It wasn’t until the disastrous Nepal’s Earth quake and its aftermath that I ever thought of visiting Nepal! This incident somehow caught my attention and made me know more about this Himalayan country. Being an Indian, Nepal isn’t a far & unknown country on our charts. Having had a close deal of relationship from ages, Indians and Nepalese share a lot of similarities in beliefs, customs and lifestyle. But what is more interesting about Nepal!? of course it is the mighty Mount Everest.
Just exactly when I was looking out for some adventure the earth quake that hit Nepal in 2015 took my attention. To go on hiking in Nepal while there were alerts of more such earthquakes sounded a great deal of adventure to me. Also, I wanted to help Nepal rebuild its tourism industry which was badly affected after the earthquake. Hiking is one thing that I am always interested in, but having said that, I am not any professional hiker. I had to choose a hiking trail which best suited my possibilities of surviving and also wasn’t too heavy on my pockets. The trek to Everest Base Camp located in the Khumbu region of Nepal seemed to be the one I was looking for.
Having considered as a medium to high difficulty trek, the Everest Base Camp(EBC) trail is one of the world’s most famous hiking trails. I started looking out for more details about the Everest base Camp trek and evidently there are many websites and links which provide a complete detail of this trek. There are even videos on YouTube which virtually take you through the entire EBC trail. All these information that I gathered though the internet gave me a fair knowledge of the adventure that I was head out to. The next thing was to find a travel partner, someone with similar interests. I found one very soon, just over a cup of tea during regular office breaks.
Nilesh and I were now all set to put forth our plans and make all the necessary arrangements. We had to look out for a travel agent or an adventure group to hookup. There are many Indian and international travel agencies which arrange EBC treks. We preferred an Indian agency, more specifically the one based out in Bangalore. With all the payments done, flight bookings confirmed and much-needed gears shopping made, we were good to go on an adventure of Lifetime.
On November 2015, we left India with all our hiking gears and loads of wishes from families and friends. It wasn’t an easy departure, especially when you know that you are betting on the chances of survival. It was a cake walk at Kathmandu Airport as Indians don’t need a Visa. We were looking forward to meet our group with whom we will be spending the next 15 days, probably best one so far, of our lives. We were picked up from the airport and dropped at our hotel in Kathmandu. We did meet the rest of our group, the fun was already on cards. Everyone was equally excited, few were experienced hikers too which consoled us with the light of hope in odd situations.
The next day was meant for shopping. Thamel, the famous shopping street in Kathmandu where you can buy anything and everything related to hiking. They weren’t necessarily the original products of famous brands but they weren’t bad either. The bargaining seemed to be the most important thing to know while in this street and being an Indian it wasn’t that hard.
Day 1: Kathmandu to Lukla (2, 800 meters), then walk to Phakding (2, 652 meters)
The much awaited Adventure had begun. We took a small chartered flight to Lukla, small enough to hear the pilots speak, which is the world’s most dangerous airport. It was a short 20 mins travel to Lukla with some breathtaking views of Himalayas. I actually meant the word breathtaking, because we literally had to cheer when the flight landed at Lukla, for after all we had just landed on the most dangerous air strips in the world.
With full of energy and enthusiasm, we set out our fist steps of hiking from the Lukla airport. It wasn’t too cold as we had thought rather it was a bright and sunny day. On the way we came across some gorgeous valleys and villages. As we crossed many hanging steel bridges, the Dudh Kosi river streamed majestically beneath. Our last stop for the day was at a tea House in Phakding, a small village in the dudh kosi river valley. It was a simple 3 hours of walk from Lukla to Phukding in which we actually lost altitude of 150 mts. It looked so easy for all of us that we started to believe the rest of the trek till EBC isn’t going to be as hard as we though. Before we slept, we had some really yummy Chaang made of malt.
Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3,440 meters)
The Chaang that we drank last night gifted us the hangover. With heavy head and cold sleepless night, we had to start the Most Difficult day of trek. Today we were going to trek till Namche Bazaar with an elevation gain of 800 mts. We were told that it was going to be a long day. We started from Phakding with all our winter clothes on as the weather wasn’t same like yesterday. After have trekked for 4 hours, we stopped at Mojo for Lunch.
There were helicopters contantly making trips evecuaing people to Lukla from the different parts and altitudes of this trail. We were told by our gudies that the only way to survive any fatality is to get evacuated by a Helicopter. But this would cost a lot of money except for those who had an Insurance for the trip. Gladly I had one which definitely game me a sense of safety in odd situations.
We met few Indians from the same tour company who were on their return from EBC. We were curious to know about their experience and our path ahead. They told us that things are really hard than we thought. One of their group mates couldn’t make it to EBC and had to be left behind until so that she recovered to be able to return.
The second half of the day’s trek started after the Lunch. We passed thought dense forest with the views of many mighty peaks around, most notably Mt Kangtega. The trail started to get more and more inclined with some steep steps to climb up until we reached the famous Steel hanging bridge and also the last one on our trail.
From this point, we were going to completely walk uphill for another 4 hours amidst thick jungle. We had already walked for 5 hours, and another 3 hours seemed to be impossible. The weather kept changing frequently, sometimes drizzle, sometimes breeze and sometimes bright sunshine. This seemed never-ending and was turning out to be the impossible thing to do for few of us. Somehow, half dead, we managed to reach a point from where we could get the first glimpse of Mount Everest. For the tired souls of ours, this sight was overwhelming and inspiring.
We started to trek again and our guides told us that we have to make it before dark. There was still another hour of trek left until we reached Namche bazaar. I could hardly take another step and for many moments I thought I should give up and just ask for an evacuation. I even asked our guide for options of evacuation but I was told, to be evacuated I have to anyway reach Namche Bazaar. With no other options left, we kept going and I remember, at some point everything just went dark in front of me. I had to sit down and relax for sometime to come back into reality. We asked a passerby about how further far was Namche bazaar. I still remember how his answer sounded, he said “Its right in front of you, just look behind the rock”. Suddenly all my energy had come back, I got up and went around the huge rock to see the pretty place called Namche Bazaar. It was quite a big place, almost a town.
We reached our hotel, got fresh, relaxed and went out to see the places to hangout. We had an acclimatization day off the next day in Namche Bazaar. So we had the entire night to party. We chose Cafe Danphe Bar to chill out that night. I have to mention how cozy and relaxing this place was to sit at the fire side, listen to reggae and have some Kukri rum. The night was well spent.
Day 3: Acclimatization at Namche Bazaar (3, 440 meters)
This was an additional day to acclimatize at Namche bazaar. We hiked for a small distance from where we could see Mount Everest, Mount Lhotse, Mount Kangtega and Mount Amadablam. There was a statue of Tenzing Norgay, one of the first persons to climb mt Everest, and there was also a small museum which showcased the lifestyle of Sherpas.
While we climbed down, we saw few local kids playing football. We asked them if we could join for some footy, but they did not agree. They asked us to show how good we were with the football, and only after they were OK with our footy skills they allowed us to play. We did really enjoyed playing with those kids, they had some great skills and stamina which we couldn’t match. For the rest of the day we just relaxed at the hotel and had some delicious food.
Day 5: Namche to Tengboche (3, 860 meters)
This was again going to be a long day with a declined hike at first and then a steep inclined hike towards tengboche, the last monastery in Nepal. We woke up at Namche bazaar to see the snow flurries falling and the entire placed turned white. Although it wasn’t new for me to see snow, many others in our group had seen snow for the first time. But we did know that our trek has just got tougher with the snow fall. We put our Ponchos and started from our hotel. We could hardly see anything on the path and hence slipped several times. It was an unusual experience to witness snow fall at an altitude of 3500 mts and to walk with all our hiking gears on. With the silence of snowfall around, our ponchos made us look costumed for Halloween. The snowfall went for few hours and we gradually came down to stop for a quick-lunch before we started the inclined hike towards Tengboche.
Unlike the hike towards Namche bazaar, the hike to Tengboche was very scenic and there was no disturbance of view from the dense forest. May be that was the reason that I did not feel it much difficult even-though it was same as the Namche bazaar hike. By evening, we reached Tengboche which had seen a sever snow fall previous night. The tea house at Tengboche was more comfortable than the previous one at Namche bazaar. We played games, drank some rum and had a relaxing sleep for the night to take over.
Day 6: Tengboche to Dingboche (4, 360 meters)
There was a surprise for us when we woke up in the morning. The previous day had a bad weather because of which we did not know how beautiful Tenboche looked. As soon as I woke up in the morning and slid the curtains, I just couldn’t believe the sight in front of me. Mount Everest looked so gigantic and clear right from our window. Without wasting no time, I grabbed my camera and went out to click few pics before the clouds covered the sight.
The sound of the long flutes played from the monastery was so enchanting. The monastery itself looked magnificent with brightly colored walls and long staircase towards entrance.
After having breakfast in Tengboche, we visited the Monastery and started the hike with the declined walk. The hike was much more slippery as the Ice had started melting down. On way for the first time we saw Yaks, the furry cows of Himalayas. As they walked past us, the bells around them ringed well in sync with their footsteps. We walked down until we reached a wooden bridge from where Mount Amadablam looked spectacular.
From here on, our rest of the hike was inclined but it wasn’t difficult like the previous ones. We walked past several villages and stopped for Lunch at Pangboche. By now the vegetation had changed from the dense forest to desert looking landscape. We walked through Imja valley alongside river Lobuche.
By evening we reached Dingboche where we had another day to acclimatize. It was damn cold and these tea houses where we have been staying do not have any heaters installed as there is a scarcity of power. Only the living area of the tent house would have a heating facility which again is not very efficient. We all decided to sleep in the living area because it seemed that we would freeze if we sleep in our rooms even-though we all had sleeping bags of -10 degree.
Day 7: Acclimatization day at Dingboche
We woke up early to see the mesmerizing sight of snowfall over Mount Amadablam. This place wasn’t the same what we had seen a day before. The snowfall in the night had completely changed the landscape and it seemed that a storm was coming as we could see the dark clouds at distance. Altitude sickness was already a problem for few of us which made the acclimatization climb a necessity. We decided to climb up the hill for 400 mts and return to tea house by lunch time. Just as we got ready and ate the breakfast, the sun had started to melt down the ice. It did not take much time for the snow to disappear and a completely different landscape was unleashed.
The acclimatization climb and the altitude loss helped us feel better with sickness. By now our appetite was lost and the headache was persistent. But everything felt just normal because of the people we were with. We never had a boring time even without television, internet or any other modern facilities, thanks to the fun-loving group.
In the night I saw something which I wished to see since long. It was a clear night with the perfect view of billion stars. The full stretch of Milkyway was visible and the falling stars were so often that i ran out of wishes. Although we tried to capture it in the camera, out photography knowledge was insufficient for the night photography.
Day 8: Dingboche to Lobuche (4, 940 meters)
We were told that it was going to be a long walk to Lobuche with few steep climbs in between. We started early on the clear day with an intention to reach Lobuche by evening. But weather is never predictable on these altitudes. We walked above the periche valley on the deserted landscape under the bright sun.
Just before we stopped Dughla the weather had already changed. The trail from here was the difficult part of the day with snow more prominent and slippery. We got to see some huge peaks like Mount Pumori (7138m), Mount Nuptse, Mount Cholatse and Mount Thamserku. We trekked through the Khumbu glacier which is the world’s highest glacier. As planned we reached the hotel at Lobuche by evening.
The day seemed to be prolonged and we were totally exhausted. The Altitude sickness became more severe, the temperature dropped too low and our appetite was completely lost. We managed to lift up our spirits by not sleeping and engaging ourselves with talks and some games. Mafia, the game which kept us going all through the trek. Without wasting a lot of time, we went to sleep as the moment we came to achieve was just few hours away.
Day 9: Lobuche (4, 940 meters) to Gorakshep (5, 170 meters) to Everest Base Camp (5, 364 meters) and come back to Gorakshep
Today’s entire trek was through the Khumbu Glacier. We were told to be slow and steady as the trail was too slippery. The total trekking time was 9 hours amidst sever cold and extremely bright sun. Everything looked heavenly with a pleasant silence all around. The trail wasn’t very difficult but it was with lots of ups and downs which made us be extra cautious.
We reached our last hotel in the trail at Gorakshep by lunch time. We had an hour to finish our lunch, leave our bags in our rooms and set to the final checkpoint at Everest base Camp. While on mountains, night comes early because of which we had less time to reach EBC and comeback to the hotel.
We set out to the final accomplishment of our journey. It was a 3 hours trek till EBC on a narrow trail which was covered by snowfall. Being narrow and iced made the trail extremely slippery with a fear of steep fall( FATAL).
While we cautiously walked on the trail, the sight around us was out of the world. I had not seen anything that lovely and dangerous. We had Lhotse, Nuptse and Everest to our right which shined bright for the evening sun. The Snow Cornice kept changing its shapes and added more to the already mesmerized minds of ours. Beneath the trail were unevenly structured icebergs of Khumbu glacier. The fluorescent blue Icebergs made the scene even more spectacular.
After a 3 hours of walk I saw Buddhist flags at distance. I realized what it was, I couldn’t stop running even after slipping multiple times. There was nothing that could have stopped me at that moment. I no more felt pain or tired or sick. As I approached there were already few people celebrating and cheering each other. I could sense the much awaited moment and that feel was even more whelming.
Thats it, I was there, I looked around, I looked up, I could feel the magic in the place. There was nothing much around except few stones piled up, buddhist flags and a board that read EBC . This place wasn’t even the most beautiful of all, yet there was something special about this place. It was a kind of feeling which made this place special. Many people have achieved the greatest of treks from this place, many people have fallen trying to achieve it and many people have not even made this far. There were reasons to both cheer and mourn as only recently during the earth quake 21 people had died in an avalanche right at this place. With all these mixed emotions, I waited for my rest of the team to join me. I could hear them cheer and shout but they weren’t visible yet. I quickly had my camera rolling to capture this moment of accomplishment.
As everyone reached EBC, we all gathered together and celebrated as much as we can. We clicked photos, made videos and even called our homes to let them know that we made it. Yes, there is network availability at EBC ! I went a bit far and spent some time alone in the silence of surroundings. Due to the Earth quake there wasn’t anybody to attempt Mount Everest Summit, hence the place looked all empty. At the distance we could see the infamous Khumbu ice fall which is supposedly the most dangerous part of Everest summit. We could also hear sounds of ice cracking on the mountain and in the glacier which was actually a bit scary.
We did not have much time to spend at EBC as we were supposed to reach back the hotel before dark. We quickly made our way back to hotel on the same narrow slippery trail but this time with loads of joy and fun. The proud feeling we had overshadowed everything else. As we walked, to our left the peaks of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse lit up in the shine of the setting sun. We managed to reach the hotel in time and the celebrations were on.
Day 10: Hiking to Kala Patthar (5, 645 meters) and descend to Pheriche
This part of the trek was an optional one. This is the only part of the entire EBC trek which gives a magnificent view of Mount Everest from a close distance. Having had spent all of our energy to make it to the Everest Base camp it was too difficult to wake up again in the morning at 4 AM and go on to climb another 500 mts. Although I decided not to take up this hike, in the morning I just couldn’t resist from changing my mind. It was one last time that I had to push my limits to have a spectacular view of the most celebrated Mount Everest. I started with a terrible sickness and an upset stomach. Unlike the rest of the EBC trail, this hike was too steep with uneven rock formations and the freshly snowed surface.
After 2 and a half hours, we managed to make it to the top of Kala patthar. The view of morning sunshine lighting up the peak of Mount Everest is still a dream that I think will remain in mind forever. The usually unpleasant Himalayan weather was for that moment calm as a meditating monk. The view of Mount Everest and the peaks surrounding it was so peaceful that we just sat there quietly and enjoyed the calmness. Remember Mount Amadablam ? when we were at Dingboche, it looked so gigantic. Up from here, Mt Amadablam looked tiny in front of the mighty Mt Everest. In fact everything looked tiny infront of this GIANT peak.
As the time went on, we had to rush down as the wind started catching up. We reached our hotel in Gorakshep, had breakfast and quickly started our way back or you can say, our way down.
We were supposed to halt at Lobuche for the night but our excitement to get back down and necessity to reduce the altitude sickness kept us going until we reached Pheriche Valley.
We walked above this valley when going to Lobuche from Dengboche. This time we were walking in the valley. Pheriche valley, a place like nowhere else on earth. I cant truely find words to explain how mesmerizing it was to see the weather change every minute. SOmetimes it was bright sunshine, and sometimes it was cloudy and dark. As the sun went down, it created a fabulous effect of light on the snow covered mountains. The valley had streams running though slowly creating a good gazing ground for horses and Yaks. The walls of the private farms added a bit of human touch to the entire sorrounding.
In the night we celebrated the birthday of one our group members, Aditi. We asked the family who owned the tea if they could arrange a cake, and within few hours they baked a home-made cake with completely different set of ingredients normally used in the cake. We drank a lot of Kukri rum and danced till late night. A party in the valley was the thing least expected at this point of the trip.
Day 10: Pheriche Valley to Namche Bazaar (3,440 meters):
While this wasn’t the plan as per itinerary, we decided to go directly to Namche bazaar instead of halting at Tengboche. Namche bazaar was our favourite party place and when you have the like-minded people in the group, making decisions is too easy. But the decision came a bit hard when we realized that the distance of hike is way too much to complete before the night. Also, after descending from Tengboche, there is a steep climb up to Namche bazaar. Adding into the difficulties, there was a landslide while hiking to Namche. We managed to crawl till Namche, blaming ourselves for this unwise decision. Everything was forgotten as soon as we reached Namche. We were all set to go crazy and party all night. We decided to go directly to Lukla the next day and spend a day there just relaxing.
Day 11: Namche Bazaar to Lukla (2, 800 meters):
The last part of this wonderful journey was yet to begin. The discussions were still going on whether or not to go directly to Lukla and the outcome was to decide when we reach Phakding. By now our altitude sickness was completely gone and we were on our full spirits to end the journey. While we started to descent from Namche, we remembered the pain we went through to climb up the same hill. That kind of felt amazing to have accomplished such a tough job and also it felt emotional for being so close to end this lifetime journey.
We took a one last Look at the Mt Everest from the same point where we saw it for first. It looked so small from distance.
We managed to reach Lukla by evening and that’s it, we had done it. Now it was time to say Good Bye to our porters who were with us through the entire journey. Without them being our side, we wouldn’t have made it for sure.
Then came the key moment of the whole Journey, distribution of Certificates. Our guides, Narayan ji, Norbu Sherpa and distributed us the official certificates of accomplishment.
We tipped our porters and the guides with a promise to keep in touch with them and surely to meet them again for our definite next Nepal trip.
We spent the night watching TV, using Internet, having delicious food and drinking. I must say, we did not really miss them all thorough this journey.
Day 12 we went around the town shopping and spent few hours playing cricket with locals.
Day 13: We had our flight back to Kathmandu in the morning. With the same amount of fear that we had when we arrived, we boarded the flight and cheered as it took off safely.
As we flew, we could for the last time get a glimpse of the Himalayan ranges, the mountains, the peaks, the lush green forests, the rivers, the hanging bridges and the villages.
Before we went into the clouds, we made sure to wish good luck for those who were in those mountains, having the journey of their lives and trying to accomplish one of the greatest hikes on this planet.
The crew: Rakesh, Nilesh, Raghu, Aditi, Suyash, Shravan, Bharthi, Lakshmi, Sri ram, Jasvinder, Anjan
Guides: Narayan, Nurbu sherpa, Raju
Picture Credits: Anjan, Aditi, Lakshmi. Suyash
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