Day two of the tour and our first trekking day en route to BC and after meeting my trekking group the night before it was an early start dodging the monkeys at Kathmandu airport and boarding the small twin otter plane for the flight up to Lukla. Now, I’m not the most confident flyer so the trip to Lukla (The world’s most dangerous airport) was a huge thing for me in itself! Fortunately the flight was pretty good and I might even go as far as saying I enjoyed it! Plus I had to have my big girl pants on as I didn’t know anyone well enough to hold my hand!
Just outside the tiny airport there was a sea of porters shouting for work, prayer flags flying everywhere and cows (no yaks yet) casually wandering the streets. I don’t know what I expected to find up there but I must admit I was a bit surprised/disappointed to see a Starbucks…We stopped off at a tea house for some Dhal Bat and set off on our short (3hour) walk to the next village of Phakding where we would spend our first night at altitude.
The next morning we were up and out by 8am to start our second trekking day, climbing the 600m in altitude to Namche Bazaar. Trekking through the valleys leading up to the mountains was something else. I wasn’t sure what kind of landscape I expected but it definitely wasn’t lush green forests and White Water Rivers. It was crazy that we were already at an altitude of over 3000m and we were looking up at monsters of mountains above us just glancing through the clouds every now and then. The trail from Phakding to Namche was very crowded and filled with trekkers, porters and cows carrying supplies up to the town. I was secretly hoping it wasn’t going to be that busy the whole way but being October it was one of the most popular times to visit.
Personally I found the climb up to Namche one of the hardest days but I think it was a combination of adjusting to the altitude and the heat. Yep, heat. I got sunburned pretty badly on the back of my neck that day and I was wearing factor 50 sun cream.
Namche Bazaar was one of my favourite places along the route to BC. The whole town had a kind of ski resort vibe with busy café’s and bars on every corner and tons of shops to grab last minute trekking gear. The tour I was on had two nights planned in Namche to acclimatise but you should note that acclimatising does NOT mean resting. Our acclimatisation day involved a 5 hour round trip trek up to the village of Thamu to visit the monastery before heading back to town to hit the bakeries for apple pie and the last of the free Wi-Fi!
Day 5 we trekked to a village called Khumjung. Home of the worst smelling Yeti skull you can imagine... no joke, whatever it is in that glass case absolutely stunk! The cloud had really come in so there wasn’t much to see as far as views go and I had a huge feeling of pressure on my head which I think was the start of altitude sickness. At this point we were 3800m and I’d never had an issue with altitude sickness before but they say it can affect the same person differently every time you climb so that night I started taking Diamox. I still didn’t feel right the next day when we set off towards Tengboche but it was more pressure and light headedness than headaches so I just carried on taking half a Diamox tablet morning and night and by that afternoon once we had reached Tengboche I felt a million times better. A lot of people worry about the side effects caused by Diamox but personally I’d rather take it and risk the side effects than have tried to carry on feeling like my head was going to pop! Fortunately apart from tingles in my fingers and weirdly my top lip, I had no other side effects.
We had a free afternoon in Tengboche so we headed to the bakery for chocolate cake and a couple of rounds of bullshit before going to the monastery to watch the monks in action. At 4pm visitors are invited into the monastery to watch the monks pray. We turned up and were filtered into the prayer room and sat quietly cross legged on the floor while the monks chanted... Well… mostly quietly. After the chanting the monks fell silent and at that exact moment one of my friends farted....the timing was ‘majestic’... At first there was a quiet giggle from my friend Joe who was sat in front of me.. Then a snort... Then a louder snort... He was trying so hard to keep it together but let’s face it, farts are hilarious! Eventually Joe completely lost it and had to leave the room quickly followed by his girlfriend Hannah. I caught the giggles and had to leave a moment later followed by our guide and the rest of the group! Fart gate definitely lifted the mood of the whole group that night.
Day 7 of the trek and we were getting a big jump in altitude from Tengboche up to Dingboche at the foot of Mt. Ama Dablam, nearly 800m in total. This was a hard day and the altitude was starting to affect most people. At Dingboche we had another acclimatisation day but again this did NOT mean a rest day. Instead we climbed 600m pretty much straight up and then straight back down and sadly it was a cloudy overcast day so again we didn’t get the views of the mountains we had hoped for and we were starting to worry this might carry on for when we reached base camp. We had even started to talk about chartering a helicopter to take us back up to see the mountains at a later date on the trip!
On day 9 we had a huge climb ahead of us straight up to Lobuche, it was a long hard trek that day but we started to see glimpses of the mountains around us peeking through the clouds... Lobuche, Ama Dablam, Nuptse but still no Everest. That night the whole group was exhausted, too exhausted to even have a round of bullshit so we headed straight to bed to try and sleep before the final push to BC the next morning!
Soooo excited for day 10!! We left Lobuche at 6am and started up the Khumbu Glacier towards Gorakshep and Everest Base Camp. The air felt so much thinner up here that even brushing your teeth was hard work! A few of the guys started finding breathing quite hard, especially on the climbs. The landscape up there was totally different to anything else we had trekked up to this point. It was rocky and barren but beautiful and the mineral rocks in the streams made the water look like glitter and the best part was that by 8am the sun was out and it was the most perfect weather we could have hoped for! I was sky high that day; I could have sprinted to base camp! That’s maybe a slight exaggeration… I probably would have died even attempting a light jog but I felt good is what I mean.
It was another two hours to base camp from Gorakshep and it was pretty much a scramble the whole way, climbing over boulders and down rocky tracks. I can see why so many people injure themselves up there, it really isn’t an easy route and the constant flow of traffic from trekkers and guides to and from the camp made it even trickier. It’s hard watching your feet and other people around you when all you want to do is look up at the view the whole time and what a view it was. It was more amazing than any photograph you could ever take. The photo’s I’ve taken and posted on Instagram and on this post can’t do what I saw a scrap of justice.
As we climbed up above the Khumbu glacier we got our first glimpse of Mt. Everest just over the shoulder of Mt. Nuptse. We were almost at base camp but I still couldn’t see it. I was looking for a sea of tents and people at the foot of the ice falls when in reality it was a stone stupa and a ton of prayer flags perched out on the glacier literally 50m from where I was standing. I was looking right past it and didn’t even realise we were there! It definitely wasn’t what I had imagined but I wasn’t disappointed either.
Just making it to base camp was such an achievement and standing at the foot of all those mountains in the cold air and sunshine looking up was so peaceful and humbling I could have stayed for hours just looking around and being there. So many people were coming and going, climbing the stoopa for their base camp trophy photos, leaving messages in the rocks and even having shots. My group stayed for around 45 minutes before it was time to jam jam back to Gorakshep. It felt weird walking away from base camp. I’d put so much effort in over the last 8 days to get there and then 45 minutes later it was over… I smiled to myself as we left thinking “I’ve done it, I made it, I was at Everest Base Camp” Genuinely chuffed to bits with myself. Huge tick on the bucket list achieved.
On the walk back to Gorakshep my guide Hem had half joked about climbing Kala Patthar that evening to try and catch “Everest on Fire”. The original itinerary had said that we would climb Kala Patthar the next morning but me and a couple of the other didn’t want to pass on the chance to see a sunset on Everest. Most of the group weren’t up for it initially as we had been on the go since 6am and everyone was pretty tired. By the time we got back to the tea house all but one person in the group had talked themselves into coming with us. We dumped our day packs and grabbed a bottle of water and a head torch and headed up Kala Patthar.
Kala Patthar is 5545m and in that altitude and after 10 hours trekking I will be the first to admit I was bloody knackered!!! I was really beginning to regret my decision when the evening cloud started to roll in and the temperature plummeted… Head down, baby steps and heaving breathing forcing myself to climb! Since I’ve been home from my trip to Nepal, I’ve had a few people ask me for tips and advice about the trek to BC and one thing I’ve told everyone is to climb Kala Patthar in the evening to see the sunset on Everest. What I saw that night was, to me, a once in a lifetime experience. “Everest on Fire” hands down my absolute highlight of the whole trek! Worth the bloody awful climb, worth the frozen fingers, worth the dancing on the spot like a lunatic to keep warm… Truly amazing. Again photos don’t do it justice but I’ve got the memory to last a lifetime.
The last bit of sunset on Everest lasted approximately 3 minutes and as soon as that sun dropped the head torches were on and we practically ran down that mountain it was so F’in cold!!! We descended that quickly that even the guide said he felt drunk!!
Seen as we’d climbed Kala Patthar at sunset we got a small lie in the next morning and I’ll admit I was feeling a bit sad to be leaving. We left Gorakshep around 8am for the 4 hour hike to Periche. It was another beautiful day so at least we’d get the mountain views we’d missed on the way up as we descended so it wasn’t all bad I guess. I don’t know if it was leaving BC or the fact most of the group had done a 12 ½ hours hiking day previously but everyone was pretty quiet on the way back down to Periche.
Day 12 and we set off back to Tengboche. By that night the spirit of the whole group had lifted and everyone was in the mood for pizza, beer and a few rounds of bullshit. Later that night we all headed outside to see our last sighting of Mt. Everest in the moonlight with Everest beers in hand. Photo Credit to Jackson Wales and his Super Samsung for this shot as yet again the iPhone wasn’t up to the job!
I think the whole group was looking forward to day 13 and the hike back to Namche Bazaar. We’d all talked about getting back to Namche for a long awaited hot shower, drinks and pool in the Irish bar we’d spotted on the way up and seen as we weren’t climbing anymore beers were definitely back on the menu! Well... Beers for everyone else, whisky and apple juice for me. I couldn’t believe it when we got to the bar that night and they had my favourite Glengoyne whisky! It was a sign!! Also, travel tip* Do not play Sherpa’s at pool or foosball… you will lose!
It was the morning of the last days trekking and it was a 7 ½ hour hike back to Lukla, past new groups of clean smelling, fresh faced hikers excited on their way up. It was really hitting home with me that I was on my way back to reality.
We had made it to Lukla and the tea house was buzzing with trekking groups back from their adventures. We dumped our bags and sat down for our last meal with the full group. Our porters and guides joined us for drinks, thank yous and unfortunately goodbyes as only our main guide Hem would be returning to Kathmandu with us.
Later that night we joined some of the other trekking groups we’d met along the way, hit the bars and partied! It was an awesome night with everyone on a high drinking, laughing and sharing stories and pictures from our trips... However after nearly a litre bottle of Khukri Rum the 6am wake up call to fly home was like being hit by a bus!!
Around 9am the first plane managed to land a Lukla so we grabbed our bags and walked down to the airport to be met by hundreds of other trekkers still waiting for a flight home. We didn’t know this at the time but there had been two days of bad weather so flights hadn’t be able to get in or out. There was a huge back log which is apparently common for Lukla so we headed to a bakery to wait it out. Not feeling my best after the night before, I saw a comfy looking pile of bags to curl up and snooze for half an hour.. In this time my group had decided to go and watch some of the planes come and go so left me sleeping with the luggage. I woke up shortly after to find them gone, two dogs snuggled up to me and a group of giggling Chinese tourists taking my picture… My dad would be so proud…
Our original flight to Kathmandu was meant to be at 8am and at 1.30pm we were finally called to board. The weather was looking a bit cloudy and I think my hangover was adding to my nerves. I chucked my headphones in closed my eyes and tried to zone out for the downhill take off. Even though I was scared, flying in and out of Lukla airport was a pretty amazing experience. The actual flight home on the other hand I could have done without! It was extremely turbulent and at one point the plane dropped into an air pocket! When we landed at Kathmandu I could have kissed the ground I was so grateful to be off that plane! But that being said I would still go back and do it all again tomorrow!
Our final night of the tour and we headed out in the Thamel with the group one last time. We headed to the K-Too steak house for an awesome feed and then to the Shish Terrace next door to the Kathmandu Guest House for drinks and live music. The Thamel is such a vibrant part of Kathmandu, brilliant bars restaurants and shops around every corner and the live music was awesome. There are bands playing most nights in several live music venues so there’s plenty of variety whether you’re looking for chilled out rooftop drinks, messy rock bars or full on underground clubs you’ll find it there.
I loved my time up in the mountains, it’s been the best experience of my life so far and even though my body was aching and I’d only had one shower in the last two weeks (don’t judge) I was happy there, I’m a mountain girl through and through. And they don’t get much better than the Himalayas; it’s such a magical place with so much wild beauty around every corner. I spent so much time trekking looking at the scenery around me and getting lost in my thoughts about life, love, plans and travels that the time had flown by. I have 100% fallen for Nepal from the busy Thamel streets and temples of Kathmandu to the peaceful mountain trails and warm tea houses of the Himalayas. I think a trip to Nepal is something that most people should try and do at least once in their life. You won’t regret it.