Maia Pandey Our EBC trek began on the morning of Monday, March 14, as we boarded the Lukla flight. It was a terrifying 45 minutes, when I honestly feared a death among smoldering pile of airplane parts somewhere in these mountains- but, with a hair-raising landing, we all made it out alive and walked out to meet our porters and begin the first day of ten in our journey to Everest Base Camp. The next eight or so hours were spent hiking to Phakding. The hike was tiring for my family, as we hadn’t quite adjusted to Kathmandu time from jetlag and were not equipped to handle a day’s worth of walking. Eventually we ended up stopping at a teahouse where my sister and I both indulged a quick 45-minute power nap. We finished the hike that day slightly groggy, but relatively energetic from the excitement of our trip and what was to come. The next day, Day 2, consisted of the trek to Namche Bazaar. I’ll just skip to the most memorable and physically grueling part of the day, maybe even the whole trip: the seemingly endless uphill climb from crossing Hillary Bridge all the way until Namche. The climb is estimated to take about two hours, but with our complaining, dragging of feet, cursing, and frequent breaks (I’ll admit it, all of this was mostly on the part of my sister and me), it took us a good three and a half to four hours. I can’t say much that would do this climb justice: just imagine a large rocky stair-like climb stretching for a hundred yards. You climb it slowly, arduously and after a good twenty minutes you’re at the top, tired and triumphant- but then you turn the corner, only to see a steeper and longer climb. Upon arrival in Namche, my sister and I rushed off to the famous bakery and enjoyed an excellent apple tart with some milk tea. Our lodge in Namche was lovely, with a well-heated restaurant, bed-warmers, and endless wifi (which we all used obsessively, some for Facebook posts and others to reply to emails). Our third day was a rest and acclimatization day in Namche, which consisted of (to my dismay) a short day hike to a local Sherpa museum and a viewpoint from where Everest could be seen from. We missed Everest that day because of the clouds, but no matter because we would surely see it in the days to come. The rest of the day we took a nap and had some dinner. I should mention two things at this point: potatoes and cheese. They were everywhere. We started noticing it in Namche, that every single place had the same menu, consisting largely of potatoes and cheese. Potato sandwich, cheese sandwich, potato-cheese sandwich, cheese pizza, potato stir fry, and (you guessed it!) potato-cheese momos! I don’t think I went a single meal on the EBC trek without consuming a bite of either potato or cheese or both: it was everywhere! The next day was our trek to Deboche and marked Day 4 of the trip. We had grown accustomed of the routine nature of the hiking: walk, walk, stop for breakfast, walk, walk, walk, lunch, walk, walk, walk, walk, destination. En route to Deboche, we stayed pretty true to this schedule, stopping for views and photo ops. Notably, we got a hazy sighting of Everest in the morning- it was half-obscured by clouds and miniscule from the distances Nevertheless, we were happy to have gotten our first glimpse of the squarish peak, tallest in the world! The most remarkable part of this day was the snow, which came in the late afternoon and in full force. The blizzard was quiet but within twenty minutes of the first flake, we were trudging in an inch of white powder. It was hard walking against the snow and I kept my eyes scrunched up for a majority of the time, but when I did open them it was to the picturesque arches of white-coated branches above us and the winding path through the woods, freshly coated and unbroken by footprints. A short hour of hiking in the snow, brought us to our destination at about 4:00 p.m. After a good night’s sleep, it was time to get back up and take on Day 5, which would consist of the hike to Dingboche. On a different note, I should mention all the people we ended up meeting on the trek. There was one group of two that we had been seeing at the lodges and such every night since the Lukla flight! Every lodge was filled with familiar faces and we befriended many of the Nepali guides, one of which who I would like to quote here: this was his wisdom on the key to trekking EBC, “Daal bhat power, 24 hour! No toilet, no shower!” Meeting these same people over and over was a fun part of the trek, and we encountered a lot of fascinating groups. Anyway, back to our trek: the day was a Friday, the task was 800m and full day of hiking. We spent the first part of Day 5 hiking through the previous night’s snowfall, although it wasn’t too cold in the morning light. What I remember most from this day was the last hour of it. The wind was absolutely brutal and we were walking against the worst of it along the steep, winding paths. It was bitterly cold and our increasing altitude had finally put us in the clouds. Everywhere we looked was coated with a thick white fog, and I could barely see ten feet in front of me. This was perhaps one of the moments where it really sank in: what we were doing and the intensity of it. Other days it would just seem like one of the day hikes my family would take in Nepal when my sister and I were younger, but in conditions like that day it was overwhelming to consider what we were taking on. We arrived in Dingboche at around 5:00 p.m., and spent the rest of the evening in the heated common area of the lodge. The next day, Day 6, was a rest day, to our relief. Namche might have been only a couple days ago, but it felt like ages since we had gotten to sleep past 6:30. We spent our rest day going on a short hike up a local peak, in order to further acclimate to the altitude. The evening was spent playing cards and learning new and old games: I somehow managed to lose horribly in every single game. Tomorrow, we would take on the hike to Lobuche. The next morning marked the beginning of one of the worst days of the hike for me. It was Day 7 and the altitude had finally caught up. I was terribly nauseous from the minute I had opened my eyes. This eventually escalated to several rounds of vomiting and, to summarize, my parents even threatened to send me back to Namche if I didn’t begin taking care of myself. This scared me enough to force down a couple bits of toast and gulp down water. The core of the problem was that I hadn’t been drinking enough water and had grown quite dehydrated. We left Dingboche with a late start, what with my sickness. I felt steadily better throughout the day, with constant sips of water. By the time we reached Thukla at midday, I was able to stomach some soup. After Thukla we faced one of the last hurdles before Lobuche, a long, winding, uphill climb. It wasn’t as steep as it was time-consuming. The terrain was rocky and the weather conditions felt manageable, a little windy and on the colder side. It took us about an hour and we had climbed it. I should mention that at this point in the hike our porters had beginning traveling with us. All other days they would set off an hour before us in the mornings and reach the destination a couple hours before we did. With only a few days to go, we would be needing their guidance in the last leg of EBC. We spent a night in Lobuche, after arriving at around 4:00 p.m. The next day was what my sister and I now refer to as The Worst Day of Our Lives. Here’s why: the plan was originally to hike up Gorakshep and then to EBC, and then back down to Gorakshep for the night. However, upon concluding that the altitude at Gorakshep was way to high for us to safely stay a night, we decided to do our original route, but hike all the way back down to Lobuche from Base Camp. It was going to be a long day. Day 8 began at 4:00 a.m., as we all woke up with splitting headaches and the sun hadn’t even risen. By 4:30, we were trudging through the rocky, desert-like terrain in the dark, armed with headlamps. In short, it was miserable. I kept tripping over rocks because the headache was so bad I scrunched my eyes close as a defense mechanism, and even when I managed to open my eyes it was too dark to see much at all, the headlamp had a limited glow. And the cold- it was bitterly, ferociously cold. This time, in the dark before we got the glow of the sunlight, was the coldest part of the trip. It was inescapable and before long my fingers felt stiff, despite the hand warmers I had stuffed into my gloves. The sun came up in a short half hour: it was good because it made everyone feel more awake, but the sight of the endlessly stretching terrain was discouraging. We trudged on for about an hour, until we were met with a massively steep incline. After struggling up the hill, the rest of the route to Gorakshep was comprised of a trail going up and down, both inclines and declines. While the hike was extremely exhausting and this part of my report is mostly a lament, I have to mention that the views at this point were stunning. The sky was a crisp blue and the jagged, white peaks were an impressive outline, high into the clouds. The mountains encircled us in all directions and we were walking along this new kind of terrain, that we hadn’t seen yet: it was an endless expanse of white-gray rocks, falling and rising, consistently uneven. Upon arrival in Gorakshep, we stopped for a quick meal, although we mostly too overridden with altitude sickness to have much of an appetite. From there, it was about three hours to Base Camp. We started getting our first glimpses of Base Camp when we were about halfway there, a couple of orange and yellow tents in the distance. It was a strange feeling to think the last eight days had all led up to today, and that the final destination was so close. The last leg of EBC was as challenging as ever: the pathway was small and extremely steep uphill or downhill. We were warned to go quickly, lest any of the rocks trigger a mini-avalanche. So carefully, steadily, and determinedly we made it to EBC at 12:15 p.m. There was a large pile of rocks, adorned with flags and names carved or painted onto it. The rest of the clearing was pretty plain, with the expedition tents a bit further out. We took plenty of pictures to document it (including several with the Deerwalk flag!) before grudgingly beginning the long journey back down to Lobuche. By this point the mid-afternoon heat had passed and was replaced by strong, gusty winds. We walked quicker on the way back to Gorakshep, but the trip was miserable as we battled against the biting cold. Sitting in Gorakshep, we all looked outside in despair. It was almost 4:00 p.m. and we were aiming to be back in Lobuche before nightfall, which seemed unlikely at this point. We left the warm restaurant in Gorakshep reluctantly and pushed ourselves back out into the cold, still suffering with headaches and slight nausea from the altitude. Gorakshep to Lobuche was probably one the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. I was unimaginably cold, my legs were stiff with exhaustion, my fingers were numb with cold, and I barely had the energy to string a sentence together. We barely spoke except to inquire about the time or retrieve water and the mountains were deadly silent in all directions. That was the scariest part for me- usually there would be bright spots of other hikers in the distance, but it was only the heavy, muffling blanket of white and blue all around us. Eventually, to our dismay, day gave away to night and not soon after snow began to fall. Luckily, the moonlight combined with the glow of the snow on the ground provided for a good amount of natural light, enough so that we did not need our headlights. I lost track of time and my mind reached a state of utter blankness, I was just repeating right, left, right, left, over and over in my head, following the pattern of my feet. It was about two hours in the dark, during which I barely said two words and focused solely on staying awake. By the time we trudged into the lodge it was almost 8:00 p.m., by which point we would normally be sleeping on a normal hiking day. We slept well that night, extremely relieved that the worst was over- it was the end of The Worst Day of Our Lives! Although, I remember it was so cold that my entire family of four slept in the space of two twin beds to conserve body heat! We slept until 9 a.m. the next morning and decided to take a late start to Day 9. The next day was a relatively short hike from Lobuche to Pheriche, only five or so hours. Losing altitude was a relief, as the headaches and nausea finally begin to wear away. It was strange to be retracing our steps from a couple days ago but there was comfort in it, because for once we knew what was going to be around the next corner. After a quick lunch at Thukla we set off for the last leg of a trip. We were told it was going to be long stretch of field-like terrain where Pheriche would be within sight and seem like ten minutes away but it would end up taking a good hour and a half. It was extremely windy but, for once, we climbed constantly downhill, which was a certainly welcome change. The night in Pheriche was like any other, which was why it was so surreal to think that this was our last night. I had grown so used to the routine at that point that it was hard to believe that the next time I would be closing my eyes it would be Kathmandu. Although, it was a relief that we would finally be rid of the freezing cold rooms and I could stop sharing a twin bed with my sister! We went to sleep that night dreaming of warm, March Kathmandu weather and welcome change of food, no more potatoes and cheese! The next morning we woke up to the tenth and final day of our trip. It was fairly early and we went to sit in the lodge common area- because of the strong winds, the helicopter was delayed a few hours. When it finally arrived, we were standing by the helipad, having said goodbye to our porters. We boarded the helicopter, it was a tight squeeze, the six of us, but we made it to Lukla in a short seven minutes- seven minutes! Seven minutes for over a week’s worth of walking! Nevertheless, the views were stunning.
The aerial of the winding, snake-like river woven through the sea of endless greenery was a highlight, along with the sensation of maneuvering our way through the looming, ice-blue Himalayas.
The aerial of the winding, snake-like river woven through the sea of endless greenery was a highlight, along with the sensation of maneuvering our way through the looming, ice-blue Himalayas. After quick stop at Lukla we took off again in the helicopter, and after a mere hour we were landing in Kathmandu. Immediately, I wanted to rip off my down jacket! After all those days of it being a life savior, I was ready to toss it in a minute of the Kathmandu heat. Our group piled into the back of a jeep, en route to the airport exit. The warm air rushed over us, as we rolled smoothly down the runway and the helicopter grew small in the distance. Five short minutes and the Jeep halted. It was time to get out.
|1||Monday, March 14, 2016||Flight from Kathmandu (1400m) to Lukla (2800m) >> Trek to Phakding (2630m)||Sunrise Lodge|
|2||Tuesday, March 15, 2016||Trek to Namche Bazaar (3440m)||Khumbu Lodge|
|3||Wednesday, March 16, 2016||Namche Acclimatization||Khumbu Lodge|
|4||Thursday, March 17, 2016||Trek to Deboche (3820m)||Rivendale Lodge|
|5||Friday, March 18, 2016||Trek to Dingboche (4400m)||Snow Lion Lodge|
|6||Saturday, March 19, 2016||Dingboche Acclimatization||Good Luck Lodge|
|7||Sunday, March 20, 2016||Trek to Lobuche (4910m)||Himalayan Eco Lodge|
|8||Monday, March 21, 2016||Trek to Gorakshep (5180m) >> Everest Base Camp (5360m) >> Lobuche (4910m)||Himalayan Eco Lodge|
|9||Tuesday, March 22, 2016||Trek to Pheriche (4,370 m)||Himalayan Lodge|
|10||Wednesday, March 23, 2016||Flight from Pheriche (4,370m) to Kathmandu (1400m)||Kathmandu|