Back in Kathmandu in Blogland

Aside

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Bad hair day on the trail to Namche Bazaar after crossing THAT bridge

Phew back down the from mountain. Feels like I’ve trekked to Base Camp again. Reliving the trek via the blog has been great.

Plenty of more posts planned including a few from the first trek  some posts one on Pokhara, Chitwan and Kathmandu of course. And a video to make. Lots more to come. Lots of technical, behind the scenes stuff planned and we all know how long that takes.

And I have to get training again …

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. 

Farewell to the EBC Trek

Everest Base Camp Trek

Day 16 Phakding to Lukla

Nepalese dog

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
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.

Stupa and Mani Walls at Ghat
Prayer Wheels, Mani Walls and the Stupa at Ghat

Waiting for Donkies to Pass on Everest Base Camp trail

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.

Small villages on the hills on the way

Resting spot for porters outside or Lukla

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.

Empty Street in Lukla

Starbucks and the Irish Pub in Lukla

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 and Louise
Basanta our lovely porter guide and me in Lukla at the end of our trek
Paradise Lodge Dining Room
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.

Savouring the Last Days of the Trail

Everest Base Camp Trek

Day Fifteen Namche Bazaar to Phakding

From Lodge to Lodge to Lodge

Lodge at Namche Bazaar

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.

Namche Bazaar and the Kwangde Range

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
First and last view of Everest
Lower suspension bridge over the Dudh Khosi taken from the higher bridge
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 suspension bridges across to Namche Bazaar
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

Porters carrying building materials up the trail

Garden at Monjo Lodge Everest BAse Camp trek

Waiting for lunch in the garden at Monjo Lodge

Lodge in Phakding EBC trail

The lodge we stayed in Phakding on the way up and on the way down

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Going Down the Return Journey to Lukla

Everest Base Camp Trek

Day Thirteen Lobuche to Pangboche

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.

Walking back from Gorak Shep Everest Base CAmp Trek

Everest Base Camp Trek -Gorak Shep to Lobuche

Cairn Memorials at Chupki Lhara on Everest Base Camp Trek

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.

Walking through the Khumbu Khola Valley on the Everest Base Camp trek

With the trail to Dingboche above us we walked through the Khumbu Khola valley into Periche. 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.

Khumbu Khola Valley coming into Dingboche

Rubble from earthquake at Periche

Lodge in Periche

We stopped in Periche for a drink and toilet break and Shomare for lunch.

Heading back on the Everest Base Camp Trek

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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.

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.

Everest Above Our Heads and Base Camp at Our Feet

EBC Trekkers standing on Kala Patthar in front of Mount Everest and above Everest Base Camp
The trainer, me and that yellow wig with Everest above our heads and Base Camp at our feet.

The Million Dollar View from Kala Pattar

And the Trainer’s Last Words

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.

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Day Ten Dughla to Lobuche

Dughla to Lobuche 1 October 2015

I had a shocking night’s sleep 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. It was a steep climb up from Dughla. After the climb we saw 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 for a walk to see the Italian weather pyramid. Inside our lodge was very warm with lots of laser-light in the roof letting the heat in. I was happy to stay in and rest up for the next two very big days.

Eveerest Base Camp Trek Dughla to Lobuche
Pumori on the left on the trek to Lobuche

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).

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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

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 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

2015 Trek

Itinerary for 16 Day Everest Base Camp Trek

Our 2015 September to October 16 days trek to Everest Base Camp linked to day by day posts.

Late September to October 2015

Day 1    Kathmandu 1210m  to Lukla to Phakding
Day 2    Phakding 2610m to Namche Bazaar 3440
Day 3    Acclimatization Namche Bazaar (walked above town) 3440m
Day 4    Namche Bazaar to Khumjung 3780m and more photos
Day 5    Khumjung to Phortse 3800m
Day 6    Phortse to Shomare 4070m
Day 7    Shomare to Dingboche 4360m
Day 8    Acclimatise Dingboche (walked to4900m)
Day 9    Dingboche to Dughla 4600m
Day 10  Dughla to Lobuche 4940m
Day 11  Lobuche to Gorak Shep 5170m and Kala Patthar 5545m
Day 12  Gorak Shep, Everest Base Camp 5300m to Lobuche 4940m
Day 13  Lobuche to Pangboche 3930m
Day 14  Pangboche to Namche Bazaar 3440m
Day 15  Namche Bazaar to Phakding 2610m
Day 16  Phakding to Lukla 2840m
Day 17  Lukla to Kathmandu