Day Seventeen Lukla to Kathmandu, Everest Base Camp Trek
The final day of seventeen wonderful days trekking from Lukla to Everest Base Camp and back in October 2015. Having fare-welled our Porter Guide, my husband “the Trainer” and I flew to Kathmandu grateful for completing the trek safely and already thinking of a return trek.
Above: The tarmac at Lukla airport and the parking spaces for the four planes that fly back and forward to Lukla every day.
We were up early for one of the first flights out. The Paradise Lodge where we stayed the night is a one-minute walk to the airport. The owner of the lodge said goodbye to us and presented us with the traditional cream scarf to wish us well.
The larger yellow building in the middle is the control tower at Lukla Airport
The departure hall at the airport is a bit crazy and we were glad to have someone with us to direct us where to go and in which order. We passed through the tickets and security checks very quickly and into the hall to wait boarding where passengers are always keen to watch the planes landing. The unloading of passengers and baggage is amazingly quick and the same goes for loading and boarding. In 2018 I saw a trekker almost miss getting on the plane by seconds. Obviously he had to take a trip the toilet or somewhere. So be vigilant.
Being our fourth flight, we were relaxed. I was more relaxed about take-off than landing at Lukla.
As we flew back along the line of the Himalayas I wondered if it would be our last trip as I was hooked on this magnificent part of the world.
The first photo for the day was of a dog sitting expectantly outside the kitchen of our lodge. The Trainer had taken it because “everyone loves a photo of a dog.” The dogs we saw on the trail appeared well cared for.
Mani Walls coming into Ghat
On the last day of both our trek it was with a feeling of sadness that we made our way back to Lukla. Lingering on the trail as we went. Standing aside for the last lot of the donkeys and yaks, crossing the last bridges which on the way up were the first scary bridges. Savouring the last of the views of green fields of vegetables, mani walls and stupas as we would back down through a string of villages.
Prayer Wheels, Mani Walls and the Stupa at Ghat
We saw groups of trekkers fresh off the plane new to the trail and not sure quite what to expect. I pointed at the brand new boots of a young woman and I pointed to my boots all covered in white dust and told her that her boots would look like mine after Base Camp.
I smiled a woman we passed who pointed behind me indicating there was someone behind me. I think she thought he was trying to get past. I wanted to say yes, he has been behind me for 16 days, he’s my porter. Although he wasn’t always behind sometimes he was ahead and leading. But he was always there walking beside me in essence, keeping an eye on where I was stepping. Only a short time before he had pulled me out of the way from a donkey, because I turned around and wasn’t paying attention.
In the end, despite not wanting the trek to end we were glad to get to Lukla’s entrance gate. The last of the hills seemed endless. And we had just walked 130 kilometres.
We walked through the streets of Lukla which we very quiet. Lukla would normally be a bit of a party town with people celebrating the end of their treks. It is always a place people stay at the end of the trek not at the beginning.
At the lodge we were happy to have a shower, do some washing and explore the town a bit more. Basanta came back later in the afternoon. We had a few beers together and said thank you and goodbye. He was going to have three days’ rest and then going to back on the trail again with a group.
Basanta our lovely porter guide and me in Lukla at the end of our trek
The dining room at Paradise Lodge Lukla
After dinner and a chat with the woman who owns the lodge we were ready for an early night. We had the first flight out in the morning.
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.
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
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 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
Waiting for lunch in the garden at Monjo Lodge
The lodge we stayed in Phakding on the way up and on the way down
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
The Temple Gate in Tengboche (Thyanboche)
A half marathon runner who started at Dingboche at the Tengboche check point
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.
That’s me picking my way down with the trekking poles.
Runners taking their time
The trail from a distance… crazy
Sanasa with women selling jewellery
The Finishing Point at Namche Bazaar
Namche Bazaar from Above
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.
Cafe Danphe Bar named after the National Bird of Nepal
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.
We had reached our goal of Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar and now our focus was getting back to Lukla for our flight out while savouring the final days of our trek. Descending in altitude is easier than ascending as you don’t need to worry about gradual increments of altitude. The plan for Day 13 was to walk to Pangboche.
The photos remind me that the trek looks different in reverse. Generally you look in the direction you are going and don’t look back at where you have come from which usually it quite a different view. The memorial cairns above Dughla looked different with the mountains behind.
We crossed the small bridge at Dughla. Sam turned around to help me step up and over the gap between the side of the rock and the bridge. I momentarily froze looked at Sam’s outstretched hand and thought I’d better not miss the large step onto the low rock bridge.
With the trail to Dingboche above us we walked through the Khumbu Khola valley into Pheriche. The small settlement had been badly affected by the second earthquake in May 2015 but had been rebuilt and only limited damage was evident. The medical centre and the daily talks about altitude sickness were operating business as usual.
We stopped in Pheriche for a drink and toilet break and Shomare for lunch.
Above is a small yak enclosure before Pangboche.
The following day the annual ultra-marathon started the next day from Everest Base Camp and our lodge in Pangboche was a medical check point and drink station for the event. Three doctors from Kathmandu were staying the night in the lodge and to check the vital statistics of the runners.
The walk into Everest Base Camp took me by surprise as I hadn’t read the section in the guide book. The track isn’t much of a track, making the walk a little crazy. At the end you just clamber over boulders and slip everywhere. But that’s getting a little ahead.
Insane trail to Everest Base Camp
The photo shows the middle section of the trail which had lots of boulders and scree. A defined path becomes non-existent, so we headed in a general direction picking our way as best we could. And following our trusty Porter Guide, of course. Because of clambering over boulders, I developed blisters on my toes. Applying band aids before setting out is probably a good idea.
EBC has the reputation of looking very dull. Most trekkers visit it in the afternoon when the mountains can shade the area. We took the advice to visit in the morning and with the light it was quite lovely.
Large boulder perched on ice above a small stream
Exploring the Everest Base Camp area
Our Porter Guide Basanta exploring
Tents for the 2015 Ultra Marathon Runners at Everest Base Camp
I plan to write a post about the runners and the marathon as they were a feature of our trek. We bumped into them several times along the trail much to the Trainer’s delight.
The Main Everest Base Camp Trail’s highlight is the view of Mt. Everest and the Himalaya Range from the top of the hill Kala Patthar. Not everyone has heard of Kala Patthar. However, Everest Base Camp is famous, so it’s a must do. Or is it? I felt uneasy at Base Camp, being directly underneath where the 2015 avalanche came off Mt. Pumori into Base Camp (or so I was told). If I go back I would climb Kala Patthar twice, climbing it once in the afternoon and again the next morning at sunrise.
The triumphant team of three, lined up to take the obligatory photo by the sign and flags.
The Trainer, Me and the Porter with the Yellow Wig at Everest Base Camp
Climb Every Mountain – The Open Door Singer’s sign at EBC
The sign for my choir had its big moment here. 130 people sang Climb Every Mountain to me before I left Melbourne. It was very special.
The round trip to EBC from Gorak Shep is 8km and takes 6.5 hours. Back at Gorak Shep (the end of the trail and starting point for Kala Patthar and EBC) we had lunch at the lodge where we had slept the night before and left. We headed back down to Lobuche (a 2.5-hour walk) through the long valley that feels like a moonscape. Back in our lodge in Lobuche we ate and went straight to bed. Exhausted but very happy and very pleased with ourselves.
All the training had prepared us well. The trek to Everest Base Camp is more than the walk to that point. It is about the training before hand, getting all the right gear and training with it, the research and preparation and then the trek itself. It is a long journey in many ways, for which you are rewarded in just as many ways.
Now we just had to get back down to Lukla in one piece.
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.
I slept badly because of Diamox the altitude sickness tablets, which make you pee all night. We left our lodge quite late as we did not have far to walk and also wanted to wait for some of the cloud to clear. The trek out of Dughla was a steep climb. After the climb we spotted some very large quail type birds called the Tibetan Snow-Cock or Snowbird on the slopes.
Above that there are many cairns or chortens, memorials to the mountaineers who have died on Everest including Scott Fisher’s memorial. Some of the climbers made it to the summit and then died on the way down. The area is quite beautiful.
The clouds cleared above the chorten area. The landscape became very much like a moonscape with a small stream and reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands.
The walk was only two and a half hours. The Trainer went to explore the Italian weather pyramid. Inside our lodge was very warm with lots of laser-light in the roof letting the heat in. I stayed in bed happy to rest up for the next two very big days.
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.
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.
Day Seven – Shomare to Dingboche Monday 28 September 2015
Yaks on the way to Dingboche. I loved the lime green leaves that provided a flash of light contrasting with the dark green heath type plants featured in this landscape.
We walked for three hours today.
The yaks that had arrived the night before at our lodge were brought down from the hill early in the morning. They were loaded up on the lawn in front of the lodge. A vet (well possibly not a vet as such) came to attend to one of the yaks so we witnessed the ointment and injection procedure while we waited for our breakfast.
Which reminds me it usually is a good idea to order your breakfast the night before and your dinner a bit beforehand to give the person cooking time to get organised.
We said goodbye to Ngima (means Sunday) and her husband Lhakpa (means Wednesday) from the lodge. Sherpa people’s first name is always the day of week. This can be confusing. Ngima and Lhakpa spent some time explaining this the night before.
After a steep ascent out of Shomare it was a lovely walk over heavily rutted but flat grassy tracts of land. We passed lots of yak pastures and a woman gathering dung for fuel. We didn’t know it at the time but India had put an embargo on goods going into Nepal. Nepal’s gas comes from India which meant no gas was coming in either. This may have accounted for the lack of donkey trains as they carry the gas up the mountains.
I met two people coming back from Everest Base Camp who really raved about it. The actual Base Camp has the reputation for not being very picturesque and really the view from Kala Patthar is the highlight of the Everest Base Camp Trek. One woman suggested we go to EBC in the morning rather than the afternoon, which we did.
Hearing about the trail people’s experience of Base Camp and the weather was always good. Our porter waiting patiently for me.
One of favourite days walking into Dingboche past yak pastures.
Had a great warm shower in a spacious shower room outside. It was our first opportunity to wash clothes and have them dry on the following acclimatisation day.
The Trainer met the team of marathon runners (field of 30) who were walking to Everest Base Camp to run the Everest Base Camp to Namche Bazaar Marathon. It was rescheduled after the earthquake from May until the end of September. The Trainer knew about this because of his research and was excited to finally get a chance to meet and talk to them.
Dingboche was a big surprise because I hadn’t seen many good photos of the town. It was magic walking in along the valley being totally surrounded by massive mountains. The Trainer was also taken with Dingboche and after the trek we both agreed it was one our favourite spots. It would be a great finishing spot if someone trekking didn’t want to go all the way to EBC. There are lots of walks to do from here apart from the standard walk above the village above the stupa.
Almost there – walking into Dingboche
At this altitude an Everest Base Camp Trek would have an acclimatisation day and it would either be in Dingboche or in Periche depending on which way you walked in.
As it is a village people stay two nights there are a few WiFi cafes and I had the best chocolate croissant fresh out of the oven.
Other day treks off the Main Everest Base Camp Trail from Dingboche would include a hike to Chukhung up the Imja Chola Valley. The guide books say that is a three to four hour trek. This hike goes through Bibre.
We walked up out of Phortse and then up forever. At the top it was very cloudy (dherai mukpa) which was disappointing as the views would have been spectacular but because we were trekking at the very end of the monsoon season there were still clouds around and we could not see a thing.
At Pangboche and went inside the monastery or gompa here while our lunch was being cooked. It is the oldest monastery in the Khumbu.
We came in and walked out of Pangboche a totally different way from our 2013 trek. Our impression walking in was of quite a different village. The walk out past the helicopter rescue pad and lots of chortens and mani stones was interesting and the cloud broke and we had some sneak mountain views at last. Continue reading →
Was actually a descent of 110 metres. In a way acclimatisation around the Namche Bazaar and Khumjung altitude was a total of four nights by staying at Phortse.
Phortse is also referred to as Phortse Tenga and Phortse Thanga (local spelling)
The clouds cleared in the morning and we took some video and photos before we left the village of Khumjung while we still had mountain views. We had seen the spectacular views above the town on our 2013 EBC trek when we were there. The date was the 30 November for people wanting to know what the weather and the all important views are like at different times of the year.
Mount Khumbila is the larger brown mountain to my right.
Many treks go from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche possibly because some parts of the trail to Phortse are very narrow and may not be suitable for lots of trekkers. So the trail to Phortse was very quiet and we saw hardly anyone going in either direction.
Unfortunately, it was very cloudy most of the day so we missed some spectacular views. The walk up to Phortse after crossing over the river through rhododendron forests was lovely (even though they weren’t flowering).
Phortse is a very steep town so the walk up to the monastery at the top of the village was quite a walk. The village grows wheat and buckwheat. We saw the Rock Climbing Academy being built which will be fabulous when it is completed. The woman who owned the lodge we stayed at was lovely. I remarked on the coriander she was picking in her garden and she asked me if I liked it. To which I replied yes. So, she put it in the momos I ordered for dinner. They were the best I had eaten. Over dinner we had some Nepalese and English lessons with Basanta and ‘Nepal on a Shoestring’. We were the only guests and the only trekkers in the town. We had our first shower since leaving Kathmandu.
Amazing seeing the towns perched on the hills from a distance
The cloud really made these trees look beautiful and very moody.
Namche Bazaar 3420 – Khumjung 3780 metres 2.5 hours walk
Khumjung is the largest town in the Khumbu region.
Walking into Khumjung
The climb out of Namche is steep and we were in thick cloud. We could not see very far but sounds travelled up the hill to us – the chinking sound of the stone masons and the anthem and then music for a fitness program from the school below. I practiced my newly learnt Tashi Dele greeting, much to the delight of the Sherpas passing us. Possibly they were going down to prepare for the market the following day. The large market on the Saturday is very famous and sadly as we had changed our itinerary and we would miss it. Perhaps next time.
The landscape changes and reminds me of the moors in Scotland. The thick cloud made me focus on the low heath like plants. Spider webs bejewelled with water droplets reminded me not to forget the beauty at the ground level. Consequently, new Nepalese words included putali (butterfly), makura (spider) and makura zal (spiderweb).
I was keen to see that the school built by Edmund Hillary had not been badly damaged by the earth quake which had affected Khumjung. I was pleased to walk into the town and past the school just as the children finished their half day Friday. Sadly, though the gompa near the school had been damaged.
Sadly the earthquake damaged the stupa at Khumjung
We found a lodge, organised our room and had lunch. Later we walked to the town’s monastery and home of the famous Yeti skull (Wikipedia). The monastery was quite beautiful and worth the visit.
We were the only guests in the lodge and after our dhal bhat we watched a video about the life of Hillary.
We woke in cloud, walked straight up out of Namche in cloud and went to sleep in cloud.
It is best to think of the acclimatisation day involving some walking above where you are going to sleep. We walked above Namche Bazaar to the helicopter landing strip and quarry. The day was cloudy and the sound of rocks being chiselled for structures over the stream near the stupa rang out across the arena shaped town.
We also visited the monastery and turned some of the many prayer wheels on the way up. On the path to Khunde we sat on a large flat boulder and looked out over the pines and down to the river way below.
After our walk at one of the town’s bakeries I remembered meeting a French woman in 2013 who had spent what I was still calling a rest day walking up to Khunde and Khumjung and back down to Namche. At the time I thought she was mad but she was walking to Base Camp in less days than us and so walking the large circle up to Khunde and Khumjung would have helped with her walk to Tengboche’s altitude the following day. I now know better than to call it anything else but an acclimatisation day.
For our 2015 trek we had decided to sleep a night at Khumjung. This was not the original itinerary. We had planned to sleep our second night in Monjo but we reached there by 11:00 and were feeling great so we decided to continue and climb to Namche Bazaar. We had our two nights in Namche Bazaar and then using the day up our sleeve on the following day we were then able to walk to Khumjung and sleep at a slightly higher altitude allowing us more acclimatisation time for the altitude. I am sure this extra day was one of the keys to successfully arriving at EBC without any issues.
I now know better than to call it anything else but an acclimatisation day.
Trekking independently with a porter gave us the flexibility to make this change of itinerary.
Below are photos taken on our Acclimatisation Day on 24 September 2015.