Everest Base Camp (Nepal)

Everest Base Camp (Nepal)

Undertaking the Everest Base Camp trek and catching a glimpse of the world’s highest mountain is something that had been on our bucket list for a while, and turned out to be an experience of a lifetime… We spent 14 days hiking through the Himalayan giants, following a network of trails passing through local villages not accessible by road and strolling from teahouse to teahouse.  We were rewarded with stunning views on the Himalayas and its mighty Mount Everest, were invited into local villages and introduced to the warm Sherpa culture. An absolute must in Nepal!

We decided to go for the long 14-day version of the trek, because we wanted to see the Gokyo lakes as well which were definitely worth the detour. If you have less time, you can do the Everest Base Camp trek in 10 days but then you have to go up and down through the same route which was less appealing to us.

The trek starts in the little village of Lukla (2,900m), which has a small airport labelled as ‘the world’s most dangerous airport’ because of the altitude and the very short and inclined runway, and has seen many plane crashes in the past. Probably because of this, planes to Lukla are very often cancelled as soon as there is a hint of bad weather. You have the most chance of flying out if you are booked on the first or second morning flight (6AM or 7AM) as the weather is usually clear at that time. In our case however, all flights had been cancelled for several days in a row so we decided to fly to Lukla by helicopter instead. It’s a bit more expensive but you get an amazing scenic flight through the mountains so we were not disappointed. Because of the bad weather however, even the helicopter could not land in Lukla so we were dropped at a 1 hour walking distance from the village, from where we started our hike.

The first few days are quite easy as we walked through local Sherpa villages stopping for tea and meeting the locals. On the second day we reached Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa capital, an incredible little town at an altitude of 3400m! It has a hospital, schools and hosts the world’s highest Irish Pub which of course we paid a little visit to 🙂 After an acclimatization day in Namche and a visit to the local monastery we continued our journey to Gokyo – accompanied by our newly hired guide Dawa Sherpa; villages became smaller, the air thinner, nights colder, lodges more scarce and trees completely disappeared. We finally reached the shining turquoise blue Gokyo lakes 3 days later surrounded by snowed Himalayan peaks and were struck by the beauty of the place. Gokyo is home to surprisingly comfortable lodges, with shops, bakeries with homemade apple pie and even a hot shower in the room, a luxury we hadn’t encountered since Namche!

After Gokyo, we set route for Everest Base Camp, which meant we had to cross the (by Camille much dreaded) Chola Pass, a 5500m high almost vertical stone wall which we literally had to climb over. It took us almost 8 hours, 5 liters of water, 6 snickers and a Sherpa and a Porter to carry our stuff, but we made it :-)… and what a view from the top! From there, it took us only two more days to finally reach the much awaited Everest Base Camp. We were feeling ecstatic when we finally got there; you get to see where summiters plant their tents and prepare for their ascent, and you get a very clear view of the summit! From there, the only way was back down, to Namche and then to Lukla where we celebrated our achievement.

Our favourites:

  • Khumbu Lodge in Namche (one of the oldest lodges and an institution amongst the climbers)
  • Family Lodge in Namche (great food and very welcoming family)
  • Fitzroy Hotel in Gokyo (own bakery and hot shower in the room!)
  • Himalayan Lodge in Gorak Shep (warm and comfy place)

Some practical tips for the trek:

  • Hire a local guide (either in Kathmandu or directly in Namche like we did). Guides not only know the route but they know the best lodges and will call to book a room for you in advance (definitely necessary in October / November – we saw many people sleeping in the sofas in the dining room because everything was fully booked!)
  • Hire a porter (cheap and will make your trek so much easier!)
  • You need to get an Everst Base Camp Trekking permit for this hike which you can easily get in Kathmandu at the Nepal Tourism Bureau. More info here.
  • Take Diamox preventively for altitude sickness. You reach high altitudes in very little time; we saw several people having to be evacuated because of altitude sickness. Consult your doctor before leaving.
  • Get travel insurance before you go, which covers helicopter evacuation up to 6000m (most travel insurances only go to 4000m so you need to check this)
  • Bring a warm sleeping bag (at least -5 degrees). Most of the lodges have very little insulation, and it gets freezing cold in the rooms at night
  • Bring lots of warm clothes (and ski gloves!) – you will leave at 4am on several days when it’s still freezing outside, nothing like the temperatures in Kathmandu.

PS: for the ones interested, we followed the following itinerary:

Our Everest Base Camp Itinerary

  • Day 1: Lukla (2900m) – Phakding (2640m)
  • Day 2: Phakding (2640m) – Namche Bazaar (3440m)
  • Day 3: Acclimatisation day in Namche Bazaar
  • Day 4: Namche Bazaar (3440m) – Dole (4200m)
  • Day 5: Dole (4200m) – Machermo (4470)
  • Day 6: Machermo (4470m) – Gokyo (4900m)
  • Day 7: Gokyo (4900m) – Summit Gokyo Ri (5483m) – Thagnag Kharka (5025m)
  • Day 8: Thagnag Kharka (5025m) – Chola Pass (5500m) – Dzongla (4843m)
  • Day 9: Dzongla (4843m) – Lobuche (4930m)
  • Day 10: Lobuche (4930m) – Gorak Shep (5140m) – Everest Base Camp (5364m)
  • Day 11: Gorak Shep (5140m) – Kalapatthar (5545m) – Dingboche (4260m)
  • Day 12: Dingboche (4260m) – Tyengboche (3867m)
  • Day 13: Tyengboche (3867m) – Namche Bazaar (3440m)
  • Day 14: Namche Bazaar (3440m) – Lukla (2900m)

Tibetan chants all along the way

First view of the snowy Himalayan peaks

Sherpas build these ‘chortens’ for good luck, so that climbers will get back down safely

Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa capital

Bridges everywhere

Always walk clockwise around a Stupa, Buddhist commemorative monument housing sacred relics

One of the longest bridge of the hike – at the bottom you can see the old bridge damaged in the 2015 earthquake

First view on the Gokyo lakes, amazing scenery at 4900m altitude!

The largest Gokyo lake (called Gokyo 3)

View from Gokyo Ri (5500m) on the little town of Gokyo and Gokyo 3 lake

Catching a glimpse of the Everest on top of Gokyo Ri (5500m)

Watching the sunrise from the top of Gokyo Ri (5500m) – Surrounded by Himalayan giants

So happy we made it to the top of Gokyo Ri (5500m)

Camille in front of the much dreaded ‘Chola Pass’, an almost vertical stone wall which we had to climb

Hanging prayer flags at the top of the Chola pass – there’s 30% less oxygen at this altitude so it took a while to get it done:-)

View on the other side of the Chola pass

Chilling after the Chola Pass

Getting closer and closer to Everest Base Camp now

The only animals you see above 4000m are Yaks – they look like cows but have longer hair and are much more resistant. They are used to carry water and food to the high lodges

Finally made to the Everst Base Camp!!!!

Sunrise above the Everst – view from the top of Kallapathar (5500m)

Can’t get enough of these views

So happy we went on this journey… It was tough but so rewarding. We loved it!

The runway at Lukla, ‘the most dangerous airport in the world’. Needless to say Camille was very reassured when we stepped on the plane 🙂

 

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