I made it! No altitude sickness no air rescue and no broken bones! The Everest Base Camp trek was quite simply breath taking. We left the monsoon showers and heat of Kathmandu to a more temperate feel in Lukla where our trekking began. We had a short flight to Lukla which I was hesitant about given the stories I'd heard about the runway at Lukla, they weren't wrong. We had a delay in boading the small 16 seater plane whilst they put the chairs in which were at first on the runway in Kathmandu!! (The less seats there are on the plane the more rice and supplies they can fly up to the mountains!) The 40 minute flight was interesting with just 11 people on board including pilot, co-pilot and an air hostess who handed out cotton wool to drown out the engine noise, needless to say there was no safety demo first! The views were awesome but I was more concerned about landing...the airstrip at Lukla is the size of a small car park and the runway ends at a cliff edge but all went well. We were met by our Shepa (Arjun) and our guide (Govinda) who had travelled with us from Kathmandu, after a quick cup of milk tea the trek began to Phadking (2610m) which took just a couple of hours the rest of the day was our's to rest, it was 10.30am! So an easy first day, we met a guy called Rob from Canada that evening, he stayed at the trekking lodge and was on his way back down he was the first of many to tell us about the horror stories of people not making it to base camp due to the altitude and lack of oxygen..he himself had palpitations and sickness but he completed the trek.
The trekking lodges we stayed in were very comfortable the further up we travelled the more expensive things became, hot showers were extra but our package included accomodation and three meals per day, Of the 14 days we spent trekking we only encountered one bad lodge I've put a photo of the toilet in the base camp album there's a Yak head on the wall...!
It's out of season now for trekking to base Camp so we more or less had the trails to ourselves which was so nice. We were told there are up to 400 peope trekking per day in high season. We were also lucky with the weather . Our guide said in the last 10 yrs he has never known it to be so good, we had blue skies and very warm temps until mid afternoon each day then the clouds would roll in but by then our trekking would have finished for the day. Most days began at 6am with on average about 5hrs per day of walking largely climbing uphill. (My legs are now solid which has made up for lack of a gym for 3 months!)
Our guide and sherpa were extremely entertaining. Govinda carried my rucksack for two weeks and Arjun caried Av's, Martins and his own luggage, the sherpas really are super humans in terms of strength and stamina. Arjun completed the whole trek in flip flops carrying nearly 3 times his own bodyweight!!
Anyway day two was quite tough, having spent the last two months in Muslim counries covered up it was had to prepare for the trek other than to swim in hotel pools. Kerry gave me some sound advice before I left though having done the trek herself to walk slowly, drink lots of water and eat as much as I could, I followed all of this and managed to keep altitude sickness at bay! Namche Bazaar (3440m) was our next stop for an acclimatisation day and rest. The small town cut into a mountain side was quiet without any other tourists but we struck lucky and found ourselves as honourary guests at a local festival. Due to altitude alcohol was off the agenda on the way up but we had local homebrew quite literally forced into us by the already drunk locals at 11am! They then covered our faces in a flour like substance and then tried to give us straight whiskey! It was quite surreal up in the mountains. We then went to the Everest Museum and sat outside in the sun and were then lucky enough to catch our first glimpse of Mt Everest itself due to good weather, it looked a million miles away!
After a rest in Namche day 4 was spent walking to Tengboche (3860m) with a visit to a Monastery thrown in. On route we were met by 4 Americans from Alabama they were missionaries but put the fear of god into us! None of them had made it and one of them was on oxygen. However we then learnt why....they had spent just 3 days trying to reach base camp which in terms of altitude is absolutely ridiculous! If you fly into Base camp from sea level you will die. They nearly went home in boxes. We were taking 8 days to reach base camp and were safe in the knowledge we were taking it slow to acclimatise well.
In Tengboche we spent the evening with another trekker Alex from Austria who had been on the same flight with us and was taking the same route, we would meet from time to time depending on which lodges we were staying in. It was so good to be away from the truck and due to th few number of tourists it felt like a complete retreat fo us! All 3 of us remained very focused for the first week though wanting so much to reach base camp!
We ate Dal Bhat most days which is the traditional Nepalese dish of rice and curry but the menu's at the lodges were all really good and one particular desert went down well... 'snickers pie'!! meat was not on the agenda the further up we went the less it became available as it has to be caried up by the sherpas and I wouldn't trust Yak meat at altitude! ( I did have buffalo on the first night though which was delicious!) We were ahead of schedule most days and our guide was impressed with our stamina which was good, the further up we went the more I suffered from a few minor headaches but this was pefectly normal and I took a few Dimox tablets for precautionary measures!
Next stop was Tengboche to Dingboche (4410m) and another acclimatisation day which we spent climbing a hill (Nagarjun) up to 4900m! The air was so thin and the sun so strong at that height my knees burnt to a crisp! ( I had suncream on Mum!) Next day and higher stil to Lobuche (4910m) now Lobuche was the point at which the boys from alabama turned back so we knew psychologically if we made it to there ok we'd be in with a chance of reaching base camp! We did. Other than a few palpitations at night when trying to sleep we were fine! It's crazy how slow you have to walk though especially uphill, your heart is pounding but as soon as you stop it returns to normal. The landscape at Lobuche was weird quite lunar infact and we saw our first rescue chopper airlifting someone out. The peaks by now were truly amazing, as most of you know I've always been a bit of a beach/sea person rather than a trekker but this trip is slowly converting me into a mountain freak!
Day 8 Sat 30th June the big one, Lobuche to Gorak Shep (5140) to Base Camp!! (5364m) After a full bowl of tsampa for breakfast (Nepalese porridge) we headed off into the heat, my arms were burning at 7.30am and it was far from the cool temps we were expecting! We arrived at Gorak Shep and checked into our lodge before resting and leaving for Base Camp a couple of hours later. Base camp itself is on a moving glacier and as it's out of season we knew there would be nothing there! After what felt like an eternal walk we arrived at 2pm absolutely enthralled! Although we had no views of Everest itself the glacier and surrounding peaks were stunning. I put some prayer flags up and we found a few bits of debris from a helicopter crash two years ago the guides thought they'd use the propellor shaft to attach my flags to....much to my dismay!!
We stayed at Base camp for a few hours listeinng to the glacier crack and melt and took some time by oursleves to take it all in. We hadn't summited Everest but I felt pretty close to it! I hope my photos do the trek some justice....we then walked back to Gorak Shep for rest as our next day started early at 3.30am, not content with base camp we planned to climb higher to 5550m to Kala Pattar (panoramic view point) to see Everest itself at sunrise. I was quite nervous walking up our last climb to see the highest mountain in the world and I had an Aussie guy behind me throwing up, unfotunately he had to turn back. I continued the slow climb up which took just short of 2 hours purely uphill at altitude on an empty stomach but there was no way I was turning back! The views on the way up and at the top were some of the best I have seen in my entire lifetime....
So there you have it we made it! It was far from a walk in the park but as I said we felt truly blessed with the weather, lack of tourists and our stamina! Needless to say the next few days walking back down were entertaining given that we could have a few too many drinks again! We had built up a great rapport with our guide and sherpa and they kept us thoroughly entertained. When we reached Lukla Arjun our Sherpa invited us back to his house for the local homebrew 'millet wine' his little house was very basic but his wife and family made us feel extremely welcome.
The final flight out of the mountains from Lukla was again interesting given that the runway was pretty much non existant, it felt like we were in a formula one car, they revved up the engines whilst stationary to such an extent I thought the engine would blow then we accelerated at immense speed dropping off the runway/cliff edge at the end thankfully to be in mid air and not descending! By far the scariest take off I have ever endured!
So I'm now back in the land of the living and it's hard. Two weeks of peace and quiet no vehicles, no touts just the mountains. Kathmandu is now not so appealing and I've been hiding away in the internet cafes for a couple of days now! (The monsoon has arrived but it's still in the high 30's with very little rain, I hear I'm missing another great British Summer??!) Our first night back was good though several celebratory 'everest' beers were high on our agenda hence why I couldn't manage to write this blog yesterday as planned! We met up again with Alex and she copied all 400 of my trek photos a back handed compliment I feel!
We're here until Wednesday then it's off to Tibet and China for 3 weeks, the truck arrives in Kathmandu tomorrow so I'm looking forward to catching up with 'most' of the other truck folk but not all!! As always hope you're all well and happy and thanks for the messages.
Big congrats to Special Constable Oldfield for getting in I'd like to see those boots buffed! and Dave K for the baby news although as I heard it from Marcus I'm still not sure whether or not to believe him Dave - can you confirm?! TP thanks for the Glasto update longest mail by far it was awesome babe thankyou so much!
Missing you all loads, keep in touch.