We Conquered Everest Base Camp
Posted in 15th Aug, 2019
After our flights were delayed, feeling exhausted from the 15+ hour flight, we arrived at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport at 11.15pm.
Making our way past many eager taxi drivers, we met our energetic Himalayan Guide, Pratap, who was waiting for us just outside the airport with a ‘Keep Walking Nepal’ sign. He greeted my wife, Chikayo, and I by putting a golden scarf around our necks (a brilliant Nepalese tradition). He made a quick call for a taxi and we were on our way. Once we reached the ‘Hotel Tibet’, we quickly made our way to our room to fall fast asleep, dreaming of the adventure to come.
After the first day full of Sightseeing, Thamel shopping, delicious Nepalese food, and trek briefings, we were full of anticipation for our flight to the infamous Lukla Airport and our 17-day Himalayan trek.
It wasn’t long before we were all boarded on a small, fully-packed, propellor aeroplane admiring the fantastic mountain views you can see shortly after you take off from Tribhuvan. Then, a mere 30-minute flight later, it was time to land at Lukla.. known as one of the World’s most dangerous airports. I said a little prayer to myself.
The prayer worked. After safely arriving at Lukla, then having a cup of tea to calm the motion-sickened stomach, we were back on our way to the first destination Phakding.
Along the track, we crossed many a suspension bridge overlooking the powerful Dudh Koshi (translated: Milky River). Making our way up the massive Solukhumbu valley, we passed through several small communities, stopping to have a Dal Bhat (Nepalese Curry) lunch in Monjo. Bought a raw carrot from a stall vendor, washed and ate it (my biggest mistake). We met many excited fellow trekkers from different parts of the world. I was stopped by a local as I mistakenly used a paid toilet, instead of the next-door free toilet and didn’t realise it. We spotted a family of Wild Himalayan Tahrs and reached the Sherpa Capital of Namche Bazaar. All in a day’s walk.
The next (supposedly) rest day, as we started to climb to Namche Bazaar’s ‘Everest View Hotel’ (EVM), both altitude sickness and stomach problems struck me. First, I descended back to our accommodation in Namche, then ended being toilet-ridden for the rest of the day. That rascally raw carrot taking vengeance.
While Diamox medication cleared the altitude sickness, my stomach problems stuck with me for the next week. But I pushed on. Finally reaching EVM, then seeing native birds known as Danfe & Kalij just outside Tengboche (home to Tibetan Buddhist monastery), and reaching Dingboche, the going got tougher and tougher. Staying hydrated becomes more difficult, and with the air’s oxygen down to approximately 64%, taking a full-breath was harder too. But, the views were priceless/breath-taking – seeing few clouds during the morning, the views of Ama Dablam and as we climbed higher, Lhotse, Nuptse and the magnificent Mt. Everest (In Nepalese: ‘Sagamartha’ from which the National Park is called).
Finally, days later, after several more hours of trekking, we reached Everest Base Camp. An unforgettable moment full of jubilation. Many photos were taken and high fives were given. Awaiting the next day, starting at an early 5.30am from Gorak Shep, toes and fingers losing their feeling from the cold, we would reach our highest point of 5,535m at Kala Patthar.
Chikayo, my wife, was starting to feel ‘worse for wear’, but she too wanted to continue. So, we made our way back through Lobuche to Dzongla for next night’s rest. After Dzongla, the next few days would mean crossing two slippery, ice-covered passes, Cho La & Renjo La, 5,420m and 5,360m respectively and traversing the long Ngozumpa glacier. On already exhausting legs, the going was tough. But, determined to make the most of it, we pushed on. And, my word, we were glad we did!
Between the two passes is a place called Gokyo, known for its’ beautiful lakes, World’s highest bakery and the climb to Gokyo Ri (5,357m) where we saw the most amazing views. Gokyo Ri was so good I decided to climb twice in the same day, the latter at sunset to see the angelic reflection on Mt Everest.
Yet, the sunset was COLD! At the top, my hands started to hurt and lose their feeling from the cold, so cold I decided to put them in the warmest place I knew.. In my pants, while descending quickly. The idea worked. My hands started to regain feeling and I soon could descend slower. As it was now night, stars blanketed the sky. I stood in awe, looking up at the clearest of night skies I had ever seen. I felt privileged to be alive.
Chikayo and Pratap were awaiting my return at the hotel. Glad to see I was okay, we shortly went to bed ready to take on the second pass, Renjo La, the next day.
At 4.45am, we woke to get ready for the pass. By 6.00am, we were on our way. A chilly morning, we caught our first glimpse of the sun’s ray through the mountain peaks before 7.00am. By 9.30am, we had reached the top. Our last view of Mt. Everest, more photos. We quickly descended about 1,000m to Lumde to stay that night.
After this, feeling totally exhausted from the day after day trekking and stomach sickness, the next few days seemed to drag on. Chikayo had enough of carrying her bag, so Pratap and I assisted by taking turns to carry it. As well, rather than spurring ourselves to see the next amazing view, we instead imagined what we would eat for lunch or dinner. Dal Bhat, Himalayan pizza, or yak steak. What would be on the menu at the next lodge?
As I had lost over 2 kilograms during my trek, I started eating bigger breakfasts. Each morning, I would eat chocolate pancakes and cheese omelettes. Yummy! Also, if we found a great coffee shop, we would take a break and have a mocha or cappuccino.
We finally returned to Lukla, where many a trekker were celebrating their achievement of reaching Everest Base Camp. We had more great meals, chatting with fellow trekkers, and immersing ourselves in the local culture learning a few basic Nepalese sayings.
Finally, the last day, we woke 7.30am for an early flight departure from Lukla return to Kathmandu. The take-off from Lukla was even more exciting than the landing. Not to mention the views from the aeroplane were clearer than they had been 17 days previous.
Arriving in Kathmandu, we were greeted by Ang Sherpa from ‘Keep Walking Nepal’ at the Hotel Tibet. We reminisced over our time and we could tell this was not going to be the only time we would come to Nepal. Now, back in Australia, we are already planning our next trip to Nepal!
Philip and Chikayo
North Adelaide, Australia