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Published: July 29th 2014
Day 9 – Lobuche (4900m) – Everest Base Camp (5364m) –
So, after more than a week trekking in some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever had the pleasure to be amongst, today was the day. If all went well, and there were no last minute mishaps, the entire tour group would reach our original goal of arriving at Everest Base Camp. Looking back over the days we had spent walking, this was quite some feat considering the distance we had walked and the altitude we had climbed. There were times all making it to the finish seemed bleak with a couple of people suffering AMS symptoms along the way. But, with decent advice, drinking plenty of water and encouragement from everyone in the group, it seemed like we were all going to cross the finish the way we started, as a team.
It was another early start for us that day as not only did we need to make it to Base Camp, but we would also have to get back down the mountain in order to sleep as low as possible, and this meant a tough slog of a day. As we started before
the sun managed to pop itself over the surrounding mountains, it was a little chilly to say the least. So much so, that it was recommended we take a flask of boiling water with us as well as our normal cold water in case the cold one froze. It seemed a little extreme, however we decided to take this advice. Fortunately it paid dividends as a few peoples 3 litre Camelback water carriers froze solid the moment we started walking as the temperature with wind chill hit well into the minus numbers.
It truly was a relief when the sun finally rose about an hour into the walk as my hands and toes felt close to being taken by frostbite. This is of course a massive and inaccurate description of reality, however at the time, that’s how cold I really felt! With the sun now out though and starting to heat up, we were finally able to take a couple of the 7 layers we were wearing off, and walking did become a little easier and much more fun!
A few hours into the day we came across something that was a bit of a rarity on this
trip in the way of a fork in the pathway. Fortunately though, this particular fork was clearly signposted, and, to everyone’s excitement and amusement, this sign post read ‘’To Base Camp’’. We were closing in on our goal! A few more hours, a hell of a lot of water, and with nothing but mountains, frozen lakes and rocks in front of us, we could finally start to believe that reaching Everest Base Camp was a reality. With everyone tired, yet buzzing with anticipation, we all worked off of pure adrenaline as we finally caught sight of some fellow trekkers that had made it to base Camp. It was truly within our grasp now, and it really started to hit home what we were about to achieve.
The only thing that stood in our way now was the notorious ‘Rock Wall’. This was a stretch of walkway spanning around 100 metres or so, and was one of the more dangerous parts of the whole trek. Precariously poised above our heads was a graveyard of huge boulders and rocks that were dangerously loose on the side of the mountain. As we walked though this area, it was a strict no stopping
zone as any of these rocks were liable to come loose at any moment and come hurtling towards your head without notice. So, with our heads down and hoping for the best, off we went hoping that a mini avalanche wasn’t imminent.
Fortunately for us, none of the rocks fell loose and we all sighed in relief when all of a sudden we heard one of the group behind us shout ‘ROCK’. Spinning around and looking back from where we had just come from, the group following us all took cover as several large rocks sped towards them from a great height, fortunately missing everyone, but coming a little too close for comfort. It just went to show that this was no laughing matter and this spot wasn’t somewhere you wanted to be stuck on.
So, after this little panic and with everyone happy that there were no casualties, all that was left was to trek the last few metres in order to peak at Everest Base Camp. As we clambered over some final last boulders and walked the last few steps, it is almost impossible to describe the feeling of finally walking onto the spot that is
known as Everest Base Camp. As I looked up I noticed one of the groups ahead of us having their pictures taken with each other, all with smiles as wide as Cheshire cats. There was whooping, shouting and pure elation oozing from everyone amongst the famous prayer flags that I’d seen a hundred times before in brochures and pictures. And then, all of a sudden, it’s your turn to celebrate. When there’s no more steps to be taken and you are actually there, on Base Camp, the feeling is something that is truly unique and one that would be hard to imagine I would ever have again. All the doubt, all the worry, all the miles we had covered and all for this moment….it really was very emotional. This was obvious amongst the group too as everyone was congratulating each other, and hugging each other the moment anyone stepped onto the plateaux. It was just such a beautiful moment, everyone started together, and finished together despite all the ups and downs of the trek, we had made it.
So, after all celebrating for a while and rewarding ourselves with some well-earned snacks, it was time take the standard group
pictures. With a huge Union Jack already there from another group, the Brits among us were quick to adopt this for ourselves and have our snaps taken draped in the Red, white and blue! Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better though, our guides whipped out a freshly baked cake for Wendy from our group as this day happened to be her Birthday….It was a truly awesome gesture and moment!
Once all the adrenaline wore off though and the photos stopped, this was when the emotion of the occasion really hit Donna and I. Knowing what we had just achieved and on this day of all days, the anniversary of my dads passing just a year ago, it was time for us to cut away from the group for a while and give ourselves time to reflect. Pulling out our blessed scarfs that the Buddhist Monk had given us a few days previous we added to them to the prayer flags and growing offerings to the mountains and said a silent prayer for my Dad. This all being very emotional and spiritual, and knowing my Dad was really neither of these, we then lightened the situation and
buried him a little offering of a Mars Bar for his outrageous sweet tooth, and hoped this would put a smile on his face.
Since losing my Dad, one of the most difficult things I find is knowing that I will never be able to talk to him again, or be in his presence. Being here though, on Everest Base Camp, way out in the middle of nowhere and being in the shadows of the tallest and one of the most stunning mountains in the world, I felt as close to him as ever. I knew he was there with us, and I knew he had a huge grin on his face and was proud of what we had both just achieved. It was a moment I think neither Donna nor I will ever forget for all the right reasons.
Having now spent around an hour at Base Camp, it was now time for a quick toilet break before heading back to Gorak Shep and the Teahouse for the night. Having already walked a massive distance today, and peaking with EBC, none of us were really looking forward to the 3-4 hour slog back heading into the blinding
sun, but, with a little adrenaline still pumping round us we turned around and started to make our way back. Halfway in was when I really started to feel the effects of the day, and I think the long walks, the excitement, the emotional highs and lows and everything else were really starting to take their toll on me. My head started to throb and my legs has nothing left to give, and for the first time in the whole trek, I started to wish I was already back at the teahouse rather than still walking. This was a tough last slog! Finally though, the teahouse was in sight, and getting back to the dining area made everything better again. My mood had improved, my legs felt a little better, and hey, I’d just been to Everest Base Camp today…..all was good!
There was just now the small matter of tomorrow and trying to reach the highest point of the whole trek Kala Patthar (5,545m). Something that we knew many never got to see due to the energy sapping vertical climb as well as the lack of oxygen due to the high altitude.
Today was a good day,
but our adventure was far from over yet……. Day 10 – Gorak Shep (5100m) - Kala Patar (5545m) – Orsho Region (4100m)
Waking at silly O’clock after the day we had just had was tough. To be honest, sleep wasn’t easy at all at that altitude and we knew how tough this final uphill leg of the journey was going to be. Matt who had suffered big time after Base Camp was close to being taken down in the middle of the night if his health didn’t improve, so it was more than a little shocking to see him walk through the door of the pitch black morning, fully kitted up and ready for action (Some Aussie spirit that just needed mentioning I felt)
Before leaving we again filled our bottles with boiling water to stop them from freezing over whilst we attempted Kala Patthar, and after piling on the layers, we were again ready to hit the mountains. Arriving outside the teahouse, it was close to being pitch black with the sun yet to rise over the surrounding mountains. It was necessary to go this early as if we managed to reach the
peak of Kala Patthar, we would then have to turn round and head straight back to the teahouse where we started. There, we would eat our breakfast, before walking another 7 hours or so to the next teahouse. Another long day, another tough challenge.
The first part of the trek was fairly flat going for around 10-15 minutes or so and then it started to rise. The terrain was fairly forgiving really with the ground just a little gravelly with fairly cleared paths through the snow. This was a good way to start the trek as we knew it wouldn’t be long before the steep incline increased. Being up at around 5100m now, simply sitting around seemed tiring and breath was hard to come by, so we all knew that the key to getting up to the top here was to be slow, steady and to not rush at any point. Just over an hour or so into the walk, the mountain really started to get steep and tiredness was kicking in. We knew however that the halfway mark wasn’t far away now, so we pushed on whilst gasping for precious breath in our lungs. Then, out of nowhere,
our guide told us we had reached halfway. With the sun now up and the heat on our heavily panting bodies, the view of Everest was superb, and about as good as it got anywhere on this trek apart of course, from the very top. Having reached this checkpoint, Donna and I were feeling pretty good, and although the view was great, there was definitely a sense of determination to reach the very top, the highest point of the entire trek. So, with that in mind, we again got our heads down and carried on up this beast of a hill. By now, the flat terrain had also given way to large rocks and boulders as well as a good few feet of snow off the tracks, so it certainly didn’t get any easier as we puffed and panted upwards. Having spent another hour or so in what I would say was the most difficult part of the whole trek, we finally looked up to see the top of Kala Patthar, and what a sight it was. Having the goal there visible in front of you really does wonders for your confidence, and now, with the final peak in sight,
we both knew that this was now a reality, and that we were going to reach the 5550m mark.
The last few steps up and towards the already successful climbers were just indescribable. The joy and relief that each of the group emitted was just awesome, and just seemed to consume you. This however didn’t end with our friends from the group but it was also very apparent in the others around you whether they be strangers or people you had spoken to on the way up. It was just that sort of moment where everyone knew how tough that climb was, and therefore the mutual respect between people was all around. Wow, what a feeling!
Having made it to the top, we all sat admiring the ridiculous views of Everest, and contemplated what we had just achieved. This moment was finally broken up when we decided to take a few pictures of the group to mark this occasion, along with a bit of banter amongst us, it was truly an inspiring moment that you had to pinch yourself to believe it was happening to you for real.
After a fair time at the top of Kala
Patthar, it was all too soon before we had to make the long trek down and back to our teahouse for a spot of breakfast. Getting back to the teahouse, we were informed that due to a couple of people in the group feeling a little unwell due to the altitude, they decided to push on down the mountain while we were out in order to descend to a more agreeable altitude, and so our group was now a few short. Lapping up our breakfast and stretching out those tired limbs, it was time for us to make a move too, and so we started the long journey south back towards our teahouse for the evening in the Orsho region. We had previously been to this teahouse during one of our lunch breaks on the way to EBC, and so were looking forward to this quaint little spot where we knew the food was great.
It took a while for us meet back up with the other guys from the group, but with extra long stops on their route, we finally all met up again for lunch. It felt good to be back as a group once more. From
here, the walk was simply fantastic and heading in between the mountains along a valley, the terrain almost looked like something from Scotland with small streams and little villages along the way. This was a route we had yet to walk, and it really was stunning with the sun starting to set behind the mountains. Needless to say. the camera battery took a battering during this part of the trip!
Finally back at the teahouse, we reflected on another unbelievable day, and cozied up to the Yak poo burner as we tucked into our well-deserved dinner. We had now turned the corner, and for the first time, our destination was no longer in the mountains, but back towards the smoky pollution of Kathmandu. Day 11 – Orsho region (4100m) – Namche Bazaar (3440m)-
Our goal was now a new one. Having achieved everything we had set out to and loving every moment in the process, we were now heading out of these wonderful mountains and back to some sense of reality. It was a strange feeling really as it was hard to get as excited about leaving the awesome Himalayas with everything we had
seen and taken in over the past 10 days or so. There was of course always the pull of a nice hot shower and a cosy warm comfortable bed, however to be honest, I felt all this could wait, and so another three days trekking was absolutely fine by me.
Going mostly downhill of course had its benefits, however it also weighed heavily on the knees which wasn’t ideal. We were eventually thankful for this however when we crossed paths with people on their way up. However amazing the trip had been to this point, I don’t think there were many of us that would have swapped roles with these guys and gone through some of those days again at that moment. The further we got from EBC, the funnier it became seeing the people on their way up. Those who had just started still seemed to have so much energy and vigour and with their clothes all looking fresh and without even a whiff of B.O, it was clear that the real test was still yet to come. Some of the girls even still had make up and fake eyelashes on….. it was obvious that it was only
a matter of time before this all stopped and became less of a priority!
So, those few days returning back to Lukla….what can I say? For Donna and I, they certainly still had all the beauty and fun of the way there, however it wasn’t quite the same as we knew that longer it went on, the closer it all came to finishing, and that wasn’t something we were ready for.
Parts of the way back were the same route we had used on the way there, and some differed. Coming back via the town of Tengboche was one detour, and one that certainly everyone welcomed with open arms. The little mountainside town with its stunning views, awesome monastery and even a little bakery was enough for everyone to fall in love with this place. Fresh coffee, doughnuts and cakes may have been the main reason for this, however the place itself was just great too.
Other highs of coming back was seeing some of routes we had previously taken on our way up and again reminiscing over those moments we had shared together as well as coming across the odd old nemesis like the extremely high
wire bridge we crossed on Day 2. We were told that we didn’t have to cross this one if we didn’t want to and that there was an alternative. Thanking the guides that we didn’t have to go through that all over again, we were quickly wishing we did, as instead of the extremely tall yet secure new bridge we were avoiding, we were instead heading for the old rickety one that sat just underneath the new one….. Getting to the other side of this bridge was as big a relief as coming out the other side of the rockfall we had encountered close to Base Camp!
So, with the last final days of the tour now drawing in and the reality of it all ending soon becoming ever more apparent, I think it hit everyone pretty hard. The enthusiasm and the banter that ruled those days at the beginning was started to wane, and with the energy dropping along with the adrenaline, I think it was fair to say that most of us were in need of some picking up. And so, on the final evening before our flight back to Kathmandu from Lukla, we all did the
obvious thing and hit the Irish pub in town. Being pretty much the only guests (since it was around 3pm) we hit that bar like a bunch of 18 year olds at their first club experience! There was drinking, singing, dancing and of course laughter as we controlled the sound system, made Everest mountains from our empty Everest beer cans and boogied through the day….it was exactly what I think we all needed to pick us back up again.
After our time in the Irish pub, we made our way back to the Teahouse for our final farewell dinner where we all ate together including the group, guides and porters. It was a strange old affair to be honest with one of the guides blind drunk and with the porters made to awkwardly make speeches to us in English despite their lack of grasp of the language, however it was also a great opportunity for us to Thank everyone who had made our trip so phenomenal and something so truly special.
Not wanting to get back on the tiny plane from Lukla was of course partly because I really didn’t want to make that horrible flight again, however
it was also for another reason. Over the past 2 weeks or so, we had managed to achieve something I once only thought of as a distant dream. We had trekked with some amazing people over 130kms in some of the most spectacular scenery on this earth. In addition to this, we had viewed the tallest mountain in the world from several angles, and got about as close as we will ever get ever again, and reached our dream altitude of 5545m. With new friends made, and some new experiences had, we really had the time of our lives on this trek, and it seems hard to know what could ever top this for us. To be honest though, if we never did anything like this ever again, I think we would be satisfied of what we achieved here. This however, is something I can’t see happening though, as knowing what is out there on this earth, it would be a disservice to not get out there again and see what else there is to offer, for us to explore and enjoy next.
Completing the Base camp trek helped me do so much. It helped me say goodbye to
my Dad. It brought me closer to Donna, and little did I know until after the trek, the experience helped me stay positive throughout the hospitalisation of my Mum which prematurely ended our time in Nepal and Asia. For those reasons and so many more, I am truly thankful for my time in the Himalayas and it will always live in my heart as one of the earth’s most special places.
NB – Thankfully, although very serious at one point, my Mum has come through the other side of her ordeal and continues to fight to get back to normality. She is improving every day, and continues to amaze us with her determination and courage despite everything she has been through over this difficult year. Keep up the good work mum, you are an inspiration and we both Love and adore you dearly x
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