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.

Bucket Lists and Difficult Journeys

Trekking to Everest Base Camp – Are You Ready?

You don’t need to be an athlete nor a mountain climber.

You don’t have to be seasoned hiker either. For many people who trek to Base Camp it is their first experience of anything like this. I know because I was one of these people.

With Training Everest Base Camp is achievable for the average person

Training before you go is highly recommended. Your training is part of the bigger journey. It certainly was part of mine. The Trainer kept reminding me, you know the quote, the journey is not just about the destination. Oh and the question of age. I’m in my fifties and there were plenty of people older than me on the trail.

Above the yak pastures on the trail to Dingboche.
One of favourite days walking into Dingboche past yak pastures.

If you are healthy, have trained and mentally prepared Everest Base Camp is possible. Continue reading

The Trainer and Me

Why I Started A Blog About Our Journey TO EBC

The Blogger and the Trainer

The Trainer always the watchful eye in the background

Hello I’m Louise

In 2013 the Trainer and I trekked the Main Mount Everest Base Camp Trail. It was the Trainer’s idea not mine. I really didn’t want to go to Everest Base Camp.  I was worried about an endless list of things – getting robbed, murdered, lost, breaking an ankle, the trek being too difficult, getting sick, getting altitude sickness, freezing, oh and being tipped off a mountain by a yak. But I didn’t want to be left behind to worry about the Trainer either. Given I met him on a felucca on the Nile and he later dragged me across the Sahara when all I wanted was to relax on a Thai beach, well, after 30 years I should expect these things.

The optimistic Trainer had been to the Annapurna area in Nepal years ago and saw no problems with trekking to EBC. But I wanted to be reassured by someone else. Talking to a few people helped. YouTubes helped get a sense of the trail experience. But I really wanted to hear from a woman like myself – in her fifties and not a veteran trekker, who had been there. I searched for a blog but at the time I couldn’t find any.

The time came to decide to go or not. I didn’t want the Trainer to go by himself. We flew out in late November 2013 and we nearly made it to Everest Base Camp. Could have and should have. But didn’t. We were disappointed and  it felt like unfinished business and amazingly I was hooked. Addicted to thriving on the challenge and the place. Yes that’s me standing there, almost at Namche Bazaar with just a couple of steep hills to go.

Everest Base Camp Trek

Almost there! The infamous climb to Namche Bazaar almost finished.

 

We returned to Australia and I wanted to tell everyone how special the trail to EBC is and how alive and incredibly fit I felt from the experience. I was the fittest I had been. Ever. I wanted to tell everyone that a not particularly fit middle aged woman, with training, could trek to Everest Base Camp and love the experience. We planned to try again and this time get there. I decided to share my training journey and the experience of Main Everest Base Camp trail in a blog.

We trained and trained,  me and the tireless Trainer.  We bought our flights to Kathmandu early 2015. Two weeks later Nepal was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. That changed everything. The following months the Trainer researched, trained and was optimistic. Me, I trained and well of course, worried. Finally we agreed to believe the reports the EBC Trail was ready, it was business as usual and we flew to Kathmandu in late September. And on 2nd October 2015 the Trainer and I, with our porter made it to Everest Base Camp.

But this wasn’t the only reason I wanted my message out there….

I discovered that the important thing was, it wasn’t just about getting to Base Camp it was about the whole journey. The training journey was big lifestyle change for me. It was a fitness first. 2013 was also the year I touched my toes for the first time. Ever.

Final ascent into Namche Bazaar Everest Base Camp Trek

I’m the fourth one down. the one without the 100 kilo load. The porters are something else. 

Training for EBC in July and August

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Photo above was of our secret stair training locations. Eight flights of stairs ten minutes from home. great for winter training because it was totally covered.

July

Week 1…Stairs 45 min;  Treadmill walk run. on 1 step incline, 35 minutes; I stopped counting the steps and we started recording time.

Week 2…Stairs 50 min; Treadmill 45 min, 43.5 km, step incline 1, vft 143, 10 min run; Hill walk Viewbank, 1 hour 5 min; Treadmill 36 min, 4 km, vft 131.

Week 3…Stairs 1 hour, 4000 steps; Treadmill 3.65 km, 1270 vft; Treadmill 3km, 33min, 100 vft;

Week 4… Stairs 4,368 steps; Treadmill 4.256 km, 1559 vft. weight in pack 2.3k, 15 step incline; treadmill 3.038 km, 1120 vft., 2.4 kg weight.

Week 5… Treadmill 4.010 km,1580 vft, 56 min, 2.4 kg weight in pack; Walk on track 9 km, 2 hours 10 minutes: treadmill 3.117 km., 1506 vft in 51 min. on 15 step incline

August

Week 1…Treadmill 3.8 km, 1721 vft.,1 hour; Stairs 3,800 stairs 1 hour; Treadmill 3.825 km., 1500 vft.: Walk 9 km, 2.5 – 3 hours with trekking poles.

Week 2… Stairs 70min: Walk to Rosanna 8km: treadmill 3.92 km., 1502 vft., 1 hour; Treadmill 3.825 km., 1609 vft.: Walk hill and track training 8.3 km, 2 hours 40 min.

Week 3…Bike to Petty’s Orchard, fell off bike: Stairs; Treadmill 4.144 km., 1787 vft.; Treadmill 4.810 km, 2000 vft.; Walk 6 km. at Cape Patterson.

Week 4… Walk at beach, Cape Patterson; Walk hills, 9 km., small pack; Treadmill 4.113 km., 1767 vft., 1 hour and feeling very tired; Stairs 60 min; Walk 11.5 km.

What we were training for – The 2015 Trek

A glimpse of the trail

But if you want you can jump to Day One of the 2015 Trek Lukla to Phakding or get a taste of an Acclimatisation Day at Dingboche or you want to skip straight to one the best bits feeling on top the world at Kala Pattar.

If you are not convinced the incline training for EBC is worth the effort read 25 Reasons to Trek to Everest Base Camp.  

 

Training for EBC in May and June

TIPS

  • Keep a training calendar.

  • Enter details straight after training or you will forget, then get into a hot bath.

  • Undercover stairs are a great option during the winter months.

May – training three days a week, starting incline training on the treadmill.

Week 1…Walk 1.5 hours, Hills @ Templestowe; Treadmill 30 min 1 km run, vertical feet (vft) 500, 2.706 km Week 2…Treadmill 3 km, 25 min, no incline, 65 steps on new stepper; Walk 65 min fast walk to Rosanna, 5.5 km; Hill climbing (?) Week 3…Bike, Bridge at Templestowe to Petty’s Orchard; Hills (?); Treadmill 4km, incline 800 vft, 46 minutes; Treadmill 4km run,1 km walk cool down. in 46.5 minutes on 1 step  incline. Week 4…Treadmill incline training,1 hour, 4.73 km 5 and 7 step inclines, 1052 vft.; Treadmill 30 min, 2.6 km, 1 incline 53 vft.; Walk Plenty River Trail, Viewbank, 1 hr 45 min, off trail hills.

Perfect for Everest Base Camp Hill training

This is one of our favourite training hills because it is steep! That’s Sam half way down the hill and my daughter is the speck at the top.

June – training three days a week, 1 slow week, started step training

Week 1… Treadmill 4km total – 3 km run on 0.5 incline in 27 min, 1 km on 10 step inlcine, 40 min, 346 vft. No other training this week. Week 2… Run at Rosanna Park; Weekend away, Heathcote 7 km walk. Week 3… Walk, Plenty River Trail Viewbank off trail hills; Run 4km at Rosanna Park; Treadmill incline training, 10.5 step incline,  30 min,1.997 km; Stairs at La Trobe 2,304 steps Week 4…Walk at Rosanna Park 5 km ; Walk, Plenty River Trail Viewbank, 6 km “6 laps”; Stairs at La Trobe 2,000 steps; Walk, Plenty River Trail Viewbank,”8 laps”, 1 hour 10 min. Week 5… Stairs at La Trobe, 2,250 steps, 40 minutes.

* Stairs have been a good option during the Winter months.

Training for EBC February March and April

February Training

Week 1…Walk to park 5km; Treadmill 5.8km no incline; Treadmill incline 5, 2.44 km, 5 min bike, stretches; stretches Week 2…Trail walk & treadmill 6.5 km 400 vft.; Walk to Rosanna park one lap. Week 3…Treadmill 5.1km, 1hour, 900vft.; Treadmill 15 mins, 1.2 km, 74vft ; Walk to park, half a lap Week4…Treadmill 3 km, 33.5 mins, 415 vft; walk to park 1 hour 20 mins; Bike ride 11km Heidelberg to East Ivanhoe.

March Training

Week 1…Treadmill 5.423km, 1 hour 20 mins, walk/ run 413 vft ; Treadmill 7 incline, 626 vft, 2.578 km, 30 mins; Bike 12 km Templestowe to Petty’s Orchard Week 2…Treadmill 30 min walk on 2 incline, 20 min run on 2 incline, 20 min on 6 incline; Walk /run at Rosanna Park 1 hour 20 mins Week 3…Bike at river Mountain Trail Bike path Week 4…Run 4 kids, incidental walking as support team; Treadmill incline 30 mins, 2.512km,8 incline 510vft; 1 hour 20 min hill walks and “off piste” terrain Week 5…Bike Odyssey House to Petty’s Orchard (Pedal for Parkinson’s); Treadmill 10 minutes; Bike to Fairfield boathouse, 1 hour 15 min12 – 13 k, Treadmill 10 min 7 incline 11min 1 km…April… Treadmill 4 km, 47 min,15 min on 7.5 incline; Fast walk to Fairfield Boat House along Main Yarra Trail to Studley Park boathouse and back; Walk 9 – 10 km, Fairfield to Gipps Street bridge / Yarra Bend.

April Training

Week 2…Walk to Rosanna; Walk back of Templestowe (Boot Camp 6); Walk to Rosanna park and some jogging 59 mins: Walk Week 3…Bike Ride 13km, Heidelberg to Odyssey House and the alpaca; Templestowe hill trail with trekking poles, 7 km, 2 hours; Treadmill 4 km run and 1 km on incline Week 4…Treadmill 2km, 7 incline, 27:25 min, 462 vft; Walk 7 km, 2 hours Plenty River Trail, Treadmill 3km, 27 min, 1.5 incline; Treadmill 1 hour, 4.808 km, 6 step incline, 927 vft; Treadmill 5km, 2km on 8 step incline, 3km on 1 step incline, 599 vft. Week 5…Walk Plenty River Trail, 1 hour, 4km; treadmill run, 1.5 incline, 200 vft. 4km in 31min; Treadmill 30 min ”Central Park” 28 mins, 20 min walking on 6 incline, two lots on incline training.  

POSTSCRIPT –

Is all the training and the tedious list necessary? I trekked all the way to Gorak Shep without a blister and with very little in the way of aches and pains thanks to our training. Put “Trek to Everest Base Camp” as your Fitness Challenge or on your bucket list. You won’t regret it and it maybe it will be one the best things you do. Chances are you will do it again. Trekking in Nepal is addictive.

Have I got you considering an Everest Base Camp Trek? Want to more more? Here is the last place you will sleep on the trail….. The Last Lodges at Gorak Shep