One girl’s trek to the foot of the World’s highest Mountain – Everest Base Camp.
So three weeks before the departure date, I get an opportunity to tag along on an expedition to Everest Base Camp. Anyone who knows me knows I am not one to turn this type of thing down so before I know it I have landed in Kathmandu and am waiting for my spin to the hotel (I say spin because even though it’s close to midnight when I arrive, the ride from the airport certainly leaves me spinning!)
At the hotel I was reunited with the expedition guide aka my husband Mike (who was guiding this trip) I also get to meet the rest of my trekking group and my new best friends for the next few weeks. Kathmandu is as crazy as you can imagine, it is busy, smoggy, some might say dirty and every place you look there is something weird and wonderful going on. Buying, selling, wheeling, dealing, everything seems to happen right out in the open at street level. The food hygiene authorities might be a bit uncomfortable as very often food is dissected and butchered in the open air. At times my inner vegetarian wept!
There was some slight anticipation with regard to actually getting to the mountains. You can walk from Kathmandu in 3 or 4 days but as there are no roads as such, most trekkers save time and energy and brave a hair raising 30min flight, to start the trek from the small mountain town of Lukla. Those with a fear of flying look away now…
The plane is small and so is the runway. In fact it is said to be amongst one of the most dangerous airports in the world. But saying that I also think these pilots are some of the most skilled in the world so it evens itself out☺ After a slight delay due to weather we eventually made it safely to Lukla and the gateway of the Himalaya. We were welcomed with blue skies and my first impression was how nice the clear mountain air was after the dusty city of Kathmandu. Most hikers’ journey begin from Lukla, it usually starts with an introduction to your wonderful Sherpas, who are invaluable to this journey along with the powerful Yaks who are loaded up daily with expedition bags and gear. The next important thing is your teahouse; these are dotted along the trail and provide your bed and board for the journey. The first few days are truly mesmerising, the mountain air, the powerful rivers, the hanging rope bridges and all with a backdrop which can only be described as postcard like.
After two days trekking the first significant stop is the village of Namche Bazaar at 3440m. Like its name it is a bizarre place, it reminded me of a ski resort with lots of shops selling outdoor gear and some nice coffee shops, of course an Irish bar and a hairdresser! (which was very welcome on the way back down) The village has a nice buzz to it and most people take a rest day/acclimatisation day here which is what we did during which we took the time to visit the Sherpa museum and hike up to the renowned Everest View Hotel. I also got the chance to test my running or jogging legs around here, which is not recommended by the way unless you are feeling pretty good with regard to the altitude. I’m lucky – each time I’ve been to altitude I have had little or no ill effects. I was told I must have been a Sherpa in a previous life:) I felt very much at home and at one with the mountains, the people and the pace of life there. The simplicity was very therapeutic.
It’s a funny thing, Altitude; it definitely affects people in different ways. Once we climbed on and especially after 4000m a lot of people began to suffer headaches and loss of breath, but I was OK. We had a very specific acclimatisation plan in place and one day we hiked to 5100m and back down to 4400m to sleep. “Climb high sleep low mentality”. From Namche the hard work starts and the villages and tea houses get a little more remote and basic but every place along the way each brought something different to the trek. We had a night in the village of Tengboche which is home to a Buddhist monastery which we were very honoured to be allowed visit. Again there is so much to soak up; each place has an array of history, authenticity and its own story. The days on the trail turn into a mesmerising rotation of eating, trekking, sleeping and between all of that you simply soak up the environment, the atmosphere and the people as best you can.
Our final walk into Base Camp was a beautiful one for us, we had blue skies and the trail wasn’t too busy other than the usual yak jam, it was just perfect. You can see Base Camp from a long way out and when I arrived I found it quieter and more serene than I imagined it. It could have been the people I was with but there was definitely a sense of calm and a respect for this place. Funnily there were no remains of tents or expedition life which I was surprised about. I felt I could have stayed there all day. Everyone in our wonderful group made it safely to Base Camp under the expert guidance of our Sherpas and my awesome husband and guide Mike and there was great sense of achievement and congratulations both with us westerners and our Sherpa team.
The hike back to Lukla is challenging and not to be underestimated. They say that most accidents happen on the way down. Maybe it’s human nature for complacency to set in once the main event is done but there is still a long way to go to get back to where you start from. I personally had mixed feelings on the walk back, of course the thoughts of a shower and running water and a glass of red were appealing, but it was really hard to say goodbye to the simplicity of life in the mountains and the people of Nepal.
The trip had so many highlights and not just reaching Everest Base Camp. In fact, one of my favourite memories is simply watching the young Nepali kids playing with not a care in the world. The trip has made me appreciate the simple things in life and the things we take for granted.
Personally I will most definitely return to beautiful Nepal hopefully to take on some of the lesser known peaks (no great interest in the big one my mother will be glad to hear) For this trip I was happy to trek safely to Everest Base Camp and simply soak up Nepali Mountain life while trying to make as little impact or disruption to the locals and the landscape as possible.
As always when you get back from a trip like this people ask the question; would I be able to do it? The answer is yes, while it is a challenging expedition with the proper preparation, the right guide and support team, a good group and an open mind as the saying goes “the world is your oyster” and it is up to you to find your pearls;)
Andrée travelled with Earths-edge.com which is the company her husband and professional adventure guide Mike works for. It’s an ethical and socially responsible adventure tour company that’s based in Ireland.