The Trek to Everest Base Camp – Lisanne(http://chaptertravel.com/)November 1, 2016
That our Everest Base Camp trek went differently than we anticipated is an understatement. This was our first trekking experience ever. To be honest, we weren’t prepared that well, even though we knew it wouldn’t be an easy trek. Every blog and website we found about the EBC trek said that it was a difficult trek and that you should train. What did we do? We only trained twice, one week before we went.
It definitely was an adventure, and it’s already one of our highlights. We saw countless beautiful views, stupas and mani stones. It was also unique to see the local life in the mountains. Even the fact that it was hard physically (and sometimes mentally) made it so much more special.
During the trek, I kept a journal of our daily experiences. For this blog we have translated it from Dutch to English, and also summarized it a lot (otherwise it would’ve become a novel, not a blogpost).
Perhaps it’s your dream to trek to the Mount Everest Base Camp too. Or perhaps you are just interested in the beauty of the mountains in Nepal. Whatever the reason is that you are here, it might be interesting for you to read about our experiences and look at the stunning photos from the Himalayas. Remember though, this experience is completely different for every individual.
Day 1. From Lukla to Phakding
Elevation: from 2860 meter to 2650 meter
Duration: 2.5 hours
Most people skip the six day trek to Lukla and fly in, and this is what we did as well on our first day. This means it’s quite an elevation already, as you go from 1400 meter to 2860 meter.
At 6.30 am we flew in a small airplane from Kathmandu to Lukla, which supposed to take about 30 minutes. We were flying through the clouds, and I was already sensing that we were not succeeding in landing – as we went down and up, down and up. The worst part was that before we went flying, I wasn’t feeling that great. Since a couple of days I’ve been a bit feverish. Now, in that small little airplane, I was starting to feel a bit nauseous.
After a failed attempt in landing, we had to turn around and fly all the way back to Kathmandu. Even though the flight to Lukla didn’t succeed, we were lucky to already see some of the beauty that the Himalayas has to offer. We saw many mountain peeks covered in white snow. We followed the advice of our guide to sit at the left side of the plane, because that’s where all the good views are.
Back at the airport in Kathmandu, we were told to wait until further notice. Our guide said we would definitely fly that day, maybe in a few hours or so. So we waited. I still wasn’t feeling great when we stepped out of the plane, but a few hours and a short nap on Jeffrey’s shoulder later, I felt a lot better. Eventually our guide came to get us and told us that we could go with a rescue helicopter. He had some friends at the helicopter company and they had to pick someone up in the mountains. Okay, great! Can’t say no to a helicopter ride.
The helicopter ride was magical, and a lot more comfortable than the little airplane. We even had a little stop in a village in the middle of the mountains. Local children were all jumping, dancing and screaming when they watched us go up again.
We arrived in Lukla around 4 pm – nine hours later than anticipated, where we quickly ate some noodle soup and started walking to Phakding. The beginning was fun, when it was still light outside. We already snapped some photos of the exciting hanging bridge and admired some of the first sights of the mountains.
We also had our first check point, where we had to register our ID’s and what cameras we had with us. Our guide Rishi told me this is if our cameras are lost and found. Or if something bad would happen to us. I also noticed a missing poster of a German guy at the checkpoint. When I noticed that the poster is dated from 2014, I asked the police officer at the checkpoint if he was ever found. No, he is still lost. Rishi said he thinks he probably fell down somewhere – which is very reassuring.
The last hour of our first hike was in the dark and rain. Luckily, we had our headlamps in our backpacks. This was our first impression of the trek, and I just had to laugh at the fact that it was already so intense. We were both completely soaked and you could only see our feet in the lights of our headlamps.
When we finally arrived in Phakding, we had a great meal (dal soup, egg curry and momo’s – we love momo’s!). Of course because of this very long day, we were both already very tired and I was sensing that I was getting sick. I had to sneeze every other minute. Oh no… I was wishing for a miracle that night.
Until now, it is already one big adventure, but one that you’re glad when it’s over.
Day 2. From Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Elevation: from 2650 meter to 3440 meter
Duration: 6 hours
This morning we left at 8 am and I’m happy to say it didn’t rain anymore. The weather was great, the sun was out and we were walking in our t-shirts. Up until our lunch stop in a little town called Jorsalle, it was a relatively easy walk. These first three hours were so much more fun and easier than the day before, mostly because it wasn’t dark nor raining. The walk was in the valley alongside the Milk River, that originates at Everest Base Camp.
After our lunch we had a steep climb up from the river valley to Namche Bazaar, which took another three hours. It was hard; we really went straight up and it started raining again. For the first time it was evident that Jeffrey and I didn’t train enough. That’s why we took it real easy, and a lot of people were faster than us. But later on we always saw the same people again – taking a rest and catching their breath, because the reduced oxygen in the air made this steep climb hard for everyone.
It’s not a race, so taking it slow is not a problem. Taking lots of breaks also gave the chance to get to know other trekkers better. During the trek, you can just start a conversation with almost everyone – because everyone is on a similar mission.
It was amazing to finally arrive in Namche Bazaar, small victory! We arrived at 2.15 pm, so we took about six hours to get there. This time our lodge had a working hot shower, which we immediately used.
Today we’ve seen countless other trekkers, porters, yaks, yak shit, donkeys, and lots of local people. You feel a bit silly when you walk around with your walking stick and a local kid is running around bare feet or when a porter with obviously too much weight on his back overtakes you. The fun part about trekking up until now is that a lot of people just randomly talk to you, even though you don’t know them.
That night, we decided to go to bed after dinner and have an early night.
Day 3: Acclimatization day in Namche Bazaar
Elevation: from 344o meter to 3880 meter (and back)
Duration: 4 hours
As we had made such a big jump in elevation in one day, our bodies needed a day to adjust to the new altitude. That’s why we had a day of acclimatization. Acclimatization doesn’t mean that you have a day of doing nothing (that’s what we thought at first), but you hike in the surroundings – so up and down again, to sleep at the same altitude like the night before. So this morning we left at 8 am to go from Namche Bazaar (3400m) to Everest View Hotel (3880m). The first part of the hike was a bit tough again, but at a certain point the elevation was more gradual.
When we were almost at the Everest View Hotel, I became a little bit dizzy, so I stopped for a while. That helped. But when we arrived at the Everest View Hotel, which is one of the highest hotels in the world, I was feeling a bit weird again. But nothing crazy. We had some lemon tea and didn’t stay too long, because other people also wanted to enjoy the view.
Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have an awesome view of the Mount Everest while we were at the hotel, because it was very cloudy. In the morning, around 7 am it was completely clear, but our luck wasn’t in our favor and this changed the moment we started our hike up. We were actually walking along side the clouds, also a beautiful sight.
Once we came back to our lodge it was 12.15 pm and we had some lunch. After that Jef and I had a walk around Namche Bazaar. It’s amazing that people actually live here with a whole community, and it’s fun exploring the “streets” of this little town. One thing we noticed today is that the dogs here look a lot better than the dogs back in Kathmandu. During our exploring, we also visited some local shops. Jeffrey even bought himself a new shirt.
That night we played cards with Rishi while we ate some of the local curries in our lodge. Like every night, Rishi told us about our destination for the next day – he wanted to go to Dingboche, instead of Tengboche (which was written in our itinerary). We didn’t mind going one town further, as long as we didn’t risk getting altitude sickness.
We had another early night. Unfortunately, that night proved that it wastn’t the best idea for us to Dingboche, because I woke up in the middle of the night with a headache. Even though I was getting better from my short-lived flu/fever, the headache was something new.
Day 4. From Namche Bazaar to Tengboche
Elevation: from 3440 meter to 3860 meter
Duration: 5 hours
Last night I didn’t sleep that well, as I had quite a headache. This morning I didn’t feel great either. I told our guide Rishi and he thought it was better to go to Tengboche instead of Dingboche.
During breakfast and during the walk I felt a bit better, although sometimes the dizziness returned when we were hiking straight up. That’s why I took it real slow again.
Already during the first hour of our hike, we had one of our first views of the tip of Mount Everest (something you can’t even see at the Base Camp) . It was as if it was calling me to not give up that day. Luckily every time I took another break, I was also rewarded with views of the river valley, Himalayas and I could already see Tengboche from afar.
When we arrived in Tengboche, the headache was completely gone. Tengboche has a monastery, Dawa Choling Gompa, and we went to attend a ceremony of praying monks. It was really special to see something like this in person. The space itself was already very special. The most dominant force in the room was a very big Buddha statue, and it was surrounded with red painted pillars and art. The praying of the monks was very rhythmic, and sometimes another monk walked passed and spread smoke along them.
When we came out of the monastery, we met a Dutch guy called Stijn, who just did a 20 day trek over gletsjers of 6000 meter and decided to quickly visit the Everest Base Camp too. I asked him about altitude sickness, and told him that I had a little headache that day. He said he didn’t have any trouble, but that he knew how to handle it, because he is a medicine student. I asked him for tips. He told me: eat well, drink well (4 to 5 liters) and take Diamox if necessary. I was feeling a lot more positive after this conversation.
After that we went for some relaxing in our room. That’s when I got extremely nauseous. That night I wasn’t hungry at all. We were having dinner with Stijn and he was telling us about his successful trek (one he should be extremely proud of!) and I was sitting there, silently suffering. I took me about one hour to eat a plate with potatoes and drank about five teas. Stijn told me there was no harm in taking a Diamox that night, so I did.
Unfortunately Diamox isn’t an instant cure, but it helps your body remove the excess of body fluids that is caused by the reduced oxygen in the air. That night it actually only got worse. It was terrible to be so nauseous, and I couldn’t sleep at all.
Day 5. From Tengboche to Pangboche
Elevation: from 3860 meter to 3985 meter
Duration: 2.5 hours
Last night I was up all night, didn’t sleep one minute. About 5.30 am I told Jeffrey “This isn’t good.”
I didn’t want to leave, but on the other hand I did. It felt as if the only cure for my nausea is descending (which is true when you have altitude sickness). Jef went to our guide Rishi and he immediately brought me tea, and told me he was going to call Tika (the tour manager) and Tika would call the rescue helicopter.
Was it really over? I felt so bad, and I was especially feeling very guilty towards Jeffrey, who didn’t feel anything of the altitude. I think I said sorry ten or twenty times, even though I couldn’t help it. After I drank my tea, the nausea finally stopped and I asked Jeffrey if we can’t just have an extra acclimatization day.
Finally I spoke with Tika on the phone. He suggested to walk to the next village, Pangboche, to sleep there, Pangboche is about the same height as Tengboche. He said it would help the acclimatization. Suddenly I didn’t want to leave at all. After hanging up Rishi said that health is more important than money or finishing the trek. Of course I completely agree, but it suddenly felt as if I was giving up too soon and I don’t like giving up.
Pangboche was only 2.5 hours away, and even though I was shaky, weak and still a bit nauseous, we decided to go for it. We could always still go down if it wasn’t going any better. After force feeding myself the Dal soup I had for breakfast, we went on our way to Pangboche.
Luckily it was a very easy walk. During the hike Jef and I discussed ideas about the remainder of the trek. Or I would wait in a lower village and he would continue, so meeting up again when we went down. Or I would go to Kathmandu and he would go on (but he didn’t really want this, because we would be apart for nine days), or we would both go back to Kathmandu and we would get a helicopter tour around the Base Camp.
When we came in Pangboche I felt a bit better and was a little bit hungry again. I still took Diamox, in the hope it would help me. I was hoping that I could sleep well that night and felt better the next day. After dinner we went straight to bed… again.
Day 6. From Pangboche to Dingboche
Elevation: from 3985 meter to 4410 meter
Duration: 3 hours
I slept well last night. Only woke up because my feet were tingling (side effect of Diamox). Later I woke up again, because there was a barking dog and a baby yak that was making really weird high pitched noises. It made me laugh.
It was actually quite a miracle; this was one of the best nights I had since our trek. That morning I was very hopefull, and although we made plans that night before to split up, I was ready to move on up with the rest of our little crew.
Rishi told us that he prayed for us for 20 minutes before going to bed. He was very positive and told us that now it’s his dream to get us to the Base Camp. So sweet!
It was noticeably getting colder the higher we got every day. We now start our mornings with our down jackets, but quickly have to take them off after walking a few meters. In contrast with the first two days, every day is super clear and sunny. Also, the walking makes you warm very quick.
The walk to Dingboche was, luckily, easy on us. The first part of the walk was flat and it was gradually went higher and higher. Eventually it was quite the climb again, but nothing we couldn’t take that day. When we were almost there – we could actually see the village, Jeffrey was starting to get a headache. So we sat down for a bit and tried to enjoy the stunning view of the stupa that was located before the town.
When we arrived in Dingboche we had lunch – momo’s and a cheese toast – and we played cards in the dinner room. I felt a lot better than the previous days and tried to hold on to that feeling. Jeffrey wasn’t feeling great this time. I treated us to Pringles and we stayed there for a while.
Eventually we went to our room to lie down for a bit. Then we noticed that Jeffrey had a fever. Oh no.
On top of that, the communal toilet on the floor we were staying was a squat toilet. Since Namche we didn’t have our own toilet or shower anymore. Trust me, if you have to go to the toilet a lot at night, a squat toilet isn’t ideal.
When we went for dinner, I noticed that Jeff was really quite sick. He told me his eyes hurt, something he has when he gets a fever/the flu. Again we were making plans during dinner with Rishi to get a helicopter to go down. Of course we weren’t a big fan of this plan. So, we would wait and see how Jeffrey would sleep that night, and how he felt the next day. It felt like a déjà vu from the previous day.
Again after dinner (which Jef ate with a lot of effort) we went to bed immediately. I was lying next to him for a while (every lodge only had separate beds) and noticed that his temperature decreased very fast. I was hopeful.
Day 7. Acclimatization day in Dingboche
Elevation: from 4410 meter to 4800 meter
Duration: 2.5 hours
Dingboche is where the altitude sickness is most likely to occur, and we noticed that more and more people were having trouble adjusting to the altitude. We also saw more rescue helicopters this morning when we were hiking up to 4800 meter to acclimatize. Although this wasn’t the first time we heard or saw a helicopter (during the day we hear them every 20 minutes) this is the first time we actually saw one land.
It isn’t so strange that people are getting sick, as the altitude is over 4000 meter, and the conditions of the accommodations are getting worse too. The walls are so thin you can hear every word your next door neighbor is saying, people are all sharing the same, not so clean toilet, and it’s getting cold – especially at night. Most people aren’t showering anymore, since you have to pay for that and it’s often just a bucket of water. However, our lodge actually had a decent one, so I took a shower today! It was a magical feeling to actually be clean.
The climb we had this morning was a tiring climb up, and we really had to push ourselves to get there. During the climb on the hill we could see prayer flags everywhere (who puts them there?). When we were finally up the hill, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the valley. The air was getting thinner and colder, making it harder to breath.
Once we were back down we sat in the dinner room for a few hours. Together with Rishi we played cards (he taught us cool Nepalese card games) and talked about the earthquake that struck Nepal last year. He told us his house was completely demolished and that he lost some friends and family. It’s so sad, but he was happy to say that things are looking up for him. He is now building a new home in Kathmandu.
At dinner, we both ate well, we were surprised by seeing people drinking wine and some even had rum. Alcohol is not a very good idea at these altitudes. Jef is still a bit sick, but his fever is gone. I feel good, but let’s wait and see how we sleep tonight. We will probably go to Lobuche tomorrow, but we take every day as it comes now.
Just now, when I was walking to the squat toilet in my thick downjacket, I thought to myself “why am I actually doing this trek?”
Day 8. From Dingboche to Lobuche
Elevation: from 4410 meter to 4920 meter
Duration: 5 hours
The walk to Lobuche was relatively easy, because it gradually went up. The landscape was absolutely beautiful, probably the most beautiful part of the whole trek. During this walk we could see a lake from a far, unfortunately we couldn’t quite capture the beauty on camera. It looked like a little diamond.
The first part of the walk was still very green and there were streams of water running. There was a cute dog that followed us for a while, but eventually he decided to take a little bath in the stream of water instead of joining us to Lobuche.
In a small town called Dughla, we sat down and ate some snickers. After this we had to go straight up again, so we needed some energy. The walk up went so much better than expected. Until then, all the walks that went straight up were so hard and tiring. This time we told each other “that was easy!”
Once we were up, we arrived at a memorial for other climbers and sherpas who lost their lives on their expeditions. We also saw names and dates of people that died last year during the earthquake. After the memorial it was only gradually up again, our favorite way of hiking.
Once we got into Lobuche we did another hike up and we could see the Khumbu Glacier. This hill was up to 5000 meters. I was surprised to how well I was doing now. Diamox was really helping me, and even though climbing a set of stairs already made me lose my breath, I wasn’t feeling sick at all. Jef wasn’t fully fit, but he felt fine when he was up the hill too.
After we returned to the lodge, we spent a lot of hours playing cards in the dining room. When it turned dark outside, it got really busy. There were a lot of tour groups coming in, and one guide even tried to move us somewhere else, even though we were sitting on our spot the whole day. Rishi made sure we just stayed where we were.
Eventually we got a bit claustrophobic, as the room was totally packed. That’s why we ate dinner and left to our rooms, for another early night.
Dag 9. Gorak Shep – Base Camp – Gorak Shep
Elevation: from 4920 meter to 5140 meter. From 5140 meter to 5364 meter
Duration: 3 hours
This was our last full day in the Himalayas. We made it to the Everest Base Camp, but with a lot of effort. Even though my altitude sickness stopped, Jeffreys sickness only got worse. We kept on going by then, because we knew we were almost there. Just one more day and we would be able to go down. But we weren’t sure about how we would go down.
Jeffrey didn’t sleep well that previous night, and his fever got worse. In addition to that, he had terrible stomach cramps which didn’t stop the next morning. During the walk he also had to endure constant cramps and stomach pains. But we weren’t going to stop before we reached our goal.
The scenery we saw during our hike from Lobuche to Gorak Shep was breathtaking, with tall, rocky, snowcapped mountains and glaciers around us. This time it definitely was another planet, even more so because there weren’t really any more villages. Lobuche and Gorak Shep only exist out of lodges and restaurant for trekkers.
In Gorak Shep we sat down and talked about our situation. Jeffrey was clearly sick, and we probably already pushed too far. Rishi told us that now we would definitely arrive to the Base Camp, but that it may be wiser for us to go completely down that day. So, we reluctantly agreed with the three of us that this time, we would really get us a helicopter down. But first, visiting Everest Base Camp.
After garlic noodle soup (they say it helps against altitude sickness), it was time to trek to Everest Base Camp. It would still take us another three hours, which was really a challenge – because Jeffrey had almost no energy left. We thought that the hike would be gradually, but the hike to the Base Camp was very, very rocky. People going down were already warning us, but I didn’t expect it to be so hard!
We walked along the Khumbu Glacier, and it was absolutely beautiful, but really, did it all have to be so rocky? And there were still a lot of uphill climbs, up and down, up and down. The oxygen level was now dropped to a low 51%.
Jeffrey did a great job. We had to stop a lot to drink water and catch our breath. We even saw one man vomiting along the way (he claimed to be fine when we asked him later). It was clear that most people were struggling, although many were certainly not complaining, everyone tried to keep on a smile, because we were almost there!
Finally, we made it to Everest Base Camp. To be honest, there is not much there, only a lot of prayer flags and a stone with Everest Base Camp written on it. Everyone takes the same photos there, so it does feel a bit… anti-climatic. But, happy people that congratulate each other does make you realize that you did achieve something that day. We pushed our boundaries and made it to our destination.
We went back, which was also difficult, again with the rocks, and again with the up hill climbs. Jeffrey had no energy left, but the helicopter was already called for so it was reassuring to know that we would make it back safe and sound in Kathmandu any time now.
Of course, the idea of us going down with a rescue helicopter gave us a mixed feeling. You want to finish the trek completely, finish what you started. But at that point, we were already thankful that our bodies managed to actually get to the Everest Base Camp. So there we were, waiting for the helicopter.
It never came that day.
Day 10. Gorak Shep to Kathmandu
Elevation: from 5140 meter to 1400 meter
Duration: 4 hours
We had to sleep another night in Gorak Shep, even though we called for a rescue helicopter to take us back down. But due to bad weather and clouds at a lower village, it couldn’t reach us. Lots of people were waiting for helicopters. One man was so sick of the altitude sickness, that he couldn’t walk anymore. It was terrible seeing him be carried down from the hill where the helicopters land, after it was clear that no helicopters were coming that day.
We didn’t know what to do. Were we going to walk down to Lobuche? Or just sleep in Gorak Shep? It was already getting dark when it was certain no helicopters were coming, and it was terribly cold. The walk down to Lobuche would’ve taken us over two hours. We decided to stay in Gorak Shep, even though I was scared for Jeffrey’s health.
It was a surprise this morning that we woke up and realized that we slept through the whole night. Especially because we had a hole in the wall to outside, and it was very cold. The day before we got garlic soup and tea that we didn’t finish, and by morning it was completely frozen. We slept in our warm clothes, including scarf and thermo pants, and had only our nose sticking out of our sleeping bags – so we were warm enough that night.
Now that Jeffrey was feeling better, we felt upset that a helicopter was coming for us. But it was already coming, and it was waiting for us in Lukla since that previous night. So, we thought to ourselves: no harm done. Another helicopter flight, but this time down, is awesome nonetheless. And it was absolutely stunning again.
They dropped us of in Lukla, were we had to wait for another helicopter. It was incredible to feel the difference of the altitude already. The next helicopter came, and we were back in Kathmandu. We had to go with an ambulance to the hospital, were Jeffrey was checked on everything by helpful doctors. He had to stay for one night.
It was incredibly full at the hospital, because it was the trekking season. That meant I couldn’t stay there with Jeffrey for the night. We were very happy that he could already be discharged the next day. His diagnose was Acute Mountain Sickness and Acute Gastro Enteritis, so it was probably best that we went down that day. After some antibiotics and other medicines, he completely recovered.
Even though our trek was a roller coaster of altitude sickness, it was still one of the most amazing experiences we ever had. We wouldn’t want to miss any of it. Hopefully in a few years we can go on another trekking adventure, and we’ll be sure to be better prepared!
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