Everest Base Camp Trek – A TALE OF 2 HOBBITS (by Ashwin)
A flash of the moment decision with very limited deliberation and off we booked our tickets to the Everest base camp trek. We embarked on this journey with very limited preparation and with days getting closer there were self-doubts about the ability to push ourselves to the limits of our physicality. With grit and determination we managed to channelize the anxiety into self-belief.
With limited sleep, we left for our early morning flight to Kathmandu via Delhi. As we began our descent into the Kathmandu airport we were greeted with a panoramic view of the snow-capped Himalayas. As we disembarked from our flight, we were awaited by a pleasant 20 degree Celsius and our driver whisked us past the bustling market streets of Thamel.
Today (Day-1) marked the beginning of this epic adventure. The first part of the day was an exciting 45 minute fight journey from Kathmandu to Lukla (2860 m), which is considered to be the world’s most dangerous airport. At Lukla, we met our very friendly guide and began our 4 hrs descent into Phakding (2610) on foot. The very fact that we were walking in the footsteps of some legendary climbers sent a chill down my spine. We reached our river side hotel by 4 pm and I would classify the trek as easy and merely a warm-up for the days ahead. The hotel was basic, and it reminded us that we have not come for a luxury vacation. In the evening, we met some fellow trekkers and exchanged our itineraries. Based on the discussions, it was apparent that we had very limited experience in comparison to our fellow trekkers.
As it was throughout the trip, we started early in the morning on the 2nd day and proceeded to the famous Namche Bazar.The trail in the morning was fairly uncomplicated as we traversed through gentle slopes following the Dudh Kosi river. The trail post lunch was a very steep ascent, interspersed with a series of suspension bridges.
On the way, we got the first glimpse of the majestic Mt. Everest. By using every ounce of reserve energy we gradually limped our way into Namche. The next day was for acclimatization in Namche Bazar (Day 3), allowing us to shake off the exertions of the day before. We took a short trek to the Everest View point just above the town and got wonderful glimpse of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Khumbila, Tabouche and Ama Dablam. We soaked ourselves in the morning sunshine, breathing fresh unadulterated air for a couple of hours and returned to our hotel to rest and prepare for the days ahead.
For the next 2 days (Day 4 &5) we gradually trekked through some undulating ups and downs passing through Tengobche, Dibouche and finally reaching Dingboche at an altitude of 4400 m above sea level.During the course of the journey we observed a gradual transition in vegetation ranging from lush rhododendron forest at lower reaches to small shrubs as we gradually ascended up. At Dingboche, we had our second acclimatization day (Day 6), where we woke up to a warm cup of sea buckthorn, a citrus fruit which grows at high altitudes, juice. We got the best view of Ama Dablam at Dingboche. At dusk, we were treated to the spectacle of sunset over the Ama Dablam. The night sky was dotted with countless stars and we stared in awe, daring the extremely cold weather outside.
Two days away from the Base camp, our itinerary on Day 7was to reach Lobuche, at an altitude of almost 5 kms above sea level. Today, the challenge was to encounter the steep ascent over the rugged Thukla pass. Our guide had openly declared to us that if we successfully crossed the pass without any symptoms of altitude sickness, we would manage to reach EBC. Gasping for breath every 10 steps, slowly and steadily we managed to reach the top of the pass. At the top we saw memorials of people who had lost their lives climbing the Everest.
Finally, the day of reckoning (Day-8) was here. What lay between us and EBC was 10 hours of trek. The low oxygen level meant, we were quite literally walking into thin air. The initial part of the route was fairly uncomplicated and over a flat terrain filled with small rocks and pebbles, followed by couple of steep ascents. After two hours, we were walking in the midst of the glacier and got a first peek of the Khumbu icefall. We reached Gorakshep at noon, our lunch stop before continuing our journey to the base camp. Post lunch, we trekked through the rocky terrain battling excruciating pain and reached the base camp at 4 PM. We were filled with a sense of euphoria at having finally reached the door to the heavens (Mt Everest). The base camp was nestled in the midst of snow-cappedmountains with the Khumbu icefall at the background. It was interesting to note that the Everest peak was not visible from the base camp. Since, we did the trek at the beginning of the winter, the base camp was empty with only a stone marker. Typically during spring the place is laden with hundreds of tents housing people trying to summit the Everest. After congratulations and few photographs we turned back. We walked back in twilight and watched the sunset on the Mt. Everest from distance.
It just kept getting better!!!The best was saved for the last. The final and the most difficult of all hikes, was the one to Kala Patthar. We started early in the morning at freezing -20C under windy conditions. The multiple layers of clothing that we had on, offered very limited protection. Braving the elements, deprived of oxygen we managed to reach Kala Patthar just in time for sunrise. We got a glimpse of the beautiful snow covered Himalayan landscape with the towering Everest and Nuptse. The incline was so steep that even descending down without tripping a couple of times was a challenge. A hot cuppa awaited us back in the hotel to help unfreeze our near frozen fingers and toe. After breakfast, we began our long descent to the windy village of Periche, tracing back the same steps we went through a few days ago. During the course of the next 3 days (Day 10, 11&12) we gradually trekked down from Periche to Lukla.
We encountered some very steep ascents and descents, freezing weather, oxygen depleted atmosphere, yet, we managed to come out unscathed. Despite staring at the jaws of defeat, we constantly managed to push ourselves day in day out and successfully reached half way to the top of the world. The wonderful people we met during the course of the trek made the trip all the more memorable. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our guide (Sagar Lama) and porters (Xhokil and Subash) without whom the trip might not have been successful. Special thanks to the hospitality of Nepali people and of course it would be unfair to end this without mention of “Dhal Bhat”, the super food that provided us with much needed energy throughout the trip. The innumerable experiences during the course of the trek will be cherished in our memories forever.
This certainly is not the end of my love affair with Nepal and I am sure it is the beginning of very many future endeavors. For now, with extreme happiness and satisfaction we head back to our shire.
All thanks to Subid and his team for making the trek feel like a light hearted ramble than a stressful journey.