Todd Samson and How Not to Trek in the Himalayas

Todd Samson’s Salute to Sherpas and Climbing Lobuche

todd-samson

What Todd Samson has been getting up to lately is far from tame. Todd Samson is an Australian Canadian television celebrity is currently in a show called Body Hack.

Each episode looks at a different group of people who are involved in extreme activity and how the body copes with it. Taking it one step further Todd Samson walks in their shoes for some time. The Nepalese episode looked at the life of the Sherpa people who work as porters along the Everest Base Camp Trail. Continue reading

Fashion on the Track

Striding Through Pheriche in the Khumbu

Periche

Here I am walking through Periche looking like the Michelin Man. There are lots of terrible shots of me on the trek with hat hair, up way too close etc. Showers are a rare thing on the track, so is clean hair and there are no mirrors. Complete with the hat and given today is the first Tuesday in November, the day of the nation stopping Melbourne Cup (horse race) I decided on a twist the Fashion on the Track theme. Tongue in cheek of course. However my ensemble does show off some accessories that you shouldn’t leave home for Everest Base Camp without. Continue reading

A Snapshot of the Bridges to EBC

Bridges the Traffic Lights of the Everest Base Camp Trek

via Daily Prompt: Bridge

Small bridge before Gorak Shep going to EBC

The last bridge before Gorak Shep, the last place with lodges before Everest Base Camp. That’s me and our porter guide just ahead. Continue reading

Dingboche Door Framed View

Lodge in dingboche Everest Base Camp trek

Our lodge in Dingboche

Climbing to Namche Bazaar

Day Two Phakding to Monjo 2013  and Phakding to Namche Bazaar 2015

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Above is the suspension bridge at Upper Phakding. We stayed at the lodge just above the end of the bridge in the photo on the way back down from our 2013 trek. The bridge on the Everest Base Camp Trek Blog and  my donkey video.

PLANNING THE TREK BY THE SEASONS

When planning our trek for late September we expected some rain. Continue reading

Donkey Central at Phakding – Chuk Chuk – Video

Donkeys on the trail to EBC

Keeping the slow donkeys moving from the safety of the sidelines. CHUK!

Rule Number Two: Give Way to the donkeys too.

I posted this video on Facebook on our first trek in November December 2013. It was taken on my iphone and shows the number of donkeys on the trail and why you don’t want to be on the bridge at the same time as donkey herd. Continue reading

Heading Out for Everest Base Camp – Day One Lukla to Phakding

Walking out of Lukla

trek n.1. a long difficult journey, esp. on foot 2. SA journey or stage, esp by ox wagon            3. make a trek  – trekker 

Saying Goodbye in Melbourne

In September 2015 my husband and I flew to Nepal to trek to Everest Base Camp. At the departure hall at Melbourne Airport saying goodbyes to our adult daughters,  the eldest hugged her father and said

                          “Dad, go easy on Mum remember it’s her holiday too.”  She turned                                      to me and said “Mum, ….man up.”

And with that sage advice…

Why I’m posting another version of our treks

On the first anniversary of our 2015 trek to Everest Base Camp I’m revisiting  the posts to compare some aspects of the 2013 trek, what we did differently, what factors contributed to the treks successes, how the weather, conditions and routes differed and to add extra content.

Debuche,  December 2013 and somewhere between

Mongla and Phortse Tenga September 2015

Meeting Doma and Lhakpa

We met Doma, our contact in Kathmandu, at our hotel. She had organised our return air tickets to Lukla, our TIMS card (the passport for the Khumbu area) and our porter – guide. In 2013, Doma had arranged this minus the porter.

Her husband Lhakpa was with her. After hearing about him and seeing his stunning photographs on Facebook it was nice to finally meet him. We discussed our itinerary with Lhakpa and decided to trek through Phortse for the views, rather than Tengboche.

Fortunately as it turned out, Doma said she would meet us with the air tickets to Lukla at the airport the next morning.

 Nearly Missing the Plane to Lukla

Most organised treks stay at Phakding the first night. How your day pans out really depends on when you fly into Lukla. The first flight is at sixish and if it is delayed so are all the other flights for the rest of day. Naturally everyone wants to be on early flights given they have to walk for three or four hours once they reach Lukla.

In 2013 we were unable to take off from Kathmandu for about three hours waiting for fog to lift. That was late November. Fortunately we were one of the first flights on that day and we were the first flight last year too. Last year we very nearly missed the flight due to the driver at the hotel sleeping in! Fortunately as Doma was at the airport to meet us she had people at every check point waiting for us to run in, rush us through and shepherd us to the next point. I have never been processed so fast in an airport, in my life.We waited a few minutes before getting on the bus to drive out to the plane on the tarmac to the plane.

Trek Planning Tip : Build some buffer days into your trek in case of problems with flights or altitude. 

9N-AKE at Kathmandu Airpot

Flying to Lukla

In 2013 I was very nervous flying into the infamous Tenzing-Hillary airport at Lukla. Here it is. About the size of a postage stamp.Yes you can see the entire length of the strip. No room for error but the pilots fly the route day in and day out.

Lukla Airport landing strip

Having done a return flight to Lukla before, I was feeling relaxed about taking the flight again in 2015. Until the earthquakes. Then I was anxious about another large tremor or a landslide. Imagine a major tremor happening while you are in the air and something happening to the air strip? I get anxious about some things…A lot of things actually.

At Lukla Airport

There were men waiting and hoping for porter jobs at the airport. I can’t imagine these days with the internet and the huge number of trekking agencies in Kathmandu many people would organise a porter at this point.

We were met at the airport by our porter guide Basanta. He took our bags and we walked to the other side of the runway to the Paradise Lodge. I had a very teary moment looking down on the runway relieved that we were finally there and feeling we had made the right decision to come.

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We organised ourselves at the Paradise Lodge, had a cup of tea and organise ourselves before heading off. For our first trek, Doma in Kathmandu suggested we leave our air tickets with Dawa the lodge owner, for safe keeping. This worked well for us as we turned back at Shomare and we needed to fly out earlier. Her son re arranged  our flights while we were still on the trail back down. So we left our tickets with Dawa again, told her when we would return and stay the night at the lodge before flying out.

I got very teary seeing Dawa again.When we left she zipped up my fleecy top, held my shoulders and told me me she would see me again when we got back from Base Camp. Reassurance. Yes, we would make it this time and we would be safe.

Number One Rule of The Mountains Trekking Out of Lukla

I imagine before trekking companies leave on a trek  they meet with their trekkers about what to expect on the trek. Some dos and don’ts before they leave Kathmandu. Although we were not part of a formal group I knew what to expect the Trainer had trekked in the Annapurna region in the 80s and he had researched etc. As we set off in 2013 I knew what he called number one rule of the mountain.

Rule 1 Stick to the mountain side when animals are passing. You don’t want to get pushed over the side of the mountain by a donkey or yaks plodding past.

No sooner had we stepped out to the main street of Lukla, the first yak train passed with their beautiful yak bells ringing.

It felt so surreal. I had all the gear. Had trained, knew about the challenges ahead, but I never done anything like it before. I felt like a person in the wrong body.

This is me (below) with my pumpkin coloured pack setting out in 2013. The sign was advertising the Everest Marathon in a few days. Ironically we were to see the official one set off on our second EBC trek in 2015.

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The track varied incredibly on the first day from cobblestones in Lukla,  quite even meandering parts, to rocky steps and very rocky sections. In the general scheme of things it is an easy day. We now know to double the time needed in one guide book. A second guide  book now seems closer to the mark. It took four hours for us to get to Phakding.

The track is the same path through the little villages and can be quite narrow in parts. Shared by trekkers, porters, pack animals ( yaks, donkeys and horses ) and kids on their way to school and is quite busy. I have selected the photos to show the variety aspects of the track on the first day.

Walking to Phakding

The track is fairly flat and not many rocks here – that is the exception

Between Lukla and Phakding

The track is described is an easy downhill walk to Phakding. I remember thinking on the first day – you’ve got to be kidding me. I learnt you have to go uphill sometimes to go downhill.

Prayer wheel at Ghat Everest Base Camp trek

The first day you get a taste of everything. The animals, the porter resting spots, the prayer wheels, the stupas, the mani walls and mani stones. Oh and the bridges, can’t forget those.

Porters loads at a resting point on the EBC Trek

Mani walls Everest Base Camp Trek Nepal

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Although the trail is in a remote part of the world it has rural feel in lower section before the climb to Namche. There are lots of little villages along the trail. There are many lodges before Phakding where most treks stay the first night. But not everyone goes all the way to Base Camp and also if a flight is delayed and or flew in later in the afternoon I guess trekkers can stay in one of the lodges before Phakding.

Main trail Lukla to Kala Patthar at Phakding

Arriving in Phakding early afternoon  September 2015 (above)

Royal Sherpa Phakding

Arriving late afternoon November 2013  at the Royal Sherpa Resort- the sun disappearing behind the hills. The Royal Sherpa Resort was one of the first lodges in Phakding coming from Lukla at the time.
In October 2018 on our return from Gokyo we noticed how many more lodges have been built since our 2015 trek below the Royal Sherpa.

An Extremely Quiet Trek and Season

Last year when we trekked it was extremely quiet. There were three reasons for this.

  1. We trekked at the end of the rainy season. October is the beginning of the second trekking season.
  2. Many tourists were scared off after the two earthquakes.
  3. After our flight and the three flights that followed (the four consecutive flights) there were no more flights into Lukla for four or five days due to bad weather. Some trekkers did fly in by helicopter.

Showers on the Everest Base Camp Trek

Having had a late afternoon shower experience in 2013 at the lodge above I was keen not to repeat the experience last year.The first year we had our own bathroom. Last year we did not shower despite being the only people in the hotel because of the quiet season. I was prepared to wait for a lovely hot shower in Namche.

Showers are an interesting experience on the EBC trek. They are few and far between. Controlling water temperature is very tricky and is likely to be scalding hot followed by freezing cold. And brief. While you dry off expect to be cold unless it a warm and mid afternoon.

 Other related first day posts

Day One 2013

Day One 2015 

Bridges 

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At the Top of Kala Patthar

Video

I made it. I climbed to Kala Patthar the highlight of the Everest Base Camp trek. The video of me reaching the top, breathless and exhausted.

Reminiscing – the Trip of My Life

IMG_1809The Best Travel Adventure

Trekking to Everest Base Camp

I had travelled through the Sahara and been to Timbuktu, seen Iguazu Falls and Rio and lived in Milan and Buenos Aires and was about to go on the trip of my life but I didn’t know it. I sat on the couch with a small pot of expensive lip moisturiser in my hands, crying. Continue reading

Facebook Flashback

Couch with sleeping bag

Facebook tells me it was one year ago today- the sleeping bags were being aired and I was nervously psyching myself up for the big picture. Mount Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Tabouche, Ama Dablam, Kantenga, Thamserku, Kala Patthar. Nervous and worried about landslides and aftershocks.

Recharging in Nepal

Resting Spots Along the Trail to Everest Base Camp

A post about the porters on my Everest Base Camp Trek blog is long overdue. The Daily Post Daily Prompt Recharge has given me a perfect launching point.

Trekking through the Khumbu you see resting points for porters to unload, rest and recharge. These resting spots are at a height so the porters can easily unload and reload onto their backs without having to lift their load from the ground. Porters loads at a resting point on the EBC TrekThe photo shows the typical oversized baskets called a doko used by porters. The T-shaped wooden walking stick at the bottom left of the screen is called a tokma. Continue reading

Mani Stones

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Quiet contemplation … Om Mani Padme Hum

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om_mani_padme_hum

Connecting When You Travel – Chokos, Children and Conversations

Namaste and Jum Jum Bistari

Last year in Nepal “connecting” started with learning a few words of Nepalese at the small hotel we stayed in Kathmandu. People always respond well if you have a go at speaking their language, they love it. My choice of words might seem strange. I learnt  Continue reading

Keeping Watch in Khumjung

Stupa at Khumjung in the Khumbu region of Nepal

Eyes peeping out from the yellow fringe seem sad against the grey cloudy backdrop. Despite being badly cracked from the 2015 earthquake, the stupa still stands sentinel at the end of the main path into Khumjung and watching over the Sir Edmund Hillary School.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/eyes/

Chance Encounter

Blogging Made Me Do It

Sick bag and keyboard

This is a true story.

Chance encounters with people I have never met, but know by association happen to me a bit. I am gregarious enough to stop the stranger and ask if they are so and so and introduce myself. My hit rate is fairly good and buoyed by my successes I continue to risk embarrassing myself  to make the connection. But sometimes I put two and two together and come up with five. Continue reading

Our Porter Guide

He met us at the baggage collection at Lukla airport. After a cup of tea and sorting our packs at the Paradise Lodge we were ready. He tied our bags together with his ropes, positioned the load on his head and led us out of Lukla, stopping every now and then to check we were following.

Consulting the map

Consulting the map

At first from his lack of response to our questions and attempts at conversation I thought he had limited English. But as he tuned in to our accents and we started to get to know each other, he spoke more.

On the second day he seemed a bit more relaxed and he started to teach us some Nepalese words. Jum jum, let’s go and appropriately on the hard climb to Namche Bazaar bistari bistari, slowly slowly. Jokingly he taught us quickly quickly. When we climbed to Khumjung the thick cloud forced my focus to my feet and the spider webs covered in dewdrops, he told me the words for spider and spider webs too.

Alpine flower Solukhumbu
Dew on spider webs

Familiar with the trail, he pointed out things I would never have seen without him. He pointed out birds and bee hives hanging in the crevices of rocks on the other side of the river. Sometimes he sang his Nepali songs. We watched fascinated by his animated conversations with others along the track and picked up his sense of humour and friendly nature.

At the end of the day when I wrote in my small diary, he reminded me of the things we had seen on the trail. He spelt out the Nepalese words I had learnt during the day and I helped him with some new English words in our guide books.

In Dingboche, surrounded by magnificent mountains he taught me their names. He helped while I practiced naming them in order, like a child reciting their abc, learning the Himalayan range spread before me.

Many times we waited together for donkeys and yaks to pass. Once I was caught in a tight spot and I turned away when I shouldn’t have. Fortunately Basanta was watching. I turned around in time to see him pushing a donkey away from me. If he hadn’t of done this the donkey’s side load would have pushed me over the small wall.

He pulled me up the huge black boulders to reach the top of Kala Pattar. Took photos of us together and celebrated with us at Everest Base Camp.

At Everest Base Camp

He called me Louise, sometimes jokingly Mom and sometimes Didi – Big Sister.

Sometimes he led. Sometimes he followed. And sometimes we walked side by side.

Khumjung Village Everest Base Camp TrekSometimes he lead
Porters climbing up to the bridge to Namche Bazaarsometimes he followed
Dingboche to Dughla Everest Base Camp Trekand sometimes we walked side by side

On the last day, walking back to Lukla a woman coming the other way silently pointed at the porter right behind me as if she thought I needed to move aside and let him pass. Yes I know, I thought, he is my porter and he has been close by for sixteen days. He has carried our load making our trek to Base Camp easier. He guided, pointed things out and watched out for us. He was our companion, Nepalese friend and shared his country with us. Thank you Basanta.

 

The porter guide and me
Saying goodbye at the Paradise Lodge in Lukla

 

 

Life Is Great in Retrospect

Why the Trainer and I turned back before Everest Base Camp in 2013.We trained more than when we made it in 2015 . We were fit enough. So why didn’t we make it ?

The Background Story

The sport teacher at work took an interest in my EBC training. One Monday morning he asked how it was going. I replied well but pulled up my trouser leg to show him the rash on both my ankles. He told me to go to the hospital immediately.

The colleague I share an office  with came to look at the rash. Unbelievably his wife had had the same rash, had spent time in hospital and could have died. I made an doctor’s appointment for the afternoon.

The doctor  looked at the rash on both my ankles said it wasn’t Cellulitis and agreed it was probably caused by my trekking socks. My bamboo socks. He told me if the rash changed in any way to come straight back.

The rash cleared up and some months later and the trainer and I left for Kathmandu to trek to Everest Base Camp. With the same bamboo socks. I didn’t really think about not taking them. They hadn’t caused anymore problems. Life is great in retrospect.

Day  Five Namche Bazaar to Tengboche

On the trek to Tengboche the rash returned with vengeance caused no doubt by the eight hour walk that day and the dusty trail. And the socks. However it was a lot  was redder than it had been back home and coming up over the the sock line. I was a bit panicky.

It had been a unexpectedly hard day’s climb. It was freezing cold and late in the afternoon when we arrived in Tengboche. A lot of the lodges were closed as it was getting late in a quiet season. We weren’t that thrilled with the accommodation and the shared toilet arrangement which we had managed to avoid until then. It was turning out to being not such a great day.

Tengboche Everest Base Camp Trek

Tengboche from the monastery looking cold and dark with sun setting

Sunset on the Everest Base Camp Trail

Shadows and the sun setting on the Lhotse – Nuptse ridge from Tengboche

Day Six Tengboche to Pangboche

The next morning after breakfast I showed my rash to a woman in the lodge we had met the day before. She had told me she was carrying a lot of medicine and as I suspected she was a nurse. She agreed with me the rash looked like it was caused by my socks and told me if it got worse or started to feel hot to start taking the broad spectrum antibiotics and ring for a helicopter.

I was a bit panicked at this comment given we were trekking without a guide or porter. The Trainer tried to calm me down. We walked to Pangboche a lovely walk and found a lodge fairly early. I spent some time trying to find out how we would call a helicopter without much luck. We had showers which made the day seem a bit better. During the night I started the antibiotics because my leg felt hot.

Pangboche, Everest Base Camp Trek

The next morning the Trainer suggested we walk to Shomare have a coffee and then decide whether to go on or not. And yes, we had that drink and decided to turn back.

Everest Base Camp Trek

Shomare. Our last stop before turning back

Life is great in retrospect I should not have taken the bamboo socks to Nepal, bought some topical cream, investigated the rash more on coming home but I didn’t.

Lessons Learnt

When we returned home I heard a lot about bamboo socks not being good for trekking. They retained moisture instead of wicking the moisture away. The socks were banished from my sock drawer forever. I had actually had been recommended the socks in a camping store. In retrospect don’t buy hiking gear in a camping gear shop. I recommend finding a hiking gear shop that employs staff with lots of trekking experience.

I bought woolen socks for our second trip. Trained with them and packed more pairs.

Ironically I got the rash again on the second trek. And on the first day. Just a tiny bit at first and with woolen socks. I applied the cream I brought and raised my legs. By the end of the trek the rash was being annoying.

Rash on ankle

The rash back in Kathmandu after the second trek in 2015.

The type of socks you wear trekking are really important. I was very excited to find a post devoted entirely to socks in my travels around the blogosphere. Here it is

Links to related posts

Don’t be put off Tengboche. It is a hard days trek and being mentally prepared will help.

We trekked back through Tengboche on our way back from Everest Base Camp. It seemed like a much nicer place in the middle of the day with the sun shining. We spent some time there, watching marathon runners coming through and taking photographs. We still haven’t seen inside the temple to we might just have to go back.

Tengboche Monastery

Tengboche Monastery

 

Anyone else have a frustrating medical “emergency” on holidays ?

My You Tube of Walking to Tengboche.

More photos of the walk from Namche to Tengboche (2013)  

Other posts that may interest you

Acclimatisation Days

What to pack

25 Reasons to Trek to Nepal  

How hard is it to trek to Everest Base Camp ?

Our trek itineraries in 2013 and in 2015

Our Experience on Diamox

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Travel Makes Us Modest

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Travel makes us modest,
you see what a tiny place
you occupy in the world.

Gustave Flaubert

Acclimatisation Walk on Dingboche Ridgetop

Acclimatisation Walk on Dingboche Ridge-Top

I could not agree more Gustave.

Travel to Nepal Now

Last year we booked our flight to Kathmandu two weeks before the first earthquake.

We changed our minds several times over the months following the quake and at the last moment thought about cancelling the trip. But not going didn’t feel right. So we left Melbourne with me being quite nervous and the Trainer being, optimistic, of course.

As soon as we left Melbourne I felt less anxious. What were we expecting? I should probably say what was I expecting because the Trainer and I rarely expect the same thing. I was expecting to see Kathmandu really devastated when flying into it. And it wasn’t.

Damaged Durbar Square

Although we didn’t visit Durbar Square until after our trek people were walking around the area but hardly any tourists. The Square was badly affected and I’m sure it will be a while before it is restored.The photos below show some of the area.

Earthquake damage Kathmandu

Nearby not actually the Square

Durbar Square Kathmandu and old buildings being propped up after the eartquake

Historic buildings in Durbar Square being propped up by timber

Durbar Square Kathmandu damage after the 2015 earthquake

Starting the Everest Base Camp Trek

We flew into Lukla and after leaving the small airport building,  I stood looking down at the short runway and looking around me and cried. I got teary seeing the owner of the Paradise Lodge again. She gave me hug.

After a cup of tea and a short break for our porter to sort the packs we started out down the main street of Lukla, the Porter, the Trainer and me. I felt we had made the right decision.

Tourists are starting to return to Nepal but it is still very quiet. If you are thinking of going to any part of Nepal to trek, go and go this year. Get ready for the the October to December season. If you want to have a life changing adventure that you will never forget. Go trekking in Nepal or simply visit Nepal – Kathmandu, Pokhara or the jungle of Chitwan. Your tourist dollar is what is desperately needed to help get Nepal back on its feet.

Stupa at Khumjung in the Khumbu region of Nepal

Sadly earthquake damaged stupa at Khumjung

 

If you need some more encouragement read

25 Reasons to Trek to Everest Base Camp.

Who wrote this post and why I blog 

Worth a read if you are still worried about Earthquake damage.