Departed 11th May 2019
Leader: Phil Kirk
Back down in Lukla, the team will fly back to Kathmandu tomorrow.
The team have trekked back down to Namche Bazaar where they are looking forward to a shower and hot chocolate.
Congratulations to the team on reaching Everest Base Camp!
Some of the team (Liz, Nathan, Bob and Richard) climbed Kala Patthar this morning and whilst it was still dark they spied some torches on the south ridge of Everest and moving through the Khumbu icefall.
They will spend another night in Gorak Shep tonight before heading down the valley, where they will meet Charles and Doug who set off earlier in the day.
Lobuche – Gorak Shep
The day started much as the previous day had finished – following the glacier, squeezed between the moraine and the hillside. Expecting the chill of the night before, we began well wrapped up, but were soon shedding layers under the intense Himalayan sunshine. As we climbed steadily, the terrain opened out until we were surrounded by high peaks. Ahead of us rose the giant wall of peaks that form the border between Nepal and Tibet, and standing centrally like a sentry the beautiful conical shape of Pumo Ri looked down. Once again the very tip of Everest appeared from behind Nuptse.
Climbing the rough trail onto the Changri Glacier, we got our first view of the Khumbu Glacier which we had been following. Pools of teal green meltwater dotted the ice, and rubble pulled from the sides of the mountains as the glacier flowed. Rounding a corner, our views extended further up the glacier to where the white ice lay bare, above which could be seen the bright orange tents of Everest Base Camp. Above us helicopters buzzed back and forth, bringing climbers and supplies to the camp.
The trail across the Changri Glacier is not long, but it is fairly rough, undulating and meandering. With tired legs above 5000m for the first time, we arrived into the small hamlet of Gorak Shep.
Having arrived into Gorak Shep this lunchtime, the team are going to have a relaxed afternoon before walking the final few hours up to Everest Base Camp tomorrow. Watch this space!
Dingboche – Lobuche
Leaving Dingboche we made good progress along the relatively flat trail up the valley, passing above the village of Pheriche. Behind us Ama Dablam struck a striking pose, even more beautiful from a distance. After a couple of hours a wooden bridge took us over the melt water flowing from the Khumbu Glacier, and into the village of Dhukla, where we lunched on egg and chips.
As the path led out of Dhukla, the trail kicked up for 200m to reach the Dhukla Pass. At sea level this incline would be a doddle, but at the same altitude as the summit of Mont Blanc, the ascent was quite a challenge.
Atop the pass there are memorials to those who have died on Everest – a stark reminder of the seriousness of the landscape around us. From here the trail levelled out once more as we followed the Khumbu glacier, hidden behind the high moraine to our right. Before too long we came into the village of Lobuche, tucked into an alcove in the hillside.
Rest Day at Dingboche
After the exertions of the previous two days, the group was looking forward to regaining some strength before pushing on upwards towards Base Camp. Some of us took things easy with a stroll around the village, while those with a little more energy ascended a short way to the ridge just above the village. For their efforts they were rewarded with stunning views up the valley to Island Peak, and across to Ama Dablam. By the afternoon the whole group sat in one of the shiny new cafes, drinking lattes, eating cake, and charging phones. Luxury!
Pangboche – Dingboche
When we awoke, the clouds from the previous days had cleared, leaving a perfect blue sky. Above us, silhouetted by the morning sun, loomed the huge shape of Ama Dablam. One of the world’s most beautiful mountains, her head and shoulders cast a striking figure.
The trail from the village stuck close to the river. Ahead of us Everest could be seen, peeking above the massive bulk of Nuptse and Lhotse – the jet stream pullling a plume of snow from the summit. Gradually the steep sided valley, shaped by the flowing waters of the river, gave way to more open terrain, ground out by a glacier. Every so often we pulled to the side of the trail in order to get out of the way of the yak trains descending from base camp – nobody wants to come face to face with those horns!
Arriving into the village of Dingboche in time for lunch, Everest had ducked behind Nuptse, and Ama Dablam, high on our right hand side, gradually turned her face until she appeared as a near perfect pyramid. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing before another filling dinner, topped off by apple pies and deep fried mars bars!
Namche – Pangboche
We awoke to blue skies and stunning views – truely our first views of the high Himalaya. As we started the climb from the natural amphitheatre of Namche Bazaar, we were glad of the acclimatisation and the recovery that our rest day had given us.
The trail soon flattened out and the clouds rolled in, but just before they did, we got our first glimpse of Chomolungma (known to most people as Mt. Everest) far in the distance, along side its neighbouring 8000m peak of Lhotse.
For a while we followed the contours of the valley, before starting our descent to the river far below. As we dropped in altitude the hillside became blanketed in trees – a mixture of pine, copper birch, and the beautiful rhododendron trees in bloom, that would accompany us for most of the rest of the day.
Every metre we descended towards the river we did knowing that we would have to make it back up – ahead was the 600m climb to the Monastery of Tengboche, high on the ridge in front of us. After a leisurely stop for lunch by the river, we crossed the bridge and started up. After two hours of steady climbing we reached the beautiful monastery, wreathed in cloud.
After catching our breath, there was enough time to look around the Buddhist temple, with its large golden Buddha, and walls covered in murals depicting bodhisattvas, dharma protectors, hungry ghosts, and the various realms that we may be reborn into until we escape the cycle of death and rebirth and attain Nirvana.
From Tengboche we passed through another rhododendron forest, before making the climb up to Pangboche – our destination for the night. As we did so the trees shrunk to scrubby bushes, the terrain becoming more arid as we ascended. Eventually, after one of the longest days of the trek, we collapsed into the dining room of the teahouse to eat our bodyweight in dal bhat (rice and lentils, the national dish of Nepal).
We woke up to a sky full of clouds this morning. With a rest day planned, and no mountain vistas to rush off to see, we took things easy and enjoyed a late start. Rather than heading to the viewpoint where it is possible to catch a glimpse of Everest on a clear day, we instead climbed the 300m up to Syangbouche. Namche’s amphitheatre spread out below us as we climbed the steep paths bordered by fragrant juniper bushes. Although breathing was a bit like hard work, it wasn’t long before we reached Syangbouche’s tiny airstrip, whose bumpy and rocky runway makes Lukla look like Heathrow. There we came across a large group of yaks, waiting patiently to transport the building materials that were being deposited by helicopter. With photos taken we headed down to the Sherpa museum before lunch. The afternoon was spent reading, eating cake, and browsing the thanka paintings and yak wool blankets at the many shops in town. What more could you want from a rest day (apart from some views)?!
We awoke to clear skies, and stunning views of snow capped mountains above the green slopes that rose up high above us. After a hearty breakfast we set off for what we knew was to be a more challenging day. To begin with, our route followed the river, zig zagging across the powerful waters of the Dudh Kosi (milk river – so called because of the glacial minerals which turn the waters a creamy colour) via a series of long steel bridges that bounced under foot as we marched along them. After another early lunch in Jorsale, we passed through the Sagarmatha National Park entrance and over the bridge decorated in prayer flags and white scarves that marks the entrance to the Khumbu region. From here on the path rises steeply. As we ascended, our lungs made us aware for the first time of the altitude we were at. With bistari bistari (slowly slowly) in our thoughts, we ascended to the Sherpa capital: Namche Bazaar.
The clouds had been steadily building throughout the day, and as we circumambulated the large stupa at the bottom of the town we felt the first drips of an afternoon shower. Tomorrow we look forward to a rest day, and a view of the mountains which lurk unseen behind the clouds.
The day started pretty early to make the drive to Ramechhap for the flight to Lukla – these flights normally go directly from Kathmandu, but this season maintainence work being carried out on Kathmandu’s airport means this isn’t possible. The long drive was made up for in part by the beautiful sunrise we experienced en route.
Once we reached Ramechhap it was time for the short but exciting flight to Lukla on a tiny 15 seater aeroplane. Once in the air, the flight attendant came round to hand out cotton wool to block out the noise of the two propeller engines, and a boiled sweet each. For twenty minutes we glided over the tops of ridges covered in blooming rhododendron trees, before touching down on Lukla’s tiny airstrip, balanced high on the slopes of the steep sided valley.
With apprehensions about the flight laid to rest, and after an early lunch, we set out for the gentle walk down across steep wooded slopes to the river at the valley’s bottom. With clouds huddled around the higher slopes, our route passed more rhododendrons and the occasional thicket of bamboo as it twisted around the many beautiful mani stones – huge boulders carved with inscriptions in Tibetan, and painted black and white. Along the way we came face to face with our first train of dzopkios (cow/yak half breeds), returning to Lukla having dropped their loads further up the valley. Any creature with such large and pointy horns automatically gets right of way, so stepping gingerly to one side we allowed them to pass before carrying on up the valley to Phakding, where we would spend our first night.
Following the early morning flight the trek is underway – first stop Phakding, which is a few hours’ walk along the trail from Lukla. Full update to follow!
The team arrived into Kathmandu airport mid morning. Tired from the jetlag and a night on a aeroplane, it was straight back to the hotel for a shower and a couple of hours rest. Feeling refreshed, we headed out into the bustling streets of Thamel to get the last few essentials needed before starting the trek. With diamox and down booties in hand it was time to head off to our welcome dinner, where we ate course after course of traditional Neplai food, acompanied by a bottle or two of Everest beer, and were treated to a fine display of Nepali dancing. What could be a better welcome to Nepal?
Everyone on the morning flight has arrived into Kathmandu safely, just Charles arriving this evening. We have a Nepali cultural evening with music, dancing and dinner this evening, before an early start to travel to Ramechhap for the flight to Lukla.
Update – everyone has arrived and they have enjoyed the evening!