One of my favourite things about the trek to Everest Base Camp was the Nepalese sayings. Or maybe they were just phrases our Sherpa used. Either way they are going to be something that I remember whenever I think about my trip. If you haven’t read parts one through to four head back here and get the story from the beginning.
Let’s start with the The Nepalese Rest Day. On our itinerary we had two acclimatisation days. Now to me an acclimatisation day would be hanging around the village, getting used to being at that altitude. Apparently not… Acclimatisation day is up. Climbing to a higher altitude then coming back down (clearly highlights my lack of trekking knowledge). And it’s not just a little bit up. It’s Zig-Zag up – Another great Nepalese saying. Zig-Zag up is the hardest up. For 2 hours! (They make us zig-zag up the mountain as walking across the gradient is easier than straight up.) On the plus side the view from both places we went to on our acclimatisation days was amazing. Even going back down to our lodge on those days was tricky, the steepness going down, the loose ground and tired legs ensured I needed to concentrate.
We were getting close. Two more days til Base Camp. The trek from Dingboche to Loboche felt nice and easy after the past few days. Looking back I think that’s because the previous days were pretty tough. There was definitely some up parts that felt so much harder with the decrease in oxygen. Where we stopped for lunch another group had an oxygen monitor, someone in their group had a reading of 84% and one of our trekkers tried it out with a reading of 88%. Certainly explains why after only a few steps we were starting to struggle.
The terrain had really changed. It was so barren. Wide open plains between the mountains, no trees, very low clouds. Rocks, dirt and just a thin covering of grass, well I think it was grass and moss. And like most things in Nepal there was the stunning contrast of these bright coloured, delicate little flowers, littered along the mountain. Blues, purples, pinks, reds and yellows. It was similar to the colours we saw in the temple. That little bit of colour, of life, fighting for its place high above the rest of the world.
We passed the memorial area for Everest climbers who did not make it back down the mountain. There were so many…. It was nice to pay them respect as we read their plaques. Many of them leaving behind families in their quest to reach their ultimate goal.
Lobuche saw us right on 5000m. One day to Base Camp. The layers were now on. I was channelling the Michelin Man. It was also the first time I had begun to notice the altitude. I began to feel flushed and a little nauseous after eating. We spent the afternoon in a bakery watching documentaries on Everest, drinking hot chocolate. The stirrer in my hot choc was the silhouette of a lady, it was definitely the highlight of the day!. The doco’s were so interesting. There was one on how Everest was formed (India crashed into Asia 1000’s of years ago) and it actually is still moving in that direction. Then we watched one on a Summit gone wrong. Watching it I don’t understand why they would put themselves through what they do to make the summit. You can’t go that high and not expect to come back with some lasting scars…
It’s BASE CAMP DAY!! Sunday October 7th. We were up nice and early to get a head start on the other trekking groups and ensure that we would miss any weather that usually changes in the afternoon. We made it to Gorak Shep in good time. We rested at the lodge and had a second breakfast before setting off again. Gone were the tracks. And the lack of oxygen was really noticeable. Mentally I had to dig in to keep plodding along. And it was definitely plodding. Slow, even, determined steps. There were lots of rest breaks. As our Sherpa Mingmar would always say… slowly slowly. We walked along the edge of the Kymbo glacier. Along the ridge top, up and down valleys of rocks.
Eventually crossing the glacier to Base Camp – We had MADE it!!! It took us two hours to get there. And once I stood on that pile of rocks there was nothing I wanted to do more than throw my hands in the air in celebration. I HAD MADE IT! It felt amazing. The size of the mountains around us. Looking up the ice fall the exhibitions need to climb to begin their trek was surreal. The danger of just starting that climb… We spent around 30 minutes at Base Camp before heading back.
When we returned I was absolutely drained. It was the longest we had walked in a day and the trek wasn’t easy. The physical was hard due to the lack of oxygen but emotionally and mentally I was also feeling it. Each time I spoke I felt like I was going to breakdown and cry. And I couldn’t understand why. I sat with a cup of tea and a Bounce Ball I had bought as a snack and listened as everyone else in our group celebrated with chocolate and Oreos. I felt better after a rest in our room but at dinner I began to burn up. My face felt so hot. I could feel my heart rate was racing. I put it down to the long walk we had done that day and the heat in the dining room. After dinner I went straight up to bed. I was still hot but cold and even laying down my heart rate was 120. My body was working hard with the lack of oxygen.
It was another early wake up call to climb Kala Pattar the next morning. This would take us to 5500m, a little higher than Base Camp and its the best viewing spot for shots of Everest. Still feeling drained with my elevated heart rate I decided to stay in bed. And it turned out to be a good call. The others in our group that did go only made it a third of the way up before the weather came in meaning sights of Everest would be impossible. Down they came and we all went to breakfast.
We walked long and far that day. Majority of it downhill. Back over the rocks we had clambered over the day before. Down along the wide plains. The cold winds leaving me with a windburnt nose. We made the call to walk a little further that day to shorten the next day. So we pushed on from Pheriche to Pangboche The best thing… It meant we would arrive back in Namchè earlier. Namchè which meant showers and wifi!!! Making it to Base Camp wasn’t complete without sharing it with family and friends back home.
The day we trekked back to Namchè started out lovely. The weather was perfect. There had been some rain over night so there were places that were a little muddy and slippery. We walked back through forest with the Spanish Moss on the trees, the leaves on the ground. Passing groups on their way up. It felt great to know I had accomplished what they were all setting out to do. The walk down from the Monestary was tough. Two hours of zig-zag up meant about an hour and a half of zig-zag down. It’s a little tough on the knees. About halfway down as a reward for making to EBC Mingmar climbed a tree that he pointed out on the way up. This tree was seriously on the edge of the mountain, high into the sky. Up he went. All the way to the top and how he landed the jump back down I do not know… It started to rain about 2 hours from Namchè. It was the only time we had had any rain on the trip ,the shower was looking better each step.
The elation when we saw our hotel! 6 days without a shower. There was nothing more I wanted than a hot shower and to wash my hair!. We all showered then headed for the Bakery. Free wifi with any drink. Bargain! There was celebratory brownies to be had too. We spent all afternoon there and again after dinner. Getting our fix. Contacting the world again. It was great to be able to show everyone what I had done.
The next couple of days trekking back to Lukla were slow. We were in no hurry now. We just ambled along. We were joined by another trekker who pulled out of her trek on the second day. Thank goodness we only had her for one day. She was a character, lovely but also just a little on the crazy side. She was not like any of us. Mingmar took us to his sisters house on the last day for lunch. The food was amazing and we had Tibetan Milk Tea, a tea made from butter and salt. It almost tasted like caramel. I liked it but it was rich.
Once we made it back to Lukla we again hunted out a cafe with wifi and brownies. We autographed a t-shirt for Mingmar and had our last dinner with him in the lodge. There was the sweetest little girl at our lodge, the daughter of a worker there. She kept us entertained all night, dancing away to Nepalese songs. The adventure was coming to a end. We just had to make it off the mountain. We were hoping for clear weather to allow us to take off. Like the landings, if the weather is too cloudy we would be stuck in Lukla. Thankfully we were flying by 7 and back at the hotel in time for a second breakfast.
It is so hard to put into words just how that trek made me feel. I felt alive. I felt free. It was tough. It tested me. It was absolutely breathtaking. I went with no expectations and came back with memories of the most amazing experience. I had the space to just totally soak up everything the trek had to offer, not something we get chance to do in our everyday lives. I have certainly got the trekking bug…
To end I just really want you all to go and do those things that scare you, that excite you – create what you wish existed – find your hum.
To go back to the beginning here is Part One.