Tag Archives: Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp Trek

19 Sep

The altitude is no joke. Breathing heavy, I would stare up the slope, gathering the energy to move one leg forward. Then, I would swing the other leg around, staggering forward like a baby learning to walk. And my body handled the altitude better than Alan and far better than Eric.

The weather was good for the start of our trek. We departed Kathmandu early in the morning on a propeller plane bound for Lukla Airport (2843 m / 9,327 ft). The flight was smooth and the landing, though it looked scary from the windows of the plane, was also smooth. We gathered our bags, handed them off to our two porters, and began hiking immediately. Our guide led us downhill for roughly two hours until we reached our place of rest for the night. It was our easiest day.

We ate lunch and had the rest of the afternoon to kill. This would be a constant for the entire uphill portion of our trip. Our guide would lead us on a 2-4 hour hike, and we would arrive for lunch at the tea house where we would be spending the night. We played a lot of card games to kill the time. Another thing that was readily apparent was that we were the only ones at the tea house. It was reminiscent of The Shining. In fact, we couldn’t recall seeing that many people on the trail. We had read that September was the start of the busy season, and we were hoping to meet people along the trail, but apparently September 15th is the actual start of the busy season. We began our trek about ten days before that magical start date, so we wouldn’t be seeing many people in the tea houses or on the trail.

The next day we arrived at Namche Bazaar (3,440 m / 11,286 ft), or the last outpost of somewhat modern civilization on our trek. I classify ‘modern’ on this trek as having access to non-solar panel-provided electricity and internet access. Namche also had many stores, bakeries, and bars. They also had a rather impressive open air market for being so high up in elevation. We spent two days there to acclimatize.

Our day of acclimatization turned out to be one of only two days we saw Everest. Eric woke up early to hike to a Japanese owned hotel, the highest five-star hotel in the world, to see Everest, but by the time he got there the clouds had already moved in to obscure the view, though the clouds did break enough for him to capture a few pictures. Alan and I slept in and followed our guide around town. A few hours after Eric saw Everest, we also saw it from a nice vantage point just outside of town. We were excited by the site of the mountain and couldn’t wait till we could see it up close from Kala Patthar (5,545 m / 18,192 ft). Unfortunately, that day would never come.

As we climbed higher, the towns got smaller. There was no internet, the electricity, when available, was provided by solar panels, which meant the lighting was very dim, and western toilets became very, very scarce. There were also fewer tea houses, which meant the few hikers on the mountain were pushed together. So, we did get to meet some people.

There were two large groups of British students who were trekking for charities, like a fun run but instead of amount of miles or kilometers covered, I think it was probably based on altitude. We also met two Canadians who spend their holidays trekking various mountains and mountain ranges. They were on the same ascent schedule as us, so we saw them at most of the stops up the mountain. We also met a climbing enthusiast from Seattle who gave us his extra Diamox, medicine for altitude sickness, which would prove to be very important.

About 16 hours after we received the Diamox from the climbing enthusiast from Seattle, Eric needed it. The altitude caught up with him. His vision started to blur, and he became incredibly tired. That night at dinner, he could barely eat. Our guide pulled me and Alan aside and told us if Eric didn’t improve, we would have call a helicopter take him to Kathmandu.

Luckily, in the morning, Eric felt slightly better and continued to improve throughout the day. (Eric will detail his experience with altitude sickness in a later post.) We pushed on higher to Gorak Shep (5,164 m / 16,942 ft) and then Everest Base Camp (5,364 m / 17,598 ft). Our guide was happily shocked Eric recovered and made it all the way up to Base Camp. He had never seen anyone so far gone recover to continue the trek.

Base Camp was great. We celebrated with high fives, Snickers, and Everest Beer (one split between the three of us). We walked along the glacier, took pictures, and basked in the accomplishment of our goal. The weather had been good in the morning we left for Base Camp, so we were fairly confident we would be in store for a good view of Everest from Kalla Patthar at sunrise tomorrow morning.

That thought ended quickly, however, when it began raining on our way back from Base Camp. It continued throughout the night and was snowing when I stepped outside to pee at 2 AM. When our alarm went off to wake us for the hike to Kalla Patthar, it was a nice rain/snow mix. We decided not to hike. Later that morning, we saw the two Canadians that we had seen in many tea houses along the way. They had made the hike through the rain and snow. One of them tried to make the best of it. He said there were a few breaks in the clouds and the views were amazing. The other one said it was shit. It was cold and it was shit. Normally, the truth lies somewhere in between two conflicting stories, but in this case, the second was is likely closer to the truth. One thing they did agree upon was that Everest was not visible.

We started our descent. Going down for me was harder than the ascent. We went down in only three days, so the hikes were longer. Going down also hurt my knees. And it was raining. It didn’t stop raining until we got to Lukla. Thankfully it stopped there. If the weather isn’t clear, there is no flying out of Lukla. When planes take off from there, they need to be able to see the mountain peaks that surround them, otherwise a crash would be imminent. By the time we reached Lukla, we wanted nothing more than to be off the mountain. We had been unlucky with the weather, and we were exhausted from the last three days.

The trek wasn’t perfect, but we did, all three of us, accomplish our goal of reaching Everest Base Camp, a place with only half the amount of oxygen in the air as at sea level, a place more than three miles in the air, a place so high almost all of you reading this have only exceeded its height in an airplane. Weather may not have been on our side, but we stood at the foot of the top of the world. That will forever be with us.