My Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek began in Kathmandu on the 11th April 2017. I arrived at my hostel and immediately started talking to a few people who had just finished trekking, or were just preparing to start. One of these guys was Ruben from Spain. He and his friend were planning on doing the Annapurna Circuit, but after hearing about A French guys experience trekking EBC solo, they were starting to think about doing EBC instead. The French guy had convinced me, so while Ruben tried to make up his mind, I started buying the necessary equipment over the following three days.
Having just spent four months in South East Asia, I didn’t really have appropriate gear for the trek. In Thamel, the backpacker area of Kathmandu, there is trekking shops everywhere. I spent approximately $100USD on the following;
- Dual layer jacket (thermal inner layer and waterproof outer layer) 2,000Rs
- Waterproof Northface gloves 500Rs
- Moisture-wicking long sleeve Northface shirts (2x500Rs) 1,000Rs
- Trekking Poles 700Rs
- Lightweight zip-of trousers (Northface) 900Rs
- Waterproof thermal trousers 1,000Rs
- Nepalese beanie 150Rs
- Extra socks (1 pair) 300Rs
- Head torch with batteries 700Rs
- Food snacks, first aid and toiletries 3,000Rs
This was in addition to supplies I already had, including my backpack, sleeping bag, socks, underwear, one t-shirt, etc.
The best advice for anyone doing trekking in Nepal is buy your gear in Nepal and negotiate heavily. For a comprehensive cost guide, see here.
During the days of shopping around, we had a welcome interruption, on the 13th/14th April with celebrations for Nepali New Year, to bring in the year 2074.
On the 14th April, with Ruben and his friend leaning towards doing Annapurna, I decided to just go ahead and book my flight to Lukla, to go solo and hope to meet others along the way.
I booked the flight for 9.30am on the 15th (return flights cost 32,240Rs). I was given the option of flying in a helicopter for an extra 5,000Rs, but declined – I was al;ready spending way too much on the flights. However, four hours later at 6pm, the travel agent tracked me down to tell me that my flight was canceled and I would be leaving in a helicopter at 6am for the same price!
The only thing I didn’t have time to do in Kathmandu was to get the TIMS (Tourist Information Management Sytem) card and National Park Permit required for the trek, but I was told I would be able to arrange this in Lukla.
So the night before my flight I said goodbye to the others, packed my bag and went to bed to get some sleep before my 4.30am alarm.
When I woke up, I took my pack downstairs with four bags of things I would leave behind in Kathmandu. I got a taxi to the airport where I met the guy arranging the chopper, as well as Julia and Katherine (U.K) and their guide who had also been surprised with a helicopter flight in lieu of a plane.
As we waited in the domestic terminal for an hour, monkeys ran amok inside and thunder and lightning raged outside. Though some early flights were delayed, once the weather cleared our helicopter was ready for take-off.
After paying a 200Rs departure tax (I thought it was a scam at the time, still unsure) we were shuffled into a truck and driven across the airfield to the helicopter area. Katherine and their guide sat in the front alongside the pilot, while Julia and I were in the back. As it turned out, this was a cargo flight, so we were surrounded by boxes and boxes of apples!
It was my first time in a helicopter, and the take-off and quick turn was awesome. We flew over the hills and the mountains for about 30 minutes before Lukla came into view. Watching a plane take-off as we approached to land was impressive. The runway stops at the edge of the cliff and there is no margin for error.
Our chopper went in to land in a small plot where there were four other choppers were preparing for take-off, only a few metres clearance between them.
When we landed, we waited for the apples to be removed and then did the classic evacuation, with hand on hat and ducking as we ran. I picked up my gear and got pointed down Lukla ‘Main Street’.
It looked like a classic hillside village, but was surprisingly well developed with lodges and stone paving and walls. Before the end of the main street I registered with the tourist police, who asked for details of my cameras (?), then I was off along the trail.
The first leg of the trip was to Phakding, 3hrs away. Along the walk I met another solo trekker, Ella from Poland. We hiked the remaining distance to Phakding together. She was already four days into her trek, having started in Jiri and avoided the Lukla flight, so she gave me some good advice for the journey ahead. When we reached Phakding, we had lunch together and I found accommodation at a lodge for the night. Ella pushed on to Monjo whilst I stayed to aclimatise.
While hanging out in the lodge I started talking with a few different people, one of whom was Pat from Australia who had been living in Japan for years. As it turned out, we knew many of the same people from Minakami, Japan where I lived for 6 months in 2016.
For dinner, I had the famous dal baht set, and then went to bed at 8pm, after ordering my breakfast for 6.30am the next morning.
After breakfast, I settled my bill and took off alongside Petrina (Aus) and her guide (who I had also met the night before).
The hike started off much like the previous days, with a fairly developed path and numerous small villages along the way. After about 90 minutes, we reached the TIMS checkpoint, where I paid 2,000Rs for my TIMS card.
Another 30 minutes along the trail, I came across the permit checkpoint in Monjo, which cost me another 3,390Rs.
The going started to get particularly tough now, steep paths with no leveling out. I crossed the highest bridge on the trail, passing a yak train as I crossed. 30 minutes beyond the next checkpoint, I reached Namche Bazaar and rolled into Valley View Lodge at 12.30pm, passing Ella from the day earlier on the way. I had vegetables with fried noodles for lunch, then a four hour nap and a dal baht dinner before going to bed early again.
I woke up around 7am and had a museli bar and cup of lemon tea for breakfast. After breakfast I indulged in a ‘wet wipe shower’, given the cost of the hot showers in Namche were 500Rs and poor quality from all reports. I had become accustomed to the ‘wet wipe shower’ during my one week Gobi Desert trip in Mongolia last October.
It is recommended to do a hike to a higher altitude on the acclimatization days and then return to sleep at a lower altitude. I hiked up the the Everest view point where there was also a visitor centre and a sherpa museum which was interesting.
I returned back to the village for a coffee and also planned my days ahead, then I went back to the lodge for a vegetable fried rice lunch.
At 3pm, Liquid Bar in Namche was showing the movie ‘Everest’ So I made the most of the opportunity there to charge my phones for free (with purchase of a Bounty).
That night I was the only one in my lodge, so I finished reading my book and was in bed by 9pm.
In the morning after a breakfast of museli and hot milk, I took off at 7am. Just as I got outside the town, I met a Chinese guy from Shanghai. We walked together for an hour, until the path split. He was heading for Gokyo while I was going for Tengboche. Another hour along, I met a Hungarian guy named Hunor, who I walked the final 2km into Tengboche with. 2Km sounds short, but the elevation increased by 500m over this 2km, it was like climbing a staircase.
At 11am we reached Tengboche, where I found a room at trekkers lodge, on a hilltop overlooking the valley. For lunch I had spaghetti with tomato sauce and cheese, and met when Hunor left for Pangboche after lunch, I met Petrina again in Trekkers lodge, as well as Zoe (Singapore).
That afternoon we went to the Monastery where the monks were conducting a prayer ceremony. Afterwards we played cards and hung out in the lodge until dinner before another early night.
After another muesli breakfast, I left Tengboche at 7.30am, my latest departure time so far. The hike wasn’t too difficult up until it split for Pheriche or my destination, Dingboche. Then it plunged down into a valley where the Himalayan wind was freezing. I crossed a river and then it was a bit of a steep climb back up before leveling out on the last kilometre into Dingboche.
My earlier plan was to spend two nights in Pheriche and a night in Dughla, but on hearing most people were staying in Pheriche on the way back, and Dingboche on the way up, I decided to do the same. Dingboche is a slightly higher altitude than Pheriche, so I didn’t need the night in Dughla and could continue directly to Luboche after leaving Dingboche after two nights.
I came into Dingboche just behind Zoe and her guide, who suggested I follow them and see if their lodge has a room for me.
The room was free as long as I ate my meals there, so I had fried potatoes with vegetables for lunch. While eating lunch the Hungarian Hunor walked past, so I called him in and he found a room there as well.
Hunor, Zoe and I went to the local bakery to watch the ‘Everest’ movie (again). For 500Rs I also got a piece of cake and free charging of my phone, I also claimed Hunor’s charging rights for my Sony camera when he ordered cake but didn’t need to charge anything.
After the movie it was back to the lodge, where the three of us with Zoe’s guide played cards. After dinner I got talking to a Swede and his Sherpa guide. The Swede was on his way to climb to the summit of Everest and the Sherpa would go with him all the way. The Sherpa had already summitted once (other times he needed to turn back early with clients) and had some very interesting stories about the climb.
For my rest day, I hiked up the nearby mountain in Dingboche, which was 400m – 500m higher than Dingboche. As I was approaching the top, a lot of cloud rolled in, so I decided to turn back just short of the top.
I went back to the lodge for lunch, and then again to the Bakery for a movie, this time ‘7 Years in Tibet’ with Petrina and Shane from Ireland who I’d met in Tengboche.
On day 7 I woke up at 6am, packed my bag and went to the dining room for a breakfast of baked beans on toast. Today the plan was to hike to Luboche at an altitude of approx. 4,900m. All mornings leading up to this point were clear and blue skies, but visibility this morning was 30m with dense fog. A few people mentioned bad weather (snow) further up the trail, and that they were turning back early. When I got on the trail at 8am, there was still a lot of people around.
The scenery had changed quite a bit now. There were no more trees, only rocky rivers, snowcapped mountains and small shrubs on the mountainside. As the morning wore on, the weather started to clear up.
The hike was pretty easy going up until Dughla, where some stone steps led up 300m. After conquering these steps, it was another 30 minutes walk on a gradual incline up to Luboche, arriving at 11am.
In Luboche there’s a ticket office where you have to pay 500Rs which will include lodge accommodation.
Back in Dingboche, I had asked th lodge to call ahead to Luboche for me to reserve a room. They told me they would do so, and the lodge would be Oxygen Lodge. However the ticket office had no record of my booking there. I managed to get the last room at Alpine XV Lodge, while some who walked in after me were turned away.
As it turned out, I knew a few others staying there. After lunch Shane, Petrina and I went to another movie screening at the bakery. But because there was no sun and no solar power, there was no movie. Just before heading back to the lodge it started to snow for the first time during the trek.
The snow continued for a few hours as we played cards (Shane, Petrina, Anessa, KK and I).
During and after dinner the talk was about how the snow would impact tomorrows trek to Gorakshep and then on to base camp. Accommodation in Gorakshep was also a concern for me. Again I asked the lodge owner to call ahead and book me a room. Again he said he would but never did.
Today I woke up before my alarm (again) thanks to a Sherpa hacking up a lung. I decided to just get up and managed to get my breakfast a little early. I left just after Petrina and her guide, but managed to catch up to them after 30 minutes.
The weather was clear and the snow was very manageable – it had stopped during the night. It only took us two hours to reach Gorakshep. The second lodge I asked for a room at had one for me for only 200Rs.
After a quick break and emptying most of the gear from my pack (so I could take the pack to EBC) I took off for EBC with Petrina at 9am. It was a fairly easy hike to EBC now that I had unloaded most of my gear. It was a weight off my shoulders also to have found a room in Gorakshep.
As we neared base camp, the summit came into view and then passed behind some other closer peaks. We headed down onto the glacier atop which base camp sits and stopped at th Stupa with prayer flags. After 8 days I had made it to Everest Base Camp!
We hung around base camp for 30 minutes looking for the Australian camp (couldn’t find one and since learned maybe there isn’t one this year). It was quite strange to be on a glacier surrounded by ice. Small frozen lakes, and the rocky base with solid ice underneath was something I’d never seen or experienced before.
We started our hike back to Gorakshep just as some cloud started to roll in. I heard what sounded like thunder, turned around to face some mountains and witnessed an avalanche! I also saw a second one 20 minutes later. It was awesome to see (and thankfully far from EBC).
As we got closer to Gorakshep it started to snow. It was perfect timing for Petrina and I, but most people were only just heading to EBC now, so they were getting caught up in the snow. I had a nap that afternoon (I made a good habbit of this most days), and when dinnertime came around in the lodge, it was chaotic. 100+ people were squashed into a lodge designed for half that number, but we were all in it together.
View the EBC album here.
I awoke at 4.30am after a terrible nights sleep – it is difficult to sleep at altitude. I got up to hike to Kala Pathar for sunrise views of Everest. It wasn’t looking promising, it was very cloudy and poor visibility. After hiking up a few hundred metres and waiting until 6.30am, I decided to head back to the lodge for breakfast. I paid my bill, and was away at 7.30am back down the trail towards Pheriche this time.
The snow kicked in and started to come down quite heavily. I took a break at the bakery in Dughla, at which time the snow went to another level. As I neared Pheriche it turned to rain before easing altogether.
I went to Panorama Lodge for lunch, still considering walking further to Tengboche in the afternoon. In the end, I decided to stay in Pheriche that night due to the poor weather and a slightly sore shoulder.
My plan for the following day was for an early start and at least make it to Namche, but hopefully further. I really wanted to fly out of Lukla on day 11, but it was quite far, 37km’s away.
I had dinner and ordered breakfast for the morning. While chatting the to lodge owner about my plans, he told me he sometimes walks to Lukla in a day, so it would be possible for me too.
I got out of Pheriche before 7am, passed through Tengboche around 10am and then continued on to Namche.
As I arrived in Namche, I was debating wether to walk further or not, it was only 12;30pm after all. All of the restaurants were down in the town, though if I continued walking I would bypass them (and save time).
I met a French guy who just happened to be leaving Namche for Lukla at that time. Though we didn’t walk together for long, it encouraged me to continue walking. I had my last four muesli bars for lunch and pushed on.
Just before I reached Monjo, I called the travel agent to book my flight for the following morning, preferably late morning in case I didn’t make it all the way to Lukla in one day.
When I got to the Monjo checkpoint, at 2pm the army officer told me it was 3 hours to Phakding and 6 hours to Lukla. I knew I was faster than these times, but today I had already done 24km and I was feeling it. The soldiers words were less than encouraging. Nevertheless, I kept walking, to Phakding at least.
I got to Phakding around 4pm, it had been a real slog and my body was aching all over. It had taken me two hours from Monjo, not three hours, so I figured Lukla was also only two more hours away.
I remebered the Lukla – Phakding stretch on day 1 to have been quite easy. I had been telling myself for days that if I made it to Phakding, no matter the circumstances I would continue to Lukla. Turns out I remembered it being easy because it was mostly downhill, meaning this time it was mostly uphill.
It was by far the toughest stretch of the day and I could feel the blisters on my feet as I slowly shuffled into town just before 7pm.
I found a lodge close to the airport for 300Rs and my flight had been confirmed for 9am the following morning. I had garlic soup and momos for dinner and then collapsed on my bed, fully clothed.
I woke up and hd some breakfast before heading to the airport. It was lucky I had made it to Lukla, because I now couldn’t walk very fast at all; trying to go easy on my body and feet in particular. I met a few familiar faces in the airport, (Andy & Larissa – NZ) and the French guy from Namche. The Frenchie and I were in the same plane, flying on Sikrim Air instead of our Sita Air booking for some reason (later found out Sita Air were a plane short after a crash!).
We got on the plane just after 9am and took off down the runway, with the entire plane shaking. There’s a point in the runway where the plane tilts down at what feels like 30 degrees (I think its more like 12) as it picks up speed before plunging off the cliff.
Frenchie and I shared a cab back to Thamel and I made it back to my hostel, where it all began.