Everest Basecamp – day by day

A day by day account of the trip to Everest Basecamp.
TL;DR – it was bloody hard but I made it!

Everest Basecamp – day by day

EVEREST BASECAMP Day 13 – Lukla

My body is so used to the early mornings now that I wake up when the sun comes out. Most everyone is still asleep or in bed so I sit outside in the mild morning air, listen to some tunes and just watch the clouds roll and lift for a time. I will miss these views so I want to soak them up while I still can.

This morning’s walk to Lukla is fairly steadily downhill. It’s interesting to see people on their first days and remember how hopeful we all were. That was us not so long ago!

We have lunch at Sanchaman’s teahouse and meet his wife and 4 year old son. I sit and watch in the kitchen as the family flies around the room preparing lunch.

Sanchaman doing prep work

Rustic stove

This is true paddock to plate as all the produce is grown here and Sanchaman’s wife dashes outside to pick vegetables and herbs she needs for each dish.

Mrs Sanchaman

There is something I find so wonderfully grounding about watching people cooking. Especially in foreign countries. My own love of food and cooking means that I find kitchens to be places where the heartbeat of a family is.

Prem even steps in and helps make momos.

Making momos

The food is delicious in the way that fresh food made with love can only be.

We bid goodbye to our gracious hosts and continue on the final stretch back to Lukla.

With the final bit of hiking behind us, we are all happy to be back where it all began a fortnight ago.

That night, we have dinner with all our guides and porters and the evening is filled with drinks, music and dancing as we all reflect on the wonderful achievement we have all accomplished.

I’ve had an experience of a lifetime and will always look back fondly on this journey. My mountain family and I have shared in something special that will not soon be forgotten. Everest Basecamp has given just a small glimpse into how remarkable Nepal is and I am already making plans to return.

Dhanyabad for the memories!

Big success!

Start: Monjo (2860m amsl)
Finish: Lukla (2840m amsl)

Everest Basecamp – day by day

EVEREST BASECAMP Day 12 – Monjo

Now that we are lower down the mountain, I get an excellent night’s sleep and I’m ready to set off this misty morning down the mountain back towards Namche Bazaar. We are well and truly back on the main trail now and it’s admittedly a little overwhelming to see all these people again.

It is the tail end of the season so as we descend, we see the final groups heading for Basecamp. Having done it means we can all be a little smug as we recall how we felt those first few days – which seem like so long ago!

The steep hills are so much easier to tackle now that there is more oxygen in the air. They are still hard work, but they don’t leave you gasping for breath the way you have to at higher altitudes.

Familiar paths and sights lead us to Namche Bazaar where we stop off for lunch. I purchase some souvenirs here and start the haggling process with vendors. I quickly realise that after some mental conversions, I’m haggling over the difference of a dollar or so and I just end up paying the asking price.

Weekly market at Namche Bazaar

Everyone in the group is feeling better by the time we exit Sagarmartha National Park and arrive at our destination in Monjo.

That night, I get to try “roxie” a local gin/moonshine. Despite smelling like pure gasoline, it tasted surprisingly OK with no harsh aftertaste. When in Rome, right?

Start: Tengboche (3840m amsl)
Finish: Monjo (2860m amsl)

Everest Basecamp – day by day

EVEREST BASECAMP Day 11 – Tengboche

This morning, it seems that quite a few members of our group have succombed to the “Khombu Cough”. When the ice from the surrounding glaciers melt, it releases a lot of dirt and particulates into the air, which hikers then breathe in. I seem to have avoided it and feel quite well rested given I actually got some decent sleep throughout the night.

I’m feeling up to eating again so all is well in my world!

Today is only about 4 hours of hiking and for the most part, it’s a beautiful hike through the mountains as we walk through rhododendron gardens and stunning mountain views.

Ama Dablam watching over us

The final portion of today’s hike is difficult as we hike up to Tengboche Monastery. It’s challenging but worth it in the end.

At the monastery, I got to witness the monk’s meditation session (some were even yawning which was amusing) and I shared a wonderful slice of lemon meringue pie with Kirsty at the only bakery in town. It’s a small thing, but this slice of baked wonder was an absolute luxury after all the rice and noodles of the past week.

Start: Orsho (4040m amsl)
Finish: Tengboche (3840m amsl)

Everest Basecamp – day by day

EVEREST BASECAMP Day 10 – Orsho

The nausea I’m feeling worsens. There is an optional trek up to Kala Pathar for some reputedly amazing views early this morning but during the night, I decided I wouldn’t be doing it. When I wake up at 5am and look outside though, the sky is so clear that I know I have to bite the bullet and head out.

After slogging it out for about 30 minutes, I am above the clouds and the views are already quite stunning.

En route to Kala Pathar

However, my head is throbbing and my stomach is churning. My body is screaming for me to go down in altitude, not up! I head back down and attempt some fitful sleep before the big day of hiking ahead.

I still can’t stomach any food at breakfast, but I am comforted by the fact that with every step I descend, my symptoms will alleviate. I’ve been here before!

The rest of the day is a bit hazy. I remember managing a hot chocolate at lunch break and slogging through the Thukla Pass again. There is a lot of uphill as well as downhill and it’s just a long, long day.

We hike through Periche and see some baby yaks. I’m not sure if it’s the cute animals or the decrease in altitude, but I realise that my headache has subsided a little and I’m not on the verge of throwing up with every step.

By the time we arrive at our destination in Orsho, we have descended almost 1000m and I’m feeling almost human again. We meet back up with Emily and Sarah. We are glad to be re-united with our friends.

Start: Gorek Shep (5140m amsl)
Finish: Orsho (4040m amsl)

Everest Basecamp – day by day

EVEREST BASECAMP: Day 9 – Everest Basecamp / Gorek Shep

Today is the big day!

I wake up with a mild headache but nothing as bad as summit day on Kilimanjaro. I find I can’t stomach more than a slice of toast at breakfast but once again, that’s more than I could manage at this altitude on Kili. My sleep has been fitful and assessing my crew, everything is feeling a similar way.

One of our group, Emily, has been unwell for the past 24 hours and has not improved during the night so one of our assistant guides, Sanchaman takes her down to a lower altitude. She has been an absolute trooper for having pushed through this far given how rotten she was feeling. We are all sad to see her go but we know that AMS is quite serious and nothing to be trifled with.

We set off from Lobuche and while the weather starts clear, it changes rapidly and I’m constantly putting on, and taking off my jacket. When it is clear though, it’s amazing.

It is a tough trek that has plenty of steep ascents that wreak havoc on the legs, even with all my training in the leadup. After almost 3 hours, Gorek Shep is in sight (elevation 5140m amsl). This is where we will be staying later tonight so this pit-stop allows us to grab a hot drink, order a pack lunch to have our Basecamp and to lighten our day packs for the final push to Basecamp.

My trip room-mate Sarah has not been feeling well so she takes a quick powernap during this time and appears to be revived by it.

One group huddle later, we’re off to Basecamp!

It’s tough going right off the bat and the weather gives us everything from clear skies to cloud cover to heavily falling snow. When we finally turn a corner on a ridge and I see the iconic yellow tents of Everest Basecamp in the distance, it gives me the impetus to keep going.

I’m not going to lie, it was really hard going. Even with frequent rest stops, my headache has become a noticeable thud and I start to feel the onset of mild nausea. All I can do to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

After some time, I look up and see the tents of EBC are much closer than I realised. I mentally tell myself that I have trained hard for this and I can do it. I get a little emotional as I push myself across the rocks and eventually reach my final destination.

EVEREST BASECAMP.

Everest Basecamp

The obligatory photos are taken and I find that I easily smash my packed lunch of fried vegie momos which I gobble down. 9 out of the 11 of my group have made it and it’s high fives and hugs all around.

Me at Everest Basecamp!

As we huddle for our group photo, the snow comes down heavier, the ever vigilant Prem hustles us all together and sets us on our path back to Gorek Shep.

My mountain family

The walk back to Gorek Shep in the snow is trying, but we are all still on our high from reaching Basecamp.

When we finally return to Gorek Shep, I collapse and have a sleep. Now that the adrenalin is wearing off, I find that my AMS symptoms persist (headache and nausea), but I am buoyed by the fact that we will be descending tomorrow.

My room-mate Sarah has made it to Basecamp, but upon our arrival at Gorek Shep, she takes a drastic turn. The weather is too poor for a helicopter to land so Sanchaman and some porters literally carry her down the mountain for treatment during the night.

These guides and porters are absolutely amazing and their seemingly superhuman strength of body and mind are incredible.

Start: Lobuche (4900m amsl)
Everest Basecamp: (5364m amsl)
Finish: Gorek Shep (5140m) 

Everest Basecamp – day by day

EVEREST BASECAMP: Day 8 – Lobuche

Increasingly each night, my sleep is getting poorer and poorer. The air is cold and the lower oxygen means that I struggle to catch my breath when I do something as simple as turning over in the night. I expect that this will be the case for the nights to come yet.

This morning, I start to feel the slight beginnings of a headache so I take a pre-emptive cocktail of panadol and ibuprofen. A few others in my group seem to be starting to suffer mild altitude sickness so we all wallow together.

The morning is clouded over and visibility is low. The air is bitterly cold but the lack of a view means I can just focus on trudging ahead and looking at where my feet are going. It’s a slow and steady incline but after about 2.5 hours, we take a morning tea stop.

The clouds lift and we get a glimpse of the mountains that were obscured behind them.. and they are glorious.

The Himalayas

Prem has fore-warned that after this tea stop, there will be a steep hour-long ascent. I stick in my headphones, kick into “donkey-mode” and march onward. It’s tough but with regular breaks to catch my breath, I find that it’s not quite as bad as I was anticipating.

We stop at an area which has been set up with lots of memorials to climbers who have died on the very mountain we are standing on. Notable memorials are Babu Chiri Sherpa, Scott Fischer and Rob Hall. If you’ve read Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air”, or seen the movie “Everest”, those last two names will be familiar. I find it quite fitting that Fischer’s memorial is large and ostentatious, while Hall’s is much smaller and under-stated.

As we prepare to leave the memorial area, it begins to snow. I’m a little giddy about hiking through the snow on Mount Freaking Everest!

Assistant guide, Surya informs us that the worst of the day is over and from here on, the track is “Nepalese Flat” – that is it’s not really flat, but undulating sections that roll up and down. It is however, far less arduous than the steep inclines we’ve been subjected to that morning.

After some time, we stop for a breather and I ask Surya “about another hour until Lobuche?”. He shakes his head and says “about 5 minutes”. YAY!

Upon arrival, I am surprised at how fine I feel. At this point on Kilimanjaro, the altitude sickness had definitely kicked in for me, but apart from general exhaustion from the day’s hike and shortness of breath from the reduced oxygen, I feel OK. No problem with my appetite either as a I smash through my meal.

The rest of the day is to stroll around the small village, hang out with mountain doggos and assess our gear for the next day because TOMORROW IS THE BASECAMP DAY!

Start: Dingbochure (4410m)
Finish: Lobuche (4900m)

Everest Basecamp – day by day