Trek to Everest Base Camp
Wildhive Executive Chef, David Bukowicki and his partner Sarah celebrated a big birthday this year. To mark the occasion they wanted to do something a bit different, something memorable and exciting. They decided on a trip to Nepal, where they would embark on an incredible trek to Everest Base Camp. The camp lies on the Khumbu Glacier at approx. 5300 metres. A trip not for the faint hearted, David and Sarah signed up with altitude trek specialists, Evertrek, who expertly guided them to complete this challenging trek. Read David’s overview below with key highlights from the trip.
Day One & Two
We arrived in Kathmandu and had a chance to relax, explore and meet the rest of the group. We were split into two groups, Group A comprising 12 very fit young men and our Group of 10, a mix of ages and ability! We brought poles and invested in good walking boots, a year ago, so by the time of our trip they are really well worn in. Evertrek supplied our warm jackets and sleeping bags.
Today is the first day of tour – a morning exploring the temples of Kathmandu including the monkey temple. Then all aboard the minibus for a 5 hour drive to Ramechhap airport with crazy and very bumpy mountain roads, the group were scared to death! We had no sleep at the hotel before the flight, as we were quite apprehensive about our 3am flight and the challenge ahead of us.
We board our flight to Lukla at 2900m. For perspective Kathmandu is at 1400m. We commence our hike to Phakding at 2500m. It’s a 10km hike and we are all tired but in good spirits. Tom soup and chow mein for tea and a good sleep. Our gear is carried by Sherpa’s who are an essential and much respected part of our group. We each carried a day pack with water, snacks, sun cream, extra layers and the essential loo roll and our Sherpa guides carried everything else! In fact each Sherpa carried the belongings of two people (15kg allowance per person) plus all the kit; food, equipment, sleeping bags etc.
We commence our trek towards Namche Bazaar. It’s a 12km hike which will take us to 3400m. We follow the Dudh Koshi river and enter into the Sagarmatha National Park. The National Park is a UNESCO world heritage centre featuring dramatic mountains, glaciers and deep valleys dominated by Mount Everest. We cross the famous Hillary suspension bridge (which is very high!) followed by a gruelling 2 hour hike uphill towards Namche Bazaar.
Today we will hike to Namche Bazaar at 3900m to acclimatise before we move on. Here is our first Everest view point – there is too much cloud today to see Everest but we can see Mt Nupste, Mt Lhotse, Mt Ama Dablam and Mt Thamserku which are amazing in their own right. Having reached 3900m we spend time being guided through meditation and breathing exercises to help us to adjust before an afternoon exploring the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar, mainly buying snacks and toilet roll. It’s quite civilised with coffee shops and bars – enter inside and you could be almost anywhere in the world.
Our guide from Evertrek advises us on altitude. Explaining that we must not overthink it. Someone might have a headache but there are many reasons for that, not necessarily the altitude. Mental strength is important in maintaining a positive sense of mind, especially given that you will feel short of breath and very cold with temperatures falling to -15. Having set myself the goal of reaching Namche, I am feeling really elated that we have made it.
We hike to Tengboche at 3900m. It is a 12km trek with lots of views of the mountains and we finally get our first glimpse of Everest. The sherpa call Mount Everest Chomolungma and respect it as ‘The Mother of the World’. We have a long, two hour hike up to Tengboche (Thyangboche) Monastery, the highest in the world. The Buddhist monastery was established in 1916 but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1934 and then rebuilt. It was damaged in a fire in 1989 but a group of local volunteers helped by the wider international community created a new structure of great stonework with a large courtyard and spacious halls. This is one of the most sacred places in the entire region.
Today we Trek from Tengboche (3900m) to Dingboche at 4400m. It’s a 13km trek and the first day the sun is shining and the temperature between O and -5. The mountain we are close to is Ama Dablam, known as the mountaineers mountain due to the technical difficulty of the terrain and considered the most beautiful mountain in the world. Our guide stretches out his arms to show his respect to the mountain.
We trek up to Pangbouche Monastery where we light a candle and the Lama gives us a blessing to keep us safe in the mountains. All Everest explorers, since Hillary, come here for a blessing. Our guide (with the blessing of the Lama) took a picture of the famous yeti skull and hand. It is believed that the hand is from a Yeti purported to live in the Himalayan mountains. In 2011 it was discovered that the hand contained human DNA. The altitude is really starting to kick in now.
This is our second acclimatisation day. We leave Dingboche and hike to 4800m. The climb will help to prepare us for reaching 5000m. We spot some wild yaks which are not to be messed with as they can be very aggressive. We have a wonderful view over the Imja Khola valley. Our accommodation is in twin bedded hostel rooms attached to tea houses. The tea houses have a central fire to cook from and give heat. The bedrooms are basic with just our sleeping bags, if you are lucky you may be provided with an extra layer. Our 'ensuite' WC is far removed from the luxuries at Wildhive Callow Hall!
Today we are hiking 10km to Lobuche which lies close to the Khumbu Glacier at 4900m. It’s extremely cold at -16c with a big climb up memorial hill, very hard at such a high altitude. Seeing the memorials of all those fallen on Everest is quite emotional but we are rewarded with the turquoise blue of Chola lake as we continue along the trail.
We awake to commence our ascent to base camp at 5400m. It’s a 9hr hike in -20 and probably the hardest day of my life. But it’s so rewarding when we get there, especially witnessing the beautiful sun setting on Everest from the top of Kala Patthar mountain at our destination of 5500m. Everyone is feeling relieved that we have reached our destination of base camp but we haven't completed the journey!
Sunset picture courtesy of Graeme Fletcher
Return to Kathmandu
It takes 3 days to hike back to Kathmandu, an average of 20kms per day. We really enjoy the return journey. Gone is the anticipation and anxiety of whether or not we will achieve our goal of reaching base camp and we can relax and appreciate the surrounding landscape. On the way we spot a wild Red Panda. None of our guides have ever seen one before so we were incredibly lucky. We observe the constant trail of Sherpa’s who transport everything and anything up the mountain. Paid per kg, some of them are carrying in excess of 60kgs on their backs with support straps tied to their heads – demonstrating extraordinary strength.
It's a five hour bus ride across Nepal to the airport passing through beautiful hills, rivers and wilderness as we head towards Kathmandu. Our last night is spent with the whole group, the guides and Sherpas, being entertained with music and enjoying a few beers as we bid farewell to this beautiful country.
Time to reflect
Food was quite basic, lots of tomato soup and noodles for lunch. Garlic soup for dinner which is good for the blood. We ate a high carb diet, no protein or dairy, lots of chow mein, potato dishes and rice with apple for dessert. The food was understandably bland given the conditions and limited resource up the mountain, however we were always presented with a choice so really couldn't complain. For breakfast we soon learnt that the french toast and jam was the preferable option, the scrambled eggs on toast were often freezing before they reached the table!
It was too cold to wash so we didn't shower for several days. You take the everyday basics for granted; breathing, eating and sleeping!
It was an extraordinary experience, incredibly challenging and requiring a lot of mental stamina but completing the trek is a wonderful feeling and we would encourage anyone to give it a go. A particular highlight was meeting the Sherpa people who are so kind and welcoming and the new friendships we made within the group.
We would recommend our guides, Evertrek for their knowledge, support and friendship…