Everest Base Camp trek or the EBC trek as it is popularly known, was never in my checklist of treks. I had always imagined it to be too commercialised and crowded. However when I was in Nepal in June to attend the International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference, I wasn’t ready to leave the country without witnessing the glory of Nepal. Ofcourse I’m not ready to climb the Everest yet, but I had a strong desire to see the highest mountain on the planet - up, close and personal.
Flight from Kathmandu to Lukla
After my conference, I made a quick visit to Thamel to buy some gears that I needed for the trek and I flew to Lukla the next early morning. The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is known to be the most dangerous flights in the world. Lukla at the height of 2843m is the most dangerous airport with a tiny 527m long strip of runway. I was never too scared of these facts until I saw the locals bending down to pray for a safe flight before boarding. The 40-minute flight was a delight to my eyes as the little chartered flew between the snow clad mountains. The entire flying time kept me engaged as I felt close to the mountains even before I started trekking. The landing was very short and quick as the Lukla airport is at height.
Day 1: Lukla (2843m) to Phakding (2660m) - 6 kms, 3 hours
The anxiety about the trek was building up in my mind while having breakfast at the Shangri-La Lodge at Lukla. I had heard that it is a difficult trek, but never knew what makes it difficult. Keeping all the worries aside, I started walking through the market of Lukla. The first 40 minutes from Lukla was a descend through quaint villages, monasteries, chortens and zillions of lodges.
For a moment I thought I could rent out a home surrounded with radiant flowers and spend few months of doing nothing. The next 1 hour was almost a flat walk and then 80 minutes of gradual ascend. It took us 3 hours to reach Phakding. We checked in to Sherpa Eco-Home which had clean beds and toilets and a hot shower. The rest of the day required a good diet and a good sleep.
My mantra to keep fit on the trek - “Eat Right, Drink Right and Sleep Right”
Day 2: Phakding (2660m) to Namche Bazaar (3440m) - 13 kms, 7 hours
Phakding to Namche Bazaar was a long day of 2 hours of gradual ascend and 5 hours of steep ascend, covering 13 kms. This day was very interesting as we entered the Sagarmatha National Park (Mt. Everest is known as Sagarmatha in Nepal). Out of the many suspension bridges built on the EBC route, I was eagerly waiting to cross my favourite one that leads to Namche Bazaar.
Though I hated the commercialised part of the EBC route, I fell in love with the colourful town of Namche Bazaar. The mountains wrapped up the entire town and gave glamorous views at different hours of the day. The sight of golden mountains at the sunset was enough to energise me after a long tiring day. I stayed at Hotel Everest, which served the most delicious meal on the entire route.
Day 3: Acclimatisation day at Namche Bazaar
This day is extremely important to prepare your body for the higher altitudes in the coming days. Thanks to the digital nomad life I have been living, I had to carry my MacBook all the way to EBC to work on the assignments I had committed to before I planned EBC trek. After a long working day, I head out to explore the town. Namche Bazaar has a charming little monastery, vibrant market with shops selling essential trekking gears and souvenirs, bakeries serving freshly baked breads and cakes, lots of pubs offering happy hours and the topmost attraction being World’s highest Irish Pub at 3440m. However tempting these pubs sound, I would recommend to celebrate only on return.
Day 4: Namche Bazaar (3440m) to Tengboche (3870m) - 11.3 kms, 6 hours
I hiked up from Namche Bazaar for around 20 minutes and my guide pointed at a mountain and called it Mt. Everest. I first didn’t believe him, but when I looked closely, it stood there with pride, radiating unbelievable energy. I couldn’t believe I saw the tallest mountain of the world. The first sight of the majesty Everest was so emotional and inspirational that I felt tears in my eyes and the desire to climb higher.
All my calculations were failing on EBC route. It was only 400m of height again today, but the route was extremely tiring and long. It took 20 mins of ascend, followed by 2 hours of gradual flat walk, followed by 40 mins of descend and finally 2 hours of steep climb to reach Tengboche. Tengboche welcomed us with artisitic wooden prayer wheels and the largest monastery of the Khumbu region. I missed out the magnificent panoramic views of Mt. Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and Ama Dablam from my room as they were all hiding beneath the clouds.
Day 5: Tengboche (3870m) to Pheriche (4200m) - 9 kms, 5 hours
Another long day started with half and hour descend through the rhododendron forests and then gradual and steep climbs of 4.5 hours. The weather went bad this day and we hiked in snowfall through the fog. It was a good relief from the hot days.
Day 6: Acclimatisation day in Pheriche
Yet another extremely important day to prepare the body for the 5000m+ altitudes in the coming days. I again got chance to catch up on my pending work while I enjoyed the views from the dining room of the lodge. I also took a small acclimatisation hike up the mountains. The hosts at the White Yak Lodge made me feel at home with their warm hospitality.
Day 7: Pheriche (4200m) to Lobuche (4930m) - 7 kms, 5 hours
Today’s hike took me through heavenly landscapes of yaks grazing in the meadows.
and the stone huts of nomads just after Pheriche.
After crossing the suspension bridge to Thukla, a steep hike took us to the Lobuche pass adorned with strings of colourful prayer flags. There is Khagan chorten, a cemetery ground with hundreds of cairn memorials for those who died on the mountain. After 5 hours of gradual and steep ascend, we rested at a lodge in Lobuche.
Day 8: Lobuche (4930m) to Gorakshep (5130m) - 4.3 kms, 3 hours
The real test of EBC starts from here as you cross the height of 5000m, walk long hours from Lobuche to Gorakshep, Gorakshep to EBC and back to Gorakshep and wake up in the wee hours the next day for the toughest climb of the entire trek to Kala Patthar. This route was heavenly as I got closer to the panorama of highest peaks in the world. Khumbu glacier started appearing to make the views more attractive.
Gorakshep (5130m) to Everest Base Camp (5340m): 3.7 kms, 2 hours
Gorakshep is the last stop point for the ones trekking to Everest Base Camp. EBC is on the Khumbu glacier where the climbers attempting the summit setup their base camp. It is at 2 hours of gradual ascend from Gorakshep. I trekked to EBC after the climbing season when the campsite was empty which otherwise looks like an international carnival ground. Everest Base Camp is a plethora of stories and emotions. I found a note there saying "Dad, I Miss You" and I imagined all sorts of stories behind it.
I spent some of the most exciting moments at the magical Khumbu glacier. The irony is that Mount Everest isn’t visible from the EBC. The most beautiful things come with their own price tags. One needs to climb to Kala Patthar for the views. I returned to my lodge at Gorakshep and prepared myself for the early morning climb to Kala Patthar.
Day 9: Gorakshep (5130m) to Kala Patthar (5555m): 2.4 kms, 2 hours
I started at 4am to be able to reach Kala Patthar during sunrise. It was a very steep climb and difficult climb and the weather was unpredictable as the mountains were playing hide-n-seek in the clouds. Luckily I got a clear view of the peaks when I made it up to the top of Kala Patthar. There I saw the Mount Everest again - up, close and personal.
Kala Patthar is a small mountain in the middle of the 360 degrees panoramic high altitude mountains. Standing on Kala Patthar actually made me feel incomplete, it just made me crave for more heights.
After I was done with relishing the mountains, I descended to Gorakshep, picked up my backpack and started descending towards Pheriche.
The next 2 days I retraced my steps to Lukla, this time covering twice the distance in a day. The way back to Lukla was continuous ascends and descends, just the way it was while going towards EBC.
Day 10: Pheriche to Namche Bazaar
The skies were clear and gave fantastic views of Everest till Tengboche. Namche Bazaar’s vibe called for a celebration of a successful trek with Everest beers on the table.
Day 11: Namche Bazaar to Lukla
This was the first trek which ended with an ascend. The last stretch to Lukla was actually an ascend, exhausting the every ounce of energy in me.
Day 12: Flight from Lukla to Kathmandu
The host at Shangri-La lodge at Lukla offered a khata (traditional ceremonial scarf in Tibetan Buddhism) around my neck and bid us farewell and safe journey back home. As we walked down to the airport, the sudden overcast caused us waiting for our flight for 4 hours. When I landed at Kathmandu, I felt difficult to acclimatise in the plains, yet again!
I must confess that I had under-estimated the potential of Everest Base Camp trek. Though I stayed in lodges, had fancy meals and daal bhat in restaurants, pampered myself with hot-showers and was connected to wi-fi on the trek, EBC trek turned out to be a unique and glamorous experience for me. More so, because I trekked in the off-season and I could get immersed in the culture of the Solu Khumbu region and enjoy my solitude with the mountains.
Nepal you are right - “Once is not enough". I wish to build strong ties with you, mainly because you are home to 8 out of 14 8000m+ peaks of the Himalayas!