The EBC trek. Me the over 50s anxious woman and her husband “The Trainer” starting out from Lukla. Well prepared newbies on the trail.
Before our 2013 Everest Base Camp trek training and preparation, videos and photos helped get an idea of what the trail is like. A photo I found on Pinterest made me realise the need for step training. The photo below is not what I found, but how I found the trail!
Above Namche Bazaar heading to Tengboche
Why step training is important
However, the guide book and The Trainer’s overview of the first day’s walk to Phakding didn’t quite match up with the experience. A two – hour easy downhill walk said the guide book. The Trainer had done all the research and his words echoed the book. In the next few days I discovered easy and downhill are relative and how important mental preparation is.
EBC Trek Trail What I Learnt on Day One
Before we started out for Phakding my idea of downhill was downhill – not up hill and downhill in a general downhill direction. You can see what I mean here with a elevation profile chart of Lukla to Phakding. There are some uphill sections.
It took us about four and half hours walking and I thought we would never get to Phakding. From experience trekking in the Anna Purna region years ago, the Trainer had forewarned me the trail would be uneven and rocky. He had done a great job as personal trainerof designing our training to prepare us for this. The track varied incredibly on the first day from cobblestones in Lukla, to meandering flat paths, to rocky steps and very rocky sections. In the scheme of things Lukla to Phakding is an easy day and after the trek we knew to double the time needed in one guide book. A second guide book we bought in Kathmandu has a handy basic info table with more realistic times in the time usually taken.
The Everest Base Camp trail goes through small villages and is narrow in parts. Shared by trekkers, porters, pack animals (yaks, donkeys and horses) and kids on their way to school it can be busy. I selected the photos to show how the track varies on the first day.
That’s me walking out of Lukla feeling very much the Newbie.
One of the many villages and tea houses along the trail.
That first bridge … always a bit scary
At this spot on the way back down my Nepalese Mobile rang…..so weird
Here is the link to one of the guide book we like we bought in Nepal. Trekking in Nepal’s Everest Region by Milestone Books. The times usually taken between places you stay.
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.
I knew that Day 3 of our itinerary, climbing to Namche Bazaar would be strenuous. We trained well and though it wasn’t easy we managed the climb well.
When we set out two days later for Tengboche, Sam told me it would be a relatively easy day. That proved far from the case. We had a breather at the top of Namche after a steep climb out of the amphitheatre – shaped town. After a few more challenging hills with spectacular views, the track really leveled out. That bit was the honeymoon period.
The trail then descends 570 metres to the river after crossing this, there is a relentless 750 metres 2-3 hours climb (according to the guide book) to Tengboche. I am sure this section would have taken us much longer.
The funniest bit was the signage. Not far from Namche there was sign “2 hours to Tengboche”. Two hours further along the track there was another sign “2 hours to Tengboche” and then about another two hours further on, you guessed it – “2 hours to Tengboche”. Hence the comment on the video and the post title. At one point we stopped to catch our breath. Another trekker was doing the same with his guide waiting for him. When we asked the guide how much longer to the top, what do you think he replied? I couldn’t believe it.
On that day I learned mental preparation is everything. I had heard it said in relation to physical challenges but didn’t relate to it until then. For our next trek to Everest Base Camp we will be prepared for the two hours to Tengboche. In fact we are changing the itinerary to start the trek from Khunde or Khumjung and not Namche. The other tip is don’t believe the estimated trekking time between the towns and definitely don’t believe the signage.
What does it mean to trek to Everest Base Camp? Do you actually stay there? Not unless you want to sleep in a tent on very cold rocky ground and climb Mount Everest. Which incidentally is barely visible from Everest Base Camp (5300m).
The best place to see Everest from is from Kala Pattar (5545m). How do you get there? From Gorak Shep (5170m), the end of the trail for the average person. Not that you feel very average after walking from eight to eleven days to get there. It feels like walking to the Middle Earth.
Gorak Shep is pretty average when it comes to accommodation. Situated on what was once a lake it has a handful of lodges. But at that stage of the trek you just want a warm bed and a toilet and somewhere to have three meals – lunch, dinner and breakfast usually in that order and to go to what will possibly be the two most special and remote places you will go to in your lifetime. And when you have been there you will want tell the world.
Apart from walking to Base Camp also abbreviated to EBC the best part is the Himalayas spread before you in the most magnificent vista that will be hard to top. You see this from what I discovered was a fairly insignificant looking “hill” of which I had never seen a photo of. So here is one, so you know what you will climb to see that view.
Walking into Gorak Shep the end of the Everest Base Camp Trek
Looks insignificant in the scheme of things with all the massive mountains around it. Innocent even. But that little brown in the middle ground, Kala Pattar is 5545 metres high. It takes two hours to climb to the top, an elevation of 375m from Gorak Shep via the trail on the right. The snow covered mountain in the middle is Pumori.
Louise and Sam Terranova were at Everest Base Camp at the very start of the trekking season after the Nepal earthquakes on 2 October 2015. Lodges had been repaired and the Khumbu was ringing with the sound of stonemasons building new lodges and repairing others along the trail.
A note about Pumori the big triangular mountain in the middle, it is off this mountain that the avalanche came as a result of the April 2015 earthquake. It dumped snow at Base Camp.
Yes that’s me. On the lap of a man with a yellow wig on. At Everest Base Camp.
In my mind’s eye I had pictured it. For over twelve months we had planned it and for six months we had trained hard for it.
We paid for the air tickets a week before the first quake. Twice we decided to cancel the trip, the second time only a month before we were to depart. But we had trained so hard and planned for so long, it was something we had to do, it didn’t feel right to cancel.
Back home with stories, memories and photos that still bring tears to my eyes it is without doubt one of the best things I have ever done. It is an amazing experience and the Everest Base Camp trail and the Khumbu is ready for trekkers. So if you have ever thought of doing it, think no longer, just do it. Train and prepare for a life changing experience.
Oh and the wig – it was a big hit at EBC and borrowed for photos that will adorn shelves in Japan and India just to name a few.
Louise Terranova trekked to Everest Base Camp, 23 Sept- 8 Oct 2015
I knew Day Three of our itinerary, climbing to Namche Bazaar was going to be a strenuous. We trained well for the trek and though it wasn’t easy we took the climb in our stride.
When we set out two days later for Tengboche, the Trainer told me it would be a relatively easy day. That proved far from the case. We had a breather at the top of Namche after a steep climb out of the amphitheatre-shaped town.
After a few more challenging hills with spectacular views, the track really levelled out. That bit was the honeymoon period.
The trail then descends 570 metres to the river, after crossing this, there is a relentless 750 metres two to three hours climb (according to the guide book) to Tengboche. I am sure this section took us much longer.
The biggest problem was the signage. Not long out of Namche there was sign which said “2 hours to Tengboche”. Two hours further along the track there was another sign “2 hours to Tengboche” and then about another two hours further on, you guessed it – “2 hours to Tengboche”. Hence the comment on the video and the post title. At one point after the third sign, we stopped to catch our breath. Another trekker was doing the same with his guide waiting for him. When we asked the guide how much longer to the top, what do you think he replied? I couldn’t believe it.
That day I learnt mental preparation is everything. I had heard it said in relation to physical challenges but had never really experienced it. For our next trek to Everest Base Camp we will be prepared for the “two hours to Tengboche”. In fact we are changing the itinerary to start the trek from Khunde or Khumjung and not Namche. The other tip is don’t believe the estimated trekking time between the towns and definitely don’t believe the signage.