My 42nd Everest Base Camp Trek. Firstly, I must thank our team of 10 trekkers and 6 Island Peak climbers who all came well prepared, and all reach their respective goals. They all remained relaxed as our team dealt with all the challenges the weather threw at us. The whole team made this trek, journey and experience a great one.
After trekking to Everest so many times, people all ask me does it ever get old? The short answer is no, but over the years there are a few things that have started wearing on me.
The biggest challenges in recent times other than Covid have been three things.
1). Internal Flights
In the Governments mighty wisdom, they have moved internal flights to Manthali a 4/5-hour drive from Kathmandu and possibly a 7/9-hour road journey on the way back to Kathmandu with traffic issues. Not the service the famous Everest region deserves. It looks like this is here to stay. Because of weather delays there were 1,000+ people in Manthali this week with minimal service, rooms and food available.
While some people might think this is great to see more of the countryside, on the way to Manthali. You leave Kathmandu at 2am in the morning, missing vital sleep and doing the drive in the dark to a lower, warmer elevation. Traditionally, all flights to Lukla happen from 6am to 11am. If you are sitting in Manthali it will, get quite warm, risk of Dengue fever in the post monsoon season.
The roads are more dangerous, uncomfortable, prone to landslides in the post monsoon season. No medical on route, you are further away from vital services. Generally, this is terrible idea to re-route hundreds of people per day to this region with poor facilities and services. This is the worst decision the Government have made and needs to be reversed as quickly as possible.
There are too many people in the Everest region and not enough helicopter options. Nepal has 30 helicopters available, and they must cover the whole country. This means when flights cannot take off or leave Lukla hundreds of people get stranded. Pricing has risen by 25% in the last few years, so we need more helicopter companies on the ground in Nepal.
The climate is changing and weather in the Himalayas, lower regions, Lukla make for an interesting mix of delays, challenges and have the potential to ruin people holiday. People are making significant investments in training, preparation and getting to Nepal and the weather has the potential to ruin their trips. The solutions are to keep people in Kathmandu and secure more helicopter companies.
Far too many people are trying to trek to Everest without the correct gear or physical preparation. This means people are getting tried and using up the valuable Helicopter resources needed for rescue and genuine needs to trekkers and climbers in the Everest region.
The Heli-tourism issues are real and people paying for helicopter seats which is fine. If that puts others at risk who need them, well this is a fine line. I have led hundreds of trips around the world, to Everest Base Camp over the years. I have also climbed to the top of Mount Everest. This season for the first time I needed a rescue. I picked up Dengue Fever and the fever started the morning we started hiking to Everest Base Camp. I was in pretty bad shape. The following morning two helicopters arrived in Gorak Shep and was hoping to get on one of them. According to our staff they picked up 4 groups and left.
Stuck High in the Everest Region
The weather closed in, and I was stuck. I was stuck for two days with a terrible fever in Gorak Shep until I felt a little better and then had to start hiking down. I made it to Pheriche 4,250m and the weather was still bad. The following day the weather was 50/50 but I was able to be picked up by a helicopter and rescued to Kathmandu. I am still in recovery from Dengue Fever over a week later.
I needed this rescue. Rescues should be the main reason helicopters are needed at High Altitude. This idea that you can hike to Everest Base Camp and then because you are tired hire a helicopter is fine but should not come second fiddle to rescuing genuine people who need to be evacuated.
My 42nd Everest Base Camp Trek
I am interested to see how things progress with trekking in the Everest region over the next 5 years. There is talk of moving Everest Base Camp which is in my opinion is a terrible idea. We are strongly considering adding Helicopter rides for all our trips going into the Everest region in 2023.