MEET THE CAST
Guide: Basu, aka Mountain Tiger, 31, has been trekking up and down the Himalayas since he was 15 years old.
Porters: Santosh, the joker, 20, has been to Everest base camp 6 times.
Tilak, the strong, 22, he carries the most weight and never makes a sound!
Trekkers: Yoho, Dal Bhat Power, 31, owner of Adventure Taiwan, lives on Dal Bhat only!
Jojo, aka Madam, 35, loves the power pose!
Tash, the sickling, 34, can hike to EBC even with a cold!
Jim, the snapster, 35, he took so many pics that the trip was delayed an entire day.
Friends along the way:
Martin and Rebecca: Father and Daughter from Adelaide, Australia
Archy: Originally from Northern India, now lives in Austin, Texas
Linda: From Malaysia
NOTE: In order to speed up the process, the following is written directly out of my journal that I wrote in each night along the trek to Everest base camp. I have edited very minimally so I apologize in advance for the rough edges. Deal with it!!
Day 1 – Flight to Lukla airport, followed by a 3 hour hike to Phakding (8699 ft)
We left at 5 am from our hotel in Kathmandu with our guide from Nepal Hiking Team, Basu. Arriving at a small airport to catch our 6 am flight. The weather was bad in Lukla (low visibility and cloudy) so we waited until 10:30 for our weather window. This gave us a good opportunity to talk with Basu and get to know him. Although Yoho’s english was limited we got to know him better too. Yoho is a trekking guide in Taiwan and he owns his own business called Adventure Taiwan. He didn’t use a porter so he was carrying his own bags while learning the route to Everest Base Camp. We also met an Australian man, Martin who we had seen at our hotel that morning. He came over and introduced himself and we chatted for a while. Little did we know that we were going to be running into him and his group of four almost everyday along our trek!
Finally, the airport announced “all flights to Lukla board your aircraft”. It was a mad rush as about 75 people were scurrying around the gates. Within 20 minutes we were on the plane and ready to go. The airplane was very small and held about 18 people including the two pilots and flight attendant.
It was exciting being in a plane so small but going on an adventure so big. I sat in the front row and I was able to see out of the cockpit windows. The inside gave me a glimpse at how even an old plane can be so complicated. But on the other hand, the two pilots made preparing for takeoff look as simple as driving a car. After takeoff, I could see large clouds rising vertically, looking like large billowy fingers poking out of the glowing white clouds below. As we would fly near or thru these “fingers” the tiny plane would rock and move up and down quick enough to make your heart skip a beat. There were even a couple of times I felt like grabbing my seat. Unfortunately the clouds were too thick to catch a good view of the Himalayas, but we were lucky to have a clear runway to land on. I could see the runway even though the pilot eventually closed the see through curtain as we landed. The runway looked miniature and it felt as though we were moving way too fast for a safe landing. We were impressed at how smooth the pilot landed the plane.
As I looked out the window I realized just how steep the runway is. According to wikipedia the grade is 11.7%! Exiting the plane we caught views of the massive mountains surrounding the Lukla airport. All of the mountains were lush with green trees and waterfalls covering their surfaces. As we walked through the exit gate with a sign welcoming us to the Tenzing-Hillary airport, I felt a sense of awe knowing that I could be walking in the footsteps of many amazing adventurers.
Soon after arrival we met our two porters Santosh and Tilak. We had a quick lunch with tea while watching a few of the small planes come and go. Then we watched a wall of rain creep across the tarmac while airport personnel scurried for shelter and that marked the end of arrivals for the day. We waited a little longer for the heavy rain to dissipate before we started our trek.
After putting our rain gear on we stepped out onto the trail and took our first of many steps. Walking past porters and beautiful small buildings lining our way, we eventually hit a trail made with rock from the hillsides. Most of our hike was downhill with a few steep inclines toward the end of the day. A suspension bridge linked our path across a large ravine, bouncing up and down as we traveled across. We passed many porters carrying large baskets or loads in which they used straps affixed to their foreheads with rope and fabric. We also passed numerous Dzo’s, our guide told us to call them (this is how it sounds) Joke-u’s, which are a hydrid of a cow and a yak. After walking for 2 hours and 45 minutes we arrived in Phakding. We stayed in a nice guesthouse called the “Beer Garden”, where we had our own room with two beds and a private bathroom.
Day 2– Trek to Namche Bazaar (11,283 ft)
I woke up at 2 am from the sound of heavy rain. Tash woke up in the middle of the night to the loudest thunder she has ever heard. In the morning at breakfast other people were commenting on it and they confirmed that it was the loudest they had ever heard as well. I didn’t hear it 🙂 Apparently the rain didn’t stop all night as it rained for the first hour while eating and packing up. Nevertheless, we suited up and began our trek in the rain. Tash was still feeling sick, but slightly better than the day before. After crossing three suspension bridges and two hours of hiking up and down we stopped for a tea break. The three of us were all soaked and slightly disappointed in our gear. At least we stayed warm while moving. We crossed many streams and rivers along the way, sometimes on well-built metal bridges and some on narrow wooden planks. We eventually crossed a suspension bridge that was about 300 feet above the Dudh Kosi river (River of Milk) and there was even another bridge below us! There is a video of it on day 11 (no rain that day)
The uphill with the high elevation started to really get to us and we had to stop to catch our breath quite often. After six hours we made it to Namche. The rain didn’t let up one time! It didn’t bother me though as I am accustomed to being in the rain all day from work (Thanks Dynamic!) We took hot showers, got warm, relaxed with some small talk, played gin rummy, had more tea, dinner and an Everest movie. One amazing day!
Day 3– Rest day at Namche (11,283 ft)
We had breakfast at 8 am and left to do a “short hike”. After hiking to the top of town we headed towards a museum next to an amazing viewpoint. Feeling lucky to see some mountains after a gray day before, we took the opportunity to snap a lot of photos. The mountains we could see were Ama Dablam, Lhotse and Tamserku. The museum had old tools, cooking items and traditional Sherpa clothing. Outside was a large statue of Sir Edmund Hillary.
After the museum we walked up a hill that sits above Namche and it was a steep climb. It took us over an hour! With all the clear sky we thought we would get to see Everest by the time we reached the Everest View Hotel. By the time we got within 20 minutes of the hotel the clouds became too thick to see more than a few hundred feet in front of us.
So we hiked back down to Namche and we walked past the world’s highest airport. After lunch we went shopping and bought some Tibetan prayer flags, socks, ponchos, beanies and some other small gifts. Later on we stopped at a cafe and met an Australian man named Bernie. He started an organization called Global Immersion, where he takes students on trips of a lifetime three different times throughout the year. They help raise money for a Mother Teresa school for handicapped children and for a school in Kathmandu. Then they spend a week at each place helping out. While in Nepal they all go to Everest base camp. He is an inspiring man and he gave us a lot of motivation to do something meaningful in our lives.After finishing dinner at the Green Tara Hotel we met Bernie at the Dhanphe Pub along with his friend Michael. We played some pool and talked for a couple of hours. We were in bed by 10pm, a real wild night!
Day 4– Namche to Debuche (12,660 ft)
Our day started out with high optimism as we woke up to blue skies. Once again we had to trek above Namche but this time we took a different route at the top. Shortly into the trip we had wonderful views of the surrounding mountains as the sun was lighting up their snow covered summits. It seemed as though everywhere we trekked you could look up and see at least ten waterfalls. Often we couldn’t see where the waterfalls would begin or end. We saw our first yak, followed by seven more. The trek was fairly easy except for the final climb that lasted about two hours.
Originally the plan was to stay in the town of Tengboche, but because of a large group of hikers taking up most of the hotel, we walked 20 more minutes to the town of Deboche.
That evening we had a lot of fun playing Uno, which we found at our hotel. Yoho had no idea how to play at first, which made it really fun, but he caught on quick.Playing Uno brought a different kind of connection between us as we picked on each other and laughed together. We all shared a small bottle of local rum and Basu mixed everyone’s rum with some hot water (traditional Sherpa way I guess). While playing cards we heard loud hoof stomping and as we looked out the window we saw a man trying to hold on to a horse. Instead of staying on the trail the horse turned left toward the buildings and as the horse stopped suddenly the man fell off onto some rocks. He appeared to be fine as he popped back up and took control. With the help of another, he got back on as the horse thrashed about and kicked.
Day 5– Debuche to Dingbuche (14,464 ft)
Pretty standard day: breakfast at 7:30, pack up, hike. Very cloudy and not much to see that day except for the river. We saw an old bridge that had collapsed from erosion on the opposite side of the river. We also witnessed some yaks that got away from their handler and ended up getting a little out of control. At one point we were against an embankment while one of the yaks was only a few feet away from us on the other side. Luckily it didn’t come any closer!! During lunch it started raining so we got to try out our new ponchos, they worked great! We stayed at the Good Luck Hotel in Dingbuche. Jojo taught Basu and Santosh how to play the card games War and Speed. Basu is really good at Speed! Then Santosh taught us how to play Nepali rummy, which we played for the rest of the night.
Day 6– Dingbuche acclimatization day (14,464 ft)
Originally we planned to hike up a “hill” and back down to the village in order to help our bodies acclimate. But the weather was nasty that day. We woke up to a half rain snow mixture that was very slushy. A little even stuck to the rooftops, by afternoon it had turned to rain that didn’t let up. So we ended up walking around the village for our daily dose of exercise. The rest of the day was uneventful. We played more cards and of course drank a lot of tea. That evening the mood changed as the clouds lifted a little, enough to take some snaps.
Day 7– Dingbuche to Lobuche (16,105)
Waking up to blue skies and white puffy clouds makes it easy to pop out of bed, even at 6 in the morning. After opening our bedroom window and taking some pics, Tash and I quickly got dressed and walked outside for better picture opportunities. The sun was making all the peaks around us light up with glowing white. As we made our way up a hill heading out of town the views became even better. With the weather and the view of the mountains being so amazing we took the liberty of stopping every few minutes for more photos. It was a good thing too, because clouds came rolling in quickly and soon the visibility was gone.
We stopped for an early coffee break at 10:30 am before climbing up Thokla pass. We climbed some of the steepest terrain we had yet encountered and we were all feeling the strain of the altitude throughout the next 90 minutes. Stopping every 10 minutes or so was mandatory as it was extremely hard to catch our breath.
At the top of the pass, we found ourselves in a memorial site for those who have perished while climbing Everest. There were many memorials built out of rocks. While it was a sobering experience, it was nice to see that their memories are preserved in the mountains.
We then followed an easy trail and a small stream toward Lobuche. To pass the time we gave each other riddles to solve and crossword style clues to answer. A half hour before reaching Lobuche we had some slight rain. After lunch Jojo, Basu and I took a short walk up a 300ft hill just outside the town. From there we saw the Khumbu glacier and had a nice view of town from above.
In the dining hall we sat with Martin, Rebecca, Archy and Linda for the rest of the evening and discussed the trek, picture ideas for base camp, travel experiences, Indian food and politics. At one point six of us each ordered a hot Tang and had a good time taking photos to remember the evening. We had to get up early the next day and we were all excited about being one day away from Everest base camp.
Day 8– Lobuche to Everest Base Camp (17,594 ft) and back to Gorakshep (16,994 ft)
Tash and I both woke up around 3:30 in the morning and had a hard time falling back asleep. We tossed and turned until 5:40am partially from the anticipation of reaching Everest base camp. Thankfully we all felt energized after breakfast and set out for our big goal. We had to walk the first two hours through rocky trails before climbing up Lobuche pass. It was a difficult climb, but we all kept our pace (slowly) and made it easily to the top. Blue sky and sun showed up early and presented us with magnificent 360 degree views of many mountains. Of course, we took a bunch more pictures.
Most of the last two hours before reaching Gorakshep was spent walking on an easy dirt trail surrounded by boulders and rocks. After a quick stop to leave our bags, we set out for our final climb before base camp.
At first we walked along a large, flat sandy area with some small ponds nearby. Then we walked across boulders, jumping from rock to rock with no trail to follow. The next part of the hike looked like we were on a different planet. It was a trail between rock fields that went repeatedly up and down.
The last 30 minutes before base camp was spent walking along a ridge that was formed by the nearby Khumbu glacier. We also were able to see the very top of Everest, but only for a minute as clouds quickly covered it up. As we reached the end of the spine we could finally see base camp. All we had to do was descend from the ridge and make one more short climb.
We finally made it!!! at 11:27 am 9/27/2016
After watching one group in front of us finish taking their pictures we took ours. They consisted of hanging Beaver prayer flags, writing “Rowlands EBC 9/27/16” in the snow, group photos, Everest beer and many others
At Everest base camp there was a pyramid of rocks with hundreds of prayer flags coming out at all directions. From there we had a close up view of the glacier and the icefall, where the expeditions begin. Avalanches could be heard in the background and we actually saw a small one. After spending an hour at EBC we headed back to Gorakshep. One man was riding a horse to base camp. I’m not sure how that is even possible or safe with all the large boulders to cross. On the way back Jojo, Santosh and I each skipped a few rocks on one of the ponds. I’m pretty sure it’s easier to skip rocks at 17,000 feet 😉 After lunch in Gorakshep we were all exhausted and rested in our rooms for a couple of hours. All of us got sun-burned on our faces. It was an early night due to the lack of sleep and physical exhaustion.
Day 9– Gorakshep to Pangboche (13,800 ft)
I woke up at 4:45am in anticipation of climbing up to Kalapattar (18,188 ft) in order to get a full view of Everest at sunrise. Jojo was up and ready too until Basu met us in the hallway and told us that the weather was too cloudy to see Everest. This was very disappointing to me as I came to realize that what I saw of Everest the day before would be all I would get. But hey, I still got to see it!
On our descent we saw and heard some mountain ducks, I thought they looked like wild turkeys. We descended almost 4,000 ft that day. One of the best parts of the day was climbing a steep hill at about 14,000 feet and not feeling out of breath! After dinner in Pangboche we opened a small bottle of rum that I carried up to base camp. We all shared it and of we stayed up for a while having a good time.
Day 10– Pangboche to Namche (11,283 ft)
After a late start we headed down from Pangboche and before we were out of the town we got stuck behind some yaks that were being loaded up with sacks of potatoes. After a few minutes of just standing there the yak train began slowly making their way downhill. We were behind them for a while until Tash stopped to bandage up her foot. We didn’t get behind the yaks again but we sure followed their trail of yak pies they left behind. Although we only dropped about 2500 feet that day, it was tough because we climbed up and down for about 6 hours. The last hour was nice because the trail was pretty flat and wide enough to where we could all walk side by side.
We stayed at the Green Tara Hotel again and we ordered some more of our favorite Sherpa meals. Tash and Jo ordered T-Momos and I decided to try a Yak burger. The next day I found out from Basu that it was most likely a buffalo burger, oh well!
Sadly that night we found out that Yoho’s home city in Taiwan was hit by a powerful typhoon. We all felt horrible for him, the storm ripped up some of his roof and caused some flooding, but luckily none of his family was hurt.
Day 11– Namche to Lukla (9,184 ft)
The day started out with a steep downhill descent followed by more descent and then…. more descent. After hours of dropping in elevation we reached the double suspension bridge and crossed back over the Dudh Kosi (River of Milk).
We saw some mountain goats laying in the shade from across the river. We were fortunate that the sun was out all day, because on the way to Everest base camp we couldn’t see all the great views.
After lunch my knees were really stiff and it was hard to get moving again. Not long after, we caught up to a group of Dzo’s that were stopped on an incline. They were taking up the whole path and there must of been thirty people waiting to get around them. We were caught in the Himalayan traffic jam for about ten minutes. It took us about 30 minutes before we had a chance to pass the herd. By the time we reached Lukla we had been trekking for over seven hours and we were feeling sore.
It was hard to believe that our journey to Everest base camp had come full circle. We stayed at a hotel that overlooked the Lukla airport. As we arrived, the airport must have been shut down for the day, because there was a group of men playing volleyball on the tarmac.
We finished our trek by relaxing on the patio and hanging out for one last evening!
Day 12– Leaving from Lukla
We woke up and immediately looked at the weather outside, clouds and rain. Our guide told us we could potentially be stuck in Lukla until the following morning. We ate our breakfast early as originally planned and by the time we were done the clouds magically parted and we hurried to the airport. I thought the experience leaving Kathmandu was exciting but this was something else. After waiting for a while the planes started to arrive!
Suddenly I heard the sound of propellers as the first plane landed, it quickly turned off of the runway and started unloading passengers. Immediately after everyone unloaded, people started climbing in the tiny plane, and that’s when the next plane came barreling down the runway. Within ten minutes three planes had landed, unloaded, reloaded and took off from the airport. I tried to record some of this, but there wasn’t much time.
Sitting at the top of the runway it sounded like two chainsaws were running outside the plane door. I could feel the vibrations in the plane as the brakes were holding the plane from screaming forward. The noise kept getting louder as it sounded like the engines were going to burst. Then… the pilot released the brakes and we started rocketing down the tiny runway, which ends at a cliff. The moment we lifted off of the runway, we all took a sigh of relief. I think we all had huge smiles on our faces from the thrilling experience.
As we flew over numerous mountains and villages I started to reflect on what an amazing two weeks we just had. We met so many wonderful people and saw things that can only be experienced in the Himalayas. While feeling incredibly thankful I couldn’t help but feel sad to know I was leaving such an inspiring place. I promised myself that I would one day come back.
Nepal Hiking Team: You made our experience amazing. From the day we were picked up from the airport we knew we were in good hands. By taking care of all the small things we were able to completely relax and truly enjoy every moment. Thank you!
Basu: Thanks for making me feel like I was hiking with one of my best friends.
Santos: Thanks for making me laugh!
Martin and Rebecca: It was great to always see a friendly face on the trail. I enjoyed all of our great conversations. If you want to stay with us in Thailand, hit us up on Facebook!!