The road to Everest Base Camp
Where you see more helicopters than birds
-  05 Oct 2017 | nepaltraveller.com
This trek to Everest base camp takes you on an adventure that you will remember for years to come
Imagine surrounded by huge mountains on both sides and small drips of snow hitting your face while walking along a narrow ridge with yaks, naks and the locals returning after running their daily errands.
I have to say for someone who’s been trekked to many places; it is still hard to get to Everest Base Camp. Sometimes, it questions your sanity and why you ever decided to do it. But when you get to see the grandeur of the mountains and the breathtaking landscapes which vary from dense green lands to bare terrains to glacial ice lands you realise that it was a good decision.
The trek to Everest Base Camp starts from Lukla. The flight to Lukla from Kathmandu gives you an amazing view that is only if you get to sit on the left side of the plane, where the engine rumbles for the whole time enshrouded by the cotton buds that you’re urged to stuff it in your ears. The plane teeters in midair battling the strong wind and only when you touchdown on one of the most dangerous airports in the world, you feel relieved. Secretly cheering for the successful landing, we had an appetizing lunch and started our first-day hike to Phakding, which was an easy trail which consisted of a couple of ups and downs but not too daunting. We reached Phakding early, so we decided to walk a bit more so we could reach Monju. The sheer excitement when we saw Panipuris in Monju was overshadowed by the feeling when we ate them. The comfortable mattresses at the dining place at Monju intensified our desire to sleep and in no time we dozed off.
Blessed with a glorious sunrise the next morning and a tempting breakfast, we started our second-day trek to Namche Bazaar. The path that led to Namche Bazaar required extreme effort. Namche Bazaar is well known to us all for one of the biggest acclimatising zones filled with a lot of small markets, pubs, restaurants and Wi-Fi cafes. The hike to Namche Bazaar involved three hours of climbing steep steps crossing dense forests and rivers via staggering high swinging suspension bridges with persistent yak poops all along the trail. Reaching Namche felt like a competition as we didn’t want the fellow trekkers to get ahead of us. When we reached Namche Bazaar, it felt like we were in Vegas for a lavish vacation. People own small markets where you get everything you fancy in the cold weather up above.
“Climb high, sleep low” is what trekkers do to acclimatise in the region. It means you hike to a certain place gaining altitude, while you enjoy the magnificence of the Himalayas but come slogging and sleep in the same place you started. That is how acclimatisation is explained to a layman. Similarly, from Namche Bazaar, during acclimatising, we hiked up to Kyangjuma, around 200-300 meters above Namche, where we got to witness a lot of chhortens on the way along with the scenic view of the mountains. Almost every pub there had a welcoming environment that attracted the tourists to have a good time.
The third day trek till Deboche wasn’t a simple one. Fast transitions of uphills and downhills and the steep uphill till Tengboche elevated the adrenaline levels so high that all I could think of was sleeping on the trails. We head out of Deboche and walk past small bushes down to cross the Imja river, with constant sightings of Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Nuptse. Then comes a fairly easy climb heading towards Pangboche, with Ama Dablam being the centre of attraction. This is the most recognisable mountain in the area. Pangboche is also a base camp for Ama Dablam mountain climbing.
The next day, we gradually trekked towards Dingboche where the tree line is slowly diminishing and it has become quite barren with vegetation now only consisting of bushes. You can stop at Somari for a delightful lunch that will provide a sense of relief from all the stress. After arriving in Dingboche, we were able to look back to see how far we’ve come and how high we were. Dingboche is another stop for acclimatising. The next day was a rest day. But a rest day is just a term for putting your feet to move as you climb to a higher altitude just to be ready to make the ascent properly another day. It’s an unavoidable evil but makes the proceeding days a little easier.
We hiked up to a small ridge overlooking the village with Ama Dablam in the backdrop, where there are a couple of stupas. The next day, we hike ahead to the same ridge but taking it further, the path narrows down for a bit till Thukla. Usually, trekkers stop here briefly for breaks and meals. The trail then takes you up a steep ascent to Chukpo Lari, also known as Memorial Park. Take constant breaks so that your breath doesn’t run out and you don’t feel lethargic when you reach the top, as the view from up, there is something you should not miss out on. Chukpo Lari is a very nostalgic part of the trek as many monuments (Chhortens) have been dedicated to climbers who lost their lives on the mountains. Most famous of the Chhortens was the one of Scott Fischer, who died during the blizzard back in 1996. As we climb higher, we start to feel the change in the air. As the landscape changes, we reached a place called Lobuche. As the weather was cloudy for most of the parts of our trek, most of us took pictures as soon as the weather cleared. After reaching Lobuche, the weather was getting even colder which made me feel that I was pretty high up.
The walk to reach Gorakhshep from Lobuche was not so strenuous. But if the trails were full of snow, it’d be difficult find your way around. The trail gets amazing as you walk along the Khumbu Glacier. En route we heard small cracks in the glacier but never got to see any avalanches. Arriving in Gorakhshep quite early, we were welcomed by a hot tea, just what we were longing in the frosty weather. Gorakhshep was the hub to reach both Kalapatthar and Everest Base Camp, the highest points of our trek. The weather was overcast with clouds that never seemed to go away. A reason why we decided to hike to Kalapatthar on the next day.
I remember waking up sluggishly the next morning but the starry background with the milky way galaxy painted in the sky recapitulated the lost energy in me. The hike to Kalapatthar is not an easy one either with a series of steep switchbacks, but every time you decide to stop for a break the view of the landscape leaves you in awe. I stopped at various places in between the hike that made me miss the sunrise from atop but it was worth it. You can easily recognize the camps pitched in glacial lands, which is the Everest Base Camp. The concept of reaching the highest point of the trek i.e. EBC is cliché since the highest point is Kalapatthar from where you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the mountains. Nothing beats the feeling of standing at the highest point of the trek with such a clear weather surrounded by majestic mountains.
Mt. Pumori felt extremely nearby since Kalapatthar is merely a minor ridge that leads to the mountain itself. Luckily, the weather became dull only when I started to descend down just in time for breakfast. Feeling proud to reach 5650 m, the highest ascent of my life, we opted to trek to the base camp on mid-afternoon. The ambience wasn’t perfect as it started to snow. Amidst the fog and uninvited dews of snow, we started our hike to base camp shivering in the cold weather. Exhausted from all the walking to Kalapatthar in the morning, we slowly walked the single track where we had to walk really careful. As you progress along the path and alongside the Khumbu Glacier you find yourself with steep drops where you have to be very careful. Reaching the Base Camp at 5364 metres is ecstatic even when you’re knackered. It’s like standing in a sphere surrounded by mountain peaks on all sides and the presence of Everest appears before you. There’s a pile of rocks with prayer flags attached to it, that’s when you’ll know you have reached the base camp. The return trip from Gorakhshep to Lukla was not as intimidating, as the mind was filled with a feeling of satisfaction from seeing all the mountains.
The whole experience of the trek was just incredible. Anyone who loves the mountains has to do this trek where you not only get to witness the Himalayas but you can catch glimpses of the traditions of Sherpas living in the Khumbu valley.