Mt Everest Base Camp Part One: Lukla to Tengboche

I’m on the train heading to Stansted airport. Today is a day of firsts; first time flying out of Stansted, first trip to Cologne, and – perhaps, most excitingly – first ever flight with Ryan Air! I’ve heard lots of reviews – most of them bad – but I’m not going to prejudge them.*

Our hike to Everest Base Camp was our first ever hike in Nepal, first ever hike at altitude, and (obviously) my first ever hike to Everest Base Camp. A few fun facts:

  • The hike is in Sagarmatha National Park
  • People from this region are called Sherpa, which means ‘Easterner’
  • Mt Everest is known as Chomolungma in Tibetan
  • Mt Everest is 8848 metres in height and (South) Base Camp is at 5364 metres

Before I launch in, I have to thank my Uncle Geoff. His travels to Nepal provided Boy and I with so much knowledge about the hike, his contacts in Kathmandu arranged our flights and itinerary – thank you Janga (Firante Treks) – and made our trip to Nepal so much more wonderful. So, thank you Geoff for everything.

Part One of this little series is Lukla to Tengboche.

It took seven days to hike from Lukla to Base Camp, three days to hike back down to Namche Bazaar, three days to hike out to Thame and back (which was a side trip), and one (very long) day to hike from Namche back out to Lukla.  

Most people, including Boy and I, start the hike by flying into Lukla from Kathmandu. Our flight was the second of the day; 7:30am. The plane was the smallest I’ve ever been on. It seated 14 passengers, one flight attendant, and the Pilot and First Officer. Rather than allocate seats on these flights, they hand you a general boarding pass. If you ever fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, MUSCLE YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT OF THE PLANE. Flying into and out of Lukla is, apparently, the most dangerous take off/landing in the world. The runway is incredibly short because it has been built into the side of a mountain.  If you’re seated at the front of the plane you get to watch it! Boy and I sat at the front of the plane and it was totally worth – I was genuinely scared we were going to fly into the side of the mountain. Obviously we didn’t because the pilots know what they’re doing.

We arrived in Lukla (which, surprisingly, has a Starbucks), had breakfast at a lodge, and set off for Phakding (2652m). I felt the change in altitude immediately. The altitude, combined with my general lack of fitness and strength, made it a tough six hour day. The lodge we stayed in was called Phakding Lodge and the hosts were lovely (like all Nepali people we met). It was warm, the bed was comfy, and the food was good. Because we were hiking at the tail end of the season, the lodge was fairly empty. This meant we were able to get to know the host that evening. We learned that there is a type of animal called “Zopke” which is a cross breed of a cow and a yak, at the end of May a marathon from Base Camp to Lukla is held, and that Sir Edmund Hillary is revered as a God in Sagarmatha (seriously, every lodge we stayed in had a portrait of him).

snack break on the way to phakding

snack break on the way to phakding

No amount of hiking practice could have prepared me Day Two; Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3446m). It was so difficult. It is meant to take an average hiker about five hours. It took Boy and I eight. It is an unrelenting, uphill climb and I made the mistake of walking too quickly and needing to stop for breaks. Pro tip: trudge. Walk slower than you usually would and try your best not to stop. I was so happy to arrive in Namche Bazaar – it felt like I had just run a half marathon. We were absolutely shattered but, luckily, we were in Namche for two night guys because we needed to acclimatise. We stayed at the Khumbu Lodge right in the middle of town and, again, it was brilliant. Hot showers, good food, warm room. You have to stay in Namche Bazaar for two nights to acclimatise. There are several good side trips to do in Namche, and lots of nice sights to see.  Our second day in Namche Bazaar was my birthday, and we celebrated with a slice of apple pie! Not a bad place to spend my 24th.

After your day of rest, the next stop is Tengboche (3867m). It takes about six hours to walk there. Tengboche was my favourite town along this hike, and, to be honest with you, it was my favourite place in all of Nepal. Tengboche has the largest Buddhist monastery in Sagarmatha, you get your first glimpse of Everest, and Ama Dablam towers over you. It was absolutely stunning, and I felt at peace there. You’re allowed to sit in on the Monastery’s daily meditation in the morning or evening. It takes about an hour but, be warned, you have to sit on thin foam mats and its impolite to move your legs around while the monks are chanting. Be prepared for pins and needles!

Dawa Choling Gompa, also known as tengboche monastery. you aren't permitted to take photos inside, so this is as close as you can get! 

Dawa Choling Gompa, also known as tengboche monastery. you aren't permitted to take photos inside, so this is as close as you can get! 

We stayed in Tengboche for one night before heading up to Dingboche. That’s where I’ll pick up next week’s post.

I’ve tried to keep this post as brief as possible. If hiking to Everest Base Camp is something you’ve always thought about doing, I suggest that do it. The scenery is spectacular, the people are kind, and you won’t regret it.

Bye for now,

Kat.

*The flight with RyanAir was fine! No complaints from me.