So the day is finally here - both my 29th and day 1 of our Everest Base Camp Trek. It was a relatively early morning for us and we met out guide Shree at 7am in the hotel. After a mad rush finishing our packing we left for Kathmandu airport at 7.35am in anticipation of the dreaded Lukla flight. Unfortunately we were a bit delayed and not being the best flyer Mick started to get understandably anxious. However we eventually boarded the plane and took off at 9.30am. Thanks to some advice from Shree we got seats on the left side of the plane which gave us spectacular views over the Himalaya for the duration of the flight. The famous Lukla runway very soon loomed ahead of us - a mere 460m at a 12% gradient it didn't look an attractive prospect! However our leather clad pilots were up for the challenge and we touched down smoothly and came to a stop almost instantly
. We met Lama at the airport who was to be our porter for the 2 weeks and set off to Phakding, our stop for the night. As soon as i started walking i remembered why i had wanted to come back to Nepal. The scenery is absolutely incredible and the people are very friendly. The actual walk today was very gentle to ease us in - a lot of flat and down and not so much up! We got our first view of the mountains at our lunch spot where we saw Kusum Khangkaru. With the river flowing on the other side it made a fantastic photo opportunity - lucky for us we all have big memory sticks! Our lodge in Phakding was in a great spot on the Dudh Koshi Nadi river and we're all really looking forward to the next 2 weeks after todays taster!
Stayed: See You Lodge
9 November - Phakding to Namche Bazar
We woke up today at 6.30am after our first night in the mountains. A good breakfast and some water purification and we were ready to go. There was a bit of craic when Lama nearly headed off with someone else's bag instead of dad's. The first half of the day we followed the Dudh Koshi river - fantastic scenery
. Every few steps there was a new spectacular view of the mountains. We criss-crossed over the river a few times on small foot bridges, trying not to get trapped by the many Yak trains. Day 2 is considered the most difficult of this trek, because although we were not yet at serious altitude the final part of the day is a gruelling 600m climb to Namche Bazar. It is non-stop up and pretty steep! We all did well and stuck together for 2 hours at a steady pace. The reward was that half way up we got our first views of Everest - not the most spectacular as we were to find out but enough to spur us on to the top. As we were in Namche for 2 nights Shree had booked us rooms with ensuite sit down toilet - the last of our trip!
Stayed: Everest Hotel
10 November - Namche Bazar
Today was our 'rest' day in Namche Bazar, or more accurately our acclimatisation day. Before lunch we walked up 400m to Everest View Hotel - the highest hotel in the world at 3800m. And then we walked back down again! It was a shortish walk and although the hotel itself isn't great the views are spectacular - Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Everest...
. It got quite nippy at 3800m so we headed down quite quickly - i fear there are colder days to come though! We met an Argentinian guy called Nico on the way up so hopefully he can put us up next year!! As tomorrow is another early start because we move on again, we spent the rest of the day resting, shopping and looking around Namche.
Stayed: Everest Hotel
11 November - Namche Bazar to Tengboche
After 2 days in Namche our room was a bit of a mess and packing up to leave for 7.30am proved a little difficult. However, after packing, porridge and purification we were off before 8am - not too bad! The early part of the walk was incredible. We followed a relatively flat path high up the valley wall and had amazing views in every direction. Unfortunately the path then dropped 200m and of course any down we do at this stage we have to make up later! This was realised at the end of the days walk with another gruelling 2 hour climb - this time to Tengboche. It was made all the more difficult by the lack of shade and clear skies, which although great for views meant the sun was very unforgiving the whole way up
. Tengboche is great - the small village has a large 100 year old Buddhist monastery that has been rebuilt twice due to earthquake and fire. We got to sit in on some prayers in the afternoon, although the spiritual moment was ruined somewhat by the fact that the tourists out numbered the monks 20:1 and the chanting was disturbed by the constant clicking of cameras.
Stayed: Gomba Lodge
12 November - Tengboche to Dingboche
The cold is starting to set in.... After a long freezing night we were up at 6.30am and off just before 8 as usual. However this time we were all wrapped up in extra layers, woolly hats and gloves. It had snowed the night before and was a bit icy, and the down section at the start seemed a bit treacherous. Nevertheless we made it to the bottom without any falls or injuries. The terrain is constantly changing on the walk and at the bottom we hit different plants and surroundings. The next hour was easy enough although it was still freezing as the stubborn clouds refused to part! Some comfortable up and downs brought us to Pangboche and a welcome cup of sugary milky tea
. The latter part of todays 5 hour slog was not so comfortable. It was very windy and a constant up on rocky terrain. Towards the end we left the tree line for something i would guess looks more like Mars. The change already from day 1 is incredible. The mountains themselves get more threatening but majestic the closer they get. Dingboche is 4350m elevation and we are all apprehensive about how we'll manage from here. I personally felt very heady when we arrived, although after some rest and food and feeling normal again. We've already lost one of our 'companions' - the friend of Nico the Argentinian guy we met in Namche stayed behind in Tengboche because of potential altitude sickness so the main aim now is to make it as far as our bodies allow!
Stayed: Valley View
13 November - Dingboche
Today was our second and last 'rest' day on the way up. As well as an actual rest the aim of these days is to hike up a few hundred meters and then come back down to sleep lower to help our bodies adapt to the altitude. Most people spend their rest day walking to a place called Chukkung - another village a couple of hours from Dingboche
. Shree, however, took us a Ama Dablam base camp instead has it is a walk he personally discovered and no one else does it. After a tough hike up the valley wall we arrived at a corrie lake at the foot of Ama Dablam and were greeted with an incredible panoramic view of Lhotse, Everest, the Nuptse Wall, Island Peak, Cholatse, Makalu and Ama Dablam. We really were in the middle of the Himalaya! We hung around for a bit taking photos, and Liz and I built a little stone Choten for other travellers to find. The cloud started to roll in so we decided to head down, which quickly turned into a bit of an adventure. There was no real path and as Shree and Lama headed off in front the three of us were left to fend for ourselves somewhat. The cold and cloud made for a pretty miserable hike down and we quite annoyed by the end that our lovely day had ended so miserably!
Stayed: Valley View
14 November - Dingboche to Lobuche
On the move again getting ever closer to Base Camp. The early part of the day took us above Dingboche into a relatively flat walk overlooking Pheriche where we will stay on the way down and the valley below
. From here we could see Cholatse, Taboche and Lobuche East - so many mountains! Looking down at Pheriche its nice to know there are easier days ahead! We had a morning break n Dughla for more sugary tea and then spent a gruelling hour tackling a vertical wall of boulders and uneven ground. Having proudly and successfully reached the top it was an easy run on to Lobuche. Unfortunately when we arrived in Lobuche Shree informed us that despite having booked rooms in a nice lodge these had been given away and there was no space anywhere! In the end we managed to get rooms in the grimmest place ever - somewhere Mick will never forget, not just because his room was next to the loo! The common room smelt of rotten veg, was crowded and the fire was non-existent so it was beyond freezing! I knew to expect cold when i signed up for this but this place was the coldest most depressing place i have ever been. There was no chance of sleep, just the hope that i might snooze a bit once i was tied into my sleeping bag....
Stayed: Kala Patthar Lodge
15 November - Lobuche to Everest Base Camp
to Gorak Shep
We woke this morning shivering after a terrible nights sleep in what was without a doubt the worst lodge we have stayed in
. As we found out the night before that Gorak Shep was very busy we sent Shree ahead to get a room and guided ourselves there. Liz wasn't feeling well from the start as it was very cold and she hadn't slept the night before. After about an hour's flat walking we reached a pretty steep part which she found really tough. The rest of the trip to Gorak Shep was a real struggle with some tears and plenty of stops but we eventually stumbled into Gorak Shep about an hour later than planned (nb. Mick motored all the way to Gorak Shep and arrived on time!). The plan was to have a quick lunch and head straight to Base Camp but it seemed Liz was in no state for this. However, incredibly after some sugary tea (2 cups) she perked up and decided to head on with us! The walk to base camp was amazing. We followed the moraine on the side of the Khumbu Glacier with great views all the way. Mars bars kept Liz going and we eventually made it to the Base Camp (again behind Dad!). We spoke to a lot of people on the way up who said there was nothing to see at base camp but i don't agree at all. The walk there is great, the glacier is very eerie and surreal, and the view of the ice-fall is brilliant. After a bit of emotion we layed the stone that Dad had brought from Inchydoney and took more photos! The high of making it to our main destination took us all the way back to Gorak Shep for a big dinner and now hopefully a good nights sleep before Liz and i tackle Kala Patthar in the morning!
Stayed: Snowland Lodge
16 November - Gorak Shep to Kala Patthar
This morning was an early start for Kevin and i as we attempted to climb Kala Patthar
. Having succeeded in his ambition to reach Everest Base Camp the day before Mick opted for a lie-in instead - probably the sensible choice! Kala Patthar was an extremely tough 2 hour up hill slog to 5550m. Definitely too tiring to pay any attention to the surroundings on the way up, the only thing that we noticed was each new section of rocks to clamber over as we climbed over one, two and finally three ridges hiding the summit. After a final tough scramble over rocks we reached the top for spectacular views over the whole area - Khumbu Glacier, Base Camp, Lhotse, Everest..the list is endless. Having said that, on a personal note it didn't have the impact that arriving at base camp had, and because of the number of people there is wasn't nearly as serene as our day at Ama Dablam base camp. Still not bad though! Unfortunately on the way back down i started to feel ill again and by the time we reached the lodge i had an almost debilitating headache. After some drugs, a short rest and some advice Mick managed to get from the doctor in Pheriche, we started to head down slowly. As the headache was most likely related to altitude and my morning stroll to 5550m we had to go down anyway. At Lobuche we got lunch and i started to feel better and as we had such awful memories from our night there i made sure that we pushed on to our intended destination of Pheriche. As far as Dughla we walked the same path as 2 days before, just down instead! Past that we went low into the valley onto the path we had looked over on our trek from Dingboche to Lobuche
. It was a great walk - flat, interesting terrain, great views and more vegetation than we had seen in a couple of days. As we were feeling better from the descent and had all achieved our goals, we celebrated with a big feast of the best food we've had on the whole trip. We're saving the beers for Namche though because we still got a few tough walks before that!
Stayed: Nargakot Hotel
17 November - Pheriche to Phortse
Woke up after another very cold night. Even though we dropped over 1000m yesterday we haven't yet noticed a significant temperature increase! We've heard that Lukla is closed and dad is starting to get a bit worried. He suggested that we might try and get back a day earlier but we eventually decided to stick to plan as we have a fixed flight and are unlikely to get on an earlier one of there's a back log. We rejoined our route for a bit although we didn't recognise it until we spotted a place where Liz and dad had fond memories of a toilet stop on the way up! We left our original path again to head towards upper Pangboche and met a really nice American and Welsh couple who helped us reminisce about our time in India
. After a quick lunch stop we headed on towards Phortse on the most incredible path of the whole trek. Nepali flat and hugging the side of the valley about 300m above the river it wasn't for the feint hearted. The views were spectacular - at one stage there was a hanging valley across from us backed by snow capped mountains ringed by clouds with the sun shining on it. It was like something out of Lord of the Rings. The weather stayed perfectly clear the whole way and only closed in when we reached Phortse. Compared to the other villages we have been to this is definitely the most Nepali. Stone walls, numerous fields of potatoes around every house and no roads or cars. The lodge is ok although still cold. We have a group of American climbers in the dining hall now who as expected are talking at a volume that implies they think everyone else must be interested in what they have to say! Khumjung tomorrow and then Namche for beers!
Stayed: Phortse Guesthouse
18 November - Phortse to Namche Bazar
This morning was tough. We started by walking from Phortse straight down to a river
. This was followed by a relentless 1.5 hours uphill to Mongla - back to 4000m. Kevin and i were feeling very ill by the time we got there. I still wasn't 100% from Gorak Shep and pushing up to Kala Patthar and Kevin was feeling sick! Our original plan for the day was to stay in Khumjung, a large Sherpa village where Hillary built a school and medical centre, and go on to Namche tomorrow. However, after some deliberation and a short phone call by Shree we decided to go to Namche today and spend tomorrow as an actual rest day there. Lama was delighted as he prefers Namche and headed straight there. Kevin, Mick, Shree and i took a lunch detour to Khumjung first. The walk there was a bit hairy! Very steep, narrow steps took us down almost vertically. We passed people carrying massive loads and had no idea how they could have made it up the stairs. Khumjung was a large town and probably very interesting to wander around (Shree's favourite place) but by this point Kevin was starting to feel quite ill and as the weather was starting to close in so we couldn't see anything we left for Namche (leaving Shree to eat lunch!). With some initial guidance from another group we quickly wandered through the fog in the right direction. It might not have been a sensible idea to wander into the Himalaya in that weather but sat here now in Namche it was all ok! We found ourselves after half an hour at the back end of the goods runway above Namche Bazar (a bit eerie) and were then able to find our way to the hotel walking down the hill through winding paths and shrubs - good fun really
Stayed: Everest Hotel
19 November - Namche Bazar
I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of someone being sick through the walls. Unlucky i thought until i rolled over and realised Liz was in the bathroom! She was back and forth for the next few hours - our decision to come to Namche early paid off because it was the only place we stayed with an ensuite! I got some tablets from dad which seemed to help and in the end we left Liz in bed all day. Myself and dad didn't do much for the rest of the day as had been the plan anyway. We wandered around Namche, drank coffee, stressed about flights (mainly dad) and checked weather reports on the internet for a glimmer of hope! We also decided to stay in Namche another day and to do the walk to Lukla in one day from Namche on Sunday. It would be a long days walking but would give all of us, especially Liz, an extra day to recover. She's feeling better now although not really up for eating!!
Stayed: Everest Hotel
20 November - Namche Bazar
I'm feeling much better today - the drugs definitely worked and I'm just lucky that it didn't happen earlier on the trip
! Unfortunately Shree was sick last night and this morning - same symptoms as me. None of us wanted to eat anything in the Everest Hotel once we found out about that. It was bad enough that i got sick but when the guide got sick we had no faith in the hygiene of the place! However the hotel's on the route charge you a double room charge if you eat elsewhere to ensure they get room and food money out of you for the duration of the stay, so we had a debate with Shree as to how we avoid this. I think he would have just paid it but we didn't think he should due to the sicknesses! Always able to come up with an answer, Shree suggested that we eat in the hotel owners' brothers restaurant as he would be able to sell this idea to the owner without paying the extra room charge. This worked, and as a bonus we also got to move to the brothers hotel for a night - it was a brand new place with hot showers in the rooms and no rats (we haven't mentioned this before but Mick wasn't very happy about the night time visitors in the walls!). Namche is just a tourist town mostly and not particularly attractive a place for that reason, unless you bother to walk up high above the town which we did today - great views! We also got to see the famous Saturday market, which is just for locals, because we stayed today as well. However the only thing we bought was a latte and chocolate muffins - great to be in the mountains!
Stayed: The Nest at Namche
21 November - Namche Bazar to Lukla
After 2 days of rest today was our last day of walking on the trek
. We set out as early as possible as we knew we had about 7 hours of walking ahead. The first part of the walk was to retrace our steps down the gruelling climb we had on day 2. Even stumbling down it's easy to see why day two is considered one of the hardest days on the trek. Walking back down the trail also gives you a chnace to take in the views that you missed as they were behind you all the way up! Just as impressive of course and another pile of photos added to our collection. We eventually got to Phakding, our stop on the first night, for lunch. This took alot longer than we all remembered and we were glad we hadnt known what was ahead of us on the morning of day 2 before we set out! The last stretch to Lukla is all uphill and we were all suprised how long this took too. We must have ran down this section on the first day as on numerous occasions we thought it must be coming to an end only for the path to stretch out and up ahead of us again. When Lama came back down the path to meet us we thought we must be close but it turned out he'd come a long way back and the false hope just made things worse! We finally made it to Lukla, big hugs, more photos, dumped our bags and straight to the Irish pub for a few celebratory beers. We're sitting in the lodge now, eating chips, having a few more beers, learning some Nepali from Shree and all very pleased with ourselves. Just gave Lama his tip; hopefully hes happy. Think Dad is starting to get nervous about the flight tomorrow. We walked up to the airstrip earlier to video some landings and takeoffs so hope that hasn't put him off
Stayed: Khumjung Lodge
22 November - Lukla to Kathmandu
Goodbye Khumbu and Sagarmatha.... As promised by Shree this morning we were on the first Tara Air flight out of Lukla. We were up early and as there was no walking to do i treated myself with a heavy maple syrup covered pancake for breakfast instead of something more sensible like porridge! Mick was very nervous this morning, luckily once the plane arrived there wasn't much chance to think about anything. They rushed the newbies off and us on so quickly that before we knew it we were hurtling down hill and then up-up and away from the Lukla airstrip. They literally use every last inch of the runway before they pull up into the air. We were very lucky to get both of our flights on time. Except for one day the weather of the whole trip was perfect and Shree thinks it's because the mountains like us a lot :) Sitting in our 3* hotel now in Kathmandu we are all a little tired and looking forward to a big pizza and more beer tonight. Everest Base Camp was a fantastic experience and i think one we will all never forget - and we are now looking forward to showing (not boring) everyone with all our stories and pictures!