Everest Region - Nepal
Everest Region - Nepal
Everest, Other Mountains, Waterfalls, scenery
Total Distance Covered:
120 kms hike, plus four hours flight from Sharjah to Kathmandu and 30 minutes flight from Kathmandu to Lukla and back.
Original writing unedited.
Our adventure has started as the check-in counter at the airport just told us that my friend who is traveling on a Pakistani passport cannot board a flight to Kathmandu without a visa. My research clearly stated that it is possible and all the more there won’t be any visa fee for SAARC countries residents. We are being sent to the manager’s room, we enter there and see a young man sitting behind the counter I started to talk to him in general and created some connection with him before telling him the problem, it always helps. Then was the time to tell him the problem and that’s exactly what I did. Once told he promised to help us out. He came out with us to the counter and spoke to many people and finally checked us in provisionally, and told us to wait for one hour for clearance. Now we are roaming around at the airport confused. However the wait was not long as someone came and told us to come and collect our boarding pass and go through the check in. We are sitting at Caribou coffee now and are enjoying our cappuccino, excited about our trip. After that we walked through the duty free shops and just bought a chocolate box for our guide in Nepal. Since we are traveling on a low cost career, there are no meals on the flight. Therefore we have bought the biggest burger McDonald’s offers and that is in our day pack to enjoy it onboard.
Flight announcement came and now we are sitting in the plane waiting for it to fly. Flight is on time and has left without any hiccups. It is going to be a four hour flight to Kathmandu. We will reach there by 1:30pm to have the rest of the day for us to shop for some essential items that we couldn’t buy in Dubai. It’s been two hours on the flight so we are having our delicious burger with coke. Everyone seems to be envious of us as they are either not having anything or are stuck with ordering the Pokka readymade noodles from the flight attendants. We have finished eating and are waiting for the flight to reach KTH. After some time we noticed some beautiful scenery on the left hand side, luckily we are sitting on the left hand side of the plane and will be enjoying this Himalayan scenery till we reach KTH. Clicking loads of photos after changing the regular lens to the 300mm lens on my SLR. I’m sure that the mountains visible are very high probably all the 8000ers Nepal has but am unable to name them in my pictures. I’ll have to ask some expert for that.
A smooth landing and here we are in the terminal welcomed by a very nice and graceful lady. She just took our passports and is guiding us everywhere, from filling forms to taking us to the right counters. I was right as they are not charging any fee for SAARC passport but are charging $25 on my Canadian passport. Smooth exit to the luggage room which is totally jam packed and is quite chaotic. After waiting for 2 hours we just discovered that the luggage on the belts is from yesterday’s flight due to some hiccup it didn’t come with the flight. So we are in line for the receipt of not receiving our luggage. The guy is telling us to check at 10:30pm on the next flight and hopefully our luggage would be there. This is not a good start for us as we are flying to Lukla tomorrow morning to start our hike. Just got the file number and left the terminal where we are welcomed by Thakur our guide.
He took us to their old Toyota Corolla 1998 model. We are going towards the hotel now. It is a bad traffic time as all the streets are crowded and traffic is jammed. After an hour we are finally in our room at Thamel Eco Resort. Thamel is the set of streets and bazaars where most of the tourists stay. All the shops try to rip off the poor travelers and everyone knows it. It all depends on how good a bargainer you are to get the best possible price for anything. There are statues of Goddesses and other holly stuff for Hindus and Buddhists. Other than that we noticed the most prominent statues every shop carrying are the Kama Sutra. I don’t feel right about it though and consider that vulgar to be openly sold and displayed at almost all the shops.
Anyhow the hotel is nice and has a small garden in the middle of the rooms. That is the only Eco thing about this hotel but the rest is just like any other hotel. We were happy to come to this one to support the Green concept; at least we did our bit.
Here Thakur revealed that his company has not been registered and he just has a website, however we needed to register our Emergency Travel Insurance with some company as that is the requirement of Columbus Insurance (UK) in case they have to arrange our pickup from the high altitude if need be. So we asked him to take us to his other company (through which he usually works) so that this problem could be sorted out. He seems to be reluctant but agrees to do that finally. We are sitting in his company office filling in the details etc. We requested them to arrange the local SIMs and credit for us to be used in our stay in Nepal. This is done and the insurance is registered as well. We are in the streets looking for the required stuff going from one shop to another. Everyone is a rip off and give highly inflated prices. Shopping is done and we are having our first meal with Chana Masala and Daal Bhat (famous Nepali food that they have every day for lunch and dinner) in a restaurant named as Mac Donald.
Thakur was renting some dirty sleeping bags for us but we just told him to get better ones. We shopped around and have found brand new sleeping bags on rent less than the price he was paying at the previous shop. So both the parties are happy with this arrangement.
We are sitting in the hotel and trying to sort out the misunderstanding Thakur has create about the total payment. Luckily I brought the emails conversation print outs with me and that has cleared the air. Thakur is doing some drama of “Oh I gave you the wrong price etc.”, this is making us really confused and unhappy.
But we have limited numbers of days and we can’t afford to lose even one day. Hence we are sticking with Thakur even if we don’t want that any more; otherwise we could have gone to find some other company and guide. We have just paid him so that he could get the dollars converted into rupees.
Now it is time to go to the airport to try our luck for our luggage, Thakur left for his home. Taxi is arranged by the hotel staff, they are really nice and smiling people. Normally it is Rs300 one way but it is night time and it is ‘Thamel’ so we are paying Rs 1200 for the return trip. We found our luggage at the airport right away. We are very happy and are all set to go to Lukla next morning. We called Thakur who told us that he has cancelled our flight; I’m very upset as he didn’t ask us about it and I explicitly prompted him not to make any changes in the plan until we call him at night. He promised to get back after reinstating the tickets. We are very confused and angry right now, and are getting obstacles one after another. We received his call to get ready 6am as everything is in order after 30 minutes.
We are back in the hotel and are charging our cameras etc. and are excited about our flight to Lukla.
By the way Kathmandu and Lukla are considered to be the most dangerous airports in the world due to their difficult locations and track record of failed flights. Many people have lost their lives at these places and this thing was making our families nervous when we started our journey.
I couldn’t sleep the whole night, may be out of excitement or whatever. But we are ready after taking bath in another room as the hot water didn’t work in our room, not that it worked in the other room J either. But we are having our breakfast as the other trekkers are. Everyone is with bright eyes and excited about their trekking plans as everyone who is awake right now is going to some trek in Nepal. Some are going to EBC (Everest base camp), some are going to Annapurna Circuit etc. Thakur is here and is also having breakfast with us.
We left towards airport in a taxi at 7am. The local terminal is really busy and filled with mostly westerners and some tourists like us and some local people. We are going to fly in a small twin otter plane that seats 18 people. What an experience that is going to be. Our flight is delayed due to something but we are sitting in the terminal to fly as we hear the call for our flight.
On the way to the airport Thakur made some drama and said my mother is very sick and I just received the message. He opted to stay back and would join us once we’ll be in Namche Bazar, in the meantime he put us through to another guide. Later we got to know that we were actually sold out to a cheaper guide, and that fellow knew already that we are coming to Lukla. We were no expecting this from Thakur but we never wanted not to believe him when he told us about his mother. We had a doubt but shrug it off.
We are flying in this small and old plane and it sometimes bounces in the air pockets. The plane seems to be very old, the seats are cloth seats as if these are from World War 2, the equipment is broken or about to break, and even pilots seats are all ripped off as I could see them from behind. It does have a GPS though that I think is an enhancement in the plane. We are sitting just behind the pilots and there is no door between them and us, there is a big opening and I could see all the controls and their usage. The views outside are amazing right from when the flight started. There are step fields and the area is really green and mountainous.
We are really enjoying our mountain flight and are able to see some really tall mountains and stunning views. There are no announcements in the plane otherwise they would have told us the names of the mountains around and that would have been very nice. The only offering during the flight was some mint candy that tasted awful.
Landing in Lukla is an experience in itself, as this is a small strip in incline where the plane lands and barely stops before hitting the wall on the far end. The strip may not be more that 800 meters long and the slanting angel may not be less than 12 degrees. We are in a bit cold weather already in Lukla. We just met our new guide to whom we are sold out by our original guide and our porter also who is always smiling. They are both young men. Our guide is Bhimsen Rijal and I don’t remember our porters difficult name as our guide who is Nepali couldn’t remember that either.
Our luggage is collected and we are sitting in a hotel/tea house having some tea and nice vegetable soup. After this we started our trek and we are obviously very happy and excited to make it this far in time after all the hiccups we faced since our journey started from UAE. The trek is not hard as the first day we are only going to climb down 200 meters to Phakding for our first night. That doesn’t mean that there is no climb up, the mountains are never going up and down only, it is always a mixture of up and down and the resultant is the gain or loss of altitude at the end. So today we would be losing 200 meter altitude as a whole after all the climb up and down. We did buy water bottles before leaving Lukla and are now carrying two liters of water each. Lukla is 2800meters (9240 ft) above sea level and we plan to go over 5545 meters (18000 ft) above sea level in our hike.
We have reached a check-post where they check the trekking permits and to our surprise Thakur forgot to give us the permits and now we’ll have to make them again. There are nice 3d models of the Himalayan range at this center/check-post. It took half an hour to complete the formalities and we are back on the trek. The scenery has a lot of greenery, trees, vegetation that includes Chinese spinach, carrots, cabbage and potatoes. This is what these people eat every day along with lentils and rice, in the shape of daal bhaath.
There is a bridge broken by the earth quake that came a few days earlier and that has made the whole hill fall down. Therefore there is an extra hour of hike around that hill. This is quite rough and tough as we have to go high up to cross this broken part. After about four hours of hike we have reached our Tea House (as these small guest houses are called in this area). The room (so called) is upstairs, the stairs are really steep and the room is wood walls with wooden bed and that’s it, it is really small. The bathroom is bad and there is no water coming in the only tap. Though, the view of the river from the dining is great. We are really tired of our first day hike and are sure it will be getting extremely tough in the coming days. We rested for some time and then went out to see the village. Bhim took advantage and put us in the cheapest possible Tea House in the area, had we known earlier we would have protested but it’s too late for today, will talk tomorrow. We took a lot of photos on the way and are taking some while walking through the village. There are quite a few Tea Houses in this village and there is a small river bisecting the village, the water is rushing down the steep slopes through the village falling way down into the bigger river. We are back in our Tea House and have ordered our diner. The old Sherpa lady is the owner of this place and is really polite. We sat outside for a while but then came inside as it is getting chilly now. Enjoying the landscape and river view from dining room windows. There is a platform to sit all around the room and then tables and then chairs on the other side. This is a regular set up in most of the dining rooms on the trek. There are guides and porters sitting in one side of the room and they eat after the guests have been served their food. Food is alright and we are satisfied with it today. Now the night is falling in. The night in the mountains is always very mysterious and falls quite early. It comes early in the valleys as the sun is blocked by the high mountains and you do see light in the sky but where you are it is dark. We are in our room telling each other stories in a bid to sleep. I’m not getting any sleep and this is creating problems for me during the day.
ME AND MY SMALL STEPS
We are having our breakfast of scrambled eggs and toasts; of course we are also sipping some milk coffee. Today is going to be one of the difficult days of the trip as we are going to climb more than 600 meters in the day in about 9-10 kms of hike. Phakding to Namche Bazar, at Namche Bazar we’ll stay two nights one for today and one for the mandatory acclimatization process before we go too high in the mountains. The trek is alright in the beginning, it is going through some small villages with vegetation around them. We just crossed a couple of nice and high waterfalls. The valley has opened up now and the trek is going along the river, we did cross the river to the left via hanging bridge earlier. The incline is not much yet, we are crossing another bridge to go to the right side of the river. Track still remains next to the river with its ups and downs. Sometimes the river flows far down and looks like a small stream from distance and sometimes it is very close to the trek and is roaring and creating a lot of noise due to the rapids. This sound doesn’t bother us though as we are kind of liking this sound now. Ok we can see one hanging bridge high in the mountains and we are going to climb up to cross the river to the left and then there is a very steep trek disappearing into the green mountain. I think the real steep trek is nearing now.
As soon as we crossed the hanging bridge full of prayer Buddhist flags, the trek is just going at more than 45 degrees. So it is starting to get tougher now. With our fitness level, we are moving very slowly. This is where I devised my motto of today’s trek “Me and my tiny steps”. This slogan is going to help us all the way and this is the only formula to hike in the mountains. So here we are with our small steps, the idea is to put one step after another without thinking how far we are going and how steep are we climbing. We have been on the trek for several hours and it does not seem to end any time soon. The trek passed through some dense trees and the views behind them are mesmerizing. Sound of the river comes all the way up here although the river is a good few hundred meters below by now. We hear some birds chirping sometimes through the trees but it’s hard to see them. We continue slowly and pass through couple of very small villages which are not much of commercial nature. The commercial nature villages have Tea Houses and some places to stay all along the trek and then there are some which are very less in number but they don’t have much to offer for the tourists. Sherpa kids are really beautiful up here though they are very dirty due to the harshness of the weather and less opportunities of getting a bath.
A small village came and we are sitting in its open dining area where there are some other older trekkers ordering their lunch. The sun is out and the heat it is producing is very soothing for our bodies. We have taken our shoes and socks off and those are sitting in the direct sunlight to get rid of any moisture and smellJ. The food is good and is served with love; the guy came to us to ask if we needed more food with a smiling face. We extended our break to lie down in our chairs under the sun for some extra time before we continue our treacherous trek still going up.
We are just going and going and going up without any end in sight. After hiking for about 9 hours with our numerous number of breaks for photographs and rest and lunch we are now nearing Namche Bazar. It is getting dark also making hour hike a complete days hike today. Usually fit people could do this trek in 5-6 hours but then again it depends on you as how fast you go and how many breaks you take along the way. Entrance to Namche is not at all impressive with a small dirty street having some tea houses on one side still going up. Good thing is that our hotel (The Nest) is in the very beginning of Namche. We are in our room now which is a 3 bedroom basic facility room with shared bathroom for the whole floor. It’s quite chilly at this time of the evening. Our porter has already put our stuff in the room as he made it well before us. The Tea House is the biggest that we’ve seen so far. And I think it is sort a compensation for us as yesterday we stayed in quite a lousy place and we spoke to our guide about it. But we are happy with this place. There are two very small energy saver bulbs in the room and these produce good enough light to see our stuff. We have two windows, one is blocked and the other one has an open view of Namche.
After taking rest for several minutes now we are sitting in the dining room where there are a lot of other hikers making their plans, reading books and discussing different matters mostly about this trip with their guides. Guides are taking orders for the dinner from their customers. There are quite a few very interesting characters also doing their own stuff. No one is bothered about what others are doing really; everyone is in a different state of mind and tired. Most of the people are going up but some are staying here on the way down. We met a few to check what are the conditions up there. There has been snow and some storm on high mountains a couple of days back and for that reason Cho La Pass was closed for a few days and people did trek in the snow for a day or so but the conditions seem to be normal now as the weather is getting better. We are hoping for clear skies and less cold when we reach up there and we are not the only ones praying for this.
Namche Bazar is located at 3440m (11352 ft) and is the business hub of the Everest Region. However I think this is the most difficult place to become a business hub because the approach to Namche from either side is extremely difficult due to the climb from any other side. From any side one has to climb a good few hundred meters to reach this business hub. This is a difficult place to reach while you are going up in the mountains and even when you are coming down from the mountains. I couldn’t find any bypass either therefore it’s a must stop. Namche is also first of the two mandatory acclimatization points in this area. We’ll be staying here two nights to acclimatize before moving up to 13000 ft above sea level. Many people start having breathing or high altitude problems from here. But we are all fine and have not noticed any signs of breathing or other issues so far.
The dinner is Daal Bhaat and some other stuff. The environment in the dining room is very mountainous as I would call it. Anybody staying here has something to do with hiking in this particular trip, therefore everyone has something in common and that is the love for the mountains and the wish to see Mount Everest with their own eyes before these will close permanently. I’m here for the very dream that I kept having since my childhood. Since I fell in love with the mountains and got a chance to see them in Pakistan Northern Areas, Mt. Everest has been a must do in my to do list. Here I am to fulfill that dream making progress towards the Beauty slowly but surely.
After the dinner we are out in the open to see views around our tea house. It is very cold at this moment and windy too, it is difficult to stand outside for longer period without being packed in layers. We enjoyed the cold for some time and are in the dining room again to have some tea as the clouds have covered most of the mountains around here at this time. Dining room is a busy place filled with trekkers, their guides and porters. One could pay Rs100/hour for charging electronic equipment, though the charging here is very slow as it is from solar power through batteries. One could also pay Rs300 to take a bath with one bucket of warm water, again heated with solar power. We ask for extra blankets as it’s hard to trust rented sleeping bags especially at this altitude.
It is time to go to bed and tell each other some stories yet again. Third night and I’m not getting any sleep…so far.
Hardly an hour’s sleep in the whole night and a lot of moving around and roaming about, in the room and outside. No choice but to continue the program to meet our schedule. Breakfast is ok but not tasty so just a few bites are ok. We are crossing Namche to go to a view point next to Everest view hotel some 200meters above Namche. As we stayed in the beginning of Namche, it is taking forever to go through the steep streets of Namche Bazar. It seems that we’ll get tired only in Namche itself. The climb continued and the trek will only go up rather than up and down today so we will ascent the required height in shorter distance. We just crossed the last few shops of Namche and now we are above Namche and could have an aerial view of the small town. It is in U shape valley with some tall mountains in front of the U. We are continuing towards the sky as that’s where the trek seems to be going, slowly.
Today was suppose to be a rest day but at dinner time yesterday our guide told us that we’ll leave by 7am to have a good acclimatization day. We are going to climb 200-300 meters and will come back to Namche. This way the bodies are adjusted for high altitude. The trek is going through some lush greenery and a beautiful landscape though there are not much trees at the place. We just crossed a dirt path what is an airport strip for small twin otter planes. They bring in the elite climbers or the luggage to this small one room airport. When we crossed the small airport, right after a few minutes a small plane landed there and took off after unloading some people. We were able to capture it in cameras. It was a pleasant sight though very noisy for such a place. Now we are very close to the top but clouds have increased and our chances of seeing Everest have decreased. We reached the top and stayed there for some time and very cold weather and winds.
There are numerous types of weeds and flowers spread all over the land, whose colors are so beautiful. As there is no pollution up here and the colors are as natural as these could be. We are crossing another hotel on the way that is secluded and is just a one stand alone hotel. The trek is going along the mountain on the left side now and we have open view of deep gorge and mountains in the back drop. Some of the peaks are above 7000 ft right in front. These ones are all snow covered. There is a river flowing very deep in the gorge and we could hardly see it, there is a thin white line as we see in the pictures. We don’t feel tired today as the morning is very fresh and dazzling. We feel very fresh with the pollution free environment. Most of the mountains are cloud covered now and there is a very little chance for us to see the Mount Everest today. But we still want to reach the top and take a chance. As the clouds cover the mountains we are trekking on, it suddenly became very chilly. So now our jackets are on and we are slowly marching.
We are disappointed not to see the Beauty but we know that there will be many more chances coming in the next few days to see it. It’s time to go down; the cameras are packed back into the bags as it has started to drizzle a bit. Going down is much faster than coming up, although it takes more toll on the knees. We progressed fast and by 1pm we are already in Namche and have half a day at our disposal. A well deserved lunch is in front of us and our guide is quite pleased with our today’s performance. He must’ve had doubts about our abilities from yesterday tiresome hike to Namche and the amount of time we took to make it. Today we feel more confident of going all the way and are keeping our fingers crossed.
We are out in Namche Bazar to buy some stuff including some extra Diamox (medicine for High Altitude Sickness), extra cap for my friend etc. There are a number of shops selling replicas of branded outdoor and hiking equipments. Majority are knock offs but there are some items which are original. The prices seem to be high as it’s hard to bring products up here. There are Sherpa and couple of other branded outlets selling some really nice but very expensive stuff. There hiking shirts are about 3-4 thousand rupees minimum, headlamps start at 2000 rupees. We don’t find anything interesting enough and priced right to pick up. Apart from the necessary things we required, we are just doing window shopping. Bargaining seems to be the name of the game in the whole of Nepal or else there are pretty good chances that one would be ripped off. Most of the people visiting these areas are from the West hence they pay extra to buy stuff anyhow because they compare the prices with Euro or Dollars etc., however I see there are so many varieties in even the knock offs. Therefore you can find the replicas of various types and brands and qualities of number one, two, three and onwards.
We are back in the hotel and just chilling out, taking some photos and enjoying the amazing views around here. Diner has been ordered as they take orders around 5-6pm and then last dinner is served around 7:30pm because most of the people go to their rooms afterwards for rest and preparations for the next day. We are having difficulty in eating and have been trying to stuff ourselves to keep going, though there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the food but our appetite is as such. Or maybe the oil these kitchens are using is causing us some sort of acidity. Anyhow we just had few bites and are in our room packing for tomorrow. It is pretty chilly outside. Here, for going to the washroom at night is quite a challenge as we need to cover ourselves before going otherwise we can catch cold or get sick. All precautions are taken as we don’t want to get sick and would like to continue and reach our destination. It’s time to tell each other stories that might help getting some sleep. Night is passing with open eyes sometimes and with closed at other. Another night without sleep and I’m having severe headache.
We are ready by 6 and are waiting for our breakfast and coffee in the dining. I think we are ready even before the kitchen staff that is still getting ready to prepare breakfast. A few more tourists joined us in the dining hall. They have to wait for the breakfast just like us. Suddenly the clouds are giving way to the marvelous views around this place and we could see some snow covered mountains. Its amazing scenery early in the morning as the sunlight is making the peaks shine like a gold. After the breakfast we are again on the treacherous climb to come out of Namche somehow. Namche is quite a tiring place in itself. After we came out, the trek is slowly going up but so far it is not posing challenge. The trek is going around the same mountains that we climbed yesterday for our acclimatization hike. After an hour or so it has started to descend sharply. Descend is pretty long causing fears in our hearts that we would be climbing this back to reach Namche on the way back. Another worry in the mountains is that the more you descend then the more you would climb to reach the next stage. The altitude gain for today is going to be about 400 meters. But with the descend of more than 200 meters we have already guessed that the ascend is going to be quite challenging. Finally we have reached very close to the river to cross it that was the reason for all this downhill. Mountains are amazing and the humans are even more amazing as they find ways to travel through them and conquer them somehow. We crossed a couple of very small villages today as one would imagine what are these people doing out here. But they live there and that’s their homeland and that’s their livelihood.
We are offered lunch here but we are not hungry as expected and would like to continue. After a short break we start to climb the trek. It’s very steep and tiring rather killing for the tired bodies, but we know every day there are different challenges that we need to come across until we finish our trek or ourselves. We continue at a slow pace as I always say “Me and my tiny steps” and it seems to be true formula in the mountains. We are extremely tired and sick of this trek by now, but that’s the way it is going to be. We feel the same way every day when we are tired but then the views are the rewards and the Beauty Calls is our destiny. Seeing Everest with our own eyes has been the motivation and that is making us keep going.
Thangboche is our destination for today. We are making slow progress on the hike but are covering distance slowly to reach our destination. The trek is going through some dense forest and tall trees at times. Finally we entered a gate and that’s the entrance to Thangboche which is sitting at 3867 meters (12761 ft) above sea level. It is located at a Pass and because of that it is quite windy. It is a small place or a transit place as I would call it because there are only a few tea houses and hardly any village around here. But there is a big Buddhist monastery at the top. This is the place from we could to see Everest also if the skies are clear. To our luck at this time it is not clear so not much open sky for views. There are a few tea houses with a big open space in the middle. We are put in a small wooden room where there are two small size wooden beds for the night. We ordered mushroom pizza to eat something different and that might suite us. I sat down in the sun and my friend took some rest in the room. Sunlight was coming through some clouds and was not really warm enough but still it was sunlight. It gave me a little strength as I started to feel a bit fresh and the tiredness was reduced to some extent. I just took a round of the area and the monastery after I was feeling better. This place is at the top of one cliff exposing it to the wild winds and despite being at about 12000 ft it seems higher in altitude. There are a few ponies in the open fields and a couple of British young boys are trying to tame them by offering them grass. I came back to the open sitting area to enjoy the rest of the day while sitting here. It is becoming chilly now so I put on my jackets on top of a couple of layers I am already wearing. Our shoes have been put in the sun for some refreshmentsJ. Sandals are not good enough to stop the cold so we are using our spare shoes now. It’s time to order dinner, we find a few more tourists in our dining area. There are two couples from France, one family from Israel and they have a young boy whose age may not be more than 13 years, they are a happy family, there is on German boy that we have seen all along the trek running up and down but have not seen him talking to anyone so far except with his guide and there is another pair from France.
Dining areas in this region are the social networking places as you make friends here and share your stories. These are the same people who have started their trek the same day you have and will be seeing each other almost every day. We had a good company with the French girls and notes were exchanged. They were very interested in the monks praying in the monastery for the last 3 hours. In every dining room there is a metal drum kind of a heater that has the exhaust going straight up and out of the roof. These heaters are operated by Cow/Yak dung. It is on now and the dining area is getting warm and cozy. Everyone brings their board/card games or their notebooks/books for day’s notes or some reading books to spend their time while sitting in the dining room. It’s a great experience interacting with so many nationalities at one place. This is the best time of the day everyday when people talk to each other and share travel stories or discuss other matters. It helps in getting fresh and reduces tiredness. We are not climbing at this time and are happy to get some rest and get ready for the next day.
Night is quite cold as it is blowing, we are out in the middle of the field, and as soon as we came out of the dining room we saw the clear skies and some mountains glowing in the moonlight. Therefore we are trying to click some nice shots, the SLR is mounted on the stand and the pictures are taken. There are some great shots already in today’s photo collection. The major shots taken are of Amadablam with a slight hint of Everest behind it. The night is really crisp with the clear skies and today is the first day we are having a cloud free night. But now I could see some clouds coming in to cover the beautiful mountains. Hopefully the morning will be clear and Beauty will show herself to us for the first time. After taking the photos we are in our little room if you would like to call it that and are trying to get some warmth in our three layers of sleeping stuff, including the down sleeping bag, one blanket and a thin fleece liner. These things have kept us warm so far and hopefully will continue to do that. The bathroom experience here is also different as the bathroom is away from the rooms towards the edge of one hill and it is the sitting commode one, the waste is going straight into the valley so if one would lose some ring or drop something in the hole, you could imagine about the search….
It’s a beautiful morning, the sun is out and more importantly the views are clear. What that means is that we are looking at the Amadablam range behind which the Beauty is hiding. This is our first glimpse of the Everest but the thing about Everest is that it never looks Grand as it is always hiding behind other mountains and one could only see the tip of it. The scene is beautiful but not as impressive as it would have been with a bigger view. But here we are with Everest just behind us in several pictures we took. It’s sort of the dream come true view cause it has been in the To Do List for a long time and now finally it has become a reality.
After the breakfast we are already on the trek that is going down for the last some time. Again the formula is to descend to cross the river and ascend to gain the lost altitude plus the one for the day. Today’s target is to reach Dengboche which is another mandatory two night stop for acclimatization. It’s another long way today. We can hear the river roaring down on our left hand side and are nearing it to cross the hanging bridge. We just crossed the river and the trek has started to ascend as expected, we are as slow as we are everyday but making progress for sure. Now the river is on our right hand side and the trek is leaving it way down. The steep is not great but a steady gain at a smaller angle but going up takes toll anyhow and the body machinery is used to its potential. Muscles are really used here, strength is tested here and all the more the will power is being tested the most. Hence we have been tested in everything possible, but our will power has been the strongest of all other attributes and has been pushing us so far. After crossing this small village the trek has started to go up steeply. It goes on and on and one and so do us slowly but surely. Dengboche is not even in sight after hours of hike but our guide tells us it is near now. The hike is killing us now as the continuous steep is not finishing, any hiker that we see on the way, is exhausted and is moving very slowly to reach today’s destination. We met a few who were coming down after finishing their trek; they had sun burns on their faces but were smiling as they were going down. The trek is going through some green fields, some rough tracks, and some extremely beautiful scenery. But one could feel the gradual gain in altitude with the cold increasing and breathlessness. When we started our trek we were in four layers and then when the sun came out we started to take off our layers and were barely left with one or two layers. But as soon as the shade comes it becomes chilly, a sign of high altitude because when we are walking in the sun our bodies heat up and we sweat and that causes us to remove layers and when we sit down for a while it becomes very cold, our bodies cool off quickly and start to absorb the cold. This is the time to be careful and do not remove layers unnecessarily.
We had views of the Everest when we crossed the river last time and after that Amadablam’s has been dominant in the Eastern skies and we are moving around it so it is changing faces. There are other pretty mountains around us also but they keep changing as we keep moving towards Everest. Our energies are really depleting now as its been several hours since we left our last hide out and there are no signs of ending our misery for today at least.
Mountains are such amazing places because when you are hiking there, there are many instances when one would think that this is going to be my last hike but when you come out of the mountains and cherish the memories collected out there you would plan for another trip. So we are going through the first phase of it as we are very tired and hungry. The lunch that we ordered earlier in the afternoon was totally pathetic and we couldn’t eat it. This has been a problem with us, we have not been able to eat properly and that has really dented out energy levels. The amount of hard work being put during this trek definitely needs food to build up the lost energy levels to some extent, however we are not keeping up with our required in-take. We do not feel hungry even after a day’s hike and this has been a big problem for us. We’ve not been able to find a solution to this issue as we keep going on the trek burning our fat and muscle. We have tried different dishes just to see if something would suite us but it has been a vein effort. Anyhow we are keeping our target in mind and keep going even with depleted energies because the morale is still high.
Finally we are entering an open valley where we could see some dwelling on the far side. Though the trek is still going up and even after we have seen the village it’s taking forever to reach our tea house. Our guide and porter are way ahead of us. We have been too slow for them and they usually have been at a distance unlike other porters and guides who remain with their group all the time. This is kind of good for us as we keep going towards them.
Finally reached our place to stay at Dengboche, which is a basic hotel with small rooms those can barely fit in our wooden beds. There is a shared bath room in the out, the seat is broken and it’s very difficult to use it. The dining room is big enough to accommodate 15 – 20 tourists. The view is great on either side of it. We are given a room whose door is broken and we cannot close it, means we’ll have to carry our valuables all the time. We took out our shoes and have put them under the sun and are also trying to get some heat from the sun as we remain in 3-4 layers. It seems that the night is going to be very cold. No wonder we are at 4360 m (14388 ft) above sea level. This is going to be my highest night stay. Though we have not experienced any breathing issues or any sign of high altitude so far and are keeping our fingers crossed. After taking some rest we are sitting in the dining room just chatting with other hikers. The Canadian group that stayed with us in Namche Bazar is also staying here along with the 3 British girls, one of them does not feel cold and is sitting in the dining room in a sleeveless top and shot shorts. On the other hand we are in few layers. The Spanish couple who hardly talks to anybody is also here. So our place is quite busy for today. This whole group has been staying with us off and on and has given good company so far. I just made another friend; he is from Holland and a fun guy - Ray.
Tomorrow is a rest and acclimatization day at Dengboche and we know what that means by now. Rest day is going to be another hike to higher altitude and then would have to come back down to stay the night. In this way the bodies get used to the high altitude and that’s what the climbers do, as they take a number of runs to high altitude and then come back to their base camps to adjust their bodies to the altitude and environment. This is the second of the mandatory stops along Everest trek, though it is recommended to take more. We gained about 500 meters today and now over 4300m and the altitude thingy starts to catch up here. There was a free presentation by a doctor here but we missed that somehow. Basically the talk is about the high altitude and its effects and how to protect ourselves from such diseases. The Canadians just told us about it a bit, one of them is under the sickness attack already and he has started to take Diamox which is the most common medicine for Acute Mountain Sickness. The proper fix is to come down in altitude to adjust your bodies. One could lose life if not complied, so it is a serious matter when you start getting headaches, start to throw up etc. and it should be taken very seriously. We are doing alright so far and do not plan to take medicine unnecessarily, however many start to take medicine as a precaution at this stage of the trek.
Evening is falling in and it’s really cool to see the mountains changing colors because of the sun going down. They produce beautiful shadows sometimes and at other times horrible ones. Mountains become more magnetic during these times and the evening falls-in quickly up here. The sun hides behind the mountains causing the night to come early. It has become very cold now and we have to add a layer of jacket on top of our other layers if we are outside. The cow dung powered heater has been switched on and all the guides are sitting around it, the dining room has warmed up so we need to remove a few layers and need to put them on while going outside or to our sleeping areas which are not heated. There are small energy saver bulbs hanging in the dining room and these are lighted up by the batteries charged during the day by solar power. These are producing very dim light and are creating a dramatic effect in the dining room. The Canadians are playing some board game and are enjoying themselves. The whole group has been traveling together for the last several years and they are mostly from Montreal and Ottawa Valley areas. They are all retired but physically very fit. One of the old guys has brought his son along who is not too happy as he is missing his TV, couch and what not. They started their trek 9 days earlier than us as we flew to Lukla from Kathmandu but they trekked from where the road finishes, and it took them 9 days to reach Lukla from Jiri. However we just spent 40 minutes in the plain to reach Lukla. They crossed some dense forests and faced rains and leaches all those days. No wonder the young man is not too happy with his Dad.
Dinner has been served around 6:30 and everyone is eating it properly except us due to our own issues. We are not too hungry again but just trying to take a few bites to gain some energy.
Everyone has started to leave the dining room as they finish their food to go to bed. It is very cold in the room and we just made our beds with three layers and are trying to warm it up. I’m going to try to get some sleep. I took some notes for the day while in the bed and now I’m trying to sleep.
Same routine, ready at 6:30 waiting for our breakfast of boiled eggs as we have to eat something to survive and that’s the safest thing I could think of. Coffee and eggs are in front and am trying to finish them somehow, though don’t feel like it. This could be a sign of altitude sickness but for me it started from the beginning therefore I know it is not the altitude sickness but some other sickness. My friend is having the same problems, may be on the way we ate something that has caused it. Anyhow the day has started.
We are climbing a mountain that could go as high as 5500m but our target is to beyond 200m from where we are and then return to Dengboche. I think this much should be enough for acclimatization for today. The trek is quite rough and the climbing angle is quite steep. Formula remains one step after another one, slowly but surely. We keep going on this endless trek and I keep an eye on the altimeter so that I call to go down when we are beyond 200 meters. We are meeting a lot of other hikers on the way, some in bad shape and some in a better shape. We made friends with two British ladies here; their guide did the Everest summit in 2009. It is very interesting to meet this guy who climbed Everest, he is a very good guide and he really encouraged us for the next few days trek. We are quite motivated after talking to him and he has promised to come see us at our place after our return from today’s hike. We are over 200m now and are continuing our hike for some more time before we would return. The views are splendid from here and that is what keeps us going for some more time. We are feeling much better on our physical front as compared to yesterday. Yesterday towards the end of the trek we really became desperate to finish it; it was too long and too tiring all the more without any lunch and food. We did take one Snickers each thoughJ.
The way down is not difficult for our energy levels but it is tough for the knees and one has to be really careful coming down. One slip or a wrong foot in hurry and that’s it. This is the third time on the trek as I meet this Nepali lady who is very friendly and has married a Swiss old guy, probably double her age and they come to Nepal for mountains every year. Not that they don’t have any mountains in Switzerland but they don’t have the high mountains there. Tomorrow we will probably go over the highest point in the whole of Europe. This lady is very friendly and is listening to Indian music whenever we meet up.
We are already down and sitting in our dining room, I ordered a club sandwich today to try. I turned out to be a good decision as it is not bad and I’m eating it somehow.
The Canadians suggested visiting the French bakery some 500 meter away. And we are having a walk now, just bought some glue on the way to fix my friends glasses. We are heading to the French bakery to try some brownies and coffee. It is a small bakery but a busy place as there are other travelers already sitting there. Some are enjoying their coffee and some their pies. We just came to know that for brownies we’ll have to wait another 1.5 hours as those are over. So we are sipping coffee to kill that time. We are having chat with some new faces now. Couple of Americans, Dutch, Germans etc. There are more Europeans on this trek, may be they love mountains more than others or may be Nepal is marketed in EU better than elsewhereJ. We are done with our coffee and don’t feel like waiting for more for the brownies so we left. We are back in our tea house and just changed our room to the one with a lock. It’s a small wooden mobile home kind of a place having small rooms on both sides. Anyone would walk or move around in these ten rooms the rest of the people will immediately get to know due to the construction of it. Lima Sherpa (British ladies guide) has come to meet us as he promised and we are clicking pictures with him. He is really a nice guy and knows about the area very thoroughly, he is a smiling Sherpa J, he smiles all the time.
It is getting cold again because the evening is approaching. We are spending most of the time in the dining room today. We have good company of Ray (the Dutch), the Canadian group, three British girls and a few more tourists. Discussions, chit chat, jokes and that’s about it for the rest of the day. After enjoying our time in the dining room we are retiring early today so that we could take some rest and enjoy stories that we tell each other every day. Head lamps are on as we approach our room which is in the backyard really with a garden front and marvelous views on either side. It is too cold so we came straight to our room. Warm and cozy in the beds telling stories to spend the night. Tomorrow is another very long day. Good night!
Happy Birthday to “Myself”
6:30 breakfast and 7am on the trek. The day is quite fresh and bright but chilly. We will go through the same trek that we did yesterday for some time and then it is divided into two. We are making slow but good progress as the first couple of hours trek is not two difficult and it is gentle climb, nothing crazy so far. When the angle becomes steep, we die. The trek is going through green fields of grass and we go through some muddy trails at times. All the people that we see everyday are on the trek and everyone starts their trek almost around the same time to reach the next stop early. The tea houses get crowded later in the day and it’s hard to find a better place to stay.
After a couple of hour of trek we could hear some river flowing and we immediately knew that there is going to be quite an uphill coming. The trek is already going down to meet the river and to cross it. The river is not big but it is gushing down through rocks at enormous speed. We are crossing to bridge to see a small settlement of may be a couple of tea houses. It is cold but sunny here so we are taking a good earned break and are having black tea that has been our hot drink most of the times. Our guide and porter are also sitting with us and are also having the same black tea. There are quite a few other people some are going up and some are going down. There are colorful backpacks all around here and there are more women than men. I have seen many girls traveling alone here or in groups of girls but there are hardly any group like us with two males; yes there are bigger groups of men though. This place is called as Dughla (Tukla), we have already climbed about 300meters today and about the same is left now.
But from this point onwards I could only see up and up and up the rough mountain goes without a particular trek. It is very steep and we are just getting started on it. This is a very tough hike and is killing us as we make slow progress. It’s a mountain that we are climbing and there are several treks to follow and is hard to choose one because all are going through rocks and boulders. We are forced to take several breaks to rest and regain some energy before continuing again as that is the only choice we have because we want to complete what we came for. Another moment, another place many would’ve given up already and we met a lot of people on the way who could not make it and returned from one stage or the other. Everyone is moving slowly and not just us, but some better than the others. I can see some old folks climbing up also and really appreciate their efforts and the love for the mountains, they have come a long way already and are doing great. It has become possible because of their healthy lifestyle that we all should follow but we hardly do.
We are at the top of the hill now and find out several memorials build up here. These memorials are in the memories of climbers who perished while climbing Mount Everest. Some 150 people have been perished on this mountain since people started to climb and conquer it. I can see the memorial of the famous Sherpa who disappeared in a crevasse while trying to conquer Everest for the 11th time, he is known as Super Sherpa. I can see memorials of climbers died in the 1995 disaster. Into-thin-air was written after that and several movies tried to portray the same. I can see the memorial of Scott Fischer and several other renowned climbers who died while doing what they loved to do. This is a place to pay respect and there were many who were doing that. We are also spending some time of silence and at the same time taking some rest in the sun. I’m lying down on the rocky floor that has grass at some places, it is quite cold and I am still in four layers. The sun is shining bright but it’s not that warm, my cap is on my face and my head is on a flat rock and I am enjoying the rocky bed at the moment. In another few moments we’ll be on the track once more.
We are almost at 4800 meters above sea level now. Our tired bodies are being dragged again by our will power and we are heading towards Luboche which is our final destination for today sitting at 4930m (16269 ft). Still long way to go before we finish our hike today. We have to just keep on going; the river has come on the left hand side now. The view has opened up due to the vastness of the valley. Once we reached the top we thought we might have been done for the day but there is still a few kilometers and 150m gain left in our today’s hike. Though it is on a gradual hike, we are crossing to river to the left by a small bridge. We are long way above the tree-line and there are only some small shrubs/grass and the rest are all rocks, water, dirt etc.
We are covering distance at a better pace now as obviously it is not too steep. We are sure that Luboche is not to far now, the time is late afternoon now and we are hoping to make it before the early evening. Now we could see cloud covered and snow covered peaks around us from close. We are trekking at around 16000ft above sea level and today is going to be our first night at this height. Finally we could see some place at a distance and that is for sure Luboche. A settlement of a few tea houses and that is about it for this place. I can see some glaciers not melted yet in the village. Everyday I’ve to explain that it is colder than yesterday because we are gaining altitude every day. Today we gained about 650 meters in altitude that is one of the maximum we gained so far. The allowable is 350 to 400m for the day. We are again stationed in very small room and are taking some rest before we go and take our seats for the rest of the day in the dining room. Going to the bathroom is quite a task here as it is very cold even in the early hours of evening. Air is really thin up here and one could feel the effects of altitude. This place is a small village with only a few tea houses for tourists to stay. There is a small stream passing alongside the village and there are frozen puddles all around other that some glacial ice we see on the track. There are beautiful mountains around this place and less vegetation in the shape of some mountain grass or weeds. Boulders and rocks are what we see mostly. But we are happy that we are just one stage behind very our target now.
“Happy Birthday to Myself” as I just turned 42 today and this trip is a gift to me from my family. What a way to celebrate my 42nd birthday. I’ve tried to get signals on my cell phone but am not able to get any and I do not have the energy to go on higher grounds where I might get some signals, therefore I just said hello to my family in my imagination. I’m sure all of them would have been trying to call me from all parts of the world.
I’m sitting with the young German boy that I see every day running on the trek and this is the first time we interacted. I haven’t seen him talking to anyone whilst on the trek or even while on the same tea houses as ours. I think he has been shy or something, because one we have started to talk he opened up and is quite an interesting boy. He is doing volunteering in Nepal and is teaching English at a small village and now as there are holidays in Nepal he got a chance to explore the mountains with one of his students who is his guide for the trip. He practiced climbing 900 stairs to one of the temples in the village every day. No wonder he was running on the trek and moreover he is just 18 and kids do not get tired anyhow. I remained in the good company till the evening and then couple of more acquaintances from the trek also joined us including the Irish couple. We’ve have crossing each other numerous number of times, they are very nice people. Both of them left their jobs and are on a one year world tour – interesting. Many of the tourists are using their headlamps to take notes or read books as the light in the tea house is not adequate. As the night falling very fast we retired for the day to get ready for another tiresome day tomorrow.
Starting the hike at 7am as in the days before with only the difference of having a few degrees of extra cold. We are all packed up for the trek as we are crossing some icy cold water streams and some ice covered still water in the puddles. The climb remains gradual initially but it is all rocky and uneven terrain. The trek if we call it, is quite beaten up by the trekkers and more by the Yaks taking goods and supplies for the climbing teams. It is very cold in the early morning hours and sun has made it becomes a little warmer, but I still needed to keep 4 layers of stretchable and warm material on myself. Altitude and lack of appetite makes me lethargic and in effective. I still continue towards achieving my goals one by one and this time it is going to be seeing Everest before my eyes. I want to see it face to face from Kala Pathar to see its affect and enjoy world’s best views.
I started taking half a pill of Diamox as the doctor suggested to the British ladies and their Sherpa suggested the same to us the day before. I am facing the after effects of it by having some parts of our body just going numb for several minutes. This is what I have to face for another day or so, I plan to take this pill only until I start going down in altitude. It is done as a precaution to avoid any altitude sickness. I’m facing terrible situation when both or one heel of mine goes numb and it becomes harder for me to feel my foot while hiking up. Sometime side of my hand or wall of ear goes numb and taste in my mouth is terrible too.
The sun is out but the sunlight is not producing enough warmth to warm my cold body and I keep on dragging it towards Gorekshep that is today’s final destination after a stint at the base camp. Although I am not too keen about the base the camp however I am very interested in climbing the Kala Pathar Mountain. Base camp is a collection of rocks and nothing else and the climbers staying there for acclimatization do not like the trekkers to visit that area essentially as these trekkers bring in diseases that become the biggest challenge for the climbers. They do not want to fall sick after all the preparations and expenses paid. Secondly you cannot see much from the base camp either, not even Everest itself as it hides behind other mountains.
The trek is going through some wide valley but there is hardly any path here and I walk on the uneven surface and rock formations. The animals carry heavy loads further up through the same trek the hikers go up; hence the bad trek. It is going through some small streams, because as we go up the water streams shrink in size. I have reached a huge rock that is sitting in an open field and I’m taking rest here, this is not the only big rock here as there are many others scattered around as if we are in some kind of star wars planet. I’m eating a snickers bar to gain some energy as from here; the path is at a steep angle. Energies are low and the air is very thin, the combination is definitely not in human favor. However the morale is very high, the only thing that goes in my favor. The part of hike started and it is going through some huge and some small boulders. I already know that this is not the last one for the today because Gorekshep is still long way and my triple sensor watch tells me that there is still a lot of altitude to gain for the day. Head down and one step after another the old school formula to survive and walk in the mountains prevail. I fall back upon this one time and again. I can see some brilliant scenery around me as soon as I reached the top of this cliff. There are cloud covered high mountains on all sides. The clouds move away to give me glimpses of all the beautiful mountains in sight. My guide tells me the names of the known Peaks. I could see some small glaciers also and can figure out that the great Khumbu glacier is not far now. The terrain remains very rough, very tough and I remain determined but extremely tired and worn out by now.
I am going along the Khumbu now and it is just like a laid down mountain of rock and mud that shows off the white colors of snow at a few locations. The trek has become even tougher as I am negotiating with the glacier and on the glaciers no trek can remain for longer period. The glaciers keep on changing their shape and form due to the seasons, weather and Global Warming. Therefore no trek can remain a trek here. I am very close to my today’s altitude gain now and hope that the distance is finishing also. Mountain treks always go up and down and you never know how far you are from the destination even if the altitude gain has been achieved, that’s the irony. But once you reach the destination the rewards are great for nature and mountain lovers.
I have to go over a couple of streams; the water is extremely cold as it is coming from the glaciers just a few feet away from me. The trek or it would be better to say the rocks I am going on are loose and one has to be very careful going through them. This exercise has made me completely exhausted and I am hoping to reach the destination as soon as possible. There is a dead lock on a very steep turn as there are a lot of animals carrying weight to the Everest base camp are passing. There are hikers stuck on both sides of the trek and this is not the first time it has happened since I started. Where ever there was small/thin trek, there was a traffic jam because of the animals who were carrying enormous amounts of loads up the mountain. This is part of the package if one is trekking the world’s busiest trek. There have been a very few times when I had privacy or the trek or mountains to myself otherwise there has been some trekkers in sight always. I did trek at distance from even my guide and my partner to have some privacy; sometimes I was left quite behind everyone else and I enjoyed the nature to the full. I felt so close to the creations as well as to the Creator. I appreciated the magnificence, the mightiness, the beauty, and felt so tiny in front of this face of nature. I felt even more humble here. Despite the hardships I was very well placed now very close to my destination.
Things have been tough but now I am very close to my final destination and then I would be going back to Lukla. I remained on Khumbu for some time and now it is on my right hand side going in parallel to me and my direction has changed a bit towards Gorekshep as I am climbing my final ascent as per my guide. This has been one hell of a day in terms of physical exertion but with marvelous views and despite being extremely drained out of energy my goal and the views kept me going.
I could even see Luptse, Lahotse, Pamuri, and many other famous peaks standing magnificently in front of the mighty Everest now. This is the irony with Everest views, it is always behind other tall mountains and even from Kala Pathar it is barely visible. So far I have been able to see Everest tip and am hoping to get bigger and better views. As I am approaching Gorekshep I could see the weather extremely clear and the views are maximum. My guide suggested that I could try Kala Pathar even today because the weather is so clear and I am very close to Gorekshep in early hours of the afternoon. As soon as he told this and I started to evaluate my energy level on whether I would be able to attempt it or not, I saw some clouds suddenly coming in front of the Everest side. This has happened as magic and in no time these big mountains are behind thick clouds. So the attempt to Kala Pathar is put off until tomorrow morning. Early morning is considered to be the best time to go up Kala Pathar as that time of the day carries maximum chances of seeing the mountains. Now we can see a few tea houses at a far distance and that is Gorekshep, the last little establishment in this region. If I would be precise there are only 4 tea houses that I can see. Now I rushed to our tea house to get some rest. Today, the day has been the coldest so far as I have been wearing my warm cap or snood with 3 to 4 layers on, all the time. My hiking sticks have been my faithful friends and I highly recommend everyone to carry these while going for any trek. I am given with a small a very small room/box which is a make shift room created out of some hall or something. It has half the roof and half wide open shared with other 5-6 rooms/boxes. We could hear our neighbors and they could hear us even if we yawn.
My appetite lost problem still persisted so I only had some tea and am just chilling in my little bed. It’s chill up here, so I’ve put on another layer to keep myself warm. Although it is afternoon but it is very cold, I am going towards base camp and I do not intend to go all the way on these rock formations. It is all about Khumbu glacier on the right side or under you and that’s about it. The trek is treacherous and barren. I didn’t enjoy this too much and just had the great feeling of reaching up here. Base camp is a ritual I would say that people would like to do otherwise anyone could or should skip it. There is another thing that has bothered me all along the way and I’m saying it not to offend anyone while I’m writing this. There are colorful prayer flags everywhere including the suspension bridges and other places including monasteries and top of the trees. I understand that this is done out of Buddhist faith and do respect that as a person but at the same time for a photographer these flags are alright for a day or so but after that one really needs to find a place to click the best shots. Because wherever there is great scenery there is long string of flags hanging from the top of one tree to another one far off. I would like to reemphasize on not posing any disrespect to anybody and if it is causing any offense to anyone, please do accept my apologies. Well that’s enough for the base camp as I returned just before the camp and now I’m back lying down on a very cold big rock just under the Kala Pathar and at the edge of dried lake to have a glimpse of Mount Everest as the clouds play hide and seek with me. It is really cold and my partner & I are in 5 layers with our snoods on because we are not walking or moving at the moment therefore it feels even colder. Cameras are ready to click and we are using them cautiously to save batteries for tomorrow that is The Big Day. It is a wonderful time; despite being cold I love it, the excitement of reaching here is tremendous. The clouds keep on moving and teasing us but finally gave way to give us the so far closest view of The Beauty. It is again a very little view of the top but still I have seen it at the least, once more. I must say the other mountains around here are equally or even more glorious; Everest being the tallest in the world steals their glory but looses in beauty to them as it is hidden. But as a nature and mountain lover I love to see all of them and carry equal respect for them. Here the Irish couple who became our friends during the hike, came and we are having a good chat while waiting for the clouds to go away. It was a place to spend time with friends as these mountains carry huge impact on oneself and our chat reduces that challenge.
They have gone back to the tea house to take some rest. I continue to use this big rock as my bed. My back is definitely cold but the view is so captivating that I stick here. I like to see the mountains like this and create this unique connection between the glory and myself. I could feel how small I am and how small a role I have in this universe. It is early evening now and the temperature has really dipped further down. It is a time to go to the tea house to have some tea; our tea house is located just across the dry lake. Here I see the Dutch friend sitting in the dining room, good to have him here and now we are having tea together and will be going to see the old British ladies in the other tea house after our diner. This place is packed tonight and anyone coming late will be sleeping in the dining room. Good for them as this is the only place having cow dung powered heater and the warmest in Gorekshep. The tiny rooms are extremely cold and have turned into bear dens. I am going to stay in the dining room until late to absorb maximum heat.
We are looking for the two good ladies but don’t know which tea house they are staying in so we are going through all the four places available out here. In the first one we found our Canadian and British friends having fun. Finally in the last one we are able to find them and are having a good chat with them over a cup of black tea. This is a great evening spent with friends. We are back and I am in my bed trying to warm up my feet. I did bring my warm water bottle but didn’t use it so far, tonight could’ve been the best time for its use but I forgot to get hot water in it. So my three layers are on and I am trying to warm up and sleep for an early morning start tomorrow. Fingers crossedJ.
The Big Day…..
Its 4’o clock and our guide has already knocked at our door. There is sound coming from other rooms also as many hikers are getting ready for an early start to climb Kala Pathar. I could already imagine how excited everyone is because of not only going up but also start to go down from today. It’s extremely cold at this time. We are getting ready and packing ourselves in layers to survive in this intense cold. Backpack, cameras, headlamp, hiking pole, gloves, double socks, snood, liner, jackets and what not, everything is checked thoroughly before we started our climb. It is dark and the mountains are still as magnificent as these were during the day. We remain as small in front of them as we were during the day and that’s the reality. We tend to conquer the nature as humans but can’t really win and nature’s power always prevails.
The trek starts just a few yards behind the tea house on the other side of the dry lake. It’s quite dark at this time and all I can see is, a few headlamps shining far on the horizon. My feet are cold, my hands are breaking off and my eyes are watery. We make progress very slowly and could see down some more hikers crossing the dry lake to start their hike. This moment is difficult to explain as there was only one feeling and that was to climb up and see the wonderful views of the Beauty and that’s it.
The ascent is really killing us, it is a difficult trek not because we are going up but also because we are above 17000 ft above sea level already. The air is getting thinner and thinner, our breathing is becoming heavier and heavier, as we go higher and higher. The day is breaking in and the mountains are more visible than ever, it is a crisp morning without any clouds. The only obstacle this morning is the extreme cold and the wind chill. By now my fingers and toes are completely numb and are breaking off due to cold and pain and I fear frostbite. I met a few hikers who gave up and returned from mid way due to cold or exertion or breathing.
I’ve 6 layers on my upper body, there are two pair of socks (one cotton and one woolen) and my timberland hiking shoes, firefly gloves, hiking poles, fine-fleece liner cap with my snood on, on top there is a head lamp. On my legs I’ve the thermal and my hiking trousers. My backpack carries my SLR along with 300mm lens, an extra point-n-shoot camera, a few chocolates, my trademark orange color metal bottle carrying one liter of water. This was quite a packing but I think I was missing my gloves liner and instead of the cotton socks I should’ve used the woolen socks. There is nothing that could be done at this stage. Everybody was cold but may not be as cold as I was. I still continued slowly in the love of nature and mountains. I even got a flash of having this trip as my last one to the high mountains but I’m sure that’s a temporary feeling that many hikers get while on the trek but as soon as they come back they start planning their next adventure. The going is getting tougher and tougher and more so because of the breaking fingers. I have reached the third ridge while going up and my watch shows about 17500 already, anything beyond 16000 ft has been my best. So I’ve been breaking my own record as I go higher. I decided here that I would go to the next ridge and then will start my descend. So this will be another few hundred feet before I start to go down. I met so many of the hikers, who we had been coming across on the trek every day, some have become friends and some remained acquaintances. The Spanish couple has just started the descend, the lady was crying because of the pain in fingers and toes. If not taken seriously one could get frost bites on the numb areas and could lose a finger or a hand or a limb. The day light has already broken in to open up the wonderful views for us. The mountains look glorious and majestic from here; we are above some of them already. I clicked several photographs of Everest and other mountains around here. The view from Kala Pathar is spectacular and one could see the whole world from here or at least that is how it seems. The day light has brought the wonderful views and the glory of Everest is evident though the views of Everest are not all that mighty even from KalaPathar. It remains hiding most of herself behind Lhotse and Nuptse. Some hikers are already descending and some are still coming up. There are all age groups amongst the hikers and the oldest being 79 years old. Hats off to this young old man.
We've reached our limits and are going down now. I’m coming down slowly to reduce pressure on my knees where I’ve one cartilage removed and pain in the other. There is a long way down to Lukla from where we would take a plain so I need to be really careful. I could see so many mountain peaks far on the horizon. I can’t forget these moments when I’m going down and having my last look at these giants from this height. I’ve collected enough memories of this magnificent area for the rest of my life. I keep going downwards and keep taking pictures wherever I feel like, though I would admit I couldn’t take pictures at many places where I should have taken and that is entirely due to the cold hands. I couldn’t move my fingers at times even to click pictures so I kept absorbing the views instead. It was more about me seeing these views primarily. I’m extremely cold and am finally down. As I enter the tea house; there is frost on my face, head lamp, camera and my jacket. I’m sitting and can’t feel my hands and toes. It’ll take some time before I start feeling them. Eggs would help in breakfast, and then we’ve an extremely long day ahead of us. We have to reach Pheriche which is two stages from Gorekshep. We came via Dingboche but will go back via another trek that goes through Pheriche. Dingboche and Pheriche are just half an hour from each other but Pheriche is 130 meters lower in altitude as come to the other.
Right after our breakfast we started our trek back. We are back tracking our footsteps through the Khumbu glacier. It is a tiring journey and an extremely tiring one. The trek first goes up and then goes down and then again it goes up and again goes down….that is the name of the game in the mountains and our perseverance is the only thing that will carry us down. We’ve been seeing rescue helicopters picking up injured or sick hikers every day the whole day and today the number of rescue flights has been more than usual. I clicked heli pictures with mountain back grounds due to their low flights. It’s difficult for even these machines to fly in these conditions as it is high altitude.
We are making progress towards Lobuche through this area of snow, ice, icy waters, rocks, boulders and high mountains.
At Lobuche I got a chance to click a complete rescue from close range. I didn’t know that I was walking on a flat surface where the heli was landing and only noticed one guide waving and shouting at me to move to the side. There was limited time so I just ran a few feet to the right and the heli landed right in front of me just a few feet away where I was a few seconds ago. A young girl was taken away, as it seemed that she injured her leg somehow. Great despair!
We filled our water bottles from the spring water again and continued. The trek is going along the water stream here and is not much steep either. It is gently going up but more down. We are crossing the stream to go to the left of the water and then climb up to the memorial area and from there is a steep downhill through some rocky and rough terrain to reach Dukhla. We skipped a stop at the memorials this time as other trekkers are and have continued to go down. We are still far from our today’s destination. We are having a well deserved break at the only restaurant at Dukhla.
From Dukhla the trek is going down sharply after crossing a fast flowing river. It is an open crack between two mountains and the rocky path is going down in a dramatic way. It could be compared as the old paths build for elephants in the castles built by The Mughals in the Indo-Pak. This is the first of its kind area that we have seen during our whole trip. Our guide disappeared into the turning trek and we are just by ourselves. The crack is turning to its right and then further to the left. I can see that it is opening up into a valley and the flowing water sound is reaching us now. We are down now and from this height we could see a village far away, I guessed as if it was a couple of kilometers away. However the reality turned out to be 5-6 kms. This walk is not hard as it is a gentle incline downwards going through some mushy land sometimes and rocks on another time. The river that is coming from a lake that we saw from the top. There are high mountains on our right hand side beyond the river and on the left there are weeds and small plants in abundance. We could hear the black bird with yellow beak and yellow feet. Somehow I could not click a single photograph of this bird. Many a time these came closer to me but at that time either I was too tired or too cold to use my camera. So I just enjoyed their flight around me, this is a really pretty bird. After the bushes and plants the slope is steep and it reaches the mountain from where we went earlier while going from Dengboche to Lobuche. Now we are passing through some plots with small old walls around and there are few Yaks roaming around on the grassy fields. Evening is approaching and despite the village is in sight and we could see it far we are not reaching it somehow. Of course the distance we anticipated was less than the actual one. We are into our 10th hours of hiking today.
Finally we have entered the village and have to climb some 50 steps to enter our tea house. It is the best tea house so far wherever we have stayed. The room is nice and is bigger than any other rooms we have seen, and the view is great also. It has become very cold at this time and dining room is the best place to sit, enjoy and chat when it is cold. Now we are sitting with different people today as all others who have been staying with us for the last few days are staying in a different tea house. There is a group of mixed nationalities with a British women guide, many of them got sick so they returned from Lobuche and couldn’t continue further. They are eight ladies group from South Africa, New Zealand, UK, and Australia. They are resting here and are planning to go back to Namche Bazar via another way. There is a man and a woman from India and they were part of a bigger group also, the women got sick and the man accompanied him to retreat and come down in altitude. There is another couple from Australia also and they are the one we met a few times in our trip. The dining room is warm and cozy due to the heater. We had some good chat with all of them while sitting around the heater.
Since our trip started we have been having trouble with our appetite so I decided to cook myself today and that might help us in eating some food. We asked the young girl who seems to be the owner of the tea house about it and she happily allowed me to use their kitchen to cook whatever we wanted. Now I’m cooking some potatoes and eggs with lots of chilies and other stuff. The cook is watching me carefully and the other one is making Roti (bread) for us. We are having our food with soda and are really enjoying the food tonight. This meal is going to help us regaining some energy now. We know that there are still some good hiking days left in our trip. We are leaving the dining room at around 8 pm which is later than usual. Its story time in the hope of getting some good sleep tonight.
We are having breakfast at 6:30 am to leave by 7am. It is again going to be a very long day, as we are doing double stages on the way down. We will reach Namche Bazaar today which is about 20 km away with a lot of up and down during the trek. It is going to be a tough one we know. The sun is shining bright but there is no heat in its light and it is very cold even in the sun. The water outside is totally frozen due to night temperatures dipping down below zero I guess. We are going down to cross the river and then it is quite an uphill early in the morning. The water is white as anything and is flowing at enormous speed through the rocks producing thundering sound and great rapids. We are done with the steep climb and are on an open space with some more memorials. The trek goes through some villages here and the up and down continues as usual. We have seen a lot of trekkers going up today and faced a few road blocks due to Yaks and Buffalos. Now we are crossing the river yet another time to start our ascent to Tengboche and it is really killing us. I let all the groups go further to have the trek to myself and to enjoy the greenery and trees and we have come below the Tree line again and the vegetation and trees are bigger in size now.
I’m clicking some last photos of Everest from Tengboche and are going to descend sharply to the river far below as the trek goes all the way down for about 200-300 meters and then climbs that much to reach Namche Bazar. We are having a break next to the river and are having some food also to gain some energy before starting the steep uphill visible behind the trees from where we are sitting. It is scary but there is no other choice and we have to take this trek anyhow. It has started to climb immediately after crossing the river. This part of the trek has too many stairs kind of rocks and those really take toll on our legs and stamina. It is taking forever to go up. Finally we have completed most of the difficult climb and now it’s much gentler. Here we see a Pheasant (the national bird of Nepal) not too far on the hill on our right hand side. This is going to make my day and I’m able to click some nice photos of this pretty bird. Then a little further down we see another one with different colors and I’m able to go so close to this bird, the distance remained between me and the bird could not be more than 5 feet when the bird realized and flew away.
It is almost evening now we have still not reached Namche though we could recall from our going up that it was not too far now. We are entering our tea house and it has already become dark, it was a grueling 11 hours hike for today and we covered some 22 kilometers in the mountains. Overall we lost about 3000 feet in altitude. It was quite a task.
Our tea house is fully booked and that’s where a senior guide would have made a difference. Ours is young chap and now we in a limbo without any room to sleep. So much tired that could not move around and now we need to go out and find another tea house for the night. No choice but this, so we are in the bazaar again looking for a shelter to stay.
We are sitting in the dining room of this place that we found and there is a club right across the small street and there is very loud music going on there. I’ve no idea what time they’ll shut it off as it is quite loud and annoying. I don’t feel hungry so I opted coming back to the room to refresh myself. This was the closest we could find another accommodation so we didn’t give much thought on the downsides of it.
My sun glasses broke yesterday so I’m buying new goggles before we start our trek from Namche to Phakding. First couple of hours is all downhill and then it is up and down as usual. We also said good bye to Everest from the last view point and clicked a few more pictures of the Beauty. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to see it with my own eyes again.
We are coming across so many trekkers and Yaks today. I could imagine how busy the tea houses will be as the season is really heating up. I think the majority remained the non English speaking Europeans in these groups. Once we are down from the very steep trek we are crossing the river through the long hanging bridge. The trek is quite rough from here for some time. The river has become quite big now as many small streams have already joined this water body. It remains very white like milk. The trek crosses this river a few times before we reach Phakding. There are a few pretty villages on the way and the vegetation consists of the usual crops of cauliflowers, potatoes, Chinese spinach etc.
We are crossing the first of the two waterfalls that we saw on the way up. Water is flowing fast through these waterfalls and it creates a pond where these fall before joining the river flowing way down. The trek continues with a few road blocks and finally we make it to Phakding which is supposed to be our stop for today. However it is 2pm and we could continue to Lukla after our lunch. It is a gain of 200 meters ascent from here so it is going to be a long and tiring hike yet again. However we decided to take this option to have a couple of days spared and we could go to Chitwan National Park to see some animals and to enjoy the warm weather before we fly out of Nepal. Therefore after our lunch we continue to hike towards Lukla for the night stay. We already called and requested for our tickets to be adjusted for one day in advance.
This is the last leg of our trek and the last eight kilometers that we are going to hike to gain 200m. We are coming across a number of bulls and yaks carrying weight. There was a big land slide in the last earth quake in Nepal and that swept away a big part of one mountain damaging a big suspension bridge. We had to hike an extra hour on the way up but it is being temporarily fixed and we’ll be saved from an extra hike.
This broken bridge is quite long and is offering to see the real damage caused and to realize the power of nature. We are crossing a number of small villages while going to Lukla. The walk remains very slow as it’s been a number of hours since we started this morning and now it’s towards evening. We are hoping to make it before the dark as we are not carrying our head lamps in our day packs today. There are a lot of stairs to climb in today’s hike and I hate to climb the stairs and feel more comfortable on the hiking trails rather than stairs. We are passing a lot of streams, greenery and fields. Weather is not as cold either and a shirt with a liner is good enough on the trek. I decided not to use the hiking stick either for today and am just walking without them. Those had become part of my body and I feel something’s missing today. I don’t forget to fill in my water bottle whenever I get a chance followed by two chlorine based drops to purify that, because every time I put these drops I have to wait for half an hour before I could drink my water. Water has been the most essential thing for us during the whole trip and this is the only thing that we kept having despite having problems eating or drinking anything. First few days we were extra careful and bought bottled water but then decided against it. The plastic bottles have a very heavy footprint on the environment and these are difficult to dispose off. I’ve been using my metal one liter bottle that I’ve been using the whole trip with the purifying drops with a slight compromise on taste.
As we are trying to get closer to Lukla it seems to be moving further away, as it has been 7 hours since we started this morning. The trek is going through lush valleys one after another. The streams are carrying crystal clear water down to the larger river snaking through the mountains. We are tired but making good progress to finish our hike and are excited to start the next adventure. It is getting dark now and we are in closer proximity of Lukla. But the remaining distance is all uphill therefore taking time to finish. The trek is not visible from far as it is totally covered with trees. The air is extremely fresh and we are breathing full to have as much as possible because tomorrow we’ll be back in the polluted city life.
Finally I could see the arch entrance to the village and am happy that we made it not too late in the dark. Our tea house is just next to the interesting airport of Lukla. It is just a slope that is called as runway and there a place to park four small twin otters. These plains carry 18 passengers, two pilots one hostess. From our room’s window we could see the planes landing and taking off.
Tonight is the night everyone coming back from the trek celebrates and gives tips to their staff including guides and porters. We are taking some rest in our room and our guide is arranging for our tickets for tomorrow morning flight. The room has three beds and it is completely wooden room with basic stuff in it. The window is the most prominent item as it is opening towards the airport. There is no flight at this time and we will be able to see landings and take offs starting early morning. That is the best time for the flights to come and go as weather gives better window starting early morning and all the flights come and go before 11am.
We've just finished paying to our porter and guide and they are extremely happy about it. Our porter just left after meeting us and our guide is efficiently taking order for the diner. There are other groups involved in similar sort of business. There are two big groups in our dining room and they are having a dance party with their staff with loud music. The dining room has a magical feeling and environment at this time. All the people going up have already gone to their rooms and the remaining are celebrating as they are done with their hike. Lukla is a place where most people stay on the way back there are hardly any people who stay while going up though. It is quite a vibrant small village with a row of shops selling everything trekkers need from water to jacket replicas, from groceries to hiking bags etc. Food is just ok and I could only eat a few bites but the Marinda has done the magic and I feel energetic. After we are done with tipping and our diner we are out in the bazaar that has only a couple of shops open now. It seems to be fairytale bazaar in a thin street on either side. It is full moon so there is a lot of moon light and everything is bright. There are a few snow capped mountains visible and the clouds are about to cover them. We are hoping that tomorrow morning there is no hiccup for our flight and the weather remains clear cause only then we’ll be able to go to Kathmandu to start the other leg of our trip. After a short walk we are going back and would like to have the last story telling session before we sleep. It’s chilly so we got into our cozy beds.
As usual early start and the planes have already started to come and the landings are so amazing, the take offs are even better on this small strip leaving no room of error for the pilots. This is a small sloped down runway falling into the valley. The planes start with full throttle and just take off as they are hitting the last few feet of the strip. The valley depression help them to fly but then there is a bigger challenge to go steep to cross the mountain range not from there this point and the planes roar and climb to the left to cross the mountains and get into a mountain crack that is the lowest place to do so. After our breakfast we came to the airport and now we are making videos and taking pictures of the airport and the planes coming in and going out. This is very interesting to watch. Our luggage is already at the airport and we are standing there with a number of other tourists going to Kathmandu. Many flights have come and gone but we’ll be going in the last few flights as we have changed our flight and are taking a chance to go back today. Finally we make it to the plane door but are stopped there in a queue, and upon inquiry we got to know that the pilot has gone for breakfast. He is coming while using a toothpick I think straight towards the aeroplane and then we are also allowed to get in. This flight is amazing as we could see some amazing mountain views during flight. I’m making a video of the complete flight and now we are landing in Kathmandu.
For photographic travel throught the Everest region see the links below: