Our Journey to Everest Base Camp
About one year ago we were both sat down planning our round the world adventure, and for whatever reason, Nepal didn’t feature. Whether it was the massive earthquake that hit the country that was fresh in our minds or the fact we were just oblivious as to what Nepal had to offer other than trekking, it was just a country neither of us had wanted to visit. But one thing we had always wanted to do was a trek to Everest Base Camp, we just thought, maybe assumed it would always be out of our price range.
After a little research and chatting to fellow travellers who had trekked to Base Camp, we realised that maybe it was a possibility and something we could achieve with a little research and planning. Our original plan was to follow the same route Edmund Hilary took and trek independently from Jiri but after some deliberation, we decided against doing this due to the time it would leave us to explore the rest of Nepal.
We settled on the most popular route of flying into Lukla and then trekking to Everest Base Camp, with the added extra of returning via Gokyo lakes and crossing Cho La pass. Next, up we had to decide if we wanted to go it alone and trek completely independently or to book a trip through a trekking company. After some thought and research, we went with booking the trip through an agency in Kathmandu, but just hiring a guide, we made the decision of carrying our own backpacks, we definitely lived to regret that!
We emailed a few trekking companies in Kathmandu as we felt we would get a better deal through them rather than booking through a big company like G Adventures. After exchanging a few emails between companies one stood out from the rest, Bishnu the managing director of Nepal Hiking Adventure was always on hand to answer any questions and replied to emails promptly, he offered us a great deal and made us feel like a valued customer. The route was sorted, the guide sorted and our journey to Everest Base Camp was all set to go…
Day 1 – Kathmandu → Lukla → Phakding
The alarm woke us from a deep sleep at 04:30 usually we would have hit snooze and stay in the warmth of our bed as long as possible but this was different, the time had come for us to head up into the Himalayas and begin our trek to Everest. After a quick wash and a quick double check of our bags and gear, we checked out of the hotel and was picked up by our guide for the trip. Now we’re going to stop the story here quickly just to say what a great guide Ram was, from the first moment we met him we all bonded, which was good as we were going to spend the next 15 days with him. He was always ready to help and answer any questions we had, which was loads, Cheers Ram, if you’re reading this.
Right back to the story, we were on our way to Kathmandu airport to the domestic terminal to catch our flight which was meant to be leaving at 06:15.
Upon arrival it was chaos, people queuing in all directions, hustling to get to their intended gate. The majority where trekkers heading up into the Himalayas and while it was pretty hectic it all ran fairly smoothly and we were soon sat in departures waiting for our flight to be called.
Top tip, not wanting to go into detail but try and hold off using the toilets in the departure lounge, it’s only a 35min flight to Lukla, you can thank us for that later!
The flight eventually left a few minutes past 07:00am, nothing seems to run in time in Nepal but we kind of like the laid back, in no rush attitude.
The view from the flight was out of this world, with the sun rising over Kathmandu and then flying parallel to the Himalayas we were treated with some beautiful views of snow capped peaks and the lower lying hills. Before we had arrived in Nepal we had read a lot about Lukla airport and the runway, and as we approached to land all we could see was a tiny strip of tarmac with one end a sheer drop of the mountain and the other end a dead end straight into the face of the mountain. Needless to say, the landing went smoothly. After a quick wait for our bags we left the arrivals hall, well it was a shack and we left the Lukla airport through a side gate, no security here!
A couple minutes later we had stopped in the lodge for breakfast, after a quick bite to eat and a cup of tea we were on our way. We walked through Lukla passing the many shops selling everything and anything you would need to trek in the Himalayas, as we left the village we had to register at the checkpoint, which our guide Ram took care of while we just stood and took photo after photo, so many photo opportunities, and it was only going to get better!
The first day’s trek was fairly easy and we actually dropped down in elevation, following the guidelines of trek high sleep low when trekking at altitude, it’s meant to help you acclimatise. We were heading to Phakding, a three-hour trek following the trail first down to Chheplung, before dropping further down to Nurning at 2492 before a steady climb up to our final stop, Phakding at 2610m. Along the way, we got our first glimpse of mountain life and how the villagers went about their daily life, everyone seemed very friendly and was always willing to chat about what lay ahead for us.
Just pass Chheplung the Bhote Koshi Nadi started running parallel with the trail, starting up in the northern slopes of the Tibetan Himalayas the river runs for 720km down through Nepal towards the border with India. For us, it was another excuse to get the camera out and a distraction from the trekking. The river carried on following the trail all the way to Phakding which was our final rest place for the day
Day 2 – Phakding → Namche Bazaar
Day 2 of our journey to Everest base camp began with breakfast at 07:30 which consisted of porridge and a milky tea, we were on our way at 08:30am making our way to Namche Bazaar, the major stop off point for anyone hiking in this part of the Himalayas. Today was the day we would also experience our first major climb, but more on that later. We began by following the trail through the village of Phakding before descending and crossing the Koshi river on one of the five suspension bridges we’d be crossing that day. We gradually climbed up to the village of Bengkar and then on to the checkpoint at Monjo, where are permits got the once over, stamped and we were on the way again making a beeline for Jorsale 2740m and lunch
Lunch consisted of veg noodle soup and boiled egg, which was pretty much our staple lunch diet throughout the trek. After an hour of eating and relaxing, our rest time was over and our trek to Everest base camp continued, the trail led us up a gradual climb to Larja Dobhan before crossing the double suspension bridge, not before a five-minute wait for a yak train to cross. Once over the bridge, the climb up to Namche began and it was hard! A 2 1/2 hour constant incline over rough terrain through a Rhododendron and Magnolia forest, it was hard going and every 25 minutes we had to take a couple minutes break to catch our breath and prepare for the next stage.
Around half way up we reached a clearing where a few trekkers had gathered, Ram informed us this was the spot where you got your first view of Everest. After a couple photos and a toilet break we were on our way again, another hour of climbing passed, we reached the national park headquarter where again our permits were checked and stamped. 15 to 20 minutes of yet again more climbing we cleared the forest into the vast opening of Namche village, that was one of the hardest climbs of the trek, and while at times we struggled we managed to get by without too many aches and pains. Overall it took just over 2 1/2 hours to climb 700m from when we left Jorsale after lunch. By this time we were dying to drop our bags and rest but Ram had different ideas and our lodge was nearly another 10-minute walk uphill through the village, but we can’t complain as it was opposite the Namche bakery cafe and we had the added luxury of an attached toilet.
After dropping our bags off, a quick wash and change into our clean evening clothes we went straight to the bakery and had an ice cold Coke and apple pie. The bakery was a popular spot, they offered free wifi, phone charging and a great place to relax and chat to other travellers. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and exploring the village before having dinner and heading to bed. A popular theme throughout the trek was early nights, we were in bed by 9 o’clock most nights due to being tired from the day’s trek and the fact once it’s dark there’s not much to do apart from huddle around the lodge’s fire and play cards.
Day 3 – Acclimatisation Day Namche Bazaar
Day 3 and we woke up to another stunningly clear sunny morning and today was our first rest day or so we thought. We quickly realised there is no such thing as a rest day while trekking to Everest Base Camp. Today was an acclimatisation day meaning the day was used to allow your body to adjust to the lower oxygen content in the air, to help the process it meant climbing up to a higher elevation than where you are planning to sleep, and as we had a second night in Namche we had to hike up out over the village to a nearby viewpoint.
We ate our honey porridge and drank our milk tea, grabbed our day packs and camera and were on our way. We hiked up through the village passing shops, pharmacies and even a hair dresses before leaving the village and began our straightforward but steep incline and at the time seemed like straight up the mountain side, maybe not that steep but it was hard going and took around an hour before we reached the top. Once we had reached the top of the climb we were presented with some stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, including Everest, Ama Dablam, Tarboche and Lhotse, this was our first proper view of the Himalayan mountain range and we were mesmerised, we had never seen anything like this and spent the next twenty minutes snapping away and taking in the surrounding beauty.
Once finished we made the quick descent back down into Namche, spending the rest of the day visiting the shops, changing up some money ( there’s a couple ATM’s and money exchange shops here, this is the last place to get money before continuing the trail). The rest of the afternoon we spent back in our favourite bakery eating, drinking and swapping stories with fellow trekkers, before heading back to the lodge for dinner, a game of cards and another early night.
Want to know how we got on from day 4 -6? Then read all about it here Our Journey to Everest Base Camp: Day 4 – 6 Namche to Dingboche Plus Earthquake!
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