Hello to all adventure freaks.
This is a write up of my recent trek to the Everest base camp with one of my close friends in November 2016. Just to give you guys a hint of the back story that led to this trek. It had been a couple of months since I quit my job, I was supposed to go for higher studies but I guess a part of me wasn't ready to go yet.
I wanted a break so I deferred my higher study plans and this gave me a nice window in time to indulge in activities that would make me happy. Trekking was priority number one. So I started discussions with this friend and soon we zeroed down to EBC.
To be completely honest I cannot even recall what made me choose this trek over others. I always had Pin-Parvati pass trek in my head. Nevertheless, I was excited. I was also eagerly looking forward to this challenge as it would be my longest and highest (altitude wise) trek till date.
Rendezvous was at Kathmandu as my friend was coming from Singapore and me from India. I traveled in local buses from Delhi to Varanasi and from there a Volvo bus ride to Kathmandu via Sunauli border. We met at Kathmandu, stayed in a dormitory of some nice hotel in Thamel.
I was surprised to see their rate list in US dollars which I later realized is because of the high number of westerners coming and staying in Thamel. The major task now was to book a porter, get TIMS card and also book our flights to Lukla and back, which is the starting point of the trek.
I had done some internet research beforehand so we wanted our porter to join us at Lukla itself. That way we could save money as taking a porter from Kathmandu means one has to pay for his flight charges as well. Finally, we found one such agency, finalized the deal, the guy did our flight bookings and TIMS card. That evening we went around and got ourselves sleeping bags on rent for the trek plus other useful things including meds.
Come tomorrow morning and the weather was all clear and we were ready to take off. They use small turboprops that can seat around 18 people to fly to Lukla. It is a short 45 minutes flight to Lukla. Landing really is the scary part of the whole flight experience as it is a very small runway with the upgradient so that planes can stop easily. After reaching Lukla we met our porter discussed the itinerary and then set off on the trail.
EBC as a trek is actually a lot different than the treks we are used to here in India. It's full of luxury, so much variety in terms of food. Liquor is available at every lodge. You get paid internet access, satellite phone if you feel like calling someone. Want a nice hot shower after a day's long trek? Just show them the money.
Heck, they also have pool and snooker tables along the trail for you to enjoy your free time. Lodges have a big hall as a common dining area. It includes seating as well as heating and television as well in some lodges. Most of the people sit in this area in the evening as rooms are pretty cold. So it is also a good place to meet and chat with fellow travelers. As far as I can remember most of the lodges that we stayed in were run by sherpa guys who had summited Everest and other surrounding high peaks. You could see their summit pictures proudly hanging in the dining area. It felt like every other sherpa guy there was a climber. But then you realize why these guys are so revered in the climbing industry. They are indeed tough people.
It took us in total 10 days to finish this trek, seven going up and three coming down. Gaining altitude gradually is wise as it helps in acclimatization. We faced no altitude sickness, letting our bodies adapt to altitude naturally without the help of any meds.
EBC Trek itinerary that we followed:
Day 1: Lukla to Phakding
It is an easy day involving only 3 to 4 hours of downhill trekking as Phakding is at a lower altitude than Lukla. Accommodation in Solukumbu region (in Nepali, roughly translating to lower Khumbu region) is in Lodges and not tents.
Several big lodges are available at every halting place. Rooms are pretty cheap though, our two-bedroom without an attached toilet was 200 Nepali rupees. Rooms are pretty clean and the best part is the toilets, which throughout the trail are so clean and properly maintained.
But the rooms being cheaper comes with a condition that one has to eat food in the very same lodge otherwise higher room charges apply. Food is not cheap, to say the least, it may be cheap for westerners but not to us Indians and this is where the equation changes. Just to give a hint, a very basic Nepali dal-that dinner which is just a lentil with rice and some sabzi costs approx. 500 Nepali rupees per plate and the rates keep going higher as one goes to higher campsites on the trek. Maybe it so because of the remoteness of the place but still expect to shell out 1500 - 2000 Nepali rupees minimum on eating every day.
The reason one does not see any tents pitched in this area is that the trail passes through Sherpa villages all the way to Gorakshep and so the same people have constructed these lodges which now is a constant source of income for them.
Sagarmatha is another name for Mt. Everest
Strip at Lukla, can you notice the gradient?
Prayers on the way to Phakding
Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Today's trail goes upwards all the way till Namche. Altitude gain of around 800 meters which takes somewhere around 5-6 hours. TIMS card entries are made in between to keep track of people going up.
Today we cross a lot of cable bridges along the trail. It took me some time before I got used to those shaky bridges. It also happens to be the day when you get the first glimpse of Mt. Everest. Namche is way too modern. It has got ATMs, Irish pub, Coffeehouses & all other sorts of creature comforts. You can buy any trekking gear that you may have missed or some souvenirs as a memory of this trip.
We were not carrying enough cash on the way up so we tried the ATM here which didn't work as a matter of fact, but that's not a problem, plenty of shops here where you can swipe your card or exchange your currency to get Nepali currency in return (they obviously charge a commission fee).
cable bridges, this one was pretty high though & scary
First glimpse of Mt. Everest or Chomolungma (that triangle in the middle)
Namche town (3400 meters)
Evening sun rays on Thamserku Peak as seen from above Namche
Day 3: Namche to Debuche
The area around the trail now starts to open up and you get grand views of the high peaks that lay ahead. Most noticeable is Ama-Dablam considered one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Today' hike is a bit strenuous as it involves a mix of up & down gradients that really test your leg muscles. Some people halt at Tengboche at the end of this day but as accommodation is limited there, we moved further to Debuche which is some 20-25 minutes downhill.
Mount Everest & Lhotse peak to its right
Ama Dablam can be seen at the top right corner
Day 4: Debuche to Dingboche
Today the trail climbs gradually to Dingboche(4400m) as we go above the tree line. Oxygen levels start to dip now and proper acclimatization becomes crucial. You can keep enjoying views of Ama-Dablam on your right all the way till Dingboche.
Ama-Dablam is tough to summit because of its technical climb
Everest head is almost hidden now by Nuptse-Lhotse wall
View of Island peak in the middle from Dingboche
Day 5: Acclimatization day
Hike to Nangkartzang peak (5000m) & back to Dingboche as part of acclimatization and also to find out how our body is coping to high altitude. Takes around 2 hours to go up. Stay at the top for some time and then come back down. Since we finished this by lunchtime, afternoon we went around to play Snooker to enjoy our free time.
Luxury at 4400 meters isn't it?
Awesome view from Nangkartzang top
Ama-Dablam in its full glory
Taboche & Cholatse peak viewed from Nangkartzang
Day 6: Dingboche to Lobuche over Thukla pass
Today's hike to Lobuche (4900m) is not too long. Since your body has already adjusted to the altitude it does not take much time & effort to reach Lobuche. Accommodation there is limited and sometimes people have to sleep in the common dining area. Today one also crosses memorials of people who died climbing Everest. It gives a stark reminder of how tiny we are compared to the forces of nature.
Scott Fischer's memorial, remember him from movie Everest?
Pumori, Lingtrentse & Khumbutse Peaks in front
Nuptse peaks & moraine covered Khumbu glacier
Day 7: Lobuche to Gorakshep
Today we hike to the last camping place Gorakshep (5100m). We pass through boulder and scree zone in between. Unload your rucksack at Gorakshep rest for a while and start for the base camp which is some 1.5 hours further.
Pumori as seen somewhere near Lobuche pass on the way to Gorakshep
Finally at EBC
The customary photo sessions at EBC
Day 8: Hike to Kala Patthar viewpoint & start back
So today morning we hike to Kala Pathar(5565m) to get an awesome view of Mount Everest and surrounding peaks as Everest is not visible from base camp.
Near the top of Kala Pathar
Everest south face and Khumbu glacier flowing down from it
View from Kala pathar
That little black peak is Kala Patthar, looks so tiny compared to the mighty Pumori
Post monsoon that is October to November period happens to be the peak trekking season for Everest base camp trek. Lot of people visit around this time. And it is rightly so as the views are most clear in this time frame. That means you can expect to get clear views of all big peaks and probability of them being hidden behind clouds is less (fingers crossed). That being said the weather can be unpredictable there and can change in an instant.
It is mostly westerners that visit during this time though, we could only find four people from India in those 10 days. One of the lodge owners at Namche told me that more Indians usually visit during March- April months. It is very much possible to do this trek without porter & guide. The only reason we took a porter along with was that he could help in the event of us getting sick. Another plus that I realized later was that if one is going with a porter or guide, there is no need to worry about searching accommodation at the day's end. They have links with lodge owners and will get you a room straight away.
Once you have done this trek, you would be tempted to do it again. There is something magical about this place, maybe it's the grandness of it or the legacy that it carries. I am already making plans now with my cousin to go there once again in near future. The good part is there are a lot of variations in this trek. One can do just the EBC & Kala Patthar part (10-12 days approx) or go for EBC & three passes trek or EBC & Gokyo Ri trek (over Chola pass, 17 days approx.), Island peak climb & EBC. The options are endless. Just decide on your time & budget and go for it.