With the financial crisis in 2012, we both found ourselves out of work. Our original plan had been to go and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The best time for this was later in the year. One of our friends was training a group of people to go and complete the trek to Everest Base Camp. They had two spots open and being fit we knew we would be ok completing this. It seemed to make sense to go on this trek given we were not working and leave Kili for a later date. So within about 2 weeks we had signed on and were on way to Kathmandu. We had to stop off in Singapore for a long layover and so we booked into the pay by the hour airport hotel for a few hours sleep.
Day 0 – Arrived in Kathmandu
We were met at Kathmandu‟s Tribubhan Airport by Adventures Global (the company that would lead our trek) and transferred to the Shanker Hotel in the heart of the Thamel district. After a short briefing we allocated to our rooms. We then had a couple of hours to take a brief walk and explore the streets of Kathmandu. Being tired we ended up with an early night.
Day 1 – Kathmandu
We went and explored this mystical city with its multitude of trekking and souvenir shops, internet cafes, hotels, restaurants and bars, bakeries, moneychangers, vegetable and spice markets, temples and stupas. We wandered through the maze of narrow, cobbled streets filled with vendors, touts, eccentrically clad backpackers and of course the ubiquitous rickshaws with their persistent drivers offering us their services. That night the trek group met up for diner at one of the locally recommended restuarants.
Day 2 – Kathmandu
This morning we set off for a half-day tour of Kathmandu, visting some wonderful cultural sights in the company of a knowledgeable local guide.
We climbed the many steps to Swayambhunath (the monkey temple), with its commanding views of Kathmandu (at 1420 m), its whitewashed stupas and its unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism.
We then moved on to the striking Buddha eyes of Boudhanath Stupa. Boudhanath attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (moving around a sacred object) of the stupa.
We saw traditional gompas (Buddhist temples or monasteries), hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags. We then visited the Hindu Pashupatinath and its sacred temple complex on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Here, monkeys run up and down the steps of the burning ghats, and trident-bearing saddhus draped in burnt-orange and saffron sat serenely meditating – (when they‟re not posing for photos-for-rupees.) We also saw (and smelt) the funeral ritual where the bodies are burn’t and the ashes scattered in the river.
In the afternoon we completed a gear check to ensure that you had all the necessary items for the trek.
Day 3 – Fly to Lukla & Trek to Phakding (2800m)
We flew on a twin-engine Otter to the Himalayan foothills where we began our trek into the Khumbu region. The views from the plane were amazing, providing dramatic vistas of terraced hills and the distant Himalayan giants. The airport at Lukla is amongst the most dangerous and we had at least one of our party in tears at the frighting approach and landing. After landing in the village of Lukla (2800m), we meet the rest of our staff and porters and trekked for about three hours to Phakding, where we stayed at the Sunrise Lodge.
Trekking Time: 3 hours
Day 4 – Trek to Namche Bazaar (3440m)
We continued trekking along the banks of the Dudh Kosi, crossing this majestic river many times on exciting suspension bridges laden with prayer flags. After entering Sagarmatha National Park at Monjo, the trail climbed steeply with breathtaking views to Namche Bazaar, the gateway to the Khumbu region. We had some rain towards the end of our days trek and looked forward to getting changed into dry clothes. Namche Bazaar is a colourful panoply of lodges, houses and restaurants and is nestled in a u-shaped bowl amphitheatre surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides and opening out to the Bhote Khosi on the other. Namche Bazaar is a prosperous trading town. We overnighted at the Kyamde Base Lodge.
Trekking Time: 5 hours
Day 5 – Namche Bazaar
Today was a rest and acclimatization day in Namche Bazaar. We went on an early hike above town, before the clouds moved in and were rewarded with a spectacular Himalayan sunrise and views of Mt. Everest, Lhotse (the 4th highest peak in the world), and the beautiful Ama Dablam. The rest of the day we walked in the rain. We visited the Sherpa Museum with all kinds of information regarding the history of the Himalayas, its geography, culture, mountaineering history and information of flora and fauna of this region. We were told acclimatization is important before proceeding higher and took a day hike to Khunde and Khumjung. These two towns with stony fields divided by rock walls have beautiful vistas on all sides. Kunde Hospital, built in 1966 by Sir Edmund Hillary and maintained by the Himalayan Trust, is at the top of the village. Its mission: to treat local people, but it also provides emergency care to trekkers. Khumjung is the largest village in the Khumbu at the foot of the sacred peak Khumbila. We saw the Khumjung School which was built by Sir Hillary’s Himalayan Trust in 1960.
Day 6 – Trek to Tengboche (3870m)
The trek continued along the rushing glacial waters of the Dudh Kosi with magnificent views of the mountains. We passed through Sanasa, which is inhabited primarily by Tibetans, after which the trail droped to Phunki Thanga (3250m). It was a 2 hour climb from there to Tengboche, through forests and around mani stones up to the saddle where a monastery sits, in a clearing surrounded by dwarf firs and rhododendrons. Views from here of the Himalayan giants were magnificent. This was also Walter’s birthday and one of the Sherpas had carried a cake the whole way from Namche. We overnighted at the Gompa Lodge.
Trekking Time: 6 hours
Day 7 – Trek to Dingboche (4410m)
It ws a short, steep and muddy descent through a forest of birches, conifers and rhododendrons to Debuche. We told to look out for Nepal‟s national bird, the impeyan pheasant. After crossing the Imja Khola on a swaying suspension bridge high above a spot where the river rushes through a narrow cleft, the trail climbed past some magnificently carved mani stones to Pangboche at 3860m.
Beyond Pangboche the route entered alpine meadows above the tree line. The vegetation is predominantly scrub juniper and tundra. Our uphill trek continued, taking us to the quaint traditional Sherpa village of Dingboche with its exquisite views of Lhotse, Island Peak, and Ama Dablam (“Mother‟s Charm Box”). Dingboche is a beautiful patchwork of fields enclosed by stone walls protecting the crops of barley, buckwheat and potatoes from the cold wind and grazing animals. We overnighted at the Everest Resort
Trekking Time: 6 hours
Day 8 – Dingboche
Today was an important acclimatization day, prior to venturing into the upper reaches of the Khumbu valley. We had a short walk exploring the Imja Khola (a tributary of the Dudh Kosi that drains the slopes of Mount Everest). There were some breathtaking views of the north face of Ama Dablam and the Lhotse-Nuptse ridge as we explored the beautiful valley that lead up to Island Peak. We relaxed in the afternoon, reading, writing, and just lazing in the sun.
Day 9 – Trek to Lobuche (4930m)
Only having 80% lung capacity, Glenda does struggle a little in the thin air at altitude. So it was no surprise that Glenda’s oxygen levels were down (and she had a cold), so our guide decided to detour via a hospital at Pheriche with Glenda and one of the other trekkers who was not well.
From Dingboche, the trail traversed through farmlands and meadows before continuing along the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. We passed through the small village of Duglha (4620m), before climbing up to a viewpoint with stone memorials for climbers who have perished on nearby summits. The trail droped a bit and followed the western side of the valley to Lobuche. In the meantime Walter was anxiously waiting to hear how Glenda was doing. She arrived late in the afternoon (in a snow drift) having had a big days walk. The hospital cleared her to continue (with antibiotics). The other trekker was kept overnight in the hospital. Good thing Glenda was so fit, not many in the group would have been able to complete the big day she had. We overnighted at the Alpine Lodge.
Trekking Time: 6 hours (10 hours for Glenda)
Day 10 – Trek to Gorak Shep (5160m)
The trail initially followed the western side of the broad Khumbu Valley and ascended gently through meadows beside the glacial moraine. The ascent became steeper and rougher as it crossed several side moraines and route-finding became somewhat challenging where, in places, an active glacier is under the moraine and the trail is constantly changing.
En-route to Gorak Shep the conical peak of Pumori came into view – on its lower slopes a ridge extending to the south terminates in a small peak. This peak is called Kala Pattar (meaning „black rock‟) and at 5545m high provides the best vantage point for viewing Mt Everest.
The trail made a short descent onto the sandy, flat expanse of Gorak Shep.
Trekking Time: 3 hours
After enjoying something to eat and hydrating well most of us set off on our ascent of Kala Pattar (5643m). A slow, steady pace was the best approach!! It was a tough climb, but the views from the summit surpassed my wildest imagination.
Everest Basecamp, the Icefall, the South Col, the entire Everest south face and the North Ridge and the first and second steps were visible as well as the Lho La (the pass between Nepal and Tibet). We also had magnificent views of Changtse, Nuptse, Tawache, Kangtega, Ama Dablam and Pumori.
These are poignant moments that will be cherished for the rest of my life.
We then descend for a well-earned rest at Gorak Shep. We overnighted at the Buddha Lodge.
Climbing Time: 3 hours
Day 11 – Trek to EBC (5310m)
Today we continued our trek to Everest base camp, located at the foot of the Khumbu icefall. The route followed the Khumbu Glacier, sometimes on the moraine and sometimes on the glacier itself. Base Camp was spread over a wide area and resembles a tented town with expeditions from all over the world vying for a favourable location and making themselves as comfortably as possible.
We overnighted in two man tents. Most people would not get an opportunity to overnight at base camp. We were lucky in that the company we were with had people that were summiting. The plan was to spend the next couple of days at Everest base camp, giving us a chance to meet and interact with the Everest climbers and thoroughly explore the area.
Trekking Time: 4 hours
Day 12 – EBC
Wow,it gets cold overnight. No way were we going to the toilet tent overnight. During the night it was eerie hearing the avalanches and hoping none come down on us. After enjoying hot tea in our tents, we had a late breakfast and soaked up the morning sun. We then had a morning hike out onto the ice fall and got a close up look at the crevices. Being this close to Everest we still had no desire to want to climb it. Glad we got to base camp, but it is close enough. It was amazing what great food we got to enjoy. Knowing that everything had to be carried in and out, our heartfelt gratitude to the porters. I’m not sure who gets the short straw of carrying out our ‘waste’.
Day 13 – Trek to Periche (4240m)
It is so much easier and quicker going down. We retraced our steps heading down the glacier and re-entered the lush and beautiful valleys, surrounded by spectacular snow-capped peaks. Upon reaching the village of Pheriche (which Glenda had detoured via on the way up), we visited the Himalayan Rescue Association‟s Trekkers‟ Aid Post. The centre attracts world-renowned physicians who acquire data to analyse the effects of high altitude on human physiology. We overnighted at the Himalaya Lodge.
Trekking Time: 6 hours
Day 14 – Trek to Deboche
Today we trekked along the Dudh Kozi River via Shomare and Pangboche to Deboche which is situated in a magnificent rhododendron forest at the base of the climb which is fifteen minutes from Tengboche. In the afternoon we had a short walk exploring the area. We overnighted at the Rivendell Lodge.
Trekking Time: 2 ½ hours
Day 15 – Trek to Namche Bazaar (3440m)
Today we trekked back along the Dudh Kosi River through a magnificent rhododendron forest and past brilliant waterfalls. Shortly before reaching Namche, the trek took us through a pine forest. Arriving in town, we saw lowland porters, highland Sherpas, and Tibetan people trading food and supplies during Namche‟s market time. We overnighted at the Kyamde Base Lodge.
Trekking Time: 4 ½ hours
Day 16 – Trek to Lukla (2800m)
We trekked from Namche Bazaar to Lukla where we spent the night at the Khumbu Lodge. At about the halfway point Walter decided he wanted to have a fast walk the rest of the way and so running and walking he got back to Lukla in the early afternoon. He then felt bad when Glenda dripped in later very cold and soaking wet having been caught in a severe thunder storm. Ironically, the rest of the group who took a slow walk back missed the storm.
Trekking Time: 7.5 hours
Day 17 – Fly to Kathmandu
With a clear morning, the flight back to Kathmandu was scenic and smooth farewell to the mountains. We again overnighted at the Shanker Hotel.
Day 18 – Kathmandu
A free day catching up on sights we missed during our first few days in Kathmandu, shopping (we found a nice painting), and massages that were – well let’s just say we have never had such a revealing massage like we did in Kathmandu. We enjoyed a final celebration dinner at the Yak&Yeti!
Day 19 – International Departures
We were not sure we would get to the airport as the roads were blocked with people protesting. We were fortunate that the hotel was able to arrange a military escort for us. We left the kingdom of Nepal as we made our way home after a life changing experience