Everest Base Camp trek

The one where I didn’t wash (or change) for an uncomfortable amount of days, learnt the meaning of Nepali flat and climbed the highest mountain in the world*

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To the top we go (photo cred:Matt)

I remember just before I went to Nepal my uncle asked where I get these random ideas from. One of my aunts said no, no I don’t like this idea. Over the years my poor mum has learnt to just accept that once I get an idea I really throw everything into it and I won’t be swayed. Almost 8 months ago I signed up for the Everest base camp trek. I wanted a challenge and something to keep me motivated fitness wise and life wise – plus travelling really makes me happy. Most importantly there is nothing like proving to yourself that you can do anything. 

Landing in Kathmandu’s airport I was very tired, I picked up my bags and headed to my driver who was already waiting and in no time I was whizzing through the crazy streets  of Kathmandu towards Thamel. A plate of momo’s and a cup of tea later whilst listening to live traditional music, I was firmly relaxed and very excited for the adventures ahead.

After a couple days of solo exploring of Kathmandu, I met the group two nights later at our group meeting, introducing ourselves we did not know that in 48hrs we would be well bonded due to a “common enemy” as one of the girls Lauren would say. Due to weather conditions at Lukla (2840m) where the trek starts, planes and helicopters were not cleared for landing the first day and we were anxiously planning plan B to Z. On the second day the same thing but there was a small glimmer of hope. We could land lower than Lukla walk for longer on the first day and drop a day on the way back down – meaning we could all do the trip and not have to change flights. We were on standby, at some point our guide rushed us into the van as chartered Helicopters had been cleared for landing at Suhke. 

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Trek ready (before our flight was cancelled).

We raced to the airport and quickly whisked through security after a stressful bit paying for the helicopter, we were weighed with our bags on to work out who went into which helicopter.We drove through the airport grounds towards the helicopters, overlooking Kathmandu ignored the crashed plane in the airport docks. Rock, paper, scissors decided one of the best moments of my life – riding front seat in the helicopter. Breathless, surrounded by Nepali greenery I could feel the stress ebbing away. We were on our way!

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Can you tell it is my first helicopter ride?

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Half of the group and our guides (Balram and Breek) waiting at Suhke landing strip

I was in the second helicopter and as we landed the first group, our assistant guides and porters were waiting for us. Our guide was still in Kathmandu as the two Helicopters only held 6 each, so he would have to follow. A pit (latrine) stop and a short briefing later,  we were off and into the first steps into our trek.

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We followed the well trodden path that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay took up along the Everest trail. Each time I saw a new snow capped mountain came on the horizon, the guides would tell us the names Ama dablam, Kang Guru, Lhotse, Thamserku. As you move towards the peaks some would disappear out of sight, I learnt to focus on just putting one foot in front of the other and taking in the views. I really liked physically challenging my body through the day, I currently have a desk based surveillance role. 

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The route we took was from Kathmandu to Surke (landing lower in the mountains than the original start of Lukla due to the weather), we then walked as the sun was setting to Phakding where would be spending the night. From Phakding (2610m) to the famous Namche Bazaar (3440m) where we had two nights acclimatizing.

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Team. Back row – Max, Lauren, Ella, Moi, Sam, Andrew, Grace, Matt, Jared Aik. Front row –  Jerri, Jimee and Brigid. Acclimatization day trek from Namche Bazaar and our first sighting of the Hillary step! (photo cred: Brigid)

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Views from our tea-house in Namche Bazaar, we spent 3 nights here one on our way back down, we spent a couple evenings watching the Everest movie (with Jake Gyllenhaal – its not the altitude its the attitude.) and the IMAX Everest film where Tenzing Norgay’s son attempts to summit following his fathers foot steps. Both amazing.

From Namche Bazaar to Phortse Gaon (3810m) where the owner was a Sherpa who had summited 9 times out of 16 – if a client couldn’t make it he had to turn back with them. This was by far my favorite tea house, we were all in awe of him and I was extremely tiery when he was saying how him and his son had summited Everest together in May. Peppered around the tea house were pictures of his different mountaineering pursuits including pictures of summiting and certificates from the Everest Marathon. His daughter he said was also good enough to summit (she had climbed several peaks in the region that take less than the month and a half for Everest), but she couldn’t go he explained because she would be needed to help her mother with running the tea-house as summit season is also the most popular tourist season.

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Favorite tea house owned by the Sherpa who has summited Everest 9 times, me looking at my arch nemesis dogs – the hardest part of the trek these little buggers following us along the way.

From here on day 6 we walked further up to Dingboche (4410 m) where we had two nights of acclimatization. The next morning we woke up to shouts from our guide at 5am saying that the clouds had cleared up and mountain peaks could be seen. The day before when we arrived the whole town was covered in clouds and we could not see even just outside the tea house.

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Sunrise over Dingboche with views of Ama Dablam.

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The roomie Jerri and I (Photo cred: Matt)

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Photo cred: Haik

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Photo cred: Haik

From Dingboche we walked to Lobuche (4900m), where would be spending the night before base-camp.

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The days trekking to base camp were filled with early starts, brekkie of milk coffee and eggs or oats to start. Headaches, slower thinking and sleepless nights were the norm as the oxygen slowly decreased down to 50% at base camp. The menu on the route up was basically the same the whole route up; oats or omelette for breakfast, momo’s or daal bhaat or egg fried rice for lunch and a variation of that for dinner, with more adventurous people having pizza and yak cheese. 

Many hours of trekking later, card games and headaches later we woke up early for – base camp day (5364m). We walked the first few hours to get to Gorakshep the town before Everest base camp to drop off our bags a quick re-fuel of popcorn and momo’s later we were on our way. This was one of the hardest sections of the trek, lots of rocks, and we had already trekked a very difficult path to get there. The effect of the weather on the the glaciers had caused a section of the normal trek to be too dangerous so we had to walk round it adding an extra hour or more to the trek.

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Once near base camp you had to walk down some rocks, making sure to keep space between us in case we slip or rocks fall. Base camp is a weird surreal arid place surrounded by snowcapped mountains, glaciers and is made of rocks and ice. The only thing to tell you, you were there was a rock someone had put up and wrote Everest Base Camp 2017. I liked this because the achievement was mainly the feeling, it meant something more than I could explain or a sign can explain. A bit like in Cool Runnings when the bob sleigh crashes, and they carry it across the line -it’s not the winning shall we say but rather the journey.

As I walked around I was emotional and ecstatic after a hard week walking (and the altitude). We took pictures, some people went down to the glaciers whilst we waited for the rest of the group. Once everyone arrived we all hugged, some people had the Everest beer, we took picture on the ice rock. Andrew and Grace the only coupe in the group took pictures with their Australian flag and suddenly Andrew was on one knee proposing, she said yes.

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photo cred: Brigid

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On top of the world* (photo cred: Brigid)

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Issa Everest Engagement – Congratulations Grace and Andrew!! (Photo cred: Brigid)

After all the emotions and lots of water it was time to walk back down to Gorakshep (5140m). The morning was an optional hike to Kala-patar (5545m) where you would be able to see the whole Everest region. I wasn’t feeling my best a heavy cold, headaches and so I had finally decided to opt out the day before, but the next morning as Jerri was getting ready I just felt like I had to do it and so I quickly got ready and joined Jerri as well as Jared and our assistant guide Balram who had drawn the short straw for the very early start to avoid the clouds. We made it quite far into the climb but then we decided to stop instead of going all the way as apparently the views were quite similar to where we had stopped. I am so so happy I did that hike, my favorite picture maybe of all time was taken that day (thank you Jared!).

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Route to Kala Patar. Learning new things that make me happy – before the sun rose, above the clouds and clear views Mount Everest (left peak). (Photo cred: Jared)

The walk back had to be quicker because we had lost a day due to weather delays at the beginning  – and let me tell you something my knees will never be the same again. In the three days (based on my iPhone though I suspect it was more) we covered 16km, 17km then 20 km on the last day before flying back to Kathmandu. I have to say was the hardest day, finishing with a steady uphill – naturally. The last hour I struggled each turn of the curved path revealed, yet more uphill and I just about had had enough.

We had a final dinner with all the porters and assistant guides in Lukla and I had daal bhaat, of course. After dinner we thanked our porters and they show cased some Nepali songs and dancing and then vodka got involved … more dancing, after witnessing some shocking moves I was just about done luckily our guide put an end to the partying-good old Jimee.

I have kept this short-ish but if anyone is thinking of doing the same trek, or trekking in Nepal – four words. You won’t regret it.

*Obviously to base-camp y’all

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Scrubbed up and unrecognizable – final leaving dinner back in Kathmandu (Photo cred: Haik)

We had some amazing photographers on the trip here are some links to see some more Himalaya images and other amazing photography.

Jared Wade – https://www.instagram.com/jaredewade/?hl=en

Matt Flynn – https://www.instagram.com/matth_flynn/?hl=en

Haik Gazarian –

The trip I went on – https://www.intrepidtravel.com/uk/nepal/everest-base-camp-101202

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