Making it to the Everest Base Camp
I and my three friends arrived at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu at around 1 pm. Thanks to the trek operator (Discovery World Trekking) that we chose, as promised, we found their representative holding a pamphlet with our names at the airport. We approached them, and they politely asked our name, presented us with marigold garlands, and took us to our hotel in Thamel in their car. The company representative introduced himself as Simbir Ghale and let us know that he was our guide.
We found the trek representative quite friendly. He provided us with his number and mentioned that if we ever faced any problems, we could simply call him. We felt better knowing we had someone taking care of us in this foreign country. He provided us with the address of Discovery World Trekking and told us that they will organize the trip briefing at 5 pm.
At around 5 pm, I and my friends reached the Discovery World Trekking office at Kaldhara in Thamel. In the office, we met Paul Gurung, the CEO of Discovery World Trekking. The briefing started with an introduction. Paul Gurung briefed us about the weather at Everest Base Camp. He told us that the September weather was at its best, with no bad weather anticipated. He was confident that our trek would go perfectly, and he addressed all our worries. We were happy to know that we did not have to worry about anything as the company had all this in place to ensure our satisfaction.
Then, it was time to recheck our luggage. Paul had already emailed us about the gear, equipment, and clothes we must have. So, the luggage recheck confirmed that we had all the essentials for the Everest Base Camp trek. Paul uplifted our spirits by sharing his experiences and what we were about to do. It excited us to our core.
Before ending the briefing, Paul told us to get ready with our luggage at our hotel the following morning. The next day was our departure date. Early in the morning, Simbir showed up at our hotel. We were already ready with our luggage. So, we packed our bags in the car and headed to Tribhuvan International Airport. Since Discovery World Trekking had already acquired our tickets, without much hassle, we boarded a small plane headed to Lukla. Lukla is the gateway to Everest.
Fortunately, I was able to get a window seat, and from the plane, I could see the densely packed Kathmandu as the plane gained height, I could see the hills and villages near me and the mighty high Himalayas at a distance. After about 40 minutes, the plane landed in Lukla.
We quickly deboarded the plane at Lukla. Lukla Airport had the smallest runway that we had ever seen. As soon as we deboarded the plane, we realized we were in a completely different world. All around, I could see the humongous mountains and greenery all around.
At Lukla, our guide Simbir introduced us to our porters - Jagat and Avi. They took care of our luggage, but still, all of us had a small regular backpack. In my backpack, I carried my documents, passport, insurance policy certificate, and other informational documents. I was also carrying a water bottle in it.
With everything set, we headed toward Phakding. The trails were surprisingly narrow, and we passed several villages, notably Chaurikharka. Then we descended to a river bed and followed it to reach Phakding. In Phakding, we stayed at the Khumbu Travel Lodge. I understood that our tour conductor had already reserved rooms for us at that lodge. The lodge provided us with enough food choices, but I decided to taste the local food - rice, vegetable curry, lentils, and tomato pickle. I was surprised at the food choices I had at Phakding.
The actual height difference between Phakding and Lukla is only about 200 meters, but the numerous ups and downs I trekked tired me. I headed to bed quite early at around 9 pm.
The following morning we woke up at around six. We had a delicious breakfast with eggs, toasted bread, and jam. Then we readied ourselves for a trek to Namche Bazaar, which we were told to be around 7.4 kilometers away. But the altitude gain would be about 1,200m.
We followed our guide across a suspension bridge to reach the other side of Phakding. Then came rows of resorts built targeting the Everest region trekkers. After trekking for some time, we reached Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality ticket-checking counter. Fortunately, our guide took care of all the permits, and we just entered. However, that was not the only permit we required. After walking for a few more hours, we reached the Sagarmatha National Park Permit counter, and once more our guide took care of our permits.
The trails had several interspersed suspension bridges as we continued trekking. Just after entering Sagarmatha National Park, our guide pointed to a peak, and that was the first time we saw Mount Everest. I thought it would be quite fitting to take a record of my first encounter with Everest, so I clicked on a few pictures. After stopping for some time on the way, we continued our trek and reached Namche Bazaar.
Throughout the trails, I was also wondering about the number of people on the track. The trekkers seem to have come from every country possible. Later I learned that around forty thousand people come to the Everest region to see Everest.
Hence, the trails were quite busy. However, it was not just the people. There were groups of mules, loaded with supplies, throughout the path. These mules were unpredictable, so our guide suggested we stop and let the mules pass while keeping ourselves on the mountainside.
According to our itinerary, we had to stay for acclimatization at Namche (3,440m). I do think this was essential too. We had already gained a lot of altitude. When I reached Namche, I was surprised by this bustling town. We did get to Namche by around 4 pm and strolled this town.
Of all things, who could have thought that in Namche you could find an Italian cafe, a French bakery, and shops selling mountaineering equipment, including knock-off Northface jackets? Our guide took us to Sakura Guest House for the night.
We had dinner at around seven. Almost all of the tables were full. However, the guest house had reserved us a table. Again, there were ample food choices, from burgers, pasta, thukpa, and momos to lentils, rice, and curry. This time around, we ordered a veg pizza and some veg momos. Our tour guide had advised us against eating meat for hygiene regions.
While at the Guest House, I befriended a couple from London. They told me that they were following the Gokyo route to Everest. And, in fact, they had not taken a flight to Namche. They trekked from a place called Jiri instead.
I and my friend George shared a room with an attached bathroom.
The following morning, I woke up quite late. All of my friends had already woken up. I hurried to finish my morning chores and joined the breakfast. Our guide had already briefed us about the options we had. I and my friends decided to visit the famed villages of Khunde and Khumjung. Both of these villages are located around 4,000m from the sea level, and we were sure this side hike would help us to acclimatize.
We started at around seven thirty, heading north, out of the Namche Bazaar. After trekking for about two hours, we reached Khunde. The first thing that attracted my eyes was the eyes of wisdom at the village stupa. As I entered Khunde, I noticed a humming sound, and I just followed the sound to arrive at a monastery at the top of a ridge near the village. I entered the monastery to find a large number of monks chanting. A few monks were playing Duncan, a Tibetan instrument. After spending around fifteen minutes in the monastery, I came out and realized a unique mountain towering over the valley. My guide, Simbir, told me, “It is the Ama Dablam.”
Our next plan was to visit Khumjung, and we started on the way. I was feeling excited to see the famous Khumjung Monastery and Hillary School. Our guide Simbir led the way along the path across the potato fields. But unfortunately, the monastery was closed, and our hopes of seeing “yeti-scalp” could not come true.
We were back at the Namche at around five pm and spent some time strolling the streets of Namche. Then we returned to our hotel around six and had dinner. After dinner, we had a short chit-chat with our team, including our trek guide and porters. My two friends started playing chess, but I decided to take a rest at around 8 pm.
As per our itinerary, the following day, we left our hotel after breakfast aiming for Tengboche. The trails were very narrow but provided exceptional views of Mt.Everest, Mt. Amadablam, Mt. Tabuche, and on on. We stopped at Kyangjuma for a tea break and then continued through the rhododendron forest to Phunki Tenga, where we had lunch. While on the way to Phunki Tenga, we saw some mountain goats and Himalayan Tahr grazing in the wild. After resting for about an hour after lunch, we continued ascending for two more hours to reach Tengboche.
At Tengboche, we visited the Tengboche monastery. We learned that Tenzing Norgay, one of the first persons on Everest, was raised here. I was awe-struck by the grandness of the Tengboche monastery.
Since it was still afternoon, our guide suggested that we trek forward to Deboche. We listened to him and arrived at Deboche, and stayed at Hotel Good Luck.
The following morning, we woke up quite early and headed to Dingboche. Once again, our guide Simbir was leading. The trek was surprisingly short, as we headed north and arrived at Dingboche before noon. Our tour company had already reserved our stay at Hotel Good Luck. We left our stuff at Hotel Good Luck. Then our lead guide, Simbir, used oximeters to check the oxygen level in our bodies. That action touched us deeply. Thankfully, everyone was just fine.
The next day was an acclimatization day at Dingboche. We had our breakfast, and our team headed to Chhukung height, which was a popular destination among the acclimatizers. From the Chhukung height, we got vivid and stunning views of Amadablam, Lhotse, Tabuche, Thamserku, Nuptse, Peak 38 (7590m), Island peak (6189m), Baruntse (7152 m), Amphula (5630m), and Makalu (8485m). We also witnessed several Himalayan crows, vultures, and some yaks grazing on the pastures.
After spending two nights at Dingboche, it was finally time to move on. We started on our path to Lobuche. It was clear that we had gained considerable altitude as the trail now passed through the grassland. There were some rudimentary shelters, which our guide explained were shelters for yaks for summer.
Moving forward, we reached Thukla, where we had our tea. Then, we found ourselves surrounded by memorials of people who could not succeed in this region. After about an hour of walking, we finally arrived at Lobuche. We were hungry by this time, and our guide took us to Mother Earth House for lunch, and he also told us that we would be staying at this hotel for the night.
Late in the afternoon, after we felt fresh, our guide Simbir suggested we see the Khumbu glacier. So, we started towards a nearby uphill, and from the top, we witnessed the Khumbu Glacier, which looked stunning with a white cover. Then, we returned to our hotel, had dinner, and went to bed in anticipation of the next day- the day when we would reach the Everest Base Camp.
Simbir urged us to start the trek early. Initially, the path was flat, but it elevated afterward, as we followed the Khumbu Glacier to Gorak Shep. In Gorak Shep, we left our luggage at the Buddha Lodge, where we also had our lunch. After lunch, we rested a bit and then followed Simbir to reach the Everest Base Camp. The trail consisted of lots of ups and downs. When we saw the Khumbu Glacier, Simbir announced, “just 30 minutes more, and we will reach EBC!” And after toiling for 30 minutes more, we made it!
I felt quite overwhelmed as I stepped onto Everest Base Camp (EBC). After all, it was my life goal coming true. From the EBC, we could see several snow peaks in addition to Khumbu Glacier. Simbir introduced other mountains to us. We could see Lhotse (8,516m), Makalu (8,485m), Cho Oyo (8,188m), and Ama Dablam (6,812m). We took lots of pictures from the top and then descended back to Gorak Shep.
Sleeping at the Gorak Shep was tough. The temperature was low, so I slept with my clothes on, covering myself with heavy blankets. Simbir had already told us that we had to head to Kala Patthar to watch the sun rising at Everest at 4:45 am the following morning. Sure enough, we all readied ourselves at 4:45 and headed to Kala Patthar View Point (5,555m) with our head torches on.
Kala Patthar was also the highest altitude in our Everest Base Camp trek. It took us about two hours to reach Kala Patthar. It was not at all easy with around 50% oxygen compared to the sea level. But the views from the top were completely worth it. I could see the clear views of Everest right before me. As the sun rose, I could get heavenly glimpses of the morning sunrays coloring the snow peaks around me, including Everest, Pumori, Khumbutse, and Lingtren. We took turns taking pictures of each other and the whole landscape.
After spending quality time at Kala Patthar, we descended to Gorakshep hotel and had breakfast. I was quite happy that the ascending was over, and we would now be returning. We rested for a while and then headed to Pheriche. For lunch, we reached Lobuche, rested for a while, and walked for another three hours to arrive at Pheriche. Simbir took us to the Himalayan Hotel to spend the night.
The following morning, we woke up at Pheriche. It was a cold morning, we learned the valley did not get early light. The early morning cup of tea did not really warm up us. After breakfast, we started on the trail, dropped down to a river, and climbed out of Pheriche. It started to warm up slowly, and the trek to Tengboche was comparatively easy, and we made it to Hotel Good Luck, where we stayed for the night.
When I woke up at Tengboche, the sun was already out. After finishing the morning chores, I hurried to the dining hall and joined my friends for breakfast. At around eight, Simbir signaled to us that it was time to trek back to Namche Bazaar. The mostly downhill trek was quite pleasant, and we mostly passed through a forest. Simbir pointed to some mountain goats along the way. We again stayed at Sakura Guest House for the night.
The next day we started to Namche Bazaar, a bit late and relaxed, knowing that the tough part of the trek was over. The path mostly followed the banks of the Dudh Koshi River, and we crossed several suspension bridges and reached Phakding. We stayed at Khumbu Travel Lodge for the night. The stay was quite comfortable, with a hot bath and a relaxing cup of coffee.
As I woke up at Phakding, I felt a bit sad because this was the last day on the trail. Simbir had already told us that “the trek to Lukla will be short”. We just followed the same path we used at our journey's start. The trail was a bit dry and dusty. When we reached Lukla, we stayed at Comfort Inn. It was not a very happy moment. We had to bid goodbye to our porters. But before saying goodbye, we tipped them as a group and hugged them as a way to show appreciation to them. Without porters, we are sure we could not have completed the trek.
Finally, the day to return to Kathmandu arrived. After breakfast, at around 8:00 am, all our team and guide boarded a plane back to Kathmandu. As the plane was flying, I was a bit emotional, as my mind raced back to the time at the trails - the moments when I felt like quitting, the moments that I enjoyed the triumph, and the moments that surprised and awed me. The forty-minute flight concluded at Kathmandu.
We bid goodbye to our guide, Simbir. But again, Simbir reminded us that we would be meeting one final time for a farewell dinner, and we should all meet at the Discovery World Trekking office at five thirty pm.
Sure enough, at around 6 pm, the CEO of Discovery World Trekking, Paul Gurung, took us to Gokarna House, and we had a traditional Nepali dinner. During the dinner, we shared each other's experiences.
After dinner, Paul presented each of us with a trek achievement certificate. This marked the end of our trek. Paul reminded us that on the trek departure date, Discovery World Trekking will transfer us to the airport. And sure enough, we utilized this service to get back to the airport from our hotel.
All in all, it was a beautiful trek experience. Discovery World Trekking had everything figured out, including the permits, the porters, the hotels, meals, safety precautions, and so on. I would certainly recommend them to all travelers.