Sometimes in life, all you have to do is turn up! And for me, this trek was just faith..
I am in no way the fittest, strongest or the bravest of the people who head for this trek but one thing I have is the willpower and an attitude that says never give up and I have seen that it gets you through the toughest of times.
Day 4- Namche to Tengboche (3850 mtrs)(6-8 hours)
On Day 4, the first half of the trek you will go along Dudh Kosi river again and reach the rhododendron forests. It is mostly downhill and you cross a few more suspension bridges. The second half is an uphill climb of two hours and we were in Tengboche in Khumbu valley by 4.30. Here you can visit the world’s highest monastery, the Tengboche monastery. We reached here at 4 pm which was not so bad. It had just started to drizzle. The mountains looked misty and the rains added a mystery to them.
While we had a common toilet in the tea house that we were staying today, the bakery there was awesome. They had cafe latte, freshly baked apple pies, carrot cake, mudpie, black forest cake. It was like we had seen water in a desert. Here we all couped up in a heated room and bonded over playing cards, learning new games like ‘Dhumaal’ and ‘Gulam chor’. It turned out to be a very interesting evening, as everytime anyone lost they had to perform. Someone did pushups, someone sang and we even got Justin to dance to the tunes of ‘Lungi dance’ with Meera choreographing. They were all such wonderful sports.
From here we got the first viewd of the Everest and a panoramic view of the well-known peaks of Tawache, Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, and Thamserku.
ps. Please remember the Tengboche Monastery closes at 4.30 pm.
Day 5 &6 — Tengboche to Dingboche (4350) (5-6 hours)
Day 5 was supposed to be an easy walk, as per Sanjeev. However, it was a lot of downhill and uphill as well and not as easy as I had expected. I was really slow today and walked from 8.30 am to 3.15 am. Meera found her trekking partner in Justin. I walked slowly with Rahul and Anita today taking a lot of pictures.
Our tea house was called ‘The Summit’ and was a nice wooden lodge. It had attached baths and a shower area but it was cold and no one was looking to bathe. Here we lost our phone signals and even the local Nepali number stopped working. You can buy wifi but it is not very effective and is expensive.
We had a rest day here. The next day we ascended another 250 meters for acclimatisation. Sanjeev, our guide, was very happy with the group’s progress. On the way, we met Shannon and Rebecca again(remember the two nurses from Las Vegas?) and we told them how sorry we were to hear of the Las Vegas shooting(a crazy guy in had opened fire in the Hotel Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas injuring over 500 people). They were caught unaware as they had no access to news and we were the first ones informing them. It felt quite horrible to be the bearer of bad news. Later they came to our tea house just to inform us that everyone they knew was safe and they were thankful to us for letting them know.
I developed a mild fever and was weighed down again by worries on how the trek forward will be. Garlic soup and ginger lemon honey tea helped me sail through. What we realised was that Justin, Madhur and me were all reading books on the 1996 Everest expedition by Scott Fischer and his team(on which the movie Everest is based) but we were all reading different authors. Sunil suggested we should finish our books and exchange. In the meanwhile, it was fun to exchange notes on how Lena Gammelgård(Climbing High) and Anatoli Boukreev(The Climb) had shared the same expedition in such different lights.
p.s. Our guide had advised us not to bathe after Namche to avoid catching a cold. However, if you are keen you can pay for a bucket of hot water and have a bath here.
p.s. Eat light throughout the trek as there is a highly likely chance to feel queasy and have an upset stomach with the change in weather, water and food that you will be consuming on the trek. Almost all of us fell prey to this during our trek.
Days 7&8 — Dingboche to Labouche(4910 mtrs)
The air starts thinning from here and you feel your lungs taking the load. During my trip to Ladakh in August, I had developed a slight cough which aggravated and became worse now. Most people term it as Khumbu cough and is quite common here. Slowly the trail disappears and soon you are climbing over rocks. We reached Thukla where we took a break for lunch at a tea house near the river. Here we saw a dead horse in the river, a gruesome sight which I will witness again on my way back. No one removed the dead horse, which was quite sad.
Throughout the trek, you keep meeting fellow trekkers who are either in the same state as you or are on their way back with a sense of achievement but almost everyone looks tired, paled and strained. I met this beautiful Moroccan lady here who was absolutely glowing. She was basically doing EBC, Gokyo Ri and Chola pass in twenty-five days and it does make a difference. We were trying to do EBC in 14 days and that takes a toll on your health and skin. If you have time and are planning to do the trek, do think about increasing the number of days. The better you acclimatise, the easier the trek will be.
Right after lunch, you start a sharp ascent and on the top, you see memorial stupas strewn all over the place dedicated to the climbers and trekkers who lost their lives on the Everest. I got excited to see Scott Fischer’s memorial, the guy that I had been reading about from the 1996 expedition. I paid homage to all of them and shot a small video. It was an honour to be standing amongst these departed souls.
From here the walk is mostly flat or downhill but you tend to become a bit sluggish due to altitude.
The terrain completely transforms to give a peek view of Mt. Lobuche, Mt. Pumori and the Nuptse. You also get a view of the Chola lake when you are slightly higher up. Towards the end, it started raining and we experienced light hailstorm. This place is remote and you don’t see any kids around and there is hardly any population. Finally, the trek started reminding me of Iceland trail dwelling beautifully in it’s virginity.
When we reached Labouche we were staying at the tea house called ‘Oxygen’, almost as if mocking us. It was a nice, cosy place and I was rapidly trying to finish my book but playing cards kept me distracted. The excitement was building up now as I knew from here the next stop is EBC.
Of the eleven of us, only Raghav and Rahul were the only ones to have survived without Diamox till now and yet, Raghav always managed to stay ahead of the pack during the treks. In fact, I used to tease the three Karnal brothers saying that they should be grateful to their mothers for feeding them the pure air and food that they have been consuming over the years.
P.S. While these three survived well, I would not recommend this trek to first-time trekkers. You should have experienced 4500m altitude treks before this one to see how your body acclimatises to the lack of oxygen.
Next day was a rest day so as usual, we went for a small trek and went berserk clicking slo-mo videos and some crazy pictures.
p.s. Do pay homage to the summiteers who have lost their lives during their expeditions on your way to Labouche.
p.s You get NCell (which is the local network) signals here.
Day 9 – From Lobuche(4910 m) to Gorak Shep (5180m) and Everest Base Camp (5364m)- 15km (6-8 hours)
The next day, the weather was beautiful and bright. We headed out sharp at 7.30 am. The entire trail was rocky with the trail converging into the horizon at the edge. As the oxygen levels deplete mother nature takes over. Did you know why the national park is called Sagarmatha? The Himalayan ranges were thrust upward by tectonic action about 40 and 50 million years ago. The Himalayas themselves started rising about 25 to 30 million years ago. You will see heaps of white sand towards Gorak Shep reminding us that millions of years back the land was actually covered by the sea.
On our way, we saw landslides occurring commonly. In fact, we had to climb one such path. I waited for the landslide to stop before starting to climb the same hill where it had occurred a few seconds ago. The entire hill was porous and this was the first time I froze in the trek but there was no choice, no alternate route so we kept going on, walking with faith. My cough was getting worse. Sherpas here say that everyone gets it and if we don’t then wouldn’t we all be sherpas?
We arrived at the village of Gorak Shep, nestled under the soaring summits at around 10.20 am. Here we dumped our bags, had brunch and headed out again at 11.30 am to the much sought after EBC.
The landscape starts with white sand and then becomes rocky and finally we walk along the Khumbu glacier. Towards the end is a really long, endless ridge of moraine which is actually accumulated glacial debris. This goes down a bit into the Khumbu Valley and onto the glacier. We reached EBC marker at around 2.30 pm. Elated we posed for many pictures around the EBC landmark and I tied a prayer flag there praying to Sagarmatha for letting me achieve this huge feat and for making it so special. Interestingly, while EBC marks the base for Everest summiteers, you cannot see Mt. Everest from here. This is why most trekkers hike to Kala Patthar from where you get spectacular views of the Everest and it’s sisters.
This is how the last leg to EBC looks like;
Walk back is easy and we just took around 1.30 hours to get back to our tea house.
The accommodation at Gorak Shep was pretty basic. We stayed in a place called Snowland and had common toilets again. We had to wear head torches to go to the toilet and our door didn’t even lock. We retired early as the next day was a tough one.
p.s. This is also the place where you find the highest Shivaji statue in the world, while I don’t understand why is there a statue of Shivaji in Nepal, it was an interesting fact not to be missed.
Day 10 Kala Pathar(5550 mtrs) & Descent to Thukla- Walking distance: km (5-6 hours)
A lot of trekkers skip this because they are either tired or it is not on their list. However, we had only Ashok skipping this one and once again my group surprised me. We started the trek at 6 am and it was freezing cold. The moon shone beautifully in the sky and the valley bathed in moonlight made for a beautiful painting. The climb up is very steep and today you want to layer up in all your warm layers, maybe put one or two extra ones.
It was a never-ending walk with breathtaking views of the Himalayan sisters along the side. You hear a glacier breaking every fifteen minutes and wonder how summiteers survive up there. We even saw an avalanche and thanked our lucky stars for being on the other side of death. You realise like never before global warming is very real and is rapidly advancing. It was cold and two more people decided to turn back and return to the tea house. I walked like a zombie for the next few hours till Sanjeev told me that we had arrived. This was the first viewpoint of Kala Patthar and I posed for pictures here. Sun God was finally smiling on us.
We could see people going further ahead but Sanjeev told us to turn back from here. That’s when my absolute heroes that day, Anita and Sunil, who were slowly crawling up behind me said something that I couldn’t resist.
” You cannot go back from here. If you go back you will regret not seeing the top for the rest of your life”.
That was it! We were going to further climb painfully slow as the limbs were dead but the mind took over. I remember almost dragging my body up the last climb which is just randomly placed rocks to climb to the top of Kala Patthar and trust me when I did reach the top, I felt more elated than reaching EBC. From Kala Patthar, you get dramatic close-up views of the Everest and its sisters. I tied prayer flags here as well and thanked Sagarmatha for being kind to us. The descent back was really quick for me and I did it in 1.30 hours.
We had breakfast at Gorakshep before starting our descent. The initial plan was to break at Lobuche for lunch but once we reached there, one of our guides told us to go ahead to Thukla as we would not be breaking there. By now I was dead, cold, hungry and pissed. My body was breaking but I had no choice and had to carry on. We crossed the Stupa of Scott Fischer again and by the time I reached Thukla it was 5.30 pm and it was misty and the light was dimming. This was an unusually long day for us and today my body took the toll. Our tea house today, the Rest Point was the worst of the lot. We had an attatched toilet but the floor was wet, there was no light in the night, no flush, no seat cover, and there was no carpet in the rooms as well. The cold just came in through the window.
Day 11- Thukla to Tengboche
It was a beautiful sunny day and we walked through the valley of Pheriche towards Tengboche skipping Dengboche. I realised Anita was suffering from the runner’s knee issue and still she had managed to walk with us throughout. In fact, Anita had already trekked to EBC in 2015 and she had come back with us in this condition as she wanted Angad, her son, to experience it. I was super impressed with her dedication. The downward climb made it worse for her. We decided to take it slow and enjoy the view and click pictures.
There was no rush, we had met our goals and now we just had to walk back. It was the time to enjoy our last few days in the mountains because I knew they were going to keep popping in my memory for months later on. We broke for lunch at Pengboche. And here again, in high spirits, Ambeer and Madan performed a song and dance routine for us. Everyone was relaxed and happy. As usual, after Pheriche, we had an hour plus of climbing but today we were looking forward to the bakery at Tengboche and didn’t feel as bad. The fresh smell of brewed coffee and mudpie cake and brownies were all that we needed to add the sparkle to our day. I was rapidly concerned about finishing my book before the trek ended to live in the moment. I was also being quizzed on it every day by Sunil, Justin, and Meera and with my memory, I was now reading facts 2-3 times to be able to answer them :).
Day 12-Tengboche to Monjo
We retraced our steps with a hike down a steep trail to the Dudh Kosi and climb to Namche Bazaar. Here we stopped for lunch and bought some souvenirs. It was also Meera’s birthday today so I wanted to get her the Sherpa t-shirt that she had liked on our way up. From here we walked all the way to Monjo, finally walked out of the Sagarmatha National Park crossing all the beautiful Mane stones and I thanked each of them for a safe return. We reached really late today at 6 pm. It was a lovely evening as we celebrated Meera’s Birthday. Everyone sang, danced, we opened a bottle of wine.
The White Magic team arranged for a lovely cake for her and we even made a group of Germans sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for her. The rooms here had an attatched bath with a hot shower running, carpeted floors and we realised that we had become unused to luxury.
Day 13- Monjo to Lukla (9-10 miles, 6-7 hours)
Today was our last leg, and it started raining in the morning but luckily by the time, we stepped out weather had cleared.
We passed through the Sherpa villages and stopped at Phakding for lunch. It was here I got a call from my dad that my grandmom was counting her last breath and I should reroute my trip to Delhi and come and see her. The next part of the trek for me was a blur. I slowed down initially trying to change my flights and then when I couldn’t get signals, I walked uphill with a pace I didn’t know I had. I reached Yak Donald’s where we were staying that night at Lukla in record time and managed to change my tickets. That’s when I calmed down. This was our last evening on the trek together with the porters and the guides and they had arranged for a small party. It was fun and towards the end of it, Sunil made a speech on our behalf. We thanked each one of them for bearing our luggage and our tantrums. They had been wonderful. Emotions were flying everywhere as we had reached the end of our trek. We knew in the world outside we were different people with different lives. It’s an inexplicable feeling where you feel connected like a family and then you depart to go on leading lives that may not interconnect ever.
Day 14 — Lukla/Kathmandu
p.s. The flights from Lukla are very dicey. They get cancelled every now and then due to bad weather. Our flight too was delayed for about two hours. A friend of mine who went on a trek after I had to do a helicopter evacuation as she did not want to miss her connection from Kathmandu. Keep an extra day in your itinerary just for this.
Kathmandu to back home
The next two days we explored Kathmandu like tourists. Visited the temples and palaces of Durbar Square. It’s disheartening to see the damage the Nepal earthquake has made to these structures. I also managed to visit Pashupati Temple on my way to the airport. Sanjeev came to bid me goodbye with my certificate and a Nepali stole which is a tradition. While I bid my goodbyes my heart stayed back with the mountains and somewhere in my heart I knew I am coming back. Once the mountain bug bites you it stays with you.
p.s. The Nepal government gives you a certificate which states that you have completed the trek after it is certified by your guide.
Enjoyed reading this? Inspired to head to the Himalayas? Stay tuned for more posts on how to prepare for EBC and things you should know before heading to EBC.
Until the next adventure, ciao!!