I met the group in the early afternoon. There is 15 of us, 4 britains (they live local to me) and the rest are ozzies and kiwis. The tour leader I think is going to be an inspiration to me, this is his 60th trip to base camp. He's also done everest marathon and came 11th last year, he did it in 4 hours 11 mins, I think the winner did it 3 hours 50 something. I asked him if he trained for it and he said no. We were given the instruction that we were to vegetarians for 2 weeks as the meat in the mountains can be very old and can give you food poisoning, not something I don't anything would want. We were also told that we were to refrain from alcohol for 2 weeks too as it can make altitude sickness far worse, quite hard when it's the festive period back home and we're on holiday. My room mate says he got a bottle of rum and Xmas pudding for when we make base camp on Xmas day and he says he's definitely going to have them both.
We left early at 5:15 to catch the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla airport. I hadn't had much the sleep the night before as I was quite excited. The weight for packing was 10kg check in and 5kg hand luggage, it was tight, my camera and lenses weighed 3kg, my sleeping bag was 2kg alone. As I was worried about being refused onto the plane, I had 4 layers on and I had my lenses, sweets and solar panel in all my pockets. As the weather was good at both Lukla and Kathmandu we were one of the first planes to take off. The plane was tiny and propelled, we could see the pilots in the cockpit and there was limited space for hand luggage. The plane was quite civilised as there there was an air hostess on the plane handing out sweets. The flight was spectacular although scary, it didn't help when I saw the pilot wiping the condensation off the window with a flyer. There was a bit of turbulence, but not as much as I expected, there was a couple of times when the plane turned 10 degrees to right as it combatted the mountain winds. The landing was an experience too, I filmed it, but unfortunately the sun was shining into the cockpit and it came out a bit glary.
The first days trek was around 4 miles and was elevation from 2800m to 2600m (according to my garmin). The temperature wasn't too bad, we were told that it was between 10-15 degrees, although in the shade it was much cooler. The scenery was spectacular and mountains were snow capped which made it more spectacular. After reaching the first tea house, we had some lunch and then went to another walk that was only 2 miles and was similar elevation which was to help with the acclimatisation. The tea house was simple, but had solar powered electric and a flushing toilet. It also had electric point and wifi, which were both expensive and the wifi didn't work. In the first evening we were treated to a film called "into thin air" which was good, I was surprised that we had such good facilities, although I'm not expecting it too last long.
That night I experienced my first earthquake, it was 5.9 on the ricktor scale. I couldn't sleep much afterwards as I thought our bedroom was on stilts so I was a little worried that there may be an after tremor. I was quite warm, prob too warm in my sleeping, I know that is going to change as we go up. I think the temperature was below freezing at 7pm our room was 2 degrees.
Friday (day 2) an earlish rise at 6:30 and I had a bowl of porridge which was nice as it was warm. We left shortly after breakfast to start the long slog to namche bazaar (3400m above sea level). The first part of the trek was a descent of 200m through pine forests crossing rivers on metal suspension bridges. We stopped for lunch and I had veg rice noodles with cheese, it tasted alright for a strange concoction. We were told that we needed 2L water for the ascent, I got my filled up by a Sherpa and he unfortunately filled to the top making it 3L. After lunch we did the 1000m ascent upto namche bazaar, i found it ok, although i definitely noticed my breathing was quite heavy and i felt a little light headed. The light headedness went after a stop and a drink of water. My backpack seemed to weigh a lot as well, I'm not sure if it was the altitude or the extra water I had been given. As we approached namche bazaar we starting to walk into the snow line which was quite nice, although I'm sure I'll suffer the higher I go up. We arrived in namche bazaar around 15:45, the tea house is quite warm and the rooms are very basic. I reckon we'll be in for a cold night.
I had quite a good sleep although as I've been going to bed early I'm waking at 3am in the morning. I was warm In my sleeping bag even though it was -12 outside our unheated room. On Saturday it was a acclimatisation day, so we had to walk to a higher altitude and walk back down to prepare us for our next stage. We walked from namche bazaar to syangboche, which is the highest airport in the world. They used to land planes on it, but now it is only helicopters. The airport is at 3850m above sea level. We got our first glimpse of everest, Abu dablem and lokse. The scenery was fantastic and as we were at higher ground and in winter there was plenty of snow to trudge through. The paths were quite slippy as the snow had compressed to ice so I was quite glad I had bought some trekking poles in Kathmandu. The sun is also very strong and the snow is making it worse, it feels quite weird putting sun cream on when it's only 12 degrees at the most. I'm finding that the physical exercise is making me perspire and then the sun cream runs into my eyes, I take my sun glasses off to sort out my eyes and then get blinded by the sun.
After returning back down to namche (3450m) I had lunch, vegetable curry, it was nice although I'm getting a bit tired of the limited choice even though the meals are nice. After lunch I asked the tour leader to take me to a proper trekking shop to purchase some genuine gloves. I have gloves but I know as we get closer to base camp the temperature is -22c and I don't think my gloves are sufficient. I purchased some better gloves and some hand warmers so now I feel confident. After getting more gloves I went to the bakery and got a chocolate cake and a hot chocolate, it was nice although I started to to feel light headed. The light headedness continued so when I got back to the tea house I told the tour leader and he gave me some electrolytes and a some sickness tablets and a litre of water. I feel quite safe as the Sherpas are very experienced in altitude sickness, plus they have all the medication including oxygen.
I felt a lot better after a good nights sleep, I did however get up once in the middle of the night for the toilet, which I suppose is one of the the side effects of diamox, the constant need to go to the toilet. We left just after breakfast and starting waking, today was going to be a 6 hours of walking going as high as 4000m then dropping down to 3600m to then climb upto Photse, a village at 3800m. The scenery was spectacular and as we were below 4000m we were still walking through winding cliff trails though pine forests. We got a good views of Mount Everest and you can see cloud formations occurring as the wind was hitting the face of the mountain. As we were getting closer to Photse the views of mount Abu dablem were getting even better, it's no where near as high as everest but it looks harder to climb, I'm not sure if it. There is that many mountains around us as we walk it is very hard to work out which mountains you are looking at so I bought at pack of playing cards of all the mountains in Nepal so I can work then out on my photographs. The walk from namche bazaar to Photse was quite a tough walk as the uphills were hard with the altitude, I wish I had a heart rate monitor because i would be definitely interesting to see my heart rate over my pace and also te calorie usage. The downhills weren't much easier either, yes they were fine for breathing but because most of the path was in the shade, the compacted snow that inches thick of ice, hadn't melted. I did go over once, I managed to stay on both legs but my camera that was around my neck swung around abit. Luckily my camera lens hood was on the lens and that protected my lens. We arrived in Photse around 4ish and already the sun was dropping behind the clouds. The temperature drops very fast when the sun goes behind the mountains, the temperature tonight is going to be -17 degrees. The tea houses have no insulation whatsoever, they're constructed from sheets of plywood so I reckon I'll feel the cold tonight. I felt a lot better today at the altitude, I did however drink 4L of water and had garlic soup for lunch which may have helped. We are now at the altitude where they don't have gas bottles for fuel for the fire, they use dried out yak dung instead. We've been told that after this village, solar panel will be the means of power.
I had to get up again that night for the toilet at 2am, it's so annoying as you have to get out of a nice warm sleeping bag and then go to the outside toilet where the temperature is -17 degrees. It must have been cold during the night as my toothpaste was near frozen in the morning when I went to brush my teeth.
We left at phortse at 7:30 in the morning, the sun had risen but was behind the mountains so it was freezing. Today's trek was from phortse to dengbotse (4400m above sea level). The scenery changed quite abit today as we went above 4000m, the pine forests disappeared and baroness took over, there wasn't as much snow but there was plenty of dust. I found the walk not too bad, I think I may be getting used to the altitude, my dizziness has disappeared completely. At lunchtime the tour leader pulled out a device that measures % blood oxygen and heart rate. I tried it and my % oxygen was 90% and my resting heart rate was 82, I was one of the best in the group. Anything over 80% is good for this altitude.
We arrived in Dengboshe around 3ish and the tea house is as basic as all the others, it's constructed with plywood with no insulation whatsoever, although the toilet isn't oustide which is a bonus. I got changed straightaway as I wanted to get into my warmer gear as I know that this place is going to be absolutely freezing when the sun has gone down, so the thermal gear was put on. Dengboshe is quite a big village, but it does make me wonder why anyone would want to live here, it is in total isolation, no roads and about 20m away from the closest town so everything has to be carried by person or yak.
I had a good sleep Monday night, I was really warm in my thermal inner sheet, the room was freezing though. One of the girls on the trip had spilt her water on her fleece and woke up to find that her fleece was frozen solid. Tuesday was an acclimation day, we started later than other days, 8:30, we climbed from our accomodation to a height of 4750m and then came back down. I found it ok, going up was hard as I was trying to catch my breath and then going downhill wasn't much easier as it was slippy with the shingle and dust. The afternoon was a free afternoon, although there was very little to do in Dengbosche, my main highlights were charging my appliances through my solar panel and visiting the bakery. The bakery was the only place we could get wifi, I paid for an hour and got some chocolate cookies and a hot chocolate. It was rather strange in bakery as once the woman served us she b*****ed off and left us in the bakery on our own...she must of trusted us.
Another early night, i think I went to bed at 8:30 as there was nothing to do. I can tell that the lack of oxygen is affecting me, even getting undressed is exhausting. I was quite warm in my thermal sheet and bag, although when I woke up there was ice on the inside of the window so it must have been very cold.
We left Dengbosche on Wednesday (Xmas eve) at 8am for labousche (4900m above sea level). The walk started quite gentle for the first couple of hours until morning tea passing over several frozen rivers and streams. Following morning tea we had a steep climb that seemed to last for ages, I was so glad to reach the top. At the top was a commemorative memorial to people who had died on everest. We walked around and read some of the plaques that were dedicated to individuals who had died trying to climb the mountain. Following this we had another 45 minutes walk until we reached labousche. The tea house seems quite well built compared to others although the western toilet is frozen which isn't good as I've never used the Asian toilets for having a dump. After lunch we had to go for acclimatisation walk, we walked for an hour to a ridge which met the lumba glacier. It was a tricky walk and you had to be careful as it was rocky and very icy, a slip and it wouldn't be pleasant. The glacier didn't look like glaciers I'd seen in New Zealand and it was quite hard to believe that there was a river running underneath it, it just looked a gauged out piece of land filled with dust. Reaching the top of the ridge was the first time we had been above 5000m above sea level. We returned to the tea house as the sun was setting, I think we are in for a very cold night. The good thing about this tea house is it has a chess board so I had a few games with some of the group and won, I still went to bed at 8ish on Xmas eve as I had to be up at 5:30 on Xmas day. I kept thinking I can't believe how early I was going to bed.
I woke up at 5;30 to start the long trek to everest base camp. The room was absolutely freezing, there must have been at least 3mm of ice on the inside of the window. I wore a lot of layers as I knew it was going to be freezing, I had 5 layers on the upper body, 3 pairs of trousers and hat and balaclava plus double gloving. We first trekked to gorep shep (5180m above sea level) which took a few hours and as we trekked it passed the lumba glacier that extends from Mount Everest. The walking was quite tough as the terrain was very rocky and icy, it was also quite difficult to see a natural path leading to the town. We arrive at gorak shep around 10:30 and had our lunch (Xmas lunch) which was vegetable noodle soup. Following lunch we started the 3 hour journey to everest base camp. The terrain was quite hard as there was a lot of ice and rocks to walk across, at times I was quite worried that one slip and it would be a definite injury.
Once we arrived at base camp I was so happy that I had finally made it, it had taken 8 days of walking to get there but the journey itself was special. I did feel a great sense of achievement from doing it, something I'll always remember. Base camp itself isn't much to look at, lots of ice, rocks, dust and more ice, you can't see Mount Everest from base camp too. There was also no mountaineers there either due to the winter, although following the incident that happened earlier in the year when 16 Sherpas died, no one has summited everest this year. After 40 minutes of taking pictures at base camp we started the journey back to gorek shep, the journey took another 2 hours to get back to the tea house. When we got back to the tea house everyone was shattered, some people were falling asleep as we gathered round the fire. It feels that the journey is nearly complete, tomorrow we go to kala patar which is higher than base camp to get a sunrise shot and then we start descending which I'm looking forward too, no more diamox
I didn't get a good nights sleep that night whatsoever I think the altitude was playing its part. I got out of bed to the wake up call at 5:45 for kala pathur. It was freezing in the bedroom and I could hear that the wind had picked up so I knew it was going to be absolutely freezing. Originally 7 of us were going to do it but 3 dropped out in the morning. We set off shortly after 6am with our head torches and began the ascent of 550m over 1 mile. It was tough as the altitude was playing apart and I was out of breath after several steps, plus the cold wasn't helping. There was many a time when I actually thought what the hell am I doing. We finally reached the top which according to my garmin was 5650m above sea level. The views were spectacular of everest and the surrounding mountains and it was nice to see the sun rise behind them, however they were dampened by the sheer cold and the fact that you didn't want to take your gloves off. I reckon with the windchill it was below -20 maybe even -30 degrees Celcius. We didn't stay there long as I could feel my fingers starting to go numb in my -22 degrees rated gloves. We descended as quickly as possible and returned to the tea house. It was definitely one of the toughest things I've done and it made the trek to base camp look mediocre.
After breakfast we left to start our descent to 4100m. It was nice to start walking down hill and you could feel the oxygen coming back into your body. It was quite windy which did cause problems as it was throwing the dust into your face. We passed many people ascending and I couldn't help thinking how lucky I was that I had reached base camp. We descended very quickly and what took us several days to ascend we did in less than a day. We reached orsho around 4ish and I was shattered after a long day walking. My garmin had recorded 12.1 miles, most of which was on tough terrain.
Saturday wasn't such an early start which was good as I managed to get a little lie in. It was also nice to not wake up in the middle of the night due to the altitude or due to needing the loo due to taking diamox. We left after breakfast at 8:30 and today's trek was only a short one to tengboche monastery (3850m) of just over 4 miles. It was nice to see trees again as we dropped below the 4000m level. We arrived at the tea house around lunch time and I was surprised how cold the tea house was for being in the middle of the day. To be honest all tea houses are cold as they has no insulation whatsoever so what ever the temperature is outside it's nearly the same inside. I was so cold in the tea house that my fingers went white and I had to ask the tour leader to get me some hot water so that I could bring them blood back into circulation. Around 3ish we visited the monastery to see the monks although our visit was cut short as the monks had decided it was a bad day and therefore weren't going to do any chanting. We returned to the tea house and I practically sat on the fire to keep warm...I thought it was supposed to get warmer the lower we descend but this place isn't. I'm not exaggerating but it was actually warmer outside than it was in the main room inside the tea house.
We left reasonably early on the Sunday, I was glad I couldn't stick another minute of the cold in the tea house. It was warmer at base camp 1500m higher. The today's trek was to be a long one and we were to descend to 2800m, like all the days trekking in Nepal you don't walk 1000m down and then stop, you walk down the hill then back up another hill regaining the elevation lost until eventually you finish at your final destination. The walk was good but tiring however it was nice to descend to lower altitudes. We met several groups of Trekkers from the same tour company who were making there way to everest base camp. We found out that some of the other groups had already lost members due to altitude sickness, so it was a great achievement for our group to have all made base camp. We stopped off for our lunch at namche bazaar, the place we ate at felt like 5 star compared to other places, although the same menu serving the same food was placed in front of us. I'm really getting bored of eating the same food everyday. After lunch we continued out descent from namche passing through the pine forests and crossing metal suspension bridges. We eventually arrived at Chumoa around 4ish, after walking approximately 10 miles. It was a tough walk even though a lot of it was downhill, my knees were ok with it but my feet felt sore as the terrain was rocky for most of the trek. The tea house is simple, like all of them, but the main room was warm which is good. It's our last day walking tomorrow, we are planning on reaching Lukla around midday and then we have a meal with the Sherpas before we leave to go head back to Kathmandu on Tuesday.
The final day's walking was from Chumoa to Lukla. We woke around 6ish for an early departure of 7am. As we had walked this route before leading to base calm I knew that there would be quite a lot of uphill to get us back into
Lukla at 2800m. We didn't really stop on the way back and we did a total of 7.6 miles and arrived in Lukla at around midday. I was pleased as all the walking had been completed and all that awaits was the flight back. The afternoon was a free afternoon so as none had had a drink since the 17th December we all went to the pub and had a few beers to celebrate a fantastic but successful trek.
- In total I walked 80 miles in 12 days, it took 8 days to get to base camp and 4 to get back.
- I weighed myself before and after the trek when I got back to the hotel and I've lost 3kg. I ate very well everyday but the lack of meat, junk food and alcohol in the diet and the continuous exercise probably caused this
- I haven't downloaded my gps data at the moment so I can't give more stats like total elevation gained but I know it would be a lot. One thing that I wish I had was a heart rate monitor to get a true calorie burnage. Also I think it would be fair of me to say that my heart rate was probably beating harder climbing up some of the hills than competing in a 5 km race.
So here is:-
The low lights
Quite a few but let's remain positive as the low lights would never out weigh the highlights
Completing the 80 mile trek from Lukla to base camp and back again
Getting to the top of kala Pata, 5650m above sea level, higher and tougher than base camp.
Being part of the culture of the Sherpas and seeing the Himalayas the way it should be seen.
I was asked would I do this trip again and I said no way, there has been times when I've thought what that the hell am I doing but I came to realise this was probably one of the best things I've ever done. Not everyone makes it too base camp, a lot turn back due to the sickness, but if you do make it and return back to Lukla the feeling is amazing. There is not many countries I've been too that I would return too but I would definitely return to Nepal to do more trekking even if it isn't Mount Everest.
I think this wraps up my experiences of nepal and my trip to base camp, what I will say if you want to do it, or you like a challenge then go for it, don't think I could have done it, but I didn't, that's not the right attitude.
Hopefully I will return to Nepal for more trekking in the future, but for now I'm going to start my Xmas and new year celebrations and say goodbye.