Mar 29, 2007 – Everest base camp trek

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It was an 8.5 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Jiri where we had planned to start the trek to Everest Base Camp. Most normal people fly to Lukla and hike from there but for some reason, and I can’t remember what it was, we decided to hike from Jiri. That added 6 days to the trek. The plan was to hike back to Jiri as well but as you’ll see, plans were very flexible on this trek. We got to Jiri on the day before the Jiri film festival which was a cover name for what it really was – the Maoist propaganda festival. Anyway, we made it out of town the next morning without being acosted so we were off to a great start.

Day 1 – Jiri to Deorali

Trekking time: 5.5 hours

The day started with a steady but long uphill climb to our first pass – then a long downhill to a little village called Shivalaya. We were there by lunch and the lonelyplanet advises to stay there the first day. However, there wasn’t a lot of excess space in the plan I put together so we opted to continue up to the next pass. We arrived in Deorali mid afternoon. We were tired and sore but a bucket shower, apple pie and a hot lemon (in that order) slightly revived us. It was here that we first met an Englishman by the name of Dee. We would continue to bump into him thoughout our trek. Friendly guy and easy to chat with as was his guide.

Day 2 – Deorali – Sete

Trekking time: 5.75 hours

Went downhill today – geographically, physically and mentally. I was very tired and sore by the time we went down from the Deorali pass to Kenja (lunch) and then half way up the big pass to Sete. Both Torin and I are feeling the fringes of a cold. Today, I started wondering whose idea this was to do more trekking.

Day 3 – Sete – Junbesi

Trekking time: 5.75 hours

We got an early start today and immediately continued our climb up to the Lamjura Pass. It was a long steady climb through the forests and along a ridge. We stopped for lunch at 10:30, just below the pass. It was socked in all morning so you couldn’t see anything on either side of the ridge. We also had the misfortune of getting stuck behind a long donkey train with the path too narrow to pass. The result was that for us. the air was not filled with the smell of wild flowers and bird song but rather the smell of donkey farts, fresh donkey poop and the drivers throwing rocks, sticks and continuous Nepali curses at the donkeys. Anyway, they did show us the way up the mountain. After the pass, we dropped significantly, losing most of the elevation we worked so hard to gain over the past 2 days. As the afternoon wore on, I came to the realization that I could no longer keep up with Torin and that ibuprophen and tiger balm were my new best friends.

Day 4 – Junbesi – Nhuntala

Trekking time: 6 hours

A beautiful day for a hike. We started the day by climbing 500m and following the trail around the mountain and into another valley. We were to have our first view of Everest today but distant clouds prevented that. We skirted the mountain and dropped all the way back down to the river and started up the other side. We stopped for our morning Dal Baht in Ringmo, which incidently had the most disgusting toilet that I’ve seen in the past 8 months. But the kitchen was clean and that’s what really counts. We climbed another 500m up to the next pass and promptly lost it on the other side. We ended the day with rubbery legs from the descent. We stayed at the Himalayan Guest house with Dee, his guide and porter. The place was run by a mother and her 2 sons (around 13 years old). The boys did most of the cooking and cleanup. This was our cheapest night ever, paying $0.34C for a double room (most of the time we paid about $1.60C for a double). Although I feel like I’m getting stronger, I’m completely wasted after a day of such extreme elevation gains and losses. It’s hard to believe that lots of people (including kids) do this for a living – hauling goods up from Jiri.

Today Torin kept track of the number of flights heard between KTM and Lukla. He counted 54 flights, not including the helicopters. We were told last night that there were 52 Everest summit teams preparing an assault on the mountain. That will be a sight to see.

Day 5 – Nhuntala – Bupsa

Trekking time: 4 hours

Lost, gained, lost and gained significant elevation again today. Torin’s cold is getting worse but we arrived early (1:00) at our destination so he managed to get some rest in the afternoon. Dee arrived 30 minutes after us and claimed he was a walking pharmacy so I picked out a decongestant for him. That should get us to Lukla tomorrow where we’ll pick up some other medicine. We’re getting regular views of the big mountains and continue to climb.

We are currently perched in Bupsa, a small village on the end of a ridge so the views were quite spectacular until the afternoon clouds rolled in. Despite Torin’s condition, we made record time today – we must be gaining strength along with elevation. As Torin relaxed and I read in the sun, a Dutch group arrived and chose the same hotel. 9 trekkers, 5 porters and 3 guides kinda changes the atmosphere. Oh well, I guess we better get used to it.

Day 6 – Bupsa – Tharo Kosi

Trekking time: 7 hours

What a day. The dutch group was up at 5 so we were too – having breakfast at 6:30 and on the trail shortly after. We immediately started climbing again, skirting the ridge and into another valley. At the head of the next ridge, we were looking down at Lukla. The trouble with that was that with all the ups and downs and ins and outs it was still several hours away. We stopped for lunch at 11 and had the best Dal Baht yet. It was at a small lodge on the side of the trail (and the side of the mountain). The downside was that particular point was also a common rest stop for the locals. As the two of us were eating outside, we always had an audience. One father/son combination stopped for a break. The boy looked younger than Torin and was carrying what appeared to be quite a heavy load. The father was barefoot and his feet were in rough shape, at least by our standards. During the day, we also passed several porters carrying parts of what looked like a butchered cow. The meat was just in a basket, one of them was covered with plastic (just to keep the flys off). The rest were open to the air / bugs / dust. We actually saw one of them the day before so they had been traveling a while. It just reconfirmed our new vegetarian lifestyle. But it also made us wonder why they didn’t hire just one person to lead the cow up the mountain and butcher it there.

Anyway, after a long slug up the mountain, we arrived in Lukla. We purchased plane tickets back as there was simply no way that I would have the energy to make the 6 day trek back to Jiri. We also bought Torin some cold medicine and then headed out of town. We trekked for about 45 minutes before we found a lodge to our satisfaction. After we

both had a hot bucket shower in the charpi, we felt somewhat renewed.

Day 7 – Tharo Kosi – Namche

Trekking time: 4.25 hours

We entered Sagarmatha (Everest) Park today. The hike took us along the Dudh Kosi, climbing steadily. We got to the junction of the Dudh Kosi and the Bhote Kosi and then really started climbing. It was hot doing the climb that took us up to 3400m but by the time we got there, the weather had come in and we couldn’t see a thing. It had also cooled significantly. We did however, make record time again, completeing the trekking for the day by lunch. Last night we reviewed our schedule as I’m feeling more and more unable to keep up the pace. Tomorrow is going to be a rest day during which we can possibly, just possibly sleep past 5:30, have a liesurely breakfast, wander the shops, sample 1 (or 2 or 3) of the bakeries and maybe climb the ridge for a view of Everest.

We started the day passing a lot of people / tour groups. It was interesting to relate the nationalities with the behaviour. The Japanese were the easiest to pass as they all walked in single file. The Americans were the most difficult as they took up the whole trail. The Ausies were the most polite – when they noticed us behind them, they quickly moved out of the way for us. And the Germans obviously didn’t like to be passed and often just glared at us as we made our way past.

Day 8 – Namche – Rest Day

Trekking time: 0 hours

We’ve been trekking hard for 7 days so we altered our schedule to include a rest day today. We still got up early – just can’t help it these days. We decided to go for a walk toward Tengboche to see if we could get a view ofEverest. It was cloudy so we just took a few pics of the valley and came back for breakfast. After breakfast the clouds had cleared and we went back up the ridge following a yak trail to a large rock on the end of the ridge. There we got our first view of the biggest mountain in the world. Torin was pretty excited and of course I went a little overboard with the camera.

We spent the remainder of the day writing in our journals, drinking tea and relaxing. Last night at supper I noticed a guy wearing a Trinity Western University t-shirt.It turns out that he was part of a group doing a fund raiser to help kids go to summer camp -one of which was the Gardom Lake Camp just out of Salmon Arm. He mentioned that he

lived in Saskatoon and I responded that I had grown up in Rosthern and it turns out he had grown up in Hepburn – not to far away. Another of the group was Rick Friesen from Langley that had roots back to the Rosthern area (Abraham Fiesen) – I’m sure were related somewhere down the line but we just didn’t have the right people there to figure out where. It was a friendly group and we managed to connect with them again on the way down.

Day 9 – Namche – Tengboche

Trekking time: 3 hours

We found out that by leaving early (7:00) we don’t have to worry about passing the large groups and we get our trekking in before the clouds roll in around noon. From this point on, our trekking times are shorter because of the elevation gain. In order to aclimatize properly doing the kind of trekking we’re doing, one should not gain more than 300m – 400m a day when above 3300m.

It took us about 3 hours to make it to Tenboche with the last hour being a steady climb. The views from here of Everest, Lhotse and Lhotse Shar and Ama Dablam are outstanding. Here also is Nepal’s largest monastary. They rent out room there but I couldn’t convince Torin to stay there. Other than the monastary and about 8 guest houses, there isn’t much here. It was nice and quiet until early afternoon when the groups started arriving. A large group of Scots showed up and then a large group of Japanese – both of which invaded

the relatively small dining room. The Japanese group is camping though and just came in to use the dining room. I’m sure glad I’m not camping as it’s starting to snow as I write this.

So picture this… a dining room about 5m by 7m with a bench and tables around 3 sides of the perimeter and a stove in the middle pumping out heat from a combination of wood and yak dung. In one corner, we have a group of 4 Koreans, their guide and 2 porters. Then a couple from Germany looking totally lost and\or overwhelmed. The a group of locals. That’s one side. The opposite side is taken up by the group of 12 Japanese. The third side is the cash counter and off-sales of crackers and cookies. Torin and I are the only ones on the 4th side with noone joining us. Perhaps its because we haven’t showered in several days. On our other treks they didn’t charge for showers but on this one they charge an enormous amount that just wasn’t in the budget. But if it guarentees me my personal space then maybe not showering isn’t sucha bad idea ;-). So that’s the inside environment (all the while Dire Straits or the Eagles are playing over a pretty decent sound system).

Outside, there are several lodges and the monastary surrounding a large flat area about the size of 2 soccer fields. I can see the flank of Thamserku beyond. The snow is coming down heavier although the wind has stopped and its not sticking to the ground so that’s a good thing. In the middle of the grounds there are a mixture of tents of different shapes, sizes and colors with several yaks resting or grazing in between. Very surreal.

Day 10 – Tengboche – Dingboche

Trekking time: 3.5 hours

We’re at about 4300m in Dingboche. Ama Dablam was on our right as we followed the river up the valley. Most people go to Periche this day but we’re opting to go to Dingboche which is a little further, higher and tucked into the Imja valley. One of the reasons we came here is because we need an aclimatization day to get our bodies used to having less oxygen available to us. Actually last night we both had our blood oxygen tested by the group from Scotland and we were both within the “normal” range.

So, as part of the aclimatiztion process, Tor and I want (need) to hike up the Imja valley which will take us to almost 4800m – it should be a good day hike tomorrow.

We’re both a little worried about the cold and I’m slightly worried about the altitude. We’re gaining altitude quicker on the trek than we did on our previous treks. The mornings are still sunny and warm but the afternoon and nights are colder. In order to minimize weight, we’ve only brought our sleeping sheets, depending on blankets for warmth.

You may be wondering what we do all day when we get to our destination so early. Today was a typical day and the first thing we did was to order lunch – usually Dal Baht which takes about an hour to make. In the mean time, we play cards, write in our journals or read. After lunch, we went for a walk up to the top of the ridge which we will cross the day after tomorrow on our way to Dugla. Then we came back down, had some hot lemon and a snack and played some more cards (this time the guest house owner joioned us). As I write this, we’re huddled around the heater in the middle of the room waiting for our Dal Baht supper. I’m thinking about Mary and Carole dealing with 40C heat while we’re back up in the high country dealing with the cold. All the tourists I see outside are wearing down jackets and I’m sure their porters are carrying their down sleeping bags. The two of us on the other hand, carry our own gear, have multiple layers of polypropolene, fleece and a quality windbreaker.

Torin admitted on the way up today that he thought about food almost all the time. I think he must be growing again as his knees are also bothering him. While he thinks about food, I think about being in warmer climates. Although the scenery is easily the most stunning we’ve seen yet in Nepal and it’s an amazing opportunity to walk amongst these giant mountains, the cold and simple conditions are getting to me. But Torin is stilled psyched on reaching Everest Base Camp so onward and upward we go.

Day 11 – Dingboche

Trekking time: 0

This morning we hiked up the Imja valley as planned but only to about 4700m. That’s as far as my legs would carry me. I’m a little worried about having the energy to go further up. We’ve got all afternoon to relax here so hopefully I’ll have the energy to make it to Labouche by late morning. I’ve heard there is a shortage of beds up there so there is some pressure to get up there early. Torin is feeling great – energetic and raring to go.

Its early evening now and we did very little this afternoon. The clouds rolled in, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. So we spent the afternoon inside reading, planning, talking about the next few days \ weeks and playing cards – a lot. I went for a very short walk at one point but wasn’t dressed for the cold. After our dinner of veg noodle soup and momos we again huddled around the heater. I’m getting myself mentally prepared for tomorrow and should be ready. I keep telling myself that I have another 2.5 days of “up” and “cold” before we’re back in the relative warmth. I know that once Tor and I set our sights downhill, we can cover a lot of territory in a short time.

Day 12 – Dingboche – Labouche

Trekking time: 3 hours

We’re sitting in another little dining room up in Labouche at an elevation of 4900m. It’s overcast outside, snowing a little now and then. Lobouche is sitting on the edge of a morrain alongside the Khumbu Glacier. It’s just below freezing outside and while the accommodations are very basic, they do have warm blankets.

Inside we’re surrounded by a combination of trekkers and climbers who have summited Everest in the past and are setting up to do it again. Apparently there are two IMAX film crews up there filming as well. It’s interesting listening to the different conversations. We got up here around 10 this morning, had 2 monster hepings of Dal Baht and then went and rested a bit. It’s now mid afternoon and we’ve played some cards and are now both journaling. We both feel good despite the elevation. The trek up here was beautiful – the clouds cleared about 30 minutes after we left and only came back in around noon.

Day 13 – Lobouche – Gorak Shep

Trekking time: 1.5 hours

Trekking time: 3 hours from GS to EBC and back to GS

It was a sub zeronight last night outside and exactly 0 in our room when we woke up this morning. It was tough to get out of bed as the wind was also howling and even shrieking around the buildings. But we did it and were on the trail by 7:00. We hiked up the morraine in the Khumbu Valley arriving at Gorak Shep (5100m) at 8:30. We found a room and had a bite to eat before setting off for EBC which was indeed the goal of this trek. We did it, just as the weather closed in so we took a few pics, had a snack and headed back to Gorak Shep. It was pretty cool to see the staging area for the Everest climbs, the Khumbu Glacier, the Western Cwm and the whole area that we’ve only just read about.

On the way down to Gorak Shep both Torin and I developed severe headaches. Torin recovered quickly with a rest and an ibuprophen. I on the other hand needed 2 ibuprophen, a diamox and 2 rests before I started feeling better. Mid afternoon, we staked out our place in the dining hall , playing cards and chatting with one Canadian who was there to summit Everest. They are a different breed of people. I cannot imagine hanging out in Base Camp for 6 weeks to acclimatize and then having to fight my way to the top amongst the hundreds (no kidding) of others trying to reach the same small patch of land within the same small window of time. And there is no central control saying who goes first!

That evening the dining hall was absolutely packed. Luckily, the owner liked the fact that we were father\son and set up a special little table for us by the heater. There are a unbelievable number of nationalities in the room.

Day 14 – Gorak Shep – Pangboche

Trekking time: 6 hours

An early start to the day to head up to Kala Patthar. Unfortunately it was so cold up there that we only made it part way up before taking some pics of the surrounding mountains and heading back down. By that time, Torin’s hands were so cold that he had lost the feeling in them. It was extrememly painful for him as he regained that feeling. We had breakfast in Gorak Shep, packed up and decided to get down to a more reasonable altitude and temperature. We left Gorak Shep just after 8:00 and were in Pangboche just after 2:00. That was including a stop to chat with Dee (the Englishman) who was on his way up and stopping for a hot lemon and chocolate bar while chatting with a few other Canadians. One was a Chris Monan (sp?) who worked for the Min of Forests in Smithers for 10 years (Paul – do you know him – he recognized your name). Another was from Vernon.

Anyway, we find ourselves in Pangboche (3900m) at the Himalayan lodge which is run by the wife of the guy running the lodge we stayed at in Dingboche. We cleaned up a little – I had to throw a pair of socks away as the holes in them were huge. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t take them off for a week. Our trekking pants are so stiff and dirty that they can stand up by themselves. And that’s probably as far as I should go in discussing the state of our clothes. Needless to say, we’re both looking forward to getting ourselves and our clothes really clean. Torin’s birthday is coming up and I think I might splurge and buy him a shower for his birthday.

Day 15 – Pangboche

Trekking time: 0 hours

A relaxing day hanging out in Pangboche. We slept in until the sun peaked around Ama Dablam and filled our room. We got up and decided it was a good day to try Champa porridge for breakfast as we didn’t have to hike anywhere. Champa porridge is like eating a bowl full of buckwheat dough. With enough sugar it is palatable and it did fill one’s belly, I think it will be back to Muesli tomorrow. We sat outside in the sun for a while (while our stomachs worked through the porridge), then decided to go for a walk. We hiked up the ridge to a Gompa where we had a great view of Ama Dablam, Lhotse and Lhotse Shar and Everest. we had fun with our cameras taking lots of shots, timed shots, zoomed shots, panaramic shots, etc. we then hiked further up the ridge and around to Upper Pangboche and then back down. The afternoon found me napping and Torin cleaning his camera and reading.

By late afternoon a couple of Americans, their porter and guide that we had met in Loboche showed up. Their guide and porter immediately joined us for several games of babanuki (all of which I lost). Shortly later, our Canadian friends from Namche also joined us. They had been up to Gokyo and back and were on their way up to Everest Base Camp. Some of them looked pretty bagged and despite the number of people in the dining room during and after supper it was pretty quiet.

Day 16 – Pangboche – Namche

Trekking time: 4 hours

We said goodbye to our Canadian friends who were a little livlier this morning. We received cerimonial scarves from the lodge owner although we’re not quite sure why. We spent the next 3 hours going down to the river, back up to Tengboche, then back down to the river and back up to the trail to Namche. After a stop for Dal Baht, we walked into Namche about 1:30. We headed back to the same place we stayed before because the food was soo great. This time however, we were the only ones in the hotel. Torin got a new book, we got some snacks and we spent an hour or so just relaxing. We’re both extremely tired. After just 4 hours of trekking I noticed that we were both tripping over the smallest stones on the path. Torin has outgrown both his pack (his shoulders are too broad for it and consequently it takes a toll on his shoulders and neck) and his boots. It’s good we have another rest day tomorrow. We did both have showers today – first in 10 days. While it felt good, we still had to put on dirty clothes so the improvement was marginal.

Day 17 – Namche

Trekking time: 0 hours

A relaxing yet frustrating day today. I got an email from Mary about when to go to Egypt. Internet access here is $10 (usd) per hour and slow so I’m really unable to help or communicate with her from here. As well, there is a real need to feel clean again so the decision was made to head down to Lukla tomorrow (Torin’s birthday). Chances are good we’ll be able to change our flight to the 17th so my need to feel productive can be satisfied. I did get up early and go for a walk and Tor and I went up the ridge for a final look at Everest. From our vantage point we were able to look up the valley and see where we were over the past few days and then look down the valley and see where we were 2 weeks ago (Nhuntala \ Junbesi). It seems like a long time ago and over many kms \ valleys and ridges. we figured out today that on this trek we’ll have walked about 220 kms and from a low of 1400m to a high of about 5200m. No wonder I feel so tired.

Day 18 – Namche – Lukla

Trekking time: 4.5 hours

Happy Birthday Tor!!! We both agreed in advance that the celebration would be on the 17th back in KTM. Our hike today was as uneventful as it was fast. We have both reached the point where we just want to be back in “civilization”. We got to Lukla at noon and were told right away that we would be able to get out the next day. Lukla isn’t somewhere that people hang around. It’s a strip town from the airport on one end to the start of the Everest trail on the other. The walkway is a combination of dirt and rock and its lined with shops and hotels. I’m sure there are houses around somewhere but they must be hidden either above or below the town.

Day 19 – Lukla – Kathmandu

We made it out, after waiting for a plane that was more than an hour late. We took off on a runway that sloped down at 10 degrees and ended about a 1000m above the valley floor below. While we’ve both down a lot of flying in our lives, this time it really boggled my mind that the territory we covered during one very long bus ride and 6 days of walking, using up an incredible amount of energy, took a mere 25 minutes to fly over. We were back in Kathmandu for a late breakfast. We were able to connect with Mary and this evening enjoyed pizza and beer for supper and chocolate cake for dessert.

This trek has taught me about limits, patience, perseverance and many other things. I hope it has taught Torin to live out his dreams as this was something that he really wanted to do – and he did it. Way to go Tor!

As we finished this trek and wrap up our nearly 4 months in Nepal I can’t help but think how fast the time really went. We’ve had a lot of experiences in this little country and a lot of them have left us with the impression that Nepal and it’s people are going through a transition – like an identity crisis.

I’m sitting now on the roof of the Potala Guest house and I can look out over this dirty city of grey concrete and brown brick. I should have a view of the Himalayas from here but the smog prevents that, although it doesn’t prevent the sun from warming the rooftop. And while the beauty isn’t evident strictly from this vantage point I know that it’s out there. The people here, while they struggle economically and politically, are among the gentlest, friendliest, laid back and easy going people that we’ve met. Combine that with the geography and you’ve got a truly beautiful country – one that we’re sure to return to.

Torin and I are off to Egypt on April 25. Mary will meet us there on April 30 and we’ll start exploring the history and culture there. Stay tuned.