An Overview of Our Everest Base Camp Treks
The blog about an over fifty woman’s journey trekking to Everest Base Camp when she was too scared to go but went anyway. If I can do it so can you, believe me. Not only did I do it. I loved it. I’m hooked.
Updating my home page is long overdue. I hope it makes navigating around for Everest Base Camp Trek information a little easier.
For first time visitors to my blog, my husband referred to as The Trainer and I have been twice along the Main Everest Base Camp Trail. Our first attempt at Base Camp was in November December 2013.
We turned back at Shomare, I don’t see it as a failure but a try.
In October 2015 we made it all the way. We plan a third trek. Yes, it’s addictive.
Two Treks to Everest Base Camp
with The Trainer and Me
On 3 October 2015, two weeks short of my 58th birthday I walked to Everest Base Camp (EBC). I got my first blister on the trek from the walk in. I admit to being nervous, well I wasn’t until our porter guide said he didn’t want to walk any further past the traditional photo point. I certainly didn’t want to either because it was hard going clambering over rocks and slipping on them, there was no real path in. I was worried about breaking my ankle. But on the trail up, we heard from two different travellers Everest Base was quite beautiful if you visit it in morning when the light is on it. It is reported as ugly as most people go in the afternoon when the sun has gone behind the mountain.
In our experience Everest Base Camp was stunning.
Kala Patthar the Highlight of the Trek
The highlight of the trek in terms of Everest and the view is climbing Kala Patthar. Many people haven’t heard of it until researching the trek. It looks harmless enough, the little brown hill above Gorak Shep, the last settlement is at 5164 metres. So climbing another 380 metres to 5545 metres – is an effort. It is the only time I struggled. My legs burnt and I started to cry but I gave myself a mental slap and told myself it wasn’t that bad. But we had trained and that’s important.
At the top of Kala Patthar I stood with my husband and our porter guide for photos at the closest and best view of Everest you will get in Nepal, and an amazing view of the Himalayas. I felt amazing, very emotional and very happy. And triumphant. Many people do the climb in the dark for the sunrise or in the late afternoon for sunset. More reading about our experience…
Back to Lukla for the Start of the Trek
Most people fly into Lukla. It’s an infamous flight but once you are up there you will relax and be amazed at the view out the window. The landing will be over before you know it, whether you do it with your eyes open or shut. And the adventure starts.
Starting out for the first time I felt like I was in someone else’s body. Me, trekking. With walking poles. I had done nothing like this in my past travels.
On our 2013 trek the guide book said A two-hour easy downhill walk. It took us longer. I was like the stereotypical kid in the back of the car asking Are we there yet?
The first day you get used to the track and what downhill means. Because Phakding is at a lower altitude than Lukla. You quickly learn to go up you also need to go down and vice versa. You walk through all the wonderful little villages with names you will have never heard of, like Chheplung.
Whether you stay at Upper Phakding near the bridge or the lower part of the town because you just can’t walk another step, there are plenty of lodges to stay in. Most lodges are very cheap but basic. The expectation is that you will eat your evening meal and breakfast where you stay. Restaurants are not a phenomenon on the trail. There are however little places where you can eat lunch along the trail until as far as Lobuche often with outdoor seating for the views.
It will be a day of firsts. Your first sight of porters carrying unbelievable loads, yaks with their herders and if you are lucky a donkey train. The first spectacular views, your first TIMs check, your first suspension bridge and the sound of the rushing water below. The first prayer wheels and mani stones, all these things I came to love. The first sights of the Khumbu’s magical mountains which I got a kick out of recognising and naming.
Guaranteed you will be in bed early. On the first night I was falling asleep over dinner and I was in bed asleep by 6:30 pm.
Not everyone stays here. We stayed here on our first trek my husband had decided to take it very slowly and so make it less of a big day and stay in Monjo. But in 2015 we planned to decide at Monjo whether to stay there or continue. As we were there before lunch and we decided to keep going we knew what to expect from the climb to Namche and we were up for it. We did have a break. I ate a small bowl of noodles as an early lunch which I regretted as I felt a bit full on the climb.
If you don’t want to go all the way to Base Camp but experience the Khumbu and try it out staying a night Monjo or somewhere between Phakding and Namche Bazaar would work well. Here are our Monjo posts.
The first of the big days. Each day is different and each day holds different and special views. On this day, there is the high bridge, the big climb up to the bridge and the solid never ending climb to the town of Namche Bazaar. Don’t take the lower bridge. We accidentally took a wrong path on our return journey in 2013 and ended up at it. I bumped my head on a low rock while I was watching where I was putting my feet. One of the reasons I think no one uses the older lower bridge is because of the dangerous approach. We were not game enough to cross and made our way to find the higher bridge. How not to repeat the same mistake? Take a porter/ guide. We were solo in 2013, we should have taken a porter. It supports the local economy and you will be richer for it not poorer.
Personally, one of the things I loved about the walk to Namche was the track going over a dry higher river bed, at least that is what it felt like to us. Walking over rounded river stones and some very small steams, it felt almost beachy.
We did our acclimatisation differently for the two treks. The best advice is to walk up to Khumjung for the day in Namche. It is not a rest day to drink coffee and eat apple pies it’s to walk higher than where you sleep and sleep a second night at the same altitude before ascending any higher. But you can eat apple pies after!
Khumjung the Biggest Town in the Khumbu
Once you have done the climb up out of Namche and commenced the ascent into Khumjung it looks very like the moors of Scotland. The cloudy day heightened the broody landscape when we were there in September 2015. We had caught the end of the rainy season; weather is a factor then. Research the time of the year you go very well.
The walk into Khumjung it is very flat compared to Namche. Many of the people selling things and working in Namche live in Khumjung. We stayed in 2015 for an additional night at a very similar altitude. I enjoyed seeing the kids in the Edmund Hillary School yard on one occasion and coming out of school on another. We went and saw the Yeti skull in the monastery while we were here. There are great views from the Khumjung surrounds.
It was hard day’s climb which I just wasn’t expecting. Mental preparation is everything. I had heard athletes say this but I am not an athlete nor had ever been the outdoorsy type. So, this trek gave me a firsthand experience of what it means. Oh boy, how true it is.
The key thing I can tell you is DO NOT believe the signage, which says Two Hours to Tengboche because every two hours you will see the sign again. It is almost 8 hours. A hard climb out up of Namche and then it levels out for a while to a lovely flattish path and a stupa in Norgay Tensing’s honour. Then there is 600 metre climb down to the river and then 800 metre climb up to Tengboche. It’s a strenuous day, more so than the climb to Namche. But I was mentally prepared for 2.5 hours not almost 8 hours.
If you haven’t done anything like this before you will feel the part, that is being a trekker, after this day. It is a hard slog but the views are worth it and there is a beautiful monastery at the top. There is not much in the way of lodges here and some people keep walking through to Debouche. Having said that, there was some building happening at one of the lodges when we passed through on the return journey in 2015. Improvements and building is happening all the time along the trail.
One of those pieces of what not to do advice; don’t start out too late for Tengboche because it is NOT two hours from Namche Bazaar.
I didn’t like Tengboche the first time. It just wasn’t a good day but when walked back through Tengboche in 2015 the sun was shining it felt like a completely different place. We didn’t stay the night though, we walked on until Namche.
We stayed here in 2015. It is not on the standard route and there was a section of the track that was a little scary where we walked over a landslide. There are apparently spectacular views from one of the points between Khumjung and Phortse.
Sadly, we did not see the views because of the cloud. The time of the year is key to your planning and getting the best views. Sometimes any views…
The photo below shows the disappointment. If it was October or into November I am sure we would have. You can see the problem in this post.
The walk up from where you walked into the town was very steep. Because it wasn’t a long walk we had some time to explore the village a bit. I will be keen to read about the progress of the rock climbing academy being built here.
As we discovered on our second trek Pangboche is quite a spread-out town. There is a higher and a lower part of the town. There are lots of lodges here and another very old monastery, they don’t necessarily look much from the outside but they are lovely inside.
A very small town. We walked from Phortse to Shomare on the other side of the river to Tengboche for our second trek. The first trek we turned back at Shomare. It was so quite at this stage of the trek because of the earthquakes the season was so quiet and the fact our plane was the last one in for five days due to the weather. I am sure we were the only trekkers in both Phortse and Shomare.
Dingboche Gotta Love that View
The walk in from Shomare to Dingboche was great and the walk out to Dughla, the same. Both walks were reasonably flat. We were now above the tree line walking past yak pastures and crossing the small bridge at the confluence of the two rivers was exciting.
I loved Dingboche, we both loved Dingboche. It came as a total surprise. It is in a long valley surrounded by mountains. You are surrounded by mountains. I found a lodge with a great shower and we could do some laundry. There were a couple of bakeries and good Wi-Fi here.
The acclimatisation walk to Dingboche Ridgetop the next day was hard work, slow and slippery but the view amazing. There are other great walks from there to small villages. We have talked about returning and staying longer to explore this area more.
There is not a lot to be said about Dughla. There are only two lodges and they are not that marvellous but we went strictly by the 300 metres ascent per day rule for altitude. So, we stayed there. We did walk behind the lodges for a view of the lake.
Walking out of Dughla there is quite a short steep climb but you are rewarded at the top by the area of stone cairns in memorial of all the climbers who have died on Everest. The area is eerily beautiful.
Once you are through this area watch out for the snow plovers amongst the rocks. The walk through the valley to Lobuche is like a moonscape. It is quite flat and the entire walk from Dughla is not too difficult. There is a reasonable number of lodges at Lobuche.
A surprise at Lobuche is the Italian built and managed Weather Pyramid.
The day of the walk to Gorak Shep is another of the big days on the trek. You leave early for the big day ahead with the plan to get to Gorak Shep dump your gear at your lodge, eat some lunch and then continue to either Base Camp or Climb Kala Pattar. The trail start out flat but then there a few uphills where you will need to rest before continuing. We didn’t have pre-booked lodges so we wasted a little bit of time checking out a second lodge before settling on one of the first lodges as you walk in. We then tackled the climb to Kala Patthar. Then it was dinner and early to bed, the norm on the trail. I don’t think we ever went to bed later than 7:30.
Everest Base Camp
Walking into Base Camp is strenuous and a bit tricky. It is another 200 metres higher in altitude from Gorak Shep so even though it is flattish you are still at a high altitude. As I wrote at the beginning of the page we walked to Everest Base Camp in the morning. After an hour or do we walked back to our lodge for lunch and picked up our gear and walked back to Lobuche. Some people would walk further. As it was big couple days already we decided to break the day at Lobuche. We had the time because we had planned a 16-day trek and we planned that way to minimise the risk of getting altitude sickness.
Then of course you come back down but not necessarily staying at the same places because there are no rules about how fast you can descend.
It doesn’t necessarily look the same coming back because you are looking in a different direction. Sounds silly but its true.