Thank You For Everest

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To My Valentine Trainer

We met in Egypt. And had four days together. He made me laugh, something clicked and there was that spark. We talked about me visiting him in Milan but as a teacher it had to be the school holidays and it seemed way too long off. We exchanged details and said goodbye. Back home I decided to go with my gut instinct. I rang him a few weeks later. Very happy to hear from me, he asked when I was going to visit. I responded with my flight details for my arrival at Lineate Airport four months later.

We had twelve wonderful days in Italy. After that there was no looking back. The remainder of the year was a romance of long distance calls and then he returned to his hometown Melbourne. We spent the summer holidays together and then I returned to Whyalla to teach and he stayed in Melbourne to work. Then one day he flew on two planes to Whyalla and proposed and flew back the next morning.

Six months later in January we travelled to Italy to live. He thought it would be a good idea to escape the cold Italian winter before settling in. I liked the idea of a nice Thai beach somewhere.  Well I got the sand and the T stuck too. Translated, the Sahara Desert and Timbuktu.

North West Africa was not my idea of a holiday but it was an adventure, like I had never experienced. We bumped around Algeria, Niger, Mali, Senegal and The Gambia for three months. And yes, we got to Timbuktu.

Everest Base Camp was just another remote place not on my travel plan. However, this adventure required a certain level of fitness and training. And so, my husband became The Trainer.

The Trainer designed our training plan, cajoled, encouraged, and nagged to keep me on track to make sure we would make our EBC trek in the best condition and without aches and pains.

He was the trek researcher, designer and organiser, packing mastermind and photographer. If it wasn’t for the Trainer I would not have been to this amazing part of the world and had this wonderful experience.

One friend said to me, “You’d follow him anywhere.” She’s right, I probably would.

the view above Periche on the way to Dughla EBC Trek Trail
Another Perfect day in the Khumbu

To my Valentine Trainer … the best is yet to come.

The 101 on Trekking in the Everest Base Camp Region

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Above Pheriche, Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal
So much more than Base Camp

A Basic Overview To Everest Base Camp Trekking 

Whether you have just returned from your first taste of hiking somewhere spectacular like Machu Picchu and are thinking about tackling the Everest Base Camp trek. Or your neighbour has just returned from their third trek in Nepal and you’re thinking there must be something in it. Or maybe you have entertained the idea of trekking in Nepal for a while. Whatever the reason and you know next to nothing about trekking in Nepal, this post is for you.

This is the 101 on trekking in the Everest Base Camp region also features some photos of the Gokyo region. Gokyo is the less popular trek but is very beautiful and less crowded.

#Macchermo lodges #Gokyo Area #Everest Base Camp region #Khumbu #Nepal
Simple Accommodation Stunning Location – Macchermo, Gokyo area 

It is a good idea to decide when and where you will trek twelve months in advance to give yourself plenty of time to prepare and research. This is the case whether you are trekking with or without a tour operator. Being prepared for what the trek is like is critical. Mental preparation is everything. Everything.

Basic Points About the EBC Region when you know absolutely nothing

  • EBC stands for Everest Base Camp.
  • You can’t see Mount Everest from Everest Base Camp. You get your first view of Everest on the climb to Namche Bazaar.
  • The highlight of trekking to Everest Base Camp is the view from Kala Patthar. Not Base Camp. You can see Everest and the rest of the mountains from Kala Patthar. You can climb to Kala Patthar to see Everest at sunrise, sunset, late morning or early afternoon. You do not need to be a mountaineer.
Climbing Kala Patthar October 2015
The innocent looking path to the top of Kala Patthar was the hardest few hours of our 2015 trek for me. The large mountain on the left is Pumori.
  • There is no road to Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
    Everest Base Camp and Gokyo are in the Khumbu region.
  • Most people start their trek by flying to Lukla. The closest road is two days walk from Lukla at Jiri or Saleri.
Sign to Jiri from the main EBC trail
The signage to Jiri and Salleri two days walk from the main trail 
  • Everything needed along the track comes in on foot. Gas for cooking, food, housing and building supplies are carried up by donkeys, yaks and porters. The porters do the hardest carrying, carrying weights of up to 140 kilos.
  • Understandably food and drink are more expensive the higher you go up the trail.
Tenzing Hilary Airport Lukla Nepal
Waiting for the next four planes to land at the Tenzing Hilary Airport
Porters Load along the EBC Trek trail
Meet the doko. You will see lots of these carrying your food and drink up the track
  • The trail is in a remote part of the world, but people live at points along the track. On the lower parts of the track you will see children walking to school. Tell this to the folks back home to stop them worrying about your planned adventure.
Children running home from school EBC trek trail Nepal
Children running home from school
  • People worry about altitude sickness on the trek, but it is avoidable.
  • I have met people worried about altitude sickness affecting them because they had experienced it ascending mountains in the Andes in a bus! This happens because you are ascending too fast. It doesn’t happen trekking to the Base Camp region if you plan your ascent according to the altitude rules.
  • Your altitude acclimatisation starts in Kathmandu at 1,400 metres or 4,500 feet. Don’t sign up with a trekking company that counts Kathmandu as day 1 of your trek. 
trekking gear
Training is key to you managing and enjoying your trek.
Camping an Lodge accommodation in Dole Gokyo region Nepal
Camping and lodge accommodation in Dole on the way to Gokyo
  • Trekking to Everest Base Camp is achievable with an average fitness level but you need to train so you can get there without any pain involved and enjoy the experience.
  • People of all ages trek along this track.
  • Click here to read how we trained for our treks to Everest Base Camp.
Lodge in Phakding EBC trail
The lodge we stayed in Phakding on the way up and on the way down in 2015.

Lodge in Dole in the Gokyo Valley Nepal

ACCOMMODATION 

  •  If you trek to Everest Base Camp you don’t have to sleep in a tent.
  • If you decide not to camp, then you will stay in a lodge. They used to be called tea houses.
  • Accommodation is basic. Very basic. I am talking basic beds, blanket and pillows. Usually some sort of shelf along the window, maybe some coat hooks. No mirror and no power points. 
  • Bathrooms are basic. Sometimes you can get a toilet in your room. Showers are generally communal except in the more expensive lodges and maybe in some lodges in Phakding.
  • There are some nicer hotels in Namche Bazaar and there is the Yeti Group along the lower part of the track. But remember the infrastructure is not there for the plumbing and heating, regardless of the price.
  • In Namche Bazaar for a moderate rate you can have your own reasonable bathroom, western toilet and power points and mirrors.
  • A shower each day is not possible. Wet hair on the trail is a problem and there are no power points for a hair dryer to dry your hair.
  • You don’t have to carry a huge pack with food etc because there are lodges all the way along the track spaced at strategic points and they can cook your breakfast and dinner.
  • The basic accommodation is very cheap. The lodges make their money from the food. You must eat your evening meal and your breakfast in the lodge.
  • It is customary to pre-order your meals ahead of time, so they can get organised. below is the standard menu along the trail.
  1. Food is basic.
  2. It is not advisable to eat meat along the trail or in Kathmandu.
A lodge in Phakding Nepal
Lodges usually sell some basics 

Trek with a company or independently but trek with a guide or a porter guide

The Porter guide and me Above Macchermo on the way to Gokyo
Dilip our Porter guide with me above Macchermo on the way to Gokyo
  • You can’t drink the water. Take water purification tablets or buy a steripen. You drink a lot water trekking at altitude and as water gets more expensive the higher you get along the track the steripen will almost pay for itself. We wish we had bought a steripen – it would easily pay for itself.
  • Read how a steripen works, https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/travel/steripen.htm especially because …
  • Trekking in Nepal is addictive. You probably won’t want to stop at one trek.

Planning – Decisions before you leave for the Everest Region

  • Who you are going to go with?
    • Decide carefully who you want to go on this trekking adventure with. Because it might not be their dream destination, or cup of tea. I know. Because that was me. But, now I have just returned from my third trek in the Everest Base camp region. And planning a fourth. Trekking in Everest Base Camp region is addictive.
    • If your planned travelling companion is very particular about accommodation – maybe you can go with someone else OR they just give it a go. It’s worth it for the spectacle views … 
Spectacular View from Dingboche Ridgetop
Imja Chola River from above Dingboche

When You Can Trek To Everest Base Camp 

  •  The weather is an important factor
  • Think about this early on if you need to book holiday leave from work.
  • Don’t just listen to me here is Ian else has said 

Why are you going ?

  •  If you want to go all the way to Everest Base Camp make sure you have an itinerary no less than 14 days Lukla to Lukla NOT including arrival in Kathmandu.
  • Importantly there is a chance you won’t get to Base Camp. On our first trek in 2013 we didn’t, and you need to be prepared for that. Pushing on could cost you your life. You can always try again another time. There is no shame in not getting to EBC.
  • You might be happy enough just to experience trekking and the big mountain panoramic views. Then maybe trekking to Namche Bazaar is far enough. Or you could go a bit farther to Thame or Khumjung. It is still a fantastic experience with great views. Dingboche is further with fantastic massive landscape views.

The Number of Days Trekking to Everest Base Camp is the Most Important Factor to Get to Base Camp Safely 

Your Trekking Options. How Will You Trek ?  

  • with a tour group, or independently with a guide and porter or a porter guide?
  • will you book before you leave home or in Kathmandu?

Research, Book, Buy and Train, Train, Train

Know What to Expect  – Mental Preparation is Everything 

  • We researched our gear by going to all the trekking shops and buying in store.
  • Buy gear early unless you want to buy it in Kathmandu, which I don’t recommend.
    • Buy your boots early. You need to wear them in. 
    • Start shopping for your best airfare options –we buy our air tickets only few months before our departure – just in case circumstances change
    • Research insurance, costs of a porter etc
  • Read some blog posts and get an idea on what to expect
    • Read about
      • the accommodation
      • the food
      • what the trail is like
      • look at some maps on the internet
      • look at Google earth along the track
      • buy or borrow a range of guide books
      • watch some YouTube videos
    • It is important one person going knows what to expect each day. If you have a guide, they will tell you each night what to expect the next day. A porter/ guide, may not speak English as well as a guide, but they will be able to tell you on how long it will take you to get to your next destination and a rough description of the trail. Even with the porters and guides it is a good idea to know what you are signing up for before you book your trek and airfares. Do your research before you book anything.  
  • Train with your trekking clothes and your day pack and some weight. Try a drink bottle with an increasing amount of water.
  • Train, train and train   

Best Months to Trek in the Mount Everest Base Camp Region?

The best times to trek and the seasons in the Everest Base Camp region

  • April, May – when all the rhododendrons are flowering, the warmer of the two seasons and the busiest because the Mount Everest climbing season is in May. A lot of people and food and equipment move along the track in April.
  • October to December – a colder but less busy season. There is chance of clouds in the afternoon and of some snow in higher parts
    • We have only trekked in this season. It was quiet for us because there were no flights for about three or four days.

Months to Avoid Everest Base Camp Trekking

  • January and February is winter and cold. A few people do trek then. But why would you?
  • August and September are the monsoon season. Lots of rain and clouds can obscure the views and there is the possibility of landslides lower part of the track.
September 2015 between Mongla and Portse Tenga Nepal
You can be unlucky with the weather …

After You Decide to Trek to EBC Region – Research Some More

  • Research your trek – the destination and the route
    • Build flexibility into your itinerary.
  • A great tip is to plan 2 to 4 buffer days. A tight deadline is not what you want. You might get sick, or feel unwell or miss the flight in or out.

https://bearfoottheory.com/planning-your-everest-base-camp-trek-logistics/

  • Begin your training 3 to 6 months before you go depending on your fitness level
    • 3 months if you are reasonably fit and need targeted training
    • 6 months if you want to establish general fitness first

Research and Preparation Equal Success for the Everest Base Camp Region treks

We Are Off for Trek Number 3 in Nepal

We’re off to Trek in Nepal. Again.

Above Dingboche Everest Base Camp trek

Above Dingboche Everest Base Camp trek

Yes, I am in love. In love with the Nepalese landscapes and with the simplicity of the trekking in Nepal. A colleague asked me what’s the attraction, she knows it is my third trek.

Why Go to Trek In Nepal?

If you ask The Trainer (aka my husband) he’d say he’s doing it to keep me fit! In fact, the need to keep up a general level of fitness and then to train four times a week for two or three months before we leave for Nepal, is a big side benefit. But I really liked the feeling of achievement after taking on the challenge of trekking to Everest Base Camp. And feeling so incredibly fit from the simple days, sustained walking, fresh air and fresh food walking through magnificent landscapes. It felt amazing. And I was glowing when I returned home.

Good Planning is Important for a Successful Trek

Signage in the Khumbu

Although we have to the Everest Base Camp region twice before or maybe, because we have been before, I am conscious to not become blasé about what we are about to do.

  1. We have kept up the training.
  2. We (that would be the Trainer) have researched the route and itinerary options
  3. We are reviewing what we are taking. I have bought a new Osprey day back pack.
  4. We are reviewing the packing list
  5. We reviewed the drug list – the Trainer bought out the chemist
  6. We checked in with our contact in Kathmandu that everything is on track with flights to Lukla, organising our Porter and getting our TIMS Card
  7. We have booked our hotel in Kathmandu

So, we fly to Nepal in two weeks. I am very excited to be staying at the Kathmandu Guest House when we arrive and when we leave. If it is good enough for Ricky Martin, it’s good enough for us too.

We are trekking independently again but will be taking a porter/ guide, like on our second trek.

Trekking to Gokyo Ri and the Gokyo Lakes

We are going back to the Khumbu, the Everest Base Camp region but we are trekking to Gokyo. The trek is marketed as Gokyo and the Glacial lakes. If you read the trekking tour blurbs this is what they list as the highlights.

  • Stand at the shores of a chain of six turquoise, glacial-fed lakes
  • Hike along Ngozumpa Glacier, the largest glacier in the Himalaya
  • Avoid the Everest crowds, but enjoy the selection of great views
  • Climb Gokyo Ri (5,357 m) for spectacular views of Everest, Lhotse, and Cho Oyu
  • Trek through the Sherpa town of Khumjung, home of a ‘real’ yeti skull
  • From ‘Scoundrel’s viewpoint’ near the fifth lake, peer over the vast Ngozumpa Glacier a wasteland of rock and ice

Khumjung Everest Base Camp trek September 2015

Walking into Khumjung

In fact the view from Gokyo Ri is meant to be better than the view from Kala Pattar on the Base Camp trek. Also, weather permitting, we will be crossing over Cho La Pass. We haven’t done that before. Climbed a pass. This will be a hard a long day. Easily the hardest.  But we will only go if the weather is good otherwise it can be treacherous. We have a day and a buffer day at Gokyo to help with this. We have been told that the walk to Fifth Lake is well worth while.

And in true Nervous Nelly style I am anxious about it. Again. This time I am anxious about the pass. However, the Trainer is talking me up. Cho La Lou he is calling me. Cho La Lou, Queen of the High Passes. Sort of has a nice ring to it doesn’t it ?

Everest Base Camp trek

 

Any advice on the Cho La Pass an Gokyo, comments are very welcome.

Eat, Heat, Recharge and Sleep on the Everest Base Camp Trail

Main trail Lukla to Kala Patthar at Phakding

The Shangrilla Lodge in Phakding in 2015. We stayed here on the first night and the second last nights of Everest Base Camp trek.

Our First Lodge Experience

I remembered the lodge pictured above from our first 2013 trek. We didn’t stay there then. Our flight from Kathmandu to Lukla was delayed about four hours due to fog. We were trekking solo, without a guide or porter and had no accommodation booked.

We arrived in the late afternoon in Phakding and wanted to look at some lodges before we decided on one. Our main focus was getting our own bathroom.

The small villages are generally along the trail going up the hill. Exhausted on that first day of our trek the last thing we wanted was to walk up and down checking out lodges. All I wanted was a shower and bed. We only had the energy to check out two. I remember walking past the Shangrila Lodge (pictured above) lots of young people were listening to music, talking and sitting on the terrace. Party central, I thought. Not for me, I wanted to go to bed and sleep. Early. So we walked on past.

We decided on a lodge at the lower end of the trail. Our room had a western toilet and a shower however there was no hot water left. So we got wet and froze drying off in our room. Lodge rooms have no heating.

I was falling asleep at the table waiting for our food. I was in bed and asleep by 6:30.

Accommodation Along the Everest Base Camp Trail

Upper Phakding Lodge EBC Trek Trail

Lodge in Upper Phakding

Phakding

Sleep – The Bedrooms

  1. Accommodation is basic with the exception of Namche Bazaar where you can pay for more a reasonable room and bathroom. However there are some very expensive hotels in the lower part of the track, see the bottom of the post.
  2. Rooms are very basic. Two beds, a window and not a lot of room.  I did see double beds in some rooms but generally it was single beds.
  3. If you are lucky there may be some sort of window sill or small table for small things you want at hand during the night. Sometimes there are hooks on the wall.
  4. There is no heating in the rooms.
  5. Most rooms don’t have a mirror. There are no power points. Forget the hair dryer.
  6. Mattresses are thin and hard just like hotel beds in South East Asia.
  7. We were always provided with an extra blanket for each bed.

Room With a View

The view from our lodge /hotel in Namche Bazaar. Our hotel in Namche was a lot more upmarket. We had power points in our rooms, electric blankets, chairs etc. Obviously this accommodation was more expensive than the majority of the accommodation.

Lodge in Nepal

Bathrooms

  1. We had western style toilets in all the hotels we stayed in.
  2. I have read blog posts about only having squat toilets but we never stayed in lodges where this was the only option.
  3. Plumbing can be problematic.
  4. The toilet, shower and basin in the lodge in the first photo  was shared by a lot of rooms. We were the only guests on our outbound trek and there were only two guests heading back to Lukla. If we had to share with a lot of guests we may not have stayed there.

Heat – The Dining Room

Lodge in Monjo EBC Trek Nepal

The dining room in Monjo Guest House

The main room of the lodges is the dinning room where there will heat. A dung fueled fire will be the centre of the room and be the sole source of heat.

People sit in the room, chat, read, write up notes, swap stories,  if there is wifi you will access it from here. This is the place where you will meet people coming in the opposite direction and tell you about the weather and conditions ahead. Most lodges will have a small supply of chocolates, chips, bottles water, toilet paper etc you can buy.

You will charge your phones, camera batteries etc in this room, too. This will be charged to your bill.

Monjo Lodge EBC trek Nepal

Monjo Guest House had a second beautiful sunny eating area.

Food

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  1. You must eat where you stay. The owners make their money from the food.
  2. You pre-order food before dinner and for breakfast the next morning.
  3. Avoid meat. I would say don’t eat meat.
  4. Lodges often grow their own vegetables. Eating organically grown veggies on the trail was great.
  5. If you are a tea drinker and take milk rethink that. I drank black tea on the trek.

The Menu

  1. The menus can seem quite large but more than likely you will find things you like and stick with the same food.
  2. Popular meals are Dhal Blat and Sherpa Stew.
  3. Remember to try some apple pie. Apples are grown along the trail.

Neplese food on the EBC trek

Tips

There are no ATMs along the trail. Take enough cash for your entire trek.

Get your room ready for bed before you eat your evening meal. The light probably won’t be great in your room and it will be cold. So you will want to jump into your sleeping bag really quickly.

The Yeti Lodge EBC Trek Nepal

There are limited nice lodges. The Yeti Mountain Home group is one group, very nice but expensive in comparison to other lodges. We didn’t stay in any. If  you wanted to sample the Everest Base Camp trail and maybe climb to Namche Bazaar and check out Khumjung and Khunde, Thame structuring your trek around their accommodation.

Yeti Mountain Lodge Phakding

Monju Guest House EBC Trek Trail Nepal

We enjoyed staying our night in Monju Guest House. The garden setting is a bonus. Most people walk through Monjo but on our first trek, wanting to start off slow we stayed here and then walked to Namche Bazaar the next day ( day 3 of our trek ).

Paradise Lodge Lukla

Paradise Lodge Lukla

 

Savouring the Last Days of the Trail

Everest Base Camp Trek

Day Fifteen Namche Bazaar to Phakding

From Lodge to Lodge to Lodge

Lodge at Namche Bazaar

Leaving our lodge in Namche Bazaar was a bit sad. We had stayed there four times and a total of six nights with the acclimatisation days. It was in the middle of Namche, the owners and staff were lovely, the menu and food good and the hot showers wonderful.

Namche Bazaar and the Kwangde Range

Leaving Namche Bazaar and the Kwangde Range

Not long after we started out, Basanta our porter guide pointed out a Danfe or Danphe Nepal’s national bird, a beautiful large black pheasant with a metallic green head and a chestnut tail.

First and last view of Everest
First and last view of Everest
Lower suspension bridge over the Dudh Khosi taken from the higher bridge
Lower suspension bridge over the Dudh Khosi Gorge

We had our last look of Everest at the resting spot on the way down. We crossed the high bridge again across the Dudh Khosi gorge. The fourth time over it I was still glad to get off however The Trainer stands in the middle looking over at the view.

Back down on the old river bed we posed  for a photo together and watched some of the porters with huge loads of building materials slowly make their way up to cross the bridge.

The suspension bridges across to Namche Bazaar
The trainer and me heading back down to Lukla

We stopped at Monjo Lodge where we had stayed on the first trek and another place that I felt a connection to. Waiting for lunch in the garden in the sun we took some more happy snaps feeling relaxed, fit and happy. The Trainer, yes, my husband Sam looked really relaxed in the photos, his job was done. His training and planning had got us up and back without mishap. Following the no more than 300 metres increase in altitude a night had been a key factor I am sure.

Porters carrying building materials up the trail

Porters carrying building materials up the trail

Garden at Monjo Lodge Everest BAse Camp trek

Waiting for lunch in the garden at Monjo Lodge

Lodge in Phakding EBC trail

The lodge we stayed in Phakding on the way up and on the way down

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One Trek and One Marathon

Everest Base Camp Trek

Day Fourteen Pangboche to Namche Bazaar

The trainer was very excited about finally seeing the marathon runners who had started early that morning from Everest Base Camp running past, all of us on our way to Namche Bazaar. The event was originally in May but was rescheduled to the beginning of October after the earthquakes.

We left our lodge at Pangboche as doctors prepared the medical check point and lodge staff the water bottles.

View of Tengboche in the Middle Distance

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The Temple Gate in Tengboche (Thyanboche)

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A half marathon runner who started at Dingboche at the Tengboche check point

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The following photos show the track. The steep uphill climb (600m) had nearly killed me on our 2013 trek.  Coming back down isn’t easy either.  It can impact on your knees which is why I chose to use trekking poles. The steep track with lots of small loose rocks can be slippery so the only way to go is slowly.

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That’s me picking my way down with the trekking poles.

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Runners taking their time

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The trail from a distance… crazy

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Sanasa with women selling jewellery

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The Finishing Point at Namche Bazaar

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Namche Bazaar from Above

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The view of Namche Bazaar from above. I had my sights set on the red roofed lodge in the middle, right …. which for me meant our favourite lodge, our own bathroom and a hot shower at last.

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Cafe Danphe Bar named after the National Bird of Nepal

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We had a drink at Café Danphe Bar to celebrate our successful, wonderful trek to Everest Base Camp. Huddled together in the bar we looked at all the photos Sam had taken.  For the best of an hour I sat with tears streaming down my face, hardly able to believe the photos of the magical places we had just been.

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Everest Above Our Heads and Base Camp at Our Feet

The definitive photo on Kala Patthar
The Trainer and I 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 trekked to Everest Base Camp, or have friends that have, or are busy planning and researching the trek themselves will know the highlight of the trek is not Everest Base Camp but in fact, is climbing to Kala Pattar above Gorak Shep to view Mount Everest from the closest and highest viewpoint on the main EBC Trail. Many climb the hill in the darkness of early morning 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 after an early lunch is also an option. But more about the options in another post.

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 very 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. Sam had been there the afternoon before to explore and take photos. I had taken the soft option of resting up for the next day.

Part of his research back home in Melbourne 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 realise what a building like that means in terms of getting the materials there to build it.

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, stunning and like a moonscape.

Lobuche to Gorak Shep

Eveerest Base Camp Trek Dughla to Lobuche

You move ever closer to the conical peak of Pumori another mountain fairly easy to identify. That’s it, peeking out from 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 for us because we were managing the altitude well with half a Diamox tablet taken twice daily. I had started taking them 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. Pumori towers over Gorak Shep with it’s dry lake bed and seven or eight lodges. We decided on which lodge we would stay in, even though we did this quickly, retrospectively precious time was wasted doing it. I will write a separate post about lodges.

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 at this altitude Gorak Shep is 5170 metres, the climb to Kala Pattar and 5545 metres requires effort and pre-training to make that effort achievable.

The sky was almost cloud free and we had decided after talking to two people on the trail that we would climb there in the afternoon and leave the walk to Everest Base for the next morning when the morning light gives life to what is often viewed as a dull area. Most people generally decide to trek to Base Camp after lunch on the day they arrive.

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 behind us and we wanted the view and the photos without them. Basanta our wonderful porter guide stayed with me.

The climb was hard. In some ways it was easy in that there are not many rocks to watch for tripping etc and no stone steps. I could stop easily and find lots of perching spots and I didn’t have to worry about dodging yaks or porters with loads. I had to stop frequently to catch my breath and my legs were burning which I hadn’t experienced.

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. And it was. So, with one last effort and with the help of Basanta pulling and pushing me up the last enormous boulders I made it to the flag pole. A very short video captures the moment I reached it, almost too exhausted to even wave for the camera and to the trainer who had his photographer hat on.

It took me a while to get my breath and then of course we stood and did the obligatory photo shoot being careful not to step backwards off the boulders. The afternoon clouds started to roll 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. It had been hidden in the luggage and then his bag and then in the day pack and the next thing, there it was. Two young Japanese boys 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 ways 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 any blisters even. 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 lists originally but 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. I haven’t forgotten that if it hadn’t been for Sam 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 privileged to be in, is. 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 and being grateful that we had rethought our decision to cancel the trip due to the fear of a landslide or tremors after the earthquake.

We stayed up the top for quite a while after the photos just 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.

Retrospectively writing this post, it is worthwhile remembering the privilege to be able to do this trek with relative ease 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 particularly 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 for people to stay in. 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

Save

Day Nine Dingboche to Dughla

Day Nine – Dingboche to Dughlia     30 September 2015

Above Periche Between Dingboche and Dughla
Between Dingboche and Dughla

We retraced our steps into the town for the initial part of the walk and then took a trail along the side of the hills past yak pastures and herders’ huts. A few big trekking groups were walking out probably groups doing the trail in fewer days along the main trail.

It was great walk across flat plains, slowly going uphill with great views of Periche below. On the way we saw some teenagers carrying large baskets of dung and Basanta had an animated conversation with them.

After we arrived at Dughla we decided to stay at the Yak Lodge. One of only two lodges there which is probably why people don’t stop there. We had lunch in the sun with the beautiful blue skies and watched as trekkers came down from Gorak Shep. We met the group who had flown on the same flight into Lukla with us including a mother and daughter team from Queensland who flew on the same flight from Kuala Lumpur.

After a rest we walked up behind the lodges for a view of Dughla Lake which was almost completely hidden from view at the lodges. It was a two hour walk and wasn’t really a trail so we picked our way carefully to a good sitting spot. There were lots of juniper bushes growing on the hills. My wind jacket protected me from the cold wind which is why you should pack one even if it is a dry season.

Lake near Dughla Nepal

We stayed at Dughla to make sure we stuck to the rule of not ascending more than 300 metres. We didn’t want to risk altitude sickness and not make EBC.