Slip Sliding Away at Everest Base Camp

The Walk You Have To Do

Day Twelve Gorak Shep (5170m) – Everest Base Camp (5300m) – Lobuche

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.

Almost at Everest Base Camp
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.

Exploring Everest Base Camp
Large boulder perched on ice above a small stream

Exploring the Everest Base Camp Area
Exploring the Everest Base Camp area
Everest Base Camp Area
Our Porter Guide Basanta exploring
Tents of the 2015 Ultra Marathon Runners at Everest Base Camp
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.

We Three at EBC
The Trainer, Me and the Porter with the Yellow Wig at Everest Base Camp
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 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.

Day Six Phortse to Shomare

Everest Base Camp Trek

Heads in the Clouds

Clouds blocking a great view
Sitting in cloud hoping it would lift

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. 

Being at Pangboche and heading towards Shomare we were back are on the Main Everest Base Camp trail so we saw more activity including a lot of yaks.

The landscape, being above the tree line is very like the moors of Scotland. We spotted our first mountain goat. I think we would have seen him without our porter guide but there were many times on the trek where Basanta pointed out things we would have never seen. We also saw an enormous eagle flying high above the valley and a lot of helicopters flying back.

We hardly saw anyone on the trail for at least two hours.

The clouds parted for a few views of Ama Dablam (Mother’s Treasure Chest) our favourite mountain because it is easily recognisable and also Lhotse pictured just before Pangboche.

Since leaving Namche Bazaar we had only seen three other trekkers. We found out that our flight to Lukla was the last for five days.

The walk took us 6.5 hours.

Above the trail to Pangboche
Walking towards Pangboche
Lhotse from the trail to Pangboche
Great to see some ice covered mountains after morning clouds
Above Pangboche
Above Pangboche going on the UP.
A mani wall and chorten area
A mani wall and chorten area above the tree line

Ama Dablam

Everest Base Camp Trek Titbit

On our first flight to Lukla a European man in his seventies was sitting across the aisle from my husband. As we flew along the magnificent Himalayas mountain range  he pointed out the names of the various mountains to Sam. I was impressed. This guy knew his mountains. Obviously it wasn’t his first trip. Warning: trekking in Nepal is addictive.

I wanted to be able to list off the mountains too, so before our 2015 trek I studied up on them, well the pictures at least. (Back home I’m still working on that). Apart from Mount Everest which is not that easy to spot because it hides a lot until the very end of the trek, Ama Dablam is one of the first mountains you will come to know and recognise wherever you are. The mountains change shape as you move along the trail because your view changes. Ama Dablam is different it has that funny skinny cone shape and later it has an armchair shape. Remember you’ve got to use your imagination a bit.

Ama Dablam is first visible after Namche Bazaar and there is good view of from Khumjung, which is above Namche Bazaar. In fact the guide books tells you Ama Dablam towers above Khumjung. And she does. Are mountains referred to as male of female? Well I’m calling Ama Dablam a she as it means Mother’s Chest  or Mother’s Treasure Chest or a jewel box if you like. And by all accounts she deserves some respect.

Here she is.

Ama Dablam from the Everest Base trek

Ama Dablam photo taken between Namche Bazaar and Tengboche

 

Up for another Everest Base Camp Trek Titbit?

Bridge Too Many or Bridge Love – bridges on the way to Base Camp and some photos

Bridge Too Many or Bridge Love

The two bridges to Namche Bazaar

The two bridges to Namche Bazaar

Love them or not, the Everest Base Camp Trek has many bridges to cross. For the personal trainer it was Bridge Love. Probably at first sight. He stood in the middle of the bridges looking over the edge enjoying the wind and the rush of water underneath. He put on his documentary maker’s hat and strolled across them filming, making his commentary against the roar of the water underneath. On time he threw the camera at me and asked me to video him crossing the bridge. Not my idea of fun especially when he started jogging on the bridge while I was on it filming.

Yes bridges weren’t my favourite part of the trek. Continue reading

Exploring Monjo

Exploring Monjo

 

Our lodge in Monjo had an outside area with tables in the sun and an orchard out the back, growing apples of course.

Monjo Guest House EBC Trek

A relaxing place to sit in the sun at the Monjo Guest House

As it was an easy walk to Monjo and after a hot shower we went for a short walk through the village to take some photos.

View of Kumbila Peak Monjo

View of Kumbila Peak from Monjo

Prayer Stones in Nepal

Om Mani Padme Hum Prayer stones

Meal for two at Monjo Guest House

Meal for two at Monjo Guest House

 

 

Day 1 Lukla to Phakding

Our 2013 Trek to Everest Base Camp

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!

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 trainer of 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.

EBC Trek Walking out of Lukla

That’s me walking out of Lukla feeling very much the Newbie.

 

Lukla to Phakding Everest Base Camp Trek

One of the many villages and tea houses along the trail.

 

Lukla to Phakding Everest Base Camp Trek

That first bridge … always a bit scary

 

Lukla to Phakding Everest Base Camp trek

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.

 

 

Day Four Namche Bazaar to Khumjung

Steep Climb Through the Clouds

Friday 25 September 2015

Namche Bazaar 3420 – Khumjung 3780 metres 2.5 hours walk

Khumjung is the largest town in the Khumbu region.

Khumjung Everest Base Camp trek September 2015
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).

IMG_1010

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.

Stupa at Khumjung in the Khumbu region of Nepal
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.

See photos for our walk into Khumjung

Day 3 Namche Bazaar Altitude Acclimatisation Day

Altitude Acclimatisation or Rest Day ?

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.

Namache Bazaar, Main Trail Everest Base Camp Trek
Looking out onto Namche Bazaar
Namache Bazaar, Main Trail Everest Base Camp Trek
Above Namche Bazaar on the path to Khunde
Pines above Namche Bazaar September 2015
Stunning large black pine cones
Monastery at Namche Bazaar
Monastery Entrance

Two Hours to Tengboche

Day Five Namche Bazaar to Tengboche

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.

Day 2 Phakding to Namche Bazaar 2015 Trek

Gallery

This gallery contains 8 photos.

View from our room into the early  morning late September mist Mist and wet track just outside of Phakding Part of the steep ascent to Namche Bazaar before the rest point. Dudh Kosi above the bridge

Day 1 Lukla to Phakding EBC Trek 2015

Kathmandu-Lukla-Phakding (2610m)
8.5 km 3.5 – 4hours

  • Flying into Lukla
  • Remember downhill is never just downhill
  • Beautiful little villages
  • 8.5 km walk, took 4 hours in 2013, 3.5 hours in 2015
  • Lukla to Chheplung took us one hour
  • First bridge at Thado Kosi Gaton
  • Om Mane Padme Hum

Day One on 2013 Trek
Day Two on 2015 Trek
Itinerary 2015 Trek

Flying to Lukla

Main Street Lukla, setting out on Main Trail EBC Trek

Lukla to Phakding

Ghat on the Main Trail Lukla to Kala Patthar and Everest Base Camp

Main Trail to Kala Patthar and EBC

Main trail Lukla to Kala Patthar at Phakding

Gorak Shep Next Stop EBC

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.

Gorak Shep the end of the Everest Base Camp trek

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.

You can read an account from Svati Narula who was at Base Camp when the quake hit.

At Everest Base Camp

Louise Terranova with a man in a yellow wig at Everest Base Camp.
The yellow wig made it to Everest Base Camp too.

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

Two Hours to Tengboche

Video

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.

Namche Bazaar Everest Base Camp Trek

Namche Bazaar

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.

 

Keep to the Mountain Side

Rule number one of the mountain. Stick to the mountain side when animals are on the trail.

This is our little video and the first youtube I have made.