Mount Everest has always held an enchanted allure of sorts over me. Maybe
it has something to do with the fact that the summit of Everest is the highest place
on earth, represents some of mans greatest achievements, or just because its
majesty creates a simple childlike wonder in my eyes. Whatever the reason is I have
always wanted to see Mount Everest with my own eyes. There is always something better about seeing something in person that creates a more personal connection than just seeing videos or pictures.
My Bucket List
Back in the late summer of 2017 I decided that for my 40th birthday I wanted to do something big, bucket list big, and do it while I was physically capable of doing it. Not that older people can’t do physically challenging things, because they can and do all the time, it is just that in my line of work in healthcare I talk to people all the time that tell me that the “golden years” are not so golden. Additionally, I see people age faster than should at their given age or things that happen that completely alter a persons ability to do things they wish they could do, things we do everyday that we take for granted. Therefore, I decided that I was going to go and see Everest by doing the Everest Base camp Trek.
Into Thin Air
I first heard about Base camp Treks after I had read Into Thin Air by John
Krakauer and started researching the climbing companies mentioned in the book. It
was in that research on the company websites that I learned that they ran treks to
base camp. Climbing Mount Everest has never been a desire but going to base camp
intrigued me quite a bit. That is when the seed was planted in my mind, though
admittedly at that time I was in college and working full time just to get through
It was well beyond reality at that time for me to think that I would be able to
trek to Everest. But at the same time it became, if anything, a subconscious goal to
do the EBC trek. As my 40th birthday was starting to creep across the distant
horizon of my life I began to realize that I now had the ability, with some planning,
to make trekking to Everest Base camp a reality.
Base Camp Fever
It was at this point in the summer of 2017 that base camp fever took over my
life. The first thing I knew that I needed to do was to research and find a company
that I would feel good about getting me up to base camp and back safely and that
would not break the bank at the same time. I started by hitting the websites of large
companies that I knew ran treks to the EBC but found these to be quite expensive
for what they offered. While trying to find a company to use for the trek I decided to
also research what kind of gear I might need to get for the trek. It was then that I
cam across a gear packing video by Ian Taylor on You tube.
Immediately after watching that video on You tube I went to Google and found the Ian Taylor Trekking website. After scouring the Ian Taylor Trekking website and reading reviews I knew this was the company to use. Most prominently the reasons that convinced me to use Ian Taylor Trekking were the fact that Ian Taylor used more days of
acclimatization and the resulting success rate because of the trekking plan and pace.
This plan included training recommendations that as I trekked I realized was spot
Support in my Quest
I reached out to Ian via email and from that point on I was all in on trekking
to Everest Base Camp. I don’t think I can overstate how fantastic Ian and Laura
were during the pre-trek preparation time. Anytime I had a question Laura would
get back to me very promptly. I think it would be an understatement to say that I
was absolutely stoked to do this trek. Still, it was more than a year away at that
point, but the training and preparation had begun. We decided to trek on the last
available trek in May before monsoon season.
The summer of 2018 my wife and I participated in the Central Oregon Six
Pack Peak Challenge as part of our training regimen. We summited six different
peaks in the local area, the tallest of which South Sister, is 10,350 feet tall. The two
longest of the hikes in the challenge were 12 miles round trip including summiting
the 10,350 feet. South Sister twice.
I know it sounds a bit crazy to claim that climbing mountains nine months to a year before the trek would actually help in preparing myself, but it did. While the challenge was good for physical training I think that the greatest training and preparation provided in the challenge was mental. From that training I knew that I could slog through hard climbs and long hikes, and that knowledge went a long way on the EBC trek.
Gathering the Right Gear
Over the course of the next year I was able to gather the gear I would need
based on what the dossier and packing video suggested. In some cases I actually
was very literal in the gear I purchased by getting almost the exact same piece of
gear that Ian had. On the topic of gear, I know that some people will choose to rent
their gear versus purchase, but for my wife and I we plan on using this gear in the
future as well so it made more sense to purchase our own.
Doing this also gave us a chance to test out our gear, make changes if necessary, break it in, and become familiar with how to use it. I can tell you after all of our testing and trying things out that the pieces of gear that I came to value most are good boots/footwear, trekking poles, sun hat, and buff. The value of a buff became more pronounced on the EBC trek than I had originally thought it might.
Training in the Mountains
As the summer turned into fall and the fall to winter our training moved from
hiking in the mountains to a local gym, for a little bit, and to a 400+ feet. butte within
the town we live in. As the snow began to fall we initially thought that most of our
training would have to occur in a gym. For a short time, we went a few times a week
to hit the stair climber, which was beneficial to a certain point.
However, we noticed that as good as doing stair climbers was, it was not nearly as good as actually getting out and hiking was, as suggested in the dossier. So we went and got ourselves some micro-spikes and decided to climb the butte with our weighted packs as opposed to hitting the stair climber. The butte trail was approximately 2 miles round trip. So over the course of the winter to spring months we gradually increased the amount
of times we would do the trail at a time.
By the end of April before we were to head to Nepal we were getting about 6 miles of hiking a day on the butte, about 3-4 times a week. In addition to that we would walk our dog about a mile and a half each day. Each time walking and hiking with our weighted packs on. In retrospect, hiking the butte was invaluable preparation for the trek. Not only because of the 3 miles of incline we would do each time but the 3 miles of downhill hiking as well.
If you were not aware, there is a lot of up and down hill going both directions on the trek. It is not just uphill the whole way up and down hill the whole way back. We will get into that more soon. Additionally, I found doing high intensity interval training to be not only great cardio, but I believe it increased my bodies efficiency with utilizing
oxygen, thus preparing me for trekking at higher elevations.
Ready To Go
Finally May arrived and the build up and over a year of preparation for the
trek had finally reached its purpose. We were feeling prepared and excited to get on
the plane and get to Nepal. The travel from where we live was going to take more
than 20 hours of flight time plus layovers. The day we started our 3 hour drive to
the airport seemed like it could not have been more perfect. The weather was
beautiful and warm, the drive was quick and relatively low trafficked. We were able
to arrive at the airport with no issues, checked in for our flight, and through security
like a breeze.
That is when things took a turn for the ironic. All of the preparations
and things we had done which we could control went well, but now that our fate
was in the hands of forces we could not control, things started to turn on their
heads. Our first flight was delayed initially by an hour and a half to two hours. This
was not going to be much of an issue, it would make getting to our connecting
international flight to China tight but certainly doable. So at this point we did not
sweat it too much.
Then as the new time to board approached the delay was extended by 2 more hours. Ugh, now it would be impossible to make our connecting flight. Apparently the weather in San Francisco was making it difficult to land so all incoming flights were delayed. All outgoing flights however were able to leave as scheduled. This was a throat punch from Murphy’s law.
We scrambled trying to rearrange flights to try and still get out that night. It was not to be. We did eventually get to San Francisco that night, but would have to wait until the next day to catch new flights. Luckily we had built in an extra day in our travel plans to adjust to the time difference and explore Kathmandu a little bit. Now this extra day was gone, but at least we would not be late for the start of the trek.
Arriving in Nepal
Our flights the next day went as planned, save a brief delay on the tarmac
upon arrival in LAX. We arrived in Kathmandu 24 hours later than we had originally
planned, but Homraj was there, waiting to pick us up nonetheless. I have to tell you
that Laura and Ian know what they are talking about in the Kathmandu airport.
There certainly were people who tried to “help” us with our bags, but because of the
arrival information email, we knew not to give our bags to anyone not wearing an
Ian Taylor Trekking hat. Just an additional warning though, on our departing flight
after the trek and airport employee, had an airport security cleared name badge and
all, asked for a tip or money for showing us to the China Southern Airlines check in
counter. I guess even airport employees expect a gratuity for doing their job. But I
Our Base In Kathmandu
Shortly there after we arrived at the Yatri suites in Thamel, which is where
we would stay that night and the two nights upon our return to Kathmandu. The
hotel was great. It was clean, had great restaurants, and was in the heart of Thamel,
which made exploring the district easy peasy. That night we had a pre-trek meeting
with Kay, Dawa, and Ang Kami, our lead guide. There were seven of us trekkers
assembled in the meeting in addition to the afore mentioned people.
It was in this meeting that I could tell Ian Taylor Trekking ran a great trekking program. The rules of the trek were laid out for us as well as other valuable information. They
outlined what each day would look like in a general sense. After the information
and meet and greet we all retired to our rooms to attempt to lighten our bags. The
common theme of things that were removed to cut weight was snacks. We had all
brought way too many snacks. After cutting weight it was early to bed because of
the 4am start we had ahead of us the next day.
The Team in Kathmandu
I really want to interject how great Kay and Dawa are. One of our main
concerns with going on this trek was being able to keep in touch with our young
kids back home. Our original plan was to rent a sat phone, which was going to be
expensive but we viewed it as worth it to keep in touch, but followed Laura’s advice
we opted to try and purchase a cheap prepaid cellphone in Kathmandu since cell
service is available essentially the whole way up to base camp.
Upon inquiring of Kay where we might purchase a cell phone she told us to hold on to that thought and not buy it. So trusting her advice we did not purchase a cell and instead thought that we could just rely on Wi-Fi that some recently returned trekkers told us worked pretty well all the way up.
However, the night we met for the pre-trek meeting Kay and Dawa gave us a cell phone to use. Not only did they let us borrow the phone, they had pre-loaded a lot of minutes on the phone. This was going above and beyond and spoke volumes to not only what incredible people Kay and Dawa are but also the type of company that Ian Taylor Trekking is because of the type of people they employ. This opinion would only be enhanced by our guides as we trekked up to base camp and back.
Going to Manthali
A few months before our trek we received an email from Laura and Ian
informing us of the change in itinerary related to the upgrades of the Kathmandu
Airport. Because of these upgrades the airport would close from 10pm to 8am
every day through some time in June. What this meant was that the early morning
flights from Kathmandu to Lukla would be very limited and most flights to Lukla
were therefore be flown out of Ramechhap Airport in Manthali.
Initially we were not too bothered by this change and thought it made for a chance to see more of the country, which was true. However, it wasn’t until we spoke to a recently returned trekker that we learned that the trip to Manthali was not for the weak of stomach. Additionally Kay informed us that Manthali was hot, plus we already knew from
Laura’s email that Manthali was a bit remote and a less developed area with not
much in the way of services if by chance we were we to get stuck in Manthali.
Despite all of this information, our hopes were high and outlook positive.
Bleary eyed but excited our group of 7 trekkers followed Dawa, Ang Kami,
and Homraj as they lead us from the hotel to our transport vans near the Secret
Garden at 4am. We loaded into the van as our bags were loaded and tied down to
the top of the van. A few others trekkers with their guides boarded the van as well
and in a little time we were off to Manthali.
Early in the drive the road is straight and well paved, as you would expect in a sizeable city. After a short time the buildings became more sparse and road began to climb and turn. Soon after we were in the throws of a narrow mountain road that twisted and turned for what seemed to be forever. Our driver seemed to be a big fan of Mario Kart as he sped and honked his away around every corner as if he were over taking Bowser. It
wasn’t too long before I was very glad I had taken some Dramamine, which kept the
emesis at bay. As we trundled along the windy road it became more and more
apparent that our driver was having difficulty with turning the van around the
corners, often times using two hands and considerable effort to turn the wheel.
Eventually he had to pull off in a little town and attempt to find some power steering
fluid. As it turned out there was a leak in the power steering. He was unable to
procure and steering fluid, but did this deter his speed and effort to remain in first
place? No, no it did not. By the time the sun was creeping up we were all much
relieved to have a quick tea and pee stop. Though none of us could stomach and tea,
we were very glad to get out of the hot and stuffy van to get some air and a reprieve
from being Mario’s helpless passengers.
The lack of airflow in the van was not because the van did not have A/C, I know first world problem, but because the driver would only turn it on to defog the windshield. Trying not to be inconsiderate to my other passengers I refrained from opening my window and I think everyone else who sat by an opening window must have been thinking the same thing. Not to long after our pee and tea stop however, I could not take it any longer, I slid open my window. Oh, the sweet breeze almost immediately eased my own nausea and began to stir the air in the van.
Within minutes, or perhaps even at the same time, many of the other passengers had the same idea and slid open their windows. At times the road was either covered by the remnants of a dirt slide or just not paved, which made travel dusty, but we didn’t care, a little dust was worth the having the air in the van. It wasn’t until we were actually getting into the completely unpaved and dusty roads of Manthali that we were asked, and gladly agreed, to close the windows.
Manthali was as promised, less developed, dusty, and hot. We arrived at the
airport area around 8am and quickly our guide got our boarding passes for a
Summit Air flight to Lukla. Our bags were weighed, first our big duffles were
individually weighed and then our backpacks all weighed together at once. Despite
our efforts to cut weight we were all over by a Kilo or two.
Personally I wasn’t too bothered about having to pay a little overage fee because I felt like I had packed pretty much only essential things and because I knew that our bags were going to be carried by yaks instead of porters. Had it been porters I think we all would have cut more weight if we could. It was at this point that we were told that our flight would not be until about 11am. I say “about” because as I came to learn that at small Nepali airports like Manthali and Lukla, while dealing with small Nepali airlines like
Summit Air and Sita Air, there is no actual concrete time for a flight.
It is always an approximate time. This is undoubtedly due to the uncontrollable factors, such as weather, that affect the airlines ability to fly to Lukla. I do have to report that when a flight arrives or when is ready to go the Nepali workers were quick and very
efficient at getting the planes and passengers loaded and ready to go. The whole
Manthali experience was a hurry up and wait type of experience. We were told
about 11am would be our flight so went to a little restaurant and had some tea while
The Waiting Game
Then at about 10:30 am we were told that we needed to get into the airport and get on our plane. This was a “hurry up” part. We raced into the airport, gave our bags to security, and went through their gender segregated people security. The outdoor waiting area was packed with trekkers and other passengers waiting to get on a plane to Lukla. We got onto our plane and got into the air. We flew in some circles for about 10 minutes and landed back in Manthali.
The Lukla airport had closed and we were forced to return to Manthali. Now comes the next waiting part. We waited in the airport for some time hoping that Lukla would reopen. After sitting in the airport waiting area on any patch of concrete we could find for an hour or so, we were told that the wait could be a while. So our guide had us go and get some lunch at a nearby restaurant.
After eating our guide had us just stay and wait in the restaurant. Which was more comfortable than waiting in the airport and was literally 15 feet from the Summit Air office. After waiting, napping, and sweating in the restaurant for a couple of hours we were informed that Summit Air had decided to cancel all the flights for the remainder of the day and their plane returned to Kathmandu.
Can We Get to Lukla?
Ang Kami leaped into action once again and got us booked on another flight with Sita Air pending Lukla reopening. At about 3:45-4pm, Sita and Tara Air flights began taking off and transporting people to Lukla. However, since our group was initially booked with Summit Air we were now last in line to get a Sita Air flight to Lukla. We raced back into the Airport and watched flight after flight take people to Lukla.
At about 4:45pm we had boarding passes in hand and were the only group left at the airport. We were still hopeful that we would at least get to Lukla that day. Our hopes were unfounded. It was too late in the day and we were informed that the planes needed to return to Kathmandu for the day. We were stuck in Manthali for the night.
Ang Kami sprang into action once again. He was off into the town to find us some accommodation for the night. After a short time he returned in a little 3 wheeled taxi vehicle. Ang Kami had us load our duffles into the taxi along with 3 of our trekkers to go to the hotel. The rest of us piled into a van with the airport workers, who brought us to the hotel. Considering our expectations based on our preconceived notions of Manthali , and what we would later see in the trek, our hotel was in retrospect not too bad.
I mean most of the rooms actually had a shower. Being stuck in Manthali for the night was a set back in our trek and meant that we lost a day of acclimatization in Namche Bazaar, which we were warned could happen if we could not get to Lukla the first day. All in all I don’t think any of s minded all that much really. That is to say that staying a night in Manthali is better than dying in a fiery plane crash on the side of the mountain in Lukla. By this time we were all exhausted from a long and hot day and were ready to crash. Ang Kami told us to be up and ready by 7:30am for breakfast so we could get to the airport early for our flight at about 9am.
Getting to Lukla
It was before 7am when Ang Kami knocked on our door and had everyone
getting up and ready because planes had already been busy at the airport. After
breakfast, that I am pretty sure Ang Kami prepared himself, we each carried our
own duffels and backpacks and hiked the short walk back to the airport. We didn’t
mind carrying our stuff at all since we were all quite motivated to get on a plane, get
to Lukla, and start our trek.
Our flight did not depart at 9am. It was probably closer to 10am that we got on the plane. After a short flight we landed in Lukla, got our bags, and headed to the Buddha Lodge for tea and to prepare our bags for the trek. Sometime after 11am we were all set and headed out on our trek with our packs on our back, our duffels on yaks, and smiles on our faces.
Trekking to Monjo
Dodging a few donkey trains through the Lukla streets we made our way to
the trail and officially started our trek to Everest Base Camp. I often found in talking
with people about the trek that the general thought about the trek is that you pretty
much go uphill the whole way from Lukla to Base camp. I think that even within our
trekking group there may have been a few that didn’t realize that the whole first day
of trekking is essentially down hill.
Our goal for the day was to get to Monjo, stay there for the night, and continue to Namche the next day. But, as it turned out our somewhat late start to the day did not allow us to get to Monjo that day but Bengkar instead. Bengkar is a small but nice village situated next to the Dud Khosi river in between Phakding and Monjo. It was a great first day of hiking. The trail was well manicured for the most part, the vegetation was lush and green, and the views were fantastic. Finally being on the trail was a relief and our smiles were big that first day.
Bengkar to Namche Bazaar
Day two of our trek started early, as all the other days would as well, with breakfast then off to Namche. From Bengkar the trail has some inclines and declines as we made our way towards Monjo. In Jorsalle we stopped for an early lunch. No one was particularly hungry but we trusted our guides who knew what lay ahead and knew there would not really be any more chance to stop before Namche.
It was Sherpa stew all around before we started our climb into Namche. From the research I had done previous to the trek I knew that day 2 was going to be tough because of the climb up Namche hill and because it would be one of the greatest elevation gains in any one day of the trek. Still, even knowing ahead of time that it was a challenging day on paper, really didn’t give my an accurate understanding of the climb we were about to endure. Not too far after Monjo and Jorsalle, we officially enter Sagarmatha National Park, and after a few more ups and downs the climb into Namche began.
The trail is interspersed with suspension bridges. The most notable of which is the Hillary Bridge, draped in prayer flags, crossing high above the river. Crossing the bridges was, for some, a task in itself that required great mental determination. For me though, I loved it. It was a much anticipated part of the trek that I had been dreaming about and preparing for, for over a year.
I had seen the bridges many times in You tube videos and photos, but actually crossing them was something else all together. It was a thrill. After the Hillary bridge the trail continues its upward trajectory until Namche some miles away. After what felt like hours of climbing we reached the Everest View Point, which had no view of Everest that day due to clouds, but did have some toilets. It was a busy and great place for a rest and a Mars bar.
The Namche Hill
After a short rest we continued our slow and steady march up and up and shortly thereafter came upon a split in the trail. Both paths of the fork lead to Namche but one is designated for trekkers and the other for Yaks and Mules. We plodded on for a what seemed like quite a while after that, but in truth it probably was not much longer than an hour if that and we could tell that we were closing in on our days destination. It is an amazing feeling. There are times in life when we reach a certain goal and the sense of relief related to achieving that goal is fantastic. That was the case this day.
As the climb began to level out and the path turned to well fitted stone we rounded a bend and Namche burst in view. The sense of relief was palpable in our group. Prior to starting the trek and the trek leading up to Namche always felt like a milestone in the course of the trek. Maybe because we knew that from Namche on the facilities would progressively become more and more basic, showers were going to be non-existent, and the elevation would really start to factor in the daily grind. None the less, we were all excited to be in Namche and for the days that lay ahead.
Acclimatization Day in Namche
What is the saying that goes something about the best laid plans of mice and men..? As previously mentioned, the trek itinerary was set to provide two days and three nights of acclimatization in Namche Bazaar. Each day with a pre-determined hike taking the trekkers up in elevation for a few hours in the morning and returning the Tea House for rest and exploration for the remainder of the day. Most trekking companies that I had researched only provided one day of acclimatization in Namche. This extra day is one of the things that really sets Ian Taylor Trekking apart from the others and promotes such a high success rate for reaching Everest Base Camp.
To this point in our journey the weather had created delay after delay that impeded our ability to get to where we needed to go by the time we had planned to get there. The beauty of the itinerary created for our trek allowed us to make up for lost time and keep us on schedule to complete our trek on the intended day. The draw back however was that now our schedule was on par with other trekking groups effectively eliminating the advantage of acclimatization time we would have otherwise had. Having said that, I still believe that we held a distinct advantage over the others because of the guides that we had.
Two Nights in Namche Bazaar
So we had one day of acclimatization hiking instead of two, what could we do about it? The answer was simple for the trekkers in our group, just trust the guides and the process. Our fearless leaders decided that to make up for lost acclimatization time they would combine the two hikes into one big hike. This meant that instead of hiking up to the Sherpa Museum one day and up to the Everest View Hotel area the next day, we
would just piggyback one onto the other.
The Sherpa Museum
Our initial climb from the Tea House up to the museum and statue of Tenzing Norgay starts by going up the many steps of the terraced city that is Namche. Eventually the stone stairs give way to a well maintained trail that winds it’s way up to the museum and what was our first magnificent view of Everest. This was a big moment for the group and for me personally. The trail passes under an arch or gateway entrance into the museum area then follows a direct route through some trees towards the museum. The closer we stepped towards the museum the great mountain and her friends began to peek-a-boo into view.
Then like a curtain being pened to a show a grand stage, the scene of Everest, Ama Dablam, Lohtse and others take command of vision. The red Statue of Tenzing Norgay proudly stands with ice axe raised in victory as Everest and the others provide a magnificent backdrop to his tribute. We spent some time here soaking in the view of the roof of the world, taking photos, and meandering through the museum. The start to our
day could not have been any better. We probably would have been quite content to stay and continue to soak in the 360 degree panorama of the valley and surrounding peaks for the rest of the day, but that was not to be. We needed to continue our acclimatization hike and so up we went.
From the Museum we continued up hill towards and past Syangboche, which
just so happens to be the home of the worlds highest airstrip at 12,400 feet of
elevation. Here we paused for a photo and sip of water. All along the trail when we
would stop for a break our guides would remind us to drink with a comical “sippy
sippy” or combination of “sippy sippy and pee pee”. One of the things I had assumed about our hike that day was that we would go to the Everest View Hotel as our high point and from there head back down. Not so.
To avoid the crowd and get our group to climb even higher we circumnavigated the hotel up to a Stupa high on the top of a hill passing a yak farm with some cute baby yaks on the way up. When we reached the top the clouds had begun to blow in and swirl about us as we stood at the top. We could see down into Namche on one side, toward a military base on another, and towards the Everest School off in the distance.
After a short time we began to descend towards Namche and lunch. Our journey down brought us past the Everest View Hotel, which was packed with people resting from their climb with a cup of tea. I could see why Ang Kami did not want to bring us there. We made our way back down into Namche and stopped a beautiful tea house overlooking Namche for lunch.
Checking Oxygen Saturation
Dinner time each day was almost always at 6pm. The guides double up on their duty and acted as servers taking our food orders and bringing us out food. In addition they would refill our water for the next days hike. After we ate that last night in Namche, Ang Kami held his usual post dinner briefing and oxygen/Heart Rate check. After learning what the next day was to bring for our group we decided to treat our guides to some baked goods at one of the bakeries in town.
All of the trekkers in our group chipped in to show our appreciation to all that hey had done for us to that point. The guides worked tirelessly for us and we felt that they deserved at least a small token of our appreciation. As it would happen, these stalwart Sherpa became friends to all of us by the time our trip ended. Filled up on apple pastry and hot chocolate we were ready to retire for the night and rest for the onward journey that awaited us the next day.
Trekking to Tengboche
The morning greeted us with clear blue skies as we rose early for breakfast and to get on our way. Each morning we would place our packed duffel in the hallway outside our rooms as we left for breakfast. Some how to this point in the trek we had yet to see anyone carry them away, but they always ended up at our destination before we did. Shortly after breakfast we met outside the Tea House and departed, always following Ang Kami’s foot steps and pace. Starting out we climbed the stair-laden streets of Namche until we climbed past one of the many prayer wheels and met with the trail.
The trail leading out of Namche towards Tengboche is very well maintained and for a good distance, relatively flat. This section of the trail was in such great shape because of this elderly gentleman who sat out everyday along the trail collecting donations from passers by. Our guide informed us that the money donated truly went to paying a small crew to keep the trail in such great shape. As we approached the old mans collection spot he was standing just off the trail precariously perched next the cliff taking a pee. He seemed so old and fragile that a stiff breeze might have taken him off the cliff. But something told me he must have climbed out there to use the facilities hundreds of times.
The Beautiful Ama Dablam
The early going was a nice and gradual way to begin the day, the only thing that made it better was that for the better part of the morning on that well groomed trail was the view. Everest, Ama Dablam, and other peaks dominate the view. Along the trail were some magnificent Stupa’s that only added to the splendor of the days hike. This, in my mind, was exactly why I was on this journey.
It was amazing to walk each one of those steps and to bask in the splendor and beauty of the Khumbu and the Himalayas. Up to this point in the trail we had trekked with very few other groups or people. In fact, to this point we had passed more people heading back to Lukla than we had encountered going towards Base Camp and aside the from the usual porter and mule traffic, we had the trail almost to ourselves. That changed the day we left Namche.
The Everest Marathon
The end of May and beginning of June coincided our trek with the Everest Marathon. Many who had been acclimatizing and training in Namche were also making their way higher into the valley the same day we were. So between our little band of trekkers, some other guided groups, and the marathoners, the trail was packed as we made are way towards Tengboche. Almost constantly there were stacks of people behind our group and stacks racing off ahead of us.
Often times large groups would speed around us, sometimes with their poor guide in tow trying to tend to a slower hiker and desperately trying to keep up the rear. I noticed this on multiple occasions as we continued to get passed by groups who didn’t abide by a rule of steady pace. Almost without fail our slow and steady group would eventually catch up and pass these groups again. It was clear that the rapid pace the other groups had chosen walk, caused them to need more frequent brakes.
The Tortoise and the Hare
Like the tortoise and the hare, we would plod along passed them as they sat on a low wall trying to catch their breath. This is a testament to the tried and true Ian Taylor Trekking method. None of us to this point had really felt any effects related to the elevation. No doubt, if we were to go on a sprint we would certainly have gotten short of breath rather quickly, but our slow and steady pace as we trekked along made all the difference in helping us to maintain our strength and endurance as we moved steadily higher and higher.
The Pace is Critical for Safety
In fact our slow pace compared to the other groups constantly playing leapfrog with us, earned us the self-proclaimed title of Team “Turtle Train”. The game of leapfrog continued and hit a climax when we began to descend towards the river and the little town of Phunki Tenga. The trail switchbacks down to the little village and at this point in the day this down hill stretch became a ridiculous frenzy of others racing down around our team and others often going off trail and cutting down switchbacks.
Many times going down the hill we were brushed aside by others who just could not contain themselves and just had to race ahead. We were very much relieved to reach the town and step off
the trail for lunch. By the time we had finished eating the main peloton of trekkers
had moved on and we did not have to deal with that issue any further the remainder
of the trek.
Lunch Before the Tengboche Hill
Phunki Tenga is a small village that sits on the banks of the Dudh Koshi River. This small Nepalese village was bustling with trekkers kicking up their feet and enjoying a bite to eat before continuing on. Our group relished in the opportunity to separate ourselves from the hectic nature of the trail that morning, secluding ourselves in a small tea house dining room that could only accommodate our little group and some additional guides.
This quaint little restaurant seemed to be run by and elderly woman with a weathered face, whom by my assumption, had probably been running the lodge for a better part of her life. As we enjoyed our various preferences of tea choice and lunch, the din and bustle of the trail ebbed and soon only the rushing of the near by river and some sparse conversation could be heard. We finished our meal and prepared to push on.
The Tengboche Hill
From Phunki Tenga the trail starts to climb upwards towards Tengboche. True to form on the trek to this point, each day aside from day one, seemed to culminate with a climb in our destination for the day. Tengboche from Phunki Tenga is a distance of about 1.6 miles. In that 1.6 miles the trail gains about 1,800 feet of elevation. Keeping to our slow and deliberate pace with plodded our way up the hill towards Tengboche.
This climb up to Tengboche, more than any other part of the trail that I remember, was a series of swithchbacks. I will admit, that at the time I had no idea how far we had left to go for the day and for some reason I felt like we still had a number of hours ahead of us. I know that I was not the only one in our group that was pleasantly surprised when we crested the hill and walk through the gateway of prayer wheels that served as the entrance to Tengboche.
Upon our arrival in Tengboche clouded in a cool mist. We made our way to our Tea House and settled in the dining room as our guides checked us in and sorted out our room situation. Despite the traffic on the trail in the early part of the day, this was a great
day of trekking. The views of Everest and company were outstanding for a significant portion of the day which helped to drown out crowd we shared the trail with that day. I was not sure that it could get any better from that point on. I was wrong.
To the Bakery
Tengboche is a tiny village that sits atop a hill and has a smattering of small lodges and a bakery or two. Despite its diminutive size, Tengboche is dominated by two relatively large buildings, the lodge we were staying in and the impressive monastery. We arrived in the afternoon so touring the Monastery would have to wait until the next day, but we were able fill our afternoon by milling around the village and exploring the possibilities of the bakery.
Tengboche was great and looking back on the whole of the trek it was one of my favorite stops. It had a laid back quietness about it that was welcoming after a day of trekking. Wandering about the town we saw more dogs and ponies than we did people. To this point in the trek we had seen many dogs wandering about in towns and on the trail and they were never a bother.
Everest From Tengboche
That is until that night in Tengboche. After retiring to our room for the night and being prepped for bed, a few dogs began to bark. They barked and barked for what seemed like hours into the night. Eventually the barking ceased and sleep found us quickly after that. Another clear blue sky greeted us the next morning. Remember how I mentioned that I was not sure that the trek could get any better and that I was wrong in that assumption? The process of realizing that I was wrong took a grand total of a bark filled night of rest and to open the curtains in our room when we woke up in the morning. The view that flooded our sight as we pulled back the curtains was breathtaking.
Good Morning Mount Everest
The view of Everest, Ama Dablam, and their friends that we had enjoyed for the better part of the previous day were amplified as if through a telephoto lens. Did I mention that this was the view just by looking out of the window? There was no better way to start the day and frankly in terms of the views, it didn’t get any better. Don’t get me wrong, there were limitless amazing views everyday, it was just the magnitude and quality of the view that morning in Tengboche that made it one of my favorite days of the whole trek.
Tengboche to Dingboche
Before we left that day there were two things that made the start to the morning in Tengboche even better. First, and this may seem a bit elementary, but it was the first time of the trek to this point that we actually saw our bags begin loaded onto the Yaks that were carrying our bags from place to place. Usually we would put our duffles outside of our rooms in the morning as we headed to breakfast and by the time we were done and ready to roll for the day our bags were already on their way to our next stop.
By the time we arrived at our days destination our bags were already waiting for us in front of our rooms. For whatever reason, being able to see the yaks and the driver was exciting for all of us. Second, before heading out for the day we had to great opportunity to tour the monastery in Tengboche. Ang Kami was great at arranging these cultural learning experiences for us and was great at providing us with information on what we were seeing inside. I will not speak for the rest of the trekking group, but for me taking a little extra time out of our day to learn and appreciate the Nepalese culture and beliefs greatly enhanced the overall experience of the trek. Visiting the Tengboche Monastery was great and would not be the last monastery we would visit that day.
The Mighty Ama Dablam
Leaving Tengboche is a downhill affair. We gradually walked down through the trees until we reached a little village along the banks of the river. Our path followed the river for most of the trek to this point. Later that day our path would diverge from the river. From the village the path was a fairly gentle grade up as we continued on. We had a couple of more river crossings as we walked along and a few climbs and descents as we went. The views during the day became quite dominated by Ama Dablam the further we trekked.
As the day wore on we had were provided with another great cultural experience, which requires a little backstory. Earlier in the trek I asked Ang Kami about a monastery that I had heard of which contained a yeti skull. Turns out the monastery contained not only a Yeti skull, but a Yeti skeletal hand as well. Ang Kami had asked if I wanted to see it, and I know that I said I did. Additionally I know at least one other person, who happened to be the only other male in our group, also wanted to see it. So, Ang Kami being the accommodating guide that he is decided to take a little detour in our trail to allow us to see the monastery and Yeti remains there in.
It would turn out that this detour was not necessarily a short one. It added a few miles of climbing and a couple extra hours of trekking to our day. Upon discovering this extra climb was not necessarily part of original schedule, some of the group became a bit less enthusiastic about the days events. To their credit, we were starting to get quite far along in the trek and were to be up to about 14,500 feet of elevation by days end.
Moving into High Altitude
The elevation was beginning to affect some of the group. So taking a couple of extra hours to go up to upper Pangboche to visit the monastery and Yeti remains may have seemed like an unnecessary addition given the current struggle. However, I would add that because of the events causing our delay getting to Lukla and thus missing a day of
acclimatization in Namche, this climb to upper Pangboche helped to provide some
The Pangboche Monastery was beautiful and old. As we waited for someone to come and let us in the monastery we enjoyed strolling around the outside of the building. The prayer wheels that completely circumvent the building were a shiny brass. One could tell that the people took great care in maintaining their sacred edifices. As is the case in all the monasteries, no photos were allowed inside as we viewed the interior and Yeti remains. The cost was 5 rupees per person to get in and view the Yeti remains, which were kept preserved from the light and air in a glass box that was encased in a wooden box with door that swung open allowing people to view the orange hair covered scalp and skeletal hand.
I should add that one additional benefit to touring the monasteries is that everyone is required to remove their footwear to go inside and the feel of the cool wood floor on the feet was refreshing after hours of hiking. At one point during the day after hiking for what felt like a great amount of time, I remember during a short break after a climb looking back from our view point towards where we came from and seeing Tengboche perched on hill in the distance. The sizeable monastery and lodge we had left that morning now looked like a small model of the village.
The Roller Coaster
This view just re-enforced the fact that the trek from Lukla to base camp is not just one steady gradual climb up, but a roller coaster of ascents and descents. The views continued to be breathtaking as we trekked along that day. As the day wore on the blue sky became a bit grey and overcast with low hanging clouds. As we approached Dingboche we walked along a rather gradual plateau with a myriad of paths well worn into the earth over the years by yak teams and heards, trekkers, and general foot traffic. We passed by a tea house in this area that was seemingly out in the middle of nowhere by itself and slowly made our way back down to the river.
Arriving in Dingbouche
During our approach the river crossing we could see what was going to be our daily end of day climb into our destination. Being tired from the days travels the Dingboche hill looked daunting. By now in the trek we had climbed above tree line and our views were unencumbered. Thus we could see the path up to Dingboche etched into the side of the hill. This river crossing on a low fixed metal bridge was also the fork in the road with one path leading along the valley and river to Pheriche and the other climbing up the hill into Dingboche.
We climbed. As with every climb on the trek to this point our climb was slow and steady peppered with occasional breaks. As daunting as the climb looked upon approach it didn’t seem as bad as it appeared. At least that is the way I remember it. Perhaps this is one of those times that the brain pushes in the depths of the memory so a person doesn’t remember the agony of the experience. Either way, we climbed and made our way into Dingboche.
Considering how far along the trek it is, Dingboche is a decent size. It is a town that is seeming strung out along the main path for what at that time, felt like a couple of miles, and of course our lodge for the next 2 nights was at the other end of town. It was a great lodge though and well worth the walk through town. Actually, all of the lodges we stayed at through out the trek were great. Considering how remote it felt in Dingboche it was a great treat to have wi-fi available for a small fee at the lodge. Which for us made it possible to video chat with our kids back home.
Getting to Dingboche felt like an important milestone in the trek. I don’t know why I had set this up this way in my head. Maybe that was because Dingboche was an important acclimatization stop in the trek and one of two places in the trek that we spent more than one consecutive night. We arrived in Dingboche in the early afternoon and after some rest I was ready to explore the town.
My wife however was not. She had started coming down with a cold in Namche and now in Dingboche she was really feeling it. So I got to explore the town on my own and that meant going to find the pharmacy in town to get some cold medicine. As I would learn in my exploration, the pharmacy was all the way back down at the beginning of the town. Which as I learned was in fact down a gentle sloping hill that I didn’t realize we were climbing on our way in.
It was in Dingboche on my way back from the pharmacy that I really remember starting to feel the elevation a bit. I didn’t have my pack on and was wearing my comfortable after hiking attire and I had to plod along quite slowly as I meandered along the low stone walls lining the path through town. If I tried to walk for quickly or jump up a step in the path I could feel my heart rate increase a bit. Still, my oxygen saturation and heart rate check at dinner and breakfast were solid.
Acclimatization Hike to Chuckung
One piece of unsolicited advice that I would offer is not to think of acclimatization days as being any easier than a regular trekking day. The only difference is generally that the amount of hiking is a shorter duration of the day, which allows for a longer rest period. Ang Kami gave our group the option of where to do our acclimatization climb that day.
We could either go up a hill on the side of the town for excellent views, which would allow us to be up and back within a few hours. Or we could take a much more gradual climb up to Chukung, which sites in the shadow of Ama Dablam and on the trail to Island Peak. We heard the words, “more gentle climb” and opted for Chukung. At about 15,518 ft. of elevation, going to Chukung for the day would take us up about 1,000 feet over the course of the morning. Not to sound too much like a broken record, but the morning was clear and blue with crisp views of Ama Dablam and the surrounding mountains. The walk to Chukung brought us closer and closer to Ama Dablam with each step.
The hike was indeed quite gradual and the landscape dotted with scrub brush. We progressed with our slow march and did have some quite exciting moments to our morning. Somewhere in our progression we happened upon some mother Yaks and their babies. This provided for some great photo ops as our guide playfully interacted with the babies. A bit further along we came along a Nepalese climbing guide sprawled out in the bushes.
At first it seemed like he was suffering from altitude sickness and that he was in serious trouble. Our guides gave him water and tried fervently to get him to head down in elevation. He refused to move down, but instead opted to rest in the bushes. After doing what they could, our guides pushed us onwards, but we would meet him again. As the morning expired we arrived in the village of Chukung to enjoy lunch and a rest. Chukung is only a few small lodges with an incredible view of Island Peak and Ama Dablam, which was situated at the end of the valley.
Meeting a Fellow Trekker
Not long after settling in the lodge for lunch we were joined by a friendly British man who was a professor at a university in Pennsylvania. We learned that he came to Nepal every
year and had in the past guided groups of students on treks in Nepal. Additionally he had climbed a number of the peaks, including Island Peak and Mera Peak. He was also doing some acclimatization that day in preparation for attempting to climb Lobuche East.
It was a great lunch conversation with him and we gained some great insight and perspective. We also learned from him that the trekking company we had chosen was indeed one of the best. He related that during all his time coming to Nepal he had witnessed many different companies, some of which were good and some of which were bad. He told us that Ian Taylor Trekking was definitely, “one of the good ones”. Of course, we already knew this but it was nice to hear it from an unbiased third party.
While waiting for our food to be delivered I decided to go outside and get some footage and photos of the village and surrounding mountains. Ama Dablam from Chukung is quite an impressive view. It was always impressive to see from a distance, but up close it really was quite magnificent. Not long after settling into to another delicious bowl of Sherpa stew we heard a low rumble and felt an accompanying tremor that rattled the windows as the building shook. Earthquake? No, it was an avalanche on the slopes of Ama Dablam. We looked out the window in time to see the white cloud of snow and ice cascading down the side of the mountain. The power of nature is impressive.
Our Sherpa Crew
Impressive is also a word that I would use to describe the ninja like skill of our guide Ang Kami. In the tea house we were having lunch there were a number of flies buzzing about. With great deftness and skill Ang Kami captured each and every single fly without killing them and released them outside. I will forever be impressed with not only his skill in capturing the flies but his respect for all living things, even flies. With lunch warmly in our bellies and our legs rested, we headed back towards Dingboche.
Not too long on our way back down we came across a backpack and some of its contents strewn about the scrub. A little distance off still lay the climbing guide we had passed on the way up. He was a little more with it and we learned that he had partied a little too hard the night before and was feeling the effects of his decision. He was due to be up at Island Peak base camp to guide some climbers up the mountain. We left him to his situation and forged on.
The hike back to Dingboche was pleasant and easy going and it was not long before we reached town, our lodge, and an afternoon of rest. We knew that we would need that rest because the next two days were going to be a couple of the toughest slogs we were going to have of the entire trip.
Forward to Lobuche
Despite the end of May being on the cusp of the rainy season in the Khumbu, each morning as we embarked on the days journey was met with almost identical clear blue skies. The morning that we departed out of Dingboche was no different. In the crisp clear air our little team started stepping our way up, up was always the case to begin the day, out, and above Dingboche.
We climbed for a short time out of town until we reached a plateau or shelf that one the side of the hill that extended for quite a distance towards Thukla, or Dugla, depending on which spelling and pronunciation you prefer. To our left, down the steep side of the shelf the hill dropped into a valley in which sat the village of Pheriche. As the trail reached the top of the hill leading out onto the plateau the view was once again magnificent. From that vantage point our guide pointed out that we could see a number of the 8000 meter peaks. It was easy to see that we had another breathtaking day of trekking ahead of us, both in a literal sense and in the sense of the beauty of the
mountains and valleys that surrounded us.
The Sound of Helicopter Rescues
Each day of the trek to this point was accented with the sight and sounds of helicopters making their way up and down the valley. This particular day seemed to have an increase in helicopter traffic. My guess is that it had mostly to do with Pheriche having the closest medical facilities to Everest. That is just my own guess, but one thing is for certain, helicopter companies must do a pretty good business in the Himalayan climbing and trekking areas.
We took a short break at the top of the hill to take in the view and some water before venturing out across the shelf on the side of the hill. As we continued on in our slow deliberate way was passed a number of low roofed stone huts surrounded by low rock walls. Ang Kami, as he always was, patiently answered our questions regarding the things that we saw and experienced. It turned out that these structures were old Yak driver huts. I believe we also learned that it was huts similar to these that were the origins of the Tea Houses and lodges that dot the mountain roads and towns in the present.
Dughla or Thukla
After walking across the gently rolling shelf we rested next to one of these
little huts, which afforded us some great photo opportunities. In fact, one of my favorite photos from the entire trek was at this spot which provided a spectacular panorama of Yak huts, steep snow capped mountains descending to a valley below. I think by this point each one of us in the group could feel the elevation to a certain extent, some more than others. Looking around one could see others getting visibly short of breath just from the momentary pauses in breathing while sipping some water. We pushed on from the hut and continued our stroll until we reached the terminus of the plateau and began to descend in to Dughla.
Below the Khumbu Glacier
After coming down the well worn and easy to follow path from the shelf above we came to a small boulder filled river that we would need to cross to get into Dughla. Just ahead of us was a team of yaks that found their way across despite having no discernable path to cross. Yaks I learned at that point were fairly sure footed. The a good part of the river crossing was a process of going from boulder to boulder until we got a small plank bridge that spanned the last small portion our our crossing. This gully that contained the rushing river had the look of an ominously eroding wash in the side of the mountain.
I wondered silently how long it would be until the hillside eroded enough that the closer buildings of Dughla would start to be threatened. From my perspective it would not be all that long. Scrambling into town I was a bit surprised to see just how busy with foot traffic this little place was. That was my initial impression from which I soon realized was because of the climb that lay in front of us and because Dughla sits at a bit of a cross roads. From here one to could go down into the valley to Pheriche or up the hill and across the plateau to Dingboche.
Interesting Toilets Higher up the Trail
As a side note, Dughla also contained perhaps one of the worst available toilets in the entire trek. Housed in a little tin shed and a door the easily swung wide in the breeze, it would seem that getting business done with proper air was completely optional. Of all the bathrooms that we experienced on the trek this one was easily top three in being the most adventurous to use. Gorak Shep and Base camp round out the top 3.
We lunched at a nice little teahouse and had a great interaction with a Canadian women who was on her way back towards Lukla after going up to base camp. As a group we got the sense that we were moving ever so close to our goal and this conversation provided us with some interaction and information from someone who had literally just been at our destination that very morning.
Moving Into Very High Altitude
As we found most people to be she was very open and honest about how she had some headaches and overall well being during the last portion of the trek. Though, if I remember right, she was not on as a direct path up to base camp and back as we were. She had been and planned to do some additional trekking around. She was not with a group it was just her and her guide/porter. Lunch and our break concluded and we proceeded to pack up and prepare for the next leg of the days journey.
The Everest Memorial
With trekking poles in hand and our packs on our backs we stood staring up at the trail ahead. Literally looking up. The trail out of Dughla was a steep uphill climb that switch-backed and stair climbed over and around boulders as trail ascended. The ever reliable Ang Kami and our other guides set the determined and steady pace as we worked our way up step by step. I will not speak for any of the others in our group, but I know that by that point in our trek I was ever so grateful for our turtle like pace.
Not because I was struggling but because I knew that the pace was keeping me from struggling. Like our day out of Namche, other groups would race past us up the hill, only to stop a short distance ahead and have to rest while we walked on. Again, it was the tortoise and the hare. I don’t remember how long the climb had taken us, but I do remember how excited I was to crest the hill and see the strings of prayer flags connecting the stone memorials erected for many of the lost Everest Climbers.
Remembering Fallen Climbers
This was one stop in particular that I was rather looking forward to during the trek. I knew that here I would get to see the monuments paying homage to Scott Fischer and Rob Hall whom were made famous by the book Into Thin Air, and the movie, Everest. Both of which depicted and told of the climbing tragedy that occurred on Everest in 1996. It was the perfect break after a climb to quietly take a moment to honor the courage and sacrifice of so many whom had lost their lives on the mountain.
It was great and I was glad to have had the moment of reflection and gratitude for the trek in general and the experiences and memories that were being created with each step. Climbing the hill out of Dughla was the marked the most difficult portion of the days travels.
Arriving into Lobuche
From the Memorials the path is much more gradual in elevation gain as it leads to Lobuche. We arrived in Lobuche in the early after noon and the routine of each previous day after arriving in our destination was essentially the same. Rest with a warm lemon tea for a bit, go to our rooms, clean up and change our clothes, and rest and/or explore the town before dinner.
Happy New Year
One unique thing bout the tea house in Lobuche was that it had a banner hung that said Happy New Year 2076. So we had either slipped through some time portal on our trek or this was another cultural learning experience. It was the latter. The Nepali calendar we
learned was 56 years and some change ahead of the Gregorian calendar.
So with new information in our heads we retired to our rooms, rested, had some dinner, walked a bit outside, and headed to bed a bit early. The next day was the day we had all been planning for and anticipating since we signed up for the trek. We also knew that to reach our goal we would be facing one of the most grueling days of trekking on the whole trip. Team Turtle Train was headed to Base Camp.
The Day We Got To Everest Base Camp
Lobuche is quiet possibly the smallest of the villages that we stayed in. Situated at 16,207 feet of elevation, it was essentially a few Tea Houses and a few outlying buildings. It his nestled at the base of a hill and perhaps because we were in the shadows of the mountains for the first part of the morning, this morning felt the coldest of any on the entire trek. The day started with a palpable quiet anticipation.
We knew the walk ahead was going to be the longest of any day going up and was going to be an absolute slog. Leaving Lobuche, despite the coldness of the morning, started quite gradual if not somewhat flat. The mountains surrounding us were as glorious to behold as ever and as we proceeded up the trail it seemed as if the valley was closing in a bit.
Italian Research Facility
The trail continued on like this for a bit as we passed by the turn off for the Italian research station known as the Pyramid. The Pyramid is not visible from the trail. The path hugs the left side valley for a bit as it starts to parallel the Khumbu Glacier. It was not too long into the morning that we reached our first little hill, which really was of no significance in size, but felt like a greater climb at elevation.
The Last Stop
The closer the trail brings one to Gorak Shep, the Rockier it gets. We were soon ensconced in a series of boulder dominant outcrops and gullies that the trail roller coastered on. While the trail is discernable, it is not longer the dirt dominant walking path we had enjoyed to this point. It became more of an exercise of deliberately careful foot placement each step. I was not expecting this portion of the trail.
I did not realize from the hours an hours of research that I had conducted prior to going on the trek that leading into Gorak Shep, the trail would be rock hopping and a continual series of going down into one gully, climbing out, and going back down into another. It was a grind physically but more so mentally, and we hadn’t even reached lunch yet. Sometime in the vicinity of lunchtime we arrived at Gorak Shep.
Sitting at 16,942 feet this little place was busy. There were helicopters landing and taking off at a near by landing pad, trekkers and late season climbers all around, yak teams all about, and all of this activity essentially in one small area. After plodding through the rocks Gorak Shep was a welcome site and felt like we had reached another important milestone. From here we would check into our rooms, scarf some lunch, and adjust the contents of our day packs in preparation for the walk to Base Camp.
Gorak Shep rests on what looks like a dried up lake bed. From the Tea House
the trail walks through the dusty flat area towards base camp. Perpendicular from
the lodge is the Kala Patthar trail. Coming into Gorak Shep we could see the trail up
Kala Patthar etched into the side of the hill, and from a distance it didn’t look too
daunting. Even From Gorak Shep the trail up didn’t look overly terrible. Looks, as
the saying goes, can be deceiving. After refitting our day packs we headed out across the dusty dried up lake bed and marched to our goal.
I mean, really, the goal for the trek is Everest Base Camp, but in actuality reaching Base camp is only reaching the halfway point. Nonetheless, our excitement to get there was rising. We soon exited the lake bed area and proceeded to follow the trail. Remember when I mentioned how rocky the trail is going in to Gorak Shep??
The Rocky Trail to Everest Base Camp
The trail going toward Base camp was more of the same. It was the same series pattern of gullies to climb down and back up out of, and the same clamoring from rocky step to rocky step. The trail rises as it follows the Khumbu Glacier and soon we could peak our destination in distance. At one point during the day we could see the tip of Everest poking out from behind the more immediate mountains.
Everest almost blended right in and would have been easily mistaken as a part of another mountain. This would be the last view of Everest for the day and one of the last of the trip. Our path continued on in the same manner for some time. No one spoke much as we made each cautious step. After a time we came by a sign perched in the rocks that once again marked Sagarmatha National Park. Base Camp seemed to sit below us in the distance where the valley finally terminated at the base of the mountains.
Hot Mango Tea
The team stopped here for a short break and a surprise treat of warm mango tea courtesy of our guides. It was a welcome treat. As we rested people were filing out from Base Camp, mostly Sherpa, carrying out supplies from climbing teams that had completed the main climbing season. This was a common theme for much of the day and there was no lack of interest in the group by the variety of we saw being carried out from base camp. Even though we could see Base Camp in the distance from where we were, it would still take us some time to get there.
Walking on the Khumbu Glacier
We continued on from our resting spot trying with difficulty to not gaze in awe at the view of the mountains around us so that we didn’t face plant on the rocky path. Soon the rocky gullies gave way to a more defined and direct path running above the glacier towards base camp. We were getting close, we could see clearly down into base camp and though this was the end of the climbing season, there were still a number of tents dotting the area on the glacier, at which Base camp was established.
Not much further on the trail walk on top of what reminded of a jetty or earthen dam. Each side of the trail fell away, on our right sat the Khumbu Glacier and Base camp. From this point in the trail we had to descend onto the glacier and into Base camp. We had made it. Everest Base camp the jumping off stage for climbers endeavoring to reach the roof of the world. We made our way to the pile rocks that were strewn with lines of prayer flags, which marks officially reaching Everest Base camp.
Standing at the Base of Mount Everest
We waited our turn to pose for photos. While waiting we congratulated each other on our accomplishment and I am happy to report that the entire group made it. Personally this was an emotional moment. No, I didn’t breakdown and blubber, but in the moments waiting for photos I was able to take a quiet moment to myself and with my wife to appreciate where I was, how we got there, and those who helped to make this happen. Being there was the culmination of years of planning and preparation and took advantage of the moment to soak it all in.
It was great. The view around us was great. Looking around the tops of the mountains were obscured by clouds but that did not dampen our spirits and the elation of the occasion. Photos were taken, high fives given, and embraces welcomed. We were standing at 17,500 feet., roughly and we were half way through our trek. It was all, metaphorically, down hill from here. I wondered as we milled around a bit, what it would be like in Base camp during peak climbing season. I could only guess, based on what we saw being carried out by the Sherpa’s, it was a bit like a small city buzzing with activity.
Also, remember the top 3 worst toilets I referred to earlier, the Base camp toilet I used was in that top 3. The bathroom was essentially a tent, a tent that is more vertical than wide and just big enough for a person to stand in. In the tent was placed a 5 gallon plastic bucket. On both sides and the backside of the bucket where stacked rocks so people could squat over said bucket to do their business. Not bad ingenuity in all reality, but still.
The bucket was so close to being full that there was not a chance that anything could be left to the imagination and trying to pee into this bucket from a standing position was tantamount to just peeing on your self. Except that it would be a steamy mixture of pee that would represent a united nations of excrement and urine. It was a danger zone and a place that required the greatest levels of concentration and skill. I do not in any way whatsoever envy any female that would have to attempt to balance in the rocks above the bucket of death.
Our team spent a little more time enjoying being at Base camp, snapping photos, and taking video. Ang Kami offered to see if we could meet some of the climbers still hanging around Base camp, but by that time I think that we were all ready to head back to Gorak Shep for a rest. Besides, I know that I would not even know what to say and I would have felt like a bit of a bother.
Back to Gorak Shep
So we started our climb out of Base camp and worked our way back to Gorak Shep. As we plodded through the rocky gullies I started to feel the tiredness hit my legs. It had been a long day of walking in steadily decreasing available oxygen and we had reached our goal for the trek. The Turtle Train had officially passed the halfway mark of the journey and we were ready for a warm meal and a bed.
Hitting the flat dusty lake bed that is home to Gorak Shep was the most welcome feeling for my legs after the slog of walking the rocky path. The walk across the dusty flat provided us with some entertainment as we watched a group of mountain dogs playing and wrestling around. I am not sure a day on the trek went by in which we did not see or were accompanied for a time by a dog.
Too Many Dogs in Gorak Shep
Gorak Shep seemed to have an unusually high ratio of dogs given how remote and small it was. Rest in our rooms was very welcome at this point before heading to dinner. The tea house was full at dinnertime. Many groups were there, not just trekking, but preparing for the Everest Marathon which was to start 2 days from our time in Gorak Shep.
After eating, Ang Kami went through the usual paces of measuring out oxygen and heart rate as well as spelling out the events of the next day. We had the option the next morning of climbing Kala Patthar to get the best view of Everest the trek could provide. After the grueling yet rewarding day only 4 of us entertained the idea of getting up extra early to climb the mountain.
Hiking Kala Patthar?
I have to admit, being as tired as I was at that moment and how satisfied I already felt just by getting to Base camp, I didn’t revel in the idea of trudging up a mountain in the dark and then hiking back to Pheriche. Still, I decided that I wanted to go because I knew that if I didn’t try I would regret it. Climbing Kala Patthar was one of the things I was looking forward to while researching the trip.
I bought some extra water from the tea house and prepped my back and clothes for the climb in the morning. My wife was not going try and go and given that she had a pretty head cold, I didn’t blame her and wanted to do my best to not disturb her sleep while I was getting ready to go in the morning. The other bathroom that rounds out the top 3 most interesting bathrooms of the trek was in Gorak Shep.
Glad to Say Goodbye to Gorak Shep
It is made well known that facilities in Gorak Shep are more basic than most other places on the trek. The shared bathroom had a squat toilet and a window that sat low to the floor. Just outside the window was a trail going up a small hill that was frequented by yak drivers and others. In a standing position in front of the toilet the window would provide a very intimate view of the person utilizing the facilities to any passers by outside.
This was often the case when I used this bathroom. By this point in the trek I was ready to just go with it. I was excited and felt ready to climb. We retired to bed early and sleep found me quickly. But sleep did not last. It was not long that I awoke for the first time that night panting for breath and my heart racing. I had not had this experience at all to this point, but then again this was the highest elevation that we were going to be sleeping at.
Heading Back Down the Trail
I tried to go back to sleep, which I did, but again was wakened by a racing heart and rapid attempts to catch by breathe. I adjusted my sleeping position to a more upright position hoping this would help. It did somewhat, but I still would wake up breathing heavily and feeling my heart pound. This occurred over and over all night long. It was soon going to be the time for me to get ready to climb and I had not slept much if at all.
I began to worry that I would be too tired to trek that day, let alone climb the mountain, if I could not get at least some rest. With the thought that it would be more important to have the strength to make it to Pheriche that day than to climb the mountain, I opted to not climb and continued my battle to get some sleep. I do regret this decision. In retrospect it
would have been just as effective to try and climb the mountain than it would have been to continue and try to get some sleep. And just as frustrating the hiking we would do that day to Pheriche, aside from the rocky exit out of Gorak Shep, was pretty easy going and was basically all down hill or flat. I should have tried to climb Kala Patthar and that is the only regret I carry from the trek.
The part of the team that went up Kala Patthar that morning only went part
of the way up, which was planned ahead of time, but was high enough to get a great
view of Mount Everest. They did tell us how hard it was and those that went were some of the strongest trekkers in the group. I still regretted not going.
We enjoyed breakfast and hearing of the mornings climb by the others. Ang Kami had stayed at the lodge with those who did not make the climb and as it turned out had a rather busy night. I often wondered if he slept at all during the trek and after his heroics during the night I am almost sure he is super human. He related to us that there was a Sherpa women who was there preparing for the marathon who had ascended up to Gorak Shep too quickly and had passed out in the hallway outside his door.
She was developing pulmonary edema and he quickly found her marathon teams doctor, got her on some oxygen, helped administer the proper medications. She came around enough that she was stable enough to get down in elevation. After enjoying that mornings tales we made ready to head to Pheriche. Up to this point in the trek each day of trekking was relatively low mileage each day by design. On the way up, we would take our time, slowly stepping our way towards Base camp, again by design. This is crucial for proper acclimatization.
3 Days to Get Back Down
It takes 9 days to go up from Lukla and 3 to go back. So clearly the mileage we would travel each day going back was greater. Instead of going 6-7 miles each day, except for Base Camp day with is closer to 9 miles, we were going to go 12 or more miles each day going back. As I mentioned we were headed to Pheriche this day, which was for the most part down hill. We quickly made our way to Lobuche, where we stopped for a quick cup of warm Lemon tea, and a mars bar or Pringles, which were the most popular snacks in the group.
Follow the Ian Taylor Trekking stickers
It was a quick stop and we kept on, retracing our steps back towards Dughla. Our pace was quicker, but still quite manageable and we made decent time down to Dughla and our lunch stop for the day. It became pretty clear as we trekked up and back as to which places we would stop at for meals or to sleep because each place was adorned with at minimum an Ian Taylor Trekking sticker on the outside.
Some had flags or banners along with stickers on the inside. These stickers became a welcome site for tired legs each day. Crossing the stream leaving Dughla we turned right heading down in to the valley rather than climbing up to the plateau that would lead to Dingboche. The trail heading almost straight down into the valley and was a very welcome path under our feet after struggling through the rocks near Gorak Shep. Though, that morning the walk through the rocky path did not seem as long as it did when we were heading towards Gorak Shep. There was a sense of relief, at least for me, to be heading down in elevation. For some in the group who were really feeling the effects of high altitude, it was very welcome.
The Hike into Pheriche
Once reaching the bottom of the valley it was a flat walk along the valley floor past low rock wall fences and scrub brush all the way to Pheriche. Pheriche is at 14,340 feet of elevation. For my and every one else’s lungs, sleeping at 2,000 feet. lower than the night before was certainly something to look forward to. I was also pretty keen to visit Pheriche because it is the home to the closest medical facility to base camp and working in healthcare this piqued my interest.
I knew that in terms of medical facilities it would be small, but given the importance this medical clinic has in relation to the Everest climbing enterprise, I still had some expectations. It was a small and very unassuming building. It looked closed for the day when we arrived in Pheriche, so I didn’t even attempt to visit.
The Second Everest Memorial
Pheriche is the home to a very well done memorial to Everest climbers who have died on the mountain. The memorial has all of the names inscribed into the metal of the memorial, which it self has the appearance of an upside down ice cream cone. Our guides stopped at the memorial to give us the moment to admire the memorial and to pay respects to those who have perished on the mountain.
It occurred to me later on that it was very likely that each of our guides knew people whose names were inscribed on that memorial. Many Sherpa work in the employ of mountain guiding companies and Ang Kami himself had worked on a mountain guiding team and had made a few successful summits of Mount Everest. Having witnessed just a small portion of what the Sherpa people do and are capable of all while being so friendly and carrying a smile on their face, they have my ultimate respect.
It was a quiet evening in Pheriche. There was no longer any need to monitor our blood oxygen or heart rate. We just ate and enjoyed each others company. Ang Kami did give us the usual post dinner information about what to expect the next day, but the mood was a bit more subdued and relaxed. We were heading to Namche the next day, which seemed so far away, but in reality was just another full day of hiking. At this point it had been about 6 days since any of us had had a shower and we relished the idea of a warm shower and getting some laundry done.
Pheriche to Namche
Morning in Pheriche was uneventful but cold. Where Pheriche sits in the valley the sun does not hit it until late morning. We started down the valley from Pheriche towards the river and a bridge that we knew we would have to cross and then up a hill where the trail would rejoin with the trail that we had already trod on our way to Dingboche. The sun felt great as we crossed from the shadow of the valley into the light as we crossed the river.
Despite our quickened overall pace, our climbing pace was more on par with all of the other climbs we had done. Slow and steady. We soon reached the top of the hill and stopped for a quick break. Sippy sippy and pee pee time. Our guides were still vigilant in ensuring that we stayed well hydrated despite the fact that we were heading down in elevation. They all were very attentive and took great care of us. Leaving our break spot the trail for a time was more flat and easy going. Before long we noticed runners coming up on our tail and we paused to watch the leaders of the Everest Marathon make their way past us.
Everest Marathon Runner Arjun Raj
As they passed the lead runner pulled on this running jersey, which bore a familiar logo to our trekking group, and he yelled to us, “Yeah! Go Ian Taylor!”. He was the runner sponsored by Ian Taylor Trekking and he was winning the race as he and another runner passed by us. We later learned that he finished second by less than a second. Amazing.
Team Turtle Train was proud to share that moment with him as he passed by us. He was proud to represent Ian Taylor Trekking and we were proud to be trekking with the guides of Ian Taylor Trekking. We cheered our support and continued on. The day was still early and we had many miles of hiking ahead of us. We were going to head back through Tengboche before lunching once again at Phunki Tenga.
In no time our path brought us to lower Pangboche, which we had not passed through on our way up. Going through Lower Pangoboche and avoiding a climb up to the Monastery brought no argument from any of us. Meandering along in the footsteps of our guides we were soon climbing back up into Tengboche.
The Kami Tree
Part way up the stone cobbled path we stopped for a short break. Ang Kami perched himself in the branch of a tree as if lounging in a recliner. I am guessing this wasn’t his first time he rested there, but his balance was impressive none the less. After drinking
and catching our breath we continued our climb. We had not gone too far when it
happened. SPLAT! The crows mocking us from the tree branches and took aim. With pinpoint accuracy I was hit.
I am so glad that I was wearing a wide brimmed hat and that we would have access to laundry service later that day. Tengboche soon was behind us and we were descending into Phunki Tenga for lunch. We had just sat down in the same tea house we had ate at on the way up when a rather boisterous gentleman walked into the room and before even sitting down he enthusiastically introduced himself.
He was Bobby Bajram. Bobby had been stricken with Multiple Sclerosis since he was 13 years old and he informed us that he was the most extreme athlete with a disability in the world. We had actually seen him pass by us wearing a mask on a horse, guided by his support staff, after we had crossed a suspension bridge closing back in on Tengboche.
But of course we had no idea who he was then nor when he first introduced himself to us. Bobby regaled us with his travels in the Khumbu and some of the other challenges he had faced in his quest as an athlete with a disability. Bobby has done the Base camp trek multiple times and on this particular occasion he had come to climb a couple of
mountains as a gauge for the possibility of climbing Everest.
He told of climbing Kala Patthar and Lobuche East and how much of a struggle it was to reach the top of Lobuche East in particular. His legs were giving out and finding the strength to carry on to the top and then to get back down required sheer will power. Climbing these mountains can be difficult for fit and experiences climbers, yet he had done this with MS.
He was inspiring and really brought a positive perspective to his life. He took the time to get to know a little about each of us in the group and unabashedly promoted his website. Just watching how difficult it was for him to sit down, made me really appreciate the scope of his accomplishments, his attitude, fearlessness, and made me regret that much more not attempting Kala Patthar. We finished our lunch and prepared to carry on, we had a ways to go yet. The miles went quickly and the skies were not as clear as they had been on our way up.
Occasional raindrops would drop on us, but nothing to require even a rain jacket. We had climbed and descended a few times after lunch with the occasional rest break and soon had reached the relatively level trail that winds along the mountainside as we neared Namche Bazaar. The Stupas we had passed on the way up came and went as we journeyed along. It was nice to be back below the tree line and to be able to pass mile after mile with a quicker step. The old man’s donation box sat unattended and closed down for the day by the time we had reached his daily post. The day was wearing on and we could see signs that Namche was near at hand. Occasional buildings started appearing and signs of the Marathon finish line and celebration spots were seen.
Ready to be Back in Namche Bazaar
Entering Namche was once again a great feeling of relief and accomplishment. The path to our accommodations for the night would be going down the many stairs and winding streets of Namche. Arriving at the same lodge we stayed at on the way up was like seeing an old friend, a friend that has nice hot showers, good food, and comfortable beds. All of the team were pretty tired from the long days trek from Pheriche, but
we had a renewed sense of energy by reaching what I think we would all agree, was
our favorite town on the trail. Showered, rested, and fed we decided to hit the shops
of Namche to get a few small souvenirs.
Souvenirs from Namche
There really is a lot of different things a person can get to take home but at the same time the weight restrictions for baggage on the plane back to Manthali prevented us from getting anything that would add too much weight. We knew that we could get things in Kathmandu, which we did, be we also wanted something from along the trekking path.
After procuring a few small things we headed back to the lodge to visit with the team and then to rest for one last day of trekking. Sleep, we learned, would have to compete with the long lasting parties marked by cheering and music booming through the night. The Marathoners were celebrating their accomplishment, and heck, why not, they earned it.
Happy to Have a Shower
I am not sure I can remember ever feeling so happy to shower and put on fresh clean clothes. The level of stink that must have been emanating from out team by the time we got back to Namche was surely impressive. Though, I am not sure we really noticed all that much given the funkification process occurred over the course of a week. But here we were, fresh and ready to roll onto the last day of our trek.
The last morning of our hike was relatively clear weather, just a few scattered clouds. A part of me was sad that this was the last day of our trek, yet the rest of me was ready to return to Kathmandu and fly back home to my kids. We loved the trek, it was more amazing than I had anticipated, but we missed our kids and were ready to be home. Still, we had a full day of trekking to get to Lukla and we started early.
The Last Day of Walking
Leaving Namche was exactly the opposite as arriving into it. Though we were excited to be almost done with the trek, I needed one last look back at the beautiful village etched into the side of the mountain, before we rounded the same corner that brought Namche into view after the laborious climb up the hill, I looked back for one last glance, then in was gone from view.
We were now headed down and by the days end we would be back in Lukla, staying next to the airport in the Buddha Lodge and back below 10,000 feet of elevation for good. Our march down enjoyed a brief hiatus at the Everest View Point stop. Again, it was too cloudy to see Mount Everest, but I did get to use the squat toilet for the last time in our trek. I scarfed down a Mars bar and some water and we were once again on our way down. Retracting our steps for the remainder of the day, we soon crossed the Hillary Bridge and eventually down into Jorsalle. The trail was flying by and some time near lunch we stopped for a rest at the home of our Yak driver, whom had invited us in for some tea.
He had a little tea house of his own that reminded me a bit of a house I might have seen in a Harry Potter movie. The gesture was great and we got to spend some time immersing ourselves in a more personal way of the lives of our trekking team. It was great. Time was getting on and we needed to get back to Lukla. The day was becoming a bit more cloudy as we strolled out of the National Park entry gate near Monjo.
We blistered on through Bengkar and on to Phakding where we stopped for lunch and where we hit our first real spot of rain. We ducked into a tea house and ordered lunch while we waited out the rain. Near a warm wood burning stove laid a dog that followed us inside. No one seemed to care that it was there so we didn’t either. Ang Kami tried to feed it some potatoes, but it didn’t seem interested. One of our team gave it a bit of toast that it gobbled up and suddenly seemed quite interested in us.
Nobody Likes Rain
By the time we finished lunch the rain had subsided but the precipitation created a mist that hung over us the rest of the day. As we left our new dog friend decided to follow along. The dog followed us for a long time, it seemed we had a new best friend. After a few hours of the dogs’ companionship we decided that it needed a name, so naturally we called it Toast. Toast followed us almost all of the remainder of that day. None of us are really sure where toast turned off, but it wasn’t too much longer on when another dog decided to join us for a good hour or so.
Naturally, we had to name this dog as well and it earned the moniker Vegemite. It is good to make new friends when you travel. Our trip back to Lukla might have taken a bit less time had it not been for the one of the most heart warming tasks performed as we went along that day. We had brought along some small gifts to give away to children we met along the way. It was just small packs of simple toys and crayons with paper.
The young children’s sweet little faces would crack the most amazing little smiles when the gifts were given to them. They were so well mannered and appreciative of the gifts. Some of the older school aged children had been through this routine before and just straight up asked for chocolate. So we stuck to the little kids and it was great. We passed the gifts out little by little all day that last day so it slowed our progress a bit, but our guides were more than happy to oblige.
The Final Hill to Lukla
The mist continued to hang over us as we traveled on that last day. We had begun our climb up the hill back towards Lukla. I suppose it must have been the excitement of beginning our trek, but I didn’t remember going down hill for as long as it felt we were climbing up and there seemed to be quite a bit more stairs.
We could sense that we were getting close to Lukla and the climb seemed to be going on forever. By this time Phurba was leading us on and as we rounded a bend and stopped for a rest someone asked him how much further we had to Lukla. He answered, “1-2 hours”. We couldn’t believe it. But as it turns out, Phurba has quite a sense of humor. It was literally not 5 more minutes and we climbed the last few steps and stopped under the now completed archway that marks the start of the trail.
We had made it, we had finished our trek. It was another one of those internally emotional moments and I had to look away from the group so that it would not become and external emotional moment.
The Finish Line
I was so proud of everyone, especially my wife who battled a cold through the toughest parts of the trek and made it every step with no complaint. It was high fives and congratulations all around and to cap it off the skies opened and the rain started to pour. We had amazing weather the entire trip and right on cue, the clouds decided to bless the
termination of our trek with a downpour at the very moment we had taken our symbolic last step of our journey. For only the second time of our entire trek we pulled on our rain jackets. The rain didn’t dampen our spirits, in fact the accumulated water in the puddles served as a great way to wash the yak dung and mud from our boots as we walked through Lukla, past the airstrip, and to the lodge.
As if not to be completely let off of the hook by making to the lodge, there was one
last adventure to be had. During our absence some construction on the path around the airport had begun and the Yak man could not get the yaks to the lodge and had to stop on the opposite side of the airport. So, he unloaded our bags right there and then he and the guides carried all of our duffles by hand to the lodge. They were, as always, amazing. We were tired and a little wet and ready to sit back and really soak up a good
rest, which we did. We checked into our rooms and went straight to dinner. It was great to be done, yet a bit subdued knowing that we still had a long winding ride to endure from Manthali to Kathmandu. We ate and went to shower and go to bed. There was no hot water. But I showered and cursed all the while anyway.
Back to Manthali
Our next morning started early to get us onto a plane back to Manthali. We had a quick breakfast and headed to the airport. During the security check I was asked if I had any rocks in my bag. I didn’t know why he would ask that but being inclined to be hones I said yes. He told me to open my bag and get them out. I retrieved the two very small stones I had picked up from base camp that I had collected to give my kids. I had placed them in a small snack size Ziploc bag, that is how small they were. The security person grabbed the bad and informed me that I could not bring them on the plane for security purposes. WHAT??
Never Fly With Weapons
Did they think those two tiny pebbles were some sort of potential weapon? He grabbed them and threw them in a near by trashcan. I though for a second that I could easily retrieve the stones when the security persons were busy with other passengers. But I decided against it thinking that with my luck I would probably get caught and arrested.
Ang Kami gave me a sympathetic look as the two small symbols of my accomplishment and dream of seeing Everest were unceremoniously tossed into the trash. He actually said to me once we were passed security and waiting for our plane that he would get them back. But, I didn’t want to put him into that situation, so I said it was fine. Being the kind hearted person he is, Ang Kami reached into his own pack and handed me a stone that he had collected and insisted that I take it. That act of kindness will forever be a token of the bond of friendship we formed on the trek.
Stones From Everest Base Camp
So, some words of advice, if you collect some small stones from Base camp to take home, hide them somewhere in your bag and just tell the security persons that
you don’t have any stones. Others in the group denied having any and their bags
were not searched. We only spent a short time at the Lukla airport in comparison to our time in Manthali Airport and before long we were boarding the one of the first Summit Air
flights back to Manthali.
The Short Flight back to Manthali
Turtle Train was hopeful for a moment when we noticed that our tickets said that our final destination was Kathmandu. We thought that maybe we were getting a direct flight and would get to bypass the dusty drive. We were mistaken. Just a short 20 minute flight and we had landed back in Manthali. As we climbed out of the plane Manthali looked a bit different than when we had arrived. Instead of being dusty and hot, it was damp and warm. It had been raining and this was a welcome change to the environment.
We collected our bags and made our way out of the airport, but our ride was not yet there. Due to muddy road conditions our van had been delayed. We also realized that the van ride was included in the final destination listed on the ticket. Mystery solved. Well, once again we were waiting in Manthali but this time we had to get back to
Kathmandu that day due to some of our group having early departures back home the next morning.
Logistics That are Not in Ang Kami’s Control
The little restaurant we had waited in on our way out once again became our hold over place while we waited for our van. To provide some entertainment for us while we waited Ang Kami started playing with a young goat that was determined to head butt Ang Kami. Neither party was backing down and the battle raged for a good 30 minutes. Finally the young goat relented and wandered off.
Soon our van arrived and we climbed into the van and were once again sardined with a number of other passengers. We later learned that the vans contracted by Ian Taylor were meant only to be for our trekking group and that air condition was suppose to be included. Still the ride back to Kathmandu was much more tolerable with the driver we now had. None of our team was looking forward to the drive and we wanted to get back to Kathmandu as soon as possible, however the driver had other ideas. He had a stop at a restaurant so the other passengers could get some lunch.
None of us wanted to stop let a lone long enough for a meal. As if by telekinesis we all only purchased a small bag of chips and a soda and went back outside in hopes to quickly get back on the road. Yet we waited. We later learned that this was also not part of the plan when the vans were hired for our transport. Still, we were on our way home and we did get to watch some fresh Naan bread being cooked in a stone pot. Chalk it up to another cultural experience and we moved on.
Itching to get Back to Kathmandu
The drive was more pleasant in the light of day and it went by fairly quickly. We knew when we had arrived back into the outskirts of Kathmandu when the congestion off traffic, buildings, and people became the dominant view. It was assumed that the van was going to drop us near the Secret Garden area where we boarded the vans the morning of our departure. We were wrong. At some street corner the driver pulled over and let us out. I guess he was ready for us to be out of the van. Ang Kami once again sprang into action and before long Dawa arrived with a van and brought us back to our luxurious Hotel. We loved the hotel in Thamel and were absolutely relieved to have our day of travel done.
The End – Seth Ronning
Pizza, Pizza, Pizza
Fire and Ice, like many places in Nepal, is a bit unassuming from the outside. Fire and Ice is the restaurant that we all went to with Kay, Dawa, Ang Kami, Homraj, and our trekking team to enjoy one last dinner together and to celebrate the completion of our journey. The food was delicious and the conversation stimulating. A relaxed mood prevailed and laughter permeated the atmosphere.
Our trekking team was presented with some lovely tokens of our trek, which included a mug adorned with a group photo from Everest Base camp, a certificate, and a traditional Buddhist prayer shawl. It was the perfect way to conclude our trek as a group. In just those 12 days together we had become friends and forged that friendship through our unique trek experience.
New Cultural Experiences
We learned much about each other and about ourselves through our journey. We got to gain new cultural experiences and made life time friends with our amazing guides. Unfortunately Karma and Phurba were not with us for the dinner because they had to wait in Lukla.
A few of us had an extra day the next day to explore Kathmandu, so we did. We followed the advice of Kay and made our way to Boudha in the morning. Which was great. We got to experience haggling with shop owners and cab drivers. We spend the afternoon back in Thamel collecting souvenirs for loved ones. Which also included some bartering. The shop owners were so eager to do business and were more than happy to display their wares.
After collecting all that we wanted to get we spent the evening at the hotel where a few of us enjoyed a dinner at the hotel together and said our goodbyes because the next day we would all go our separate ways at different times. Read some REVIEWS.
Life Changing Experience
The walk to Everest Base camp was for me life altering. My perspective on life and my capabilities to do difficult things were enhanced. This will always be a treasured experience and one that I would recommend to anyone. A person can learn so much about themselves when they take on challenges. No matter the outcome, if we try and put forth effort, we will grow. You will gain equal or greater to what you put into it, one step at a time.