Trekking up to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal: The Trip of a Lifetime!
By Mridula Dwivedi
Everest Base Camp had been on my trekking list for a long time. I would let it go thinking it would take too much time and the season clashed with my teaching. But then I met Sir Chris Bonington over his talk at New Delhi. After the talk I asked if mid May was feasible and he said it was a good time to trek. So mid May it was!
I went with Above the Himalayas trekking agency owned by Puru Timalsena and they took good care of me. I was flying from New Delhi to Kathmandu and then to Lukla to start my trek.
To Nepal via Malaysia: There was a point in April when I used to think that May would never arrive! But then I got a speaking invitation from Malaysia and days started to fly. On May 10, 2012 I flew out of Kuala Lumpur, I graded copies on May 11 in India and on May 12, I flew to Kathmandu. I was so tired when I arrived at the hotel Wonderland, the Trekker’s Inn in Thamel, Kathmandu.
Air Rescue? What Air Rescue: When I met Puru, he took down emergency contact numbers, mytravel insurance details and asked, “What about air rescue?” I had obviously no clue! Apparently your insurance can cover air rescue and it is easily available from many countries. I asked if I could buy one in Nepal. But he said they were not reliable. In the end I trekked without air rescue coverage.
I had a rest day at Kathmandu and I badly needed it. I refused a city trip saying I needed to catch up on sleep.
An Early Morning Flight to Lukla (2860 meters, 9383 feet), Trek to Phakding (2652 meters, 8700 feet): We were heading to Lukla in one of those small 1X1 planes. We started from the hotel at 5.20 am and Deepak was my guide and porter. I met Diana from Canada who was also trekking with About the Himalayas and Gokarna was her guide/porter. The flight was short and when the plane got on the runway we realized that the runway is on an incline! I took a video of a landing and takeoff on my return to Lukla.
The Beer Garden Lodge
We had an early breakfast at the Nest at Lukla and then started our walk to Phakding. If you notice the altitude we were going down. But I was still so tried that when I reached the Beer Garden Lodge at Phakding. I slept for 45 minutes straight. After lunch I started wondering seriously if I would be able to complete the trek. Later I had an early dinner at 6.30 pm and I hit the bed by 7.00 pm. Next day we were trekking up to Namche Bazaar.
Phakding (2652 meters, 8700 feet) to Namche Bazaar (3400 Meters, 11286 Feet) and a Rest/Acclimatization Day at Namche: I had been warned about the climb to Namche Bazaar before so I was mentally prepared. I started after a breakfast of Chapattis and Omelets around 7.30 in the morning. We were walking by the River Dudh Kosi on a beautiful day. Whenever I would get very tired I looked around at the porters carrying unimaginable amounts of load. And then I would start walking again.
Suspension Bridge to Cross
We had lunch on the way and after crossing a suspension bridge the climb to Namche started! It was really steep and it took every bit of my energy to complete it. Gokarna and Deepak had a penchant for choosing lodges on the last ridge so I had to climb through the village as well to reach my lodge. It was my birthday too and I thoroughly enjoyed my tea and rice porridge as special birthday treats. The next day was a rest/acclimatization day and I was banking on it to recover.
We walked up to the military museum as our acclimatization walk. And there in a very casual voice Deepak told me, “the peak that you see next to the clouds is Mount Everest.” He said it so without excitement that I asked if he was joking. But then there was a sign proclaiming ‘Everest Viewpoint’ and many other trekkers clicking pictures. So that was my first introduction to Everest! For the rest of the day I took it easy.
Namche Bazaar (3400 Meters, 11286 Feet) to Tengboche (3870 meters, 12696 feet): Tengboche is an incredibly beautiful place with the biggest monastery on the route. And yet when I reached there I was so miserable that hardly anything registered. I could do Namche Bazaar more or less intact because I knew it was a tough walk. But I had no inkling of what was waiting for me here.
After the lunch point we once again crossed a bridge and the way just kept going up and up and up. There was a point when Deepak said, “It is now 20 minutes away” and I just sat down, saying if it was only 20 minutes away I needed to sit!
To the Lodge
Gradually after the rest I stumbled across Tengboche and to my lodge. It took me six and a half hours to cover the distance while Diana took three and a half! I hardly take any notes on the road but on this day I wrote on a paper, “If I had an internet connection I would tweet- beat me up with a stick if I talk about trekking ever again.”
Tengboche (3870 meters, 12696 feet) to Dingboche (4360 meters, 14304 Feet) and Rest/Acclimatization Day at Dingboche: Thankfully after Tengboche I never felt that tired. The walk to Dingboche was relatively easier. The path is incredibly beautiful, initially going along the River Dudh Kosi again. But at this height my mind was acting a bit funny and I was not keen even on photography. There was 45 minute climb after lunch and in five and a half hours I was at Lodge ‘Peak 15’. Dingboche is surrounded by tall peaks and Ama Dablam could be seen even in the tooth brush mirror hanging outside! Thankfully the next day was another rest/acclimatization day and that meant only an hour or two of walking.
On the rest day we walked to a nearby hill full of prayer flags. Later after an early dinner it was time to crash again and for the first time I started thinking, if I had come this far, it would be a pity not to complete the trek! Next day I woke up to Dingboche covered in light snow and overcast weather.
Dingboche (4360 meters, 14304 Feet) to Lobuje (4930 meters, 16174 feet): Thankfully it didn’t snow even though it remained overcast through the entire walk. This day also involved an hour of solid climbing. After that climb I reached an area that has memorials of climbers who never reached back home again.
Saying a silent prayer for them I pushed ahead for a more moderate walk to Lobuje. By now I had a headache and I hated the idea of getting Acute Mountain Sickness (
AMS) this late. But other than a loss of appetite, I coped fine. The next day was my big day.
Lobuje (4930 meters, 16174 feet) to Gorek Shep (5164 meters, 16942 feet) and Everest Base Camp (5364 meters, 17598 feet): Gorek Shep is not very far from Lobuje. We started after breakfast around 7.00 am so that we could reach Gorek Shep early and then head to Everest Base Camp after lunch.
Reaching the Base Camp
It is not that I was not tired but it was probably the excitement of reaching the Base Camp that kept me going. We reached Gorek Shep without any difficulty. The only trouble I had was eating food. Still I forced some soupy noodles down my throat and then we started for the Base Camp.
The walk was long but largely flat. Gradually, taking one small step after another I stumbled across the milestone that proclaims “Everest Base Camp.” I was finally able to haul myself all the way up there and my eyes still mist up as I write this.
That night was horrible though. I would wake up every 15 minutes or so gasping for breath, quite disoriented not knowing where I was. I was thankful we were starting at 3.15 am for Kala Pathar and then descending to Pheriche the very same day. I had no desire to spend another night above 5000 meters.
Gorek Shep (5164 meters, 16942 feet) to Kala Pathar (5545 meters, 18,192 feet), Descent to Pheriche (4280 meters, 14041 feet): As promised, I was out at 3.14 am waiting for Deepak who joined me in a minute. Our ascent to Kala Pathar started in torchlight.
In a way I am glad we started in the dark and I could not see how far we had to go. By the time there was a faint light and I could see the distance I had already covered a lot of it! When I was about 20 steps below the milestone, try as I might I just could not move!
I somehow willed myself to take those last steps and there I was! I had the leisure then to observe the day breaking over Ama Dablam, Pumori and finally behind Everest. Lhotse and Nuptse were also clearly visible.
After another group photograph we headed back. Following breakfast we started our long march to Pheriche and I reached there at 5.00 pm in the evening. It was a 13 hour day!
I slept like a log at beautiful Pheriche after eating a celebratory apple pie and then finishing every bit of egg curry and rice.
The Long March Back to Lukla: From Pheriche I was walking two days worth of going up in a single day. So it took me a crushing 11 hours to reach Namche. The next day we started from Namche but instead of Phakding we were headed to Lukla which was another 11 hour day.
When I finally stumbled at the Nest at Lukla again, I was bone tired but this indeed has been the trip of a life time for me!
If you wish to read a detailed day by day account of this trek it can be accessed from Mridula’s blog
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I am Mridula Dwivedi and I started blogging on ‘Travel Tales from India’ in June 2005. I renamed it Travel Tales from India & Abroad in 2016. Within a few months of the launch my travel blog found a mention on both the BBC and The Guardian. I also featured in a National Geographic Skoda Yeti Video. I was recently featured on Via.com
I quit my job as a professor in May 2015. I am having a blast ever since. I do not miss my work but sometime I do miss my salary! Somewhere along the journey I ended up acquiring a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur! I now wonder why?