hours!
When I reached I realized Diana and I was sharing a room on this day. There was a spare room but I was told that it was not yet clean. From this point, the days of the attached bathrooms were also over. I as usual crashed for about 20 minutes and then headed to the dining room for much needed tea. Diana told me that there was a ceremony in the monastery a little later and asked if I would attend? I said yes I would.
While I was waiting at the monastery gates I thought if I had internet access I would tweet, “Beat me with a stick if I talk about trekking ever again.” I was that tired, away from creature comforts and still very doubtful about my capabilities to complete this trek.
I went inside the premises of the Tengboche Monastery and say this notice board. I wonder what prompted the lamas to put number 9 on the board!
We dutifully waited for the lamas to enter the monastery. I was remembering how many climbing books mention this monastery as their point of seeking the blessings for their expeditions. After a while we were asked to enter. You could see all of us wanted to stretch our legs, almost no one had the energy to fold them. For quite sometime the lamas said nothing. Then one of them requested us to fold our legs. My knees were hurting so bad that I decided to get up and go. I had asked beforehand if it was considered rude to leave in between and I was assured that it was not the case.
I wandered around for a bit but by evening the clouds ruled once again.
Ama Dablam should have been visible at the far end of this picture and I actually saw it in fading light but not otherwise. In the morning when the sky would be clear, the sunrise would be above Ama Dablam so there was no chance of getting a decent picture.
Still the next morning I got out with my camera and clicked Thamserku instead. I was very sacred of twisting and turning at night and disturbing Diana but I was more scared of not getting sleep and falling ill. So after twisting and turning for a while I had managed to fall asleep and I had a good night’s sleep. Polite that she ever was Diana said I didn’t disturb her. Also at dinner Pankaj had mentioned that he remembered Namche and Tengboche as the toughest days on the trek, apart from Kala Pathar. That gave me some courage, though I did not fully believe him, thinking that he was trying to encourage me. Getting back to Thamsekru this is the view I got.
I wandered around a bit more before it was time for breakfast and leaving again. The good folks at the Tengboche Guest House had put hot water in the containers meant for brushing our teeth and such. I can’t thank them enough for that. Also before dinner they had given hot towels and you could see ecstasy on our faces.
To be fair, hot water bath is available on this trek throughout (prices vary according to the height) but I was not sure how would I react to it, so I took bath only after I completed the trek. There were brave souls who took a cold water bath as well but I could not even bear to think about it. You can also charge your mobile phones and camera batteries (once again prices vary according to height) at the lodges. My Ncell number worked fine till Tengboche. It went off at Dingboche and Lobuje but came back at Gorek Shep
If I have to sum up my journey so far with the advantage of hindsight I have to admit Tengboche was the toughest day for me. It is probably because I was not prepared for it. The climb is not steeper than Namche or Kala Pathar but I had advance warning for both. So now let me warn you, not only the climb to Namche and Kala Pathar are steep but so is the climb to Tengboche.
In spite of the surprise I was willing to march up to Dingboche as there was a rest and acclimatization day at Dingboche too. I was once again banking on it to recover and go further.
You can read the account of the other days of the Everest Base Camp Trek too-