We stayed in Tengboche (3867m) for one night. The next morning was perfectly clear and absolutely glorious – Ama Dablam was dominating the skyline and you could see the wind blowing the snow off the top of Mt Everest in the distance.
There are two routes up to Base Camp – Boy and I went via Dingboche (4252m). Again, it took about six hours to hike up. We stayed in Dingboche for two nights to include another acclimatisation day. It was a good thing as well because I was beginning to feel unwell. Quite a few people have asked me if I had any problems with the altitude on this hike and the answer is yes; I lost my appetite, I had headaches and nausea, and I began to feel very negative about the entire experience. I was taking Diamox every day to help alleviate the symptoms, but the only thing that “cures” altitude sickness is rest. You can’t ascend if you’re feeling unwell and, if after a day of rest you still don’t feel well, you have to descend. Luckily, after a night of sleep and a decent meal (that I didn’t want to eat), I felt well enough the next morning to do a day trip up to another peak, and by the next day, I was feeling well enough to continue on with the journey. Dingboche wasn’t a particularly exciting town, but there were magnificent views and a good selection of lodges to stay in.
After Dingboche, you head up to Lobuche (4930m). Upon arrival in Lobuche, you have to pay for your accommodation at a tollbooth before being allowed to enter into the town. Boy and I paid 500Rs for a double room. The men in the booth then give you a pink ticket, which you take to any lodge and that is how accommodation is paid in Lobuche. This was the only village (on both Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit) we stayed in that had this setup. We stayed at the ‘Oxygen’ lodge, based on a recommendation from a fellow Kiwi hiker we passed by, and it turned out to be worthwhile. It was the busiest lodge on the entire on the entire hike! Eating a good meal and having a decent night sleep here is key because the next day is the hike to Base Camp. A leaving time of about 6:00am is recommended so, naturally, Boy and I were on the road by 7:30am (which is pretty standard for us).
The village you stay in as your base for Base Camp is called Gorak Shep (5164m) and it’s a relatively short five-hour hike from Lobuche. We arrived about 12:00pm, got rid of our gear, had lunch, and then set off for Everest Base Camp. Base Camp is about two hours from Gorak Shep and it’s a fairly easy walk – to be honest, it’s one of the easier legs of the hike. Flat and short – it’s a kind respite after walking uphill for seven days straight!
We arrived at Everest Base Camp at about 2:30pm on 21 May. It’s 5364m high. It was a strange moment. After seven days of hiking uphill, you would think that the journey would be complete but when you see the sea of yellow tents in the background, you realise that, for lots of people, getting to Base Camp is only the beginning. For me, the satisfaction of the journey comes from being able to gaze up at the world’s tallest mountain, and know that you are in a part of the world that many others have never been to. Others may disagree...
We hiked back to Gorak Shep for dinner, and to get an early night, because our biggest day was still ahead of us.
What you do, after hiking to Everest Base Camp (because that isn’t enough of a challenge) is get up at 4:00am the next morning to do a quick two-hour side trip up to Kala Pattar (5545m). It was bloody difficult to get up and going at that hour, but it was so worth it. Watching the sunrise over Mt Everest isn’t something you want to miss out on and, even though we didn’t make it up to the very top in time for the sunrise, it was still spectacular. What surprised Boy and I about this particular side trip was how quickly people cleared out after arriving. We stayed at the tope for about 40 minutes to look at the view, take photos, and enjoy the fact that we were about 2000m higher than Mt Cook! Everyone else seemed to arrive, take their photos, and shoot back down. We couldn’t figure out what the rush was – how many times in your life are you going to have the opportunity to watch the sun rise over Mt Everest?!?
I’ll end this post here. We still have over half of this day to finish yet…it may provide a clue as to why people hurried back down after reaching Kala Pattar…
Bye for now,