Day Eleven – Lobuche to Gorak Shep and Climbing Kala Pattar

Everest Above Our Heads and Base Camp at Our Feet

EBC Trekkers standing on Kala Patthar in front of Mount Everest and above Everest Base Camp
The trainer, me and that yellow wig with Everest above our heads and Base Camp at our feet.

The Million Dollar View from Kala Pattar

And the Trainer’s Last Words

Day Eleven – Lobuche to Gorak Shep and climbing Kala Pattar (5545m)

People who have been to Everest Base Camp or have researched the trek know the highlight of the trek is not Base Camp but is the climb to Kala Pattar above Gorak Shep to view Mount Everest from the closest and highest viewpoint on the main EBC Trail. Many trekkers climb the hill in the dark to see the sun rise on Everest or in the evening to see the sun set. Climbing in the afternoon after first arriving in Gorak Shep and an early lunch is also an option.

Unlike our first trek in 2013, when we had no porter a notebook would have been considered excess weight.

During our prolonged packing planning phase, every gram was weighed and assessed and rationalised. More on that later too. On our recent trek I did take a small notebook and I kept a very short diary. My last entry to this diary was in fact the previous day (Day Ten Dughla to Lobuche). Why? Because day eleven and the following two days are big days and you are very tired, as a result. I came back down from Kala Pattar, exhausted and was fast asleep at 5:30.

Most treks go from Lobuche to Kala Pattar. You start off early from your lodge and the walk out is quite flat initially, over turf sometimes with small streams and little puddles of water which reminded me of rock pools. Not far out of Lobuche is the turn off to the Italian Weather Pyramid. The Trainer had been there the afternoon before to explore and take photos. I had taken the soft option of resting up for this big day.

Home in Melbourne before the trek he had often looked at the weather on the webcam on the pyramid. The closest thing to the Bureau of Meteorology at Base Camp. The building looks spectacular from the photos. And more amazing when you see first hand how building materials are moved along the trail.

There is a very short steep climb not long after setting out but after that most of the walk is flattish. The trail crosses the moraine of the Changri Glacier. There are mountains on both sides of the long valley and the landscape is stark but stunning and like a moonscape.

Lobuche to Gorak Shep
Eveerest Base Camp Trek Dughla to Lobuche

You move closer to the conical peak of Pumori another mountain fairly easy to identify. That’s it peeking out on the left of the hill in the photo above.

The flattish path is strewn with rocks and often becomes rutted turf. It was relatively easy climb for us because we were managing the altitude well with half a Diamox tablet taken twice daily and our slow itinerary. I had started taking the Diamox in Dingboche.

This was part of the advice we took from Lhakpa from Khumbu Adventures in Kathmandu the day before we flew to Lukla. We had different advice from different sources, different doctors, including some very good advice from a GP in our group of doctors who had been there on several occasions.

Firsthand experience is always good but at the end of the day Lhakpa has led many treks to Base Camp and many other mountainous regions so we decided to take his advice which was to take the Diamox at 4,000 metres, regardless of how we were feeling.

Lobuche to Gorak Shep
Lobuche to Gorak Shep
Crossing a stream over the rocky trail to Gorak Shep

The bridge above takes the prize for being the smallest of the many bridges you cross on the trek to Everest Base Camp.

Coming into Gorak Shep with the Mountain Range Above
Coming into Gorak Shep with the path to Kala Patthar above the left of my head.

I felt a huge sense of achievement arriving at Gorak Shep and a great sense of anticipation. The mountain Pumori towers over Gorak Shep with its dry lake bed and seven or eight lodges. We picked the lodge to stay in, though we did this quickly, retrospectively precious time was wasted doing it.

After lunch we walked across the dry lake bed to the brown hill behind me in the photo above. Looks innocent enough compared to the huge ice-covered mountains surrounding it but Gorak Shep is 5170 metres, the climb to Kala Pattar at 5545 metres requires effort and pre-training to make that effort achievable. Sometimes trekkers on shorter itineraries are too exhausted to climb Kala Pattar.

The sky was almost cloud free. We were told on two occasions on the way up EBC looks quite beautiful in the morning light. So we decided to do the same and walk there the next morning and do Kala Pattar in the afternoon. Most people trek to Base Camp on the day they arrive in Gorak Shep.

Climbing Kala Patthar October 2015
The path to the top of Kala Pattar the hardest few hours of the trek for me.

The mountains of Lingtren, Khumbutse and Changste are in clear view and Everest begins to appear.

Kala Pattar means Black Rock named after the black rocks at the top of the hill. Some hill. The climb to the top or more precisely to the flag pole, took two hours. At one stage I was ahead which made a change, but then was overtaken by The Trainer. I waved him ahead because there were clouds coming and we wanted the view and the photos without them. Basanta our porter guide stayed with me.

The climb was hard. In some ways it was easy without rocks to watch for tripping etc and no stone steps. There are no yaks or porters with loads to dodge.

I could stop easily and there were lots of spots to sit and catch your breath. I did this often. My legs were burning which hadn’t happened before.

At the top the hard bit was the large boulders we had to scramble over to get to the flag pole with the prayer flags. Quite close to the point where the flag pole was I thought I couldn’t go any further. Puffing, legs burning and exhausted I was ready to give up on the final bit and be happy with the view from there. Who said I had to climb to the top anyway?  I yelled out to Sam who was at the top. “Do I have to come to the top?” And what were the Trainer’s last words? “Come on Louise this is what you trained for!” he yelled back. He was right. With one last effort and the help of Basanta pulling and pushing me over the boulders I made it to the flag pole. Of course the Trainer with his photographer hat on captured the moment – almost too exhausted to wave for the camera.

After I got my breath back. We took the obligatory photos careful not to step backwards off the boulders while the clouds rolled our way.

Mount Everest
Mount Everest cloud free from the top of Kala Pattar
On Kala Patthar with Mount Everest in the Background
Triumphant moments, happy snaps and the yellow wig.

And yes, then the wig appeared. The yellow wig. It had been purchased back home in Melbourne with the statement that the Trainer intended to wear it at Base Camp. I told him what I thought of that idea and then forgot all about. He had hidden it in the luggage and then in his pack and there it was. Two young Japanese guys up there with us thought it was hysterical. They loved it and borrowed it for some of their shots and it had a popular showing and sharing the next day at Base Camp. Basanta also liked it and he can be seen in some of those photos wearing it.

Triumphant Trekkers Above Everest Base Camp on Kala Patthar
Me, the Trainer and the Porter

So, a series of triumphant photos and videos where shot in different poses on different cameras with different photographers. Of course, the Open Door Singers sign appeared for the big moment.

We had made it. Safely and without even a blister. The training had been spot on to getting us there without drama and worth it in many ways.

Trekking in Nepal and trekking to Base Camp hadn’t been on my grand plan. Hadn’t been on any of my travel or bucket lists. I wasn’t going to be left behind and after the failed attempt to reach Base Camp in December 2013 it had felt like unfinished business. If you don’t succeed the first time, try again. If not for the Trainer pushing me on, encouraging and teasing me and having the travel wanderlust I would have never have had the wonderful experience. Of course, I had an inkling on my honeymoon that I was in for a ride, when he dragged me across the Sahara.

And of course, the view was magnificent. Magic. Stunning. Many people cry at this point after the anticipation, the huge trek, the training, the preparation, the effort, for some maybe the pain, certainly the beauty and the grandeur. You are standing in the most enormous, magnificent landscape. You realise how insignificant you are in the scheme of things and how enduring and ancient the place you are in, is. It is a privilege. Astronauts experience this looking at earth from outer space. For those of us not aspiring to space travel this will be our astronaut moment.

Of course, I cried. I allowed myself that. I cried many times on this wonderful life changing trek. I can honestly say that except for a few tears on the way up to the top of Kala Pattar which I quickly stopped, telling myself it wasn’t that bad, none of the tears shed were in anger, pain, frustration or desperation. They were tears of happiness, tears of triumph, tears of disbelief and the very happy tears of relief of arriving in Lukla, fresh off the plane, grateful that we had changed our mind to cancel the trip due to the our post – earthquake fears.

We stayed on the top of Kala Pattar after the photos taking in the view. We were lucky there were only five people up there. One, because most people choose to climb to Kala Pattar early in the morning, two because it was very early in the second season after the monsoon and three due to the earthquakes, there were hardly any trekkers.

It is important to remember it is thanks to the Sherpa people and all the other Nepalese people who work hard to bring food and gear up the trail every year so people can have this wonderful experience. It is important to remember the back- breaking work of the men who carry building materials up the trail even all the way to Gorak Shep so that lodges can be built. Without them such an experience would not be possible.

I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, climbing Kala Pattar would be on it. But I wouldn’t consider it ticked off because I had done it. Trekking in Nepal is addictive and I would like to think that I would do this trek again, at least one more time.

Other posts to read

At Everest Base Camp

Day Ten Dughla to Lobuche

Starting out Day One

The  Bridges

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33 thoughts on “Day Eleven – Lobuche to Gorak Shep and Climbing Kala Pattar

  1. Hi James, Yes it is an amazing thing to do. The first tip is start training six months out and buy your gear and start wearing in your boots early.Second thing, timing the seasons is important because of the extreme weather and also you want to avoid the rainy monsoon season. August might not be best month. There are two seasons for the Khumbu area. March – May and October to December and in particular April, October and November. There are lots of websites which have a lot of tips and facts. I do plan to put some info like this on my blog but it all takes time. Oh yes – take a porter or porter guide if you are planning to travel independently. For your safety, enrichment on the trip and the economy of the area and Nepal in general.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kala patthar is absolutely amazing based on the pictures I’ve seen. I’ll see how I do with my first time trekking the Khumbu region and perhaps I’ll go farther next time. I heard it is addicting and I just know I will be addicted too.

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  3. A great read Louise and thanks for sharing it. It wouldn’t be for me as it’s far too cold, but I enjoy a challenge and enjoyed reading how you dealt with the challenges facing you. Good on you. What next after Sahara and base camp?

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  4. Not sure yet but we will probably go back to Nepal in a two years to the Annapurna area or back to Base Camp via a different route maybe over the Chola Pass. Regarding the cold it wasn’t that cold this trek. We wore t-shirts during the day at times but different areas can be windy like the top of Kala Pathar. Thanks for reading the post.

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  5. What a wonderful read Louise. Obviously this trek was a life changing experience for you and one that you prepared well for. With the help of your “personal trainer” of course, how lucky that you have the complete package in your man! Seriously though, I have no doubt it was a hard and challenging trek but incredibly worthwhile, the photos are stunning and I felt like I was right there with you while reading. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. I enjoyed reading this and just felt so much like – man I want to do this!! So amazing. Glad you found me because I can now read about your journey .

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  7. Thank Alesia. That’s the intention to get people to want to go there and also point out that if I can do it anyone can. Apologies if I ever slip and put a double s in your name because my daughter is Alessia and that is how I found you when I was scrolling through comments on someone’s posts. I have never come across the name with one s.

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  8. Pingback: Training for EBC in July and August | the year I touched my toes

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  10. Hi Louise,
    many thanks for sharing this blog and the beautiful photos. I think you have vicariously enlightened me. I have now figured out what this world needs. We need more people to wear yellow wigs and go climb mountains. Thanks for showing the world that it can be done. Can just imagine the young Japanese boys in the yellow wig. Now that is a story to take home!
    Michael S.

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. Francesca thank you, your comment on this particular post means a lot. I spent about three weeks writing it. Reading, editing to get it as perfect as I could, many times the tears streaming down my face as I wrote and read it aloud. My mother said she cried when she read it and felt she really got a sense of being there.

    However I didn’t get as much traffic from my blog followers as i thought i would. I have since found out that a post goes into the reader in the date of the first draft not the date you hit the publish button.

    Most of my posts are in draft for a while, the minimum of a couple of days and for the longer posts a couple of weeks.I am now doing my drafts in word and cutting and pasting them in. I know about setting the date and time on the publish but I like to control that button pushing myself.

    Thanks for reading and the comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I also like to control my publish dates, but I have never had a draft go straight into reader. That’s odd. It’s just as well, because some of my drafts are super rough. Your posts come to me as emails when their properly published. I always seem to forget about the Reader option.

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  16. This is a brilliant description of a truly amazing hike!
    I would love to follow in your footsteps and do this one day!!

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  17. I did try to persuade my husband that we should go to the Himalayas for our honeymoon, but he thought we should visit mountains that would also allow us a teeny bit of luxury and wine!

    We’ll get there one day though!!

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