Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 9
Date: 20 November 2017
Walked to: Pheriche
Distance: 9 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 4,243m
I was woken this morning by a helicopter, flying in to rescue a walker with altitude sickness from the tea house where we stayed last night. Shortly afterwards, another one flew in for the same reason. For those of us who are only mildly affected by altitude (manifesting itself in me in leaden legs and breathlessness at the slightest uphill) however, having made it to Base Camp in eight days, it’s a matter of heading back down in four.
There was an option this morning to wake up at 4am and walk up Kala Pattar, the ‘black rock’ peak that towers over Gorak Shep. Three of our band of nine heroically did the three hour walk before breakfast – I was not one of them, but I am looking forward to seeing the photos… all I want to do at this point in the walk is get back to lower altitudes, and, one almost unimaginable day, to wake up in a room where I can’t see my breath, where condensation hasn’t gathered in wet beads at the top of my sleeping bag and where there isn’t ice coating the window panes.
There were a few ‘up’ bits today, and they were hard, but it was largely downhill – we’ve ‘lost’ a glorious 940m at tonight’s tea house (you can just see the village of Pheriche at the far end of today’s photo, which is of the valley the village is in) compared to where we woke up this morning. That doesn’t mean it’s not cold though – there is no way I’m prepared to shower tonight, and even though I’m sitting in the dining room (the one place, apart from the kitchen, where there is ever any heat in a tea house) and it’s almost tea time (generally ‘peak’ warmth time), I’m wearing three layers of long-sleeved tops (including a thermal), my down jacket and my bobble hat. Oh, the glamour.
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 8
Date: 19 November 2017
Walked to: Everest Base Camp! (Staying at Gorak Shep)
Distance: 9.4 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 5,184m (5,364 at Base Camp)
Today was really, really hard. I actually got to the point where I was looking down on Everest Base Camp, and was going to leave it there – the thought of going down to it, when I knew I would have to climb back up, was almost unbearable. Still, I was persuaded down by one of our guides, and another one very kindly carried my day pack on the way back out to Gorak Shep, where we stayed for the night.
The Base Camp itself actually shifts every year, and apparently the tented temporary climbing community that appears there each spring has to move their accommodation every week to ten days as the glacier repositions itself underneath them. So the Base Camp for 2017 will be totally different to the one my friend visited about 15 years ago – and may well be different again next year. That doesn’t detract from the iconic nature of the place itself, but it underlines the temporal nature of the place, and the rocky, uneven terrain on the Khumbu Glacier where the climbers and their support crews base themselves.
We walked for nine hours today: three hours to Gorak Shep, where we are staying tonight and where we had a very early 10am ‘lunch’ after a 6am start, about three hours to the Base Camp, and then three hours at the Camp and walking back. On the way to the Camp, and while we were there, there were two avalanches on the other side of the valley. While they were a sight to behold from our side of the Khumbu ice floe, they would have been deadly for anyone under their path (there wasn’t) – underlining once again the danger of the dream these Everest climbers have. It’s undeniably beautiful here, and it’s a privilege to have been able to walk to such an iconic place, but it can be deadly.
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 7
Date: 18 November 2017
Walked to: Lobuje
Distance: 5 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 4,930m
Today was properly tough. Every step uphill (and we gained 580m in height) was hard won, and the memorials at Chukpo Lari to the many climbers who have died on Everest were poignant beyond words.
After a steep climb, post-breakfast, out of Dingboche, we followed the glacial valley as it climbed slowly up to Dugla, where we stopped for a hot drink before the trek up to the climbers’ memorials. So many people, from all over the world, have died following their dream to conquer Everest. And in the majority of cases their bodies are left on the mountain, frozen in the place where they drew their last breath, like fossils preserved in Amber. This climb up to the Base Camp seems tough enough; I simply can’t imagine the personal drive that would get someone all the way to the top of one of these Himalayan mountains. That said, our group met a guide this morning who has summited Everest an extraordinary seven times.
The hardest part of the day for me was the gradual but relentless climb up the valley to Lobuje, which seemed to go on forever, with the end very much hidden from sight. When we got to our tea house for the night (in time for a late lunch) the best I could do was to force a plate of steamed rice down my throat before heading out of the door for an hour long ‘acclimatisation’ walk up another sodding hill. Since we got back I’ve been huddled around a fire, dressed in almost every item of clothing I own, and day dreaming about hot weather.
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 6
Date: 17 November 2017
Walked to: Dingboche
Distance: 3 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 4,400m (walked to 4,750m)
Today – going up much of Nangkartshang Peak – was pretty much the shortest walk I’ve ever done. I haven’t even hit my 10,000 steps for the day. But those three miles took three hours, such is the snails pace that you need to walk at when you’re already almost at the height of Mont Blanc (the highest mountain in the alps) and you need to get over 1,000m higher. In normal circumstances the slow shuffles up the hillside would kill me – but in this case, it’s the slow-mo that should stop me from getting ill, so I’m all for it. Plus that while breathing thing gets harder if you try to go any faster!
We’re staying at the same tea house in Dingboche as last night, except there are a lot more people here today than yesterday. Some of whom are very loud (I’m sure it’s a coincidence that they are American). With all the free time that’s been afforded by finishing the day’s walk by 11.30am, I took the opportunity to have my first shower in three days. And after the warm water running out after two minutes and having to wash my hair in ice cold mountain water, it’s also going to be my last one for at least four days. It was all a bit traumatic and there was a bit of swearing, and it’s too cold to sweat here anyway, so there.
Good thing it’s so bloody beautiful, isn’t it?
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 5
Date: 16 November 2017
Walked to: Dingboche
Distance: 7 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 4,400m
I was very happy to leave last night’s urine-scented tea house behind. I think it’s safe to say that their design decision to lay down a (type of) carpet in the toilets, especially when westerners aren’t used to squat toilets, was a poor one.
Anyway… on with the walk. So far I think every day has been progressively more beautiful. We started off by walking downhill through our final forest (we’ve now left the tree line behind at tonight’s sleeping height of 4,400m – the same as the highest point on the Inca Trail in Peru) and spent the day heading through and up the Khumbu and Imja Valleys.
There was a final climb up to Dingboche after the stunning river crossing by the confluence of the Khumbu and Imja Kholas rivers (today’s photo), and now that the cover of the forests has been left behind, the mountain air is feeling decidedly chilly. It’s still light outside and we’re huddled in the tea house, waiting for the fire the owners have just lit to take hold, so we can start to remove the multiple layers of warm clothing we’ve all piled on. It is SERIOUSLY cold.
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 4
Date: 15 November 2017
Walked to: Thyangnoche
Distance: 6.9 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 3,870m
The start of today’s walk was a little cruel – we had to head downhill in order to cross the Milk River again. And there’s few things worse, when you know you need to head up, than to be made to go down. Nonetheless, it was very pretty, and within minutes I was walking in my short-sleeved top because it was warm and sunny (as the days have been so far – it’s the nights that have been properly cold).
After a tea-break (mine was – of course – a hot chocolate) we started our slow but steady climb up through through the forest, where our group finally walked fast enough at altitude to pass a Nepalese person. Said person features in today’s photo; you’ll see he’s carrying a very heavy looking load, including a door. In these mountains, the walking routes ARE the main roads, and freight is carried by yaks, donkeys and humans. A good reminder of how privileged I am to have been born in a country where, whatever happened, I was never going to have to earn my living in quite such backbreaking circumstances.
We reached our home for the night, the village of Thyangboche, by lunchtime and worked on our acclimatisation by an afternoon ‘stroll’ up the flagged-decked hillside: the rule is that when you’re walking at high altitude, you must sleep lower than the top height you reached that day. So far it’s working for me, and I’ve fingers firmly crossed it stays that way – the altitude is already affecting a couple of people in my group of nine.
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 3
Date: 14 November 2017
Walked to: Kyanjuma
Distance: 7.5 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 3,600m (high point was 3,880)
I woke up with a bit of a headache this morning, and had to force breakfast down – the effects of altitude were beginning to hit. But luckily, the moment I was out of last night’s tea house and walking uphill, I felt fine. That was very handy indeed, because today was probably the most extraordinary day of walking I’ve ever had, in terms of knock-out scenery.
The walking day started with a stiff climb out of Namche Bazaar to a viewpoint of Everest, Ama Dablam (my favourite looking mountain) and the other surrounding mountains, before heading on up to what was probably my highest altitude (to date) hot chocolate, at the posh Everest View Hotel. Then it was on to the twin villages of Kunde and Khumjung, fitting in lunch, a visit to the local school and hospital (both originally founded by Sir Edmund Hillary), and to the nearby monastery, which has been rebuilt following the 2015 earthquake.
Home tonight is a tea house in Khumjumg, where, after three days of walking, I’ve finally had a shower; sounds minging, I know, but it is seriously cold here once the sun goes down. It may also be my last one for six days as the guides advise against it once we get much higher. On the plus side, because it’s so cool, and because we’re walking so slowly due to the altitude, there’s not a whole lot of perspiration going on. Ah, the glamour of walking…