Brief Introduction and FAQs
- Route: Kathmandu – Lukla – Phakding – Namche Bazaar – Tengboche – Dingboche – Lobuche – Gorak Shep.
- Is it a difficult trek: Yes it is a difficult one but definitely doable. Recommended to have a travel insurance which covers such high altitude.
- Expenditure: After reaching Lukla i.e. the point where trek starts you must carry around 35,000 – 40,000 NNR (Nepali National Rupee). Add to this around 12,000 NNR (depends on season) for Kathmandu -Lukla round trip. Cost of reaching Kathmandu depends on which country/city you are travelling from.
- Are Guide/Porters necessary ?: No, but having them makes your trip easier and safer. Also in that part of world this is kind of only source of their income, so we must take their services since that takes one closer to the local culture as well.
- Carry sufficient cash.
- Instead of carrying heavy thermals, layering is the key. Temperature in mountains rise and dip very frequently and sharply.
- Carry a pair of Good quality trekking shoe.
- Carry good quality sun glasses with UV protection.
- Carry sufficient quantity of dry fruits and energy bars.
- Keep yourself hydrated during the trek.
- Walk as per your own abilities. Don’t try to match other’s speed. Slow but steady is the best option.
- What kind of Hotels/Rooms are expected: Generally the rooms are very basic with two cots and enough space to keep the luggage, mostly without attached bathroom (barring few exceptions).
- What kind of food is expected: Generally the menu across the trail is similar and wide enough to cater to different cuisine lovers. Though the price increases with altitude.
- Other Expenses: As u move higher you will be required to shell out more money to get your phone/camera battery charged. Also one need to pay a good amount for hot water. WiFi is also available on payment during most part of the trek (Though carrying a local N-Cell sim card for internet is better option).
The Story ( September 9 to September 24, 2017)
So this was not planned and was an accidental trek for me. I was planning for a ride through Western Ghats of India along with friends from MBA days and had already booked the flight tickets but in the course of time most of them backed out due to different reasons and at last out of eight only three of us were left, so we decided to do it some other time.
Being posted in Kolkata I was searching for some solo ride in North East India and while doing so came across an advertisement of Everest Base Camp Trek and the name itself was enough to get the adrenaline rushing.
My motto in life has always been “all rest no play” and despite being physically fit and travel enthusiast I never ventured for trekking and preferred riding a bike across serine landscapes such as Ladakh. But as soon as I read about this trek, the idea of being close to the highest point on earth was alluring enough to motivate me to leave the motorbike behind. And the rest is history.
The most important thing is that I had never done any sort of serious trekking before EBC.
And here begins the excitement…………….
I don’t generally book trips via travel agencies, as I like to enjoy the freedom of carving out my own itinerary. However, being a fresher to trekking, that too EBC, I decided to go with some expertise, and booked via Adventure Nations who had further outsourced it to ‘We Ramblers’, a Bangalore/Bangaluru based company.
After this I did a lot of research by reading blogs about what to expect from the trek, what to carry along, the challenges etc. and also visited Decathlon Howrah and now I was all prepared for an exciting trip.
DAY 1: ARRIVE AT KATHMANDU
Whroommm…….. it was such an exciting moment that I was going for EBC trek. I boarded an Air India flight from NSC Bose Airport Kolkata. The Maharaja (nick name of Air India during its glorious years) took off and soon landed in Kathmandu. On the bus ferrying us from the aircraft to the terminal, I overheard three gentlemen discussing about the trek and they seemed much older than me which gave me confidence that if they can do it then I must do. Being an Indian I was not required to go through major immigration process, even passport wasn’t required and I had to just fill a form along with ID card no. that’s it.
The cab driver was waiting at the airport as I reached there, after which he requested me to wait for a few minutes as three more guests were coming and not much to my surprise these were the same gentlemen. Three really amazing people and the ice breaking process didn’t take much time, it was Col. Basudav Mitra a retd. Indian Army Officer who had served Gurkha Rifles (A regiment of Indian Army comprising of Nepali warriors) for most of his service and hence was well conversant with Nepalese language, Dipankar Ghosh sir, hereinafter referred as DG, a 58 years young chap who had done loads of trekking in the past and Devesh Mitra, a Ship Pilot with Kolkata Port Trust and a true gentlemen. Crossing all the traffic jams, overlooking the damaged boundary wall of royal palace and hearing so many stories from Col. and DG we finally reached our Hotel in Thamel (crowded and happening market place of Kathmandu having numerous window-shops at the street filled with trekking gear, souvenir and food outlets) our destination for the night. At the hotel, I met Sreevardhan Reddy who turned out to be my roommate and buddy for rest of the trip, he had reached Kathmandu after missing one flight at Mumbai and was under-packed for the trip. He went to the nearby market to buy some warm clothes and Sree informed me that the prices of thermals and shoes are highly inflated in Thamel compared to India. With full confidence I told him that I am from Uttar Pradesh and we are good at bargaining. Then we went to the market and bought required stuff after lots of bargaining only to realise later that the same stuff was available for even cheaper price few shops ahead. From Thamel we also purchased dry fruits, energy bars and some books and stationary as gifts for kids that we would meet during the trek ( once I had read a travellers blog who would always carry gifts for local children and in no time I proudly copied this practice which I religiously follow now during expeditions).
There are more stories from Kathmandu but to avoid overwriting I am stopping for now.
DAY 2: KATHMANDU TO LUKLA TO PHAKDING (8700 FT.)
Early morning we, a group of 10 assembled for boarding the Shuttle to the airport and this was the time where I met the rest of our team i.e. Nishith & Nihit the lawyer brothers, Ashoke Mitra (brother of Colonel), Depayan later famous amongst us as Viking who was having a Google bag with him, almost every item one could think of was available in his bag and last but not the least, Vijoy, the fittest chap amongst us all who hailed from Kerala and was working in Dubai. So all of us from different parts of India started our trip to EBC with full enthusiasm and loads of excitement.
As soon as we reached the airport we came to know that our flight was delayed due to bad weather at Lukla and then we heard all kinds of Lukla flight sagas-how people get stranded at the either side for days due to weather at Lukla-However,we were lucky enough and came to know that the flights will resume shortly after which came the best airport announcement I have ever heard i.e.. “This is a Boarding announcement for all the flights for Lukla from Yesterday and Today….…” and even before the announcement was over we had boarded the shuttle to flight.
And the million dollar moment arrived as we boarded a small 16 seat Dornier aircraft (I was familiar to this aircraft being brought up in HAL Transport Aircraft Division Kanpur campus which manufactures this aircraft). Such was the excitement of the trip that in no time Col. Basudev and DG occupied ( virtually captured) the front row which was hardly inches away from the cockpit and I was just a row behind them. This turned out to be my most exciting flight till date with breathtaking scenes all around (Tip: Sit on the left side for excellent view).
I can only say that we flew from Kathmandu and landed in Paradise, that’s the best I could explain Lukla. Once you land there you can’t resist taking pictures of panoramic Airport.
I don’t remember exactly when but during these few hours I was introduced to Narayan Lama, our guide for the trek, a lanky gentleman accompanied by a supporting guide in Bikram, who happened to be Narayan’s relative and his accomplice Dawa, an ever smilling Sherpa. After the photo session in and around the Lukla airport we went to Café Danfe where we bombarded our guide Narayan Lama with loads of questions about the trek and he answered as if it was a walk in the park, which was every time followed by either a mysterious smile or a sarcastic statement.
After the breakfast we started our walk all excited and entered the Sagarmatha National Park area post a quick form filling and documentation formality which was taken care of by Narayan Lama. It was a different feeling altogether, I forgot where I came from and what I did, the only thing I was interested in was the local culture and stories of Col. saab and DG. This stretch of the trek is fairly simple and we passed through many villages, crossed two hanging bridges, drank water from natural streams, which Col. Saab and DG told was good for acclimatisation (more importantly they knew which stream was natural and which was the sewerage stream- hopefully).
After almost 3 hours of walk (in mountains, distance is better measured in hours of walk) we reached Phakding, our destination for the day. There we stayed in a resort that deserves a special mention, reason for which I’ll disclose in next day’s story.
DAY 3: PHAKDING TO NAMCHE BAZAAR (11286 ft.)
Namche bazaar, the Sherpa heartland, was our destination on this day. The six hour walk to Namche having frequent steep climbs was our first hard assignment during the trek.
There were two photogenic waterfalls during the first hour of the day. After the second waterfall we stopped for tea where I realised that I have left my moneybag with 23,000 NNR at the Mountain Resort in Phakding. Our guide Narayan Lama called the resort manager who told us that the cleaner has found the moneybag and he will be sending it with the guide of another group that would leave for Namche Bazar the next morning. The next day being our rest/acclimatisation day at Namche Bazar made it convenient to collect the bag from the other guide.
Now having track of the Moneybag we were tension free and stopped for lunch at a small village called Monjo. It was gradually steep walk up to Namche Bazar and before we got there we got our first glimpse of mighty snow laden peaks.
While we were struggling to put even a foot forward we found porters carrying heavy loads on their backs. DG after a good sampling and research told us that the porters at times carry even 100 kgs of load on their back. After knowing this I was speechless and looked at my bag which was not more than 7 Kgs ( or may even be 3 Kgs feeling like 7).
This last lap towards Namche Bazar was getting steep with every step, our legs were tired by this time. We were now frequently asking Narayan Lama about time required to reach the Namche and he would very calmly tell us that its only half an hour walk and after walking for half an hour when we enquire again he would again calmly reply hardly 20 minutes.
Finally after countless 20 and 30 mins we reached the gate of Namche Bazar
DAY 4: ACCLIMATIZATION AT NAMCHE (11286 ft)
As we climbed higher, we were required to acclimatise ( key to avoid altitude sickness). This was important to prepare our body so that it could pump enough oxygen into our systems with each breath in the rarefied atmosphere.
Namche is a lively place with bars, snooker, coffee shops and souvenir shops. Though it was a rest day as per itinerary our guide had different and cruel ideas. He initially took us to a nearby museum for which we had to go through a steep climb but that was just a trailer after which he took us to a never ending climb where we found mist all around, there was hardly any visibility even at Noon and the wind was chilling us out after which we descended all tired.
But soon I was delighted having found my moneybag back. While I opted for a haircut and an extended bath few amongst us went to a nearby café, which was playing documentary on Sherpa velour in the Everest region.
DAY 5: NAMCHE TO TENGBOCHE (12664 ft)
The trek is moderately difficult (the last couple of hours being steep climb, though not as difficult as the climb to Namche Bazar) and took about seven hours, but once we got there, the spectacular monastery and the surroundings more than made up for the fatigue. Here few of us started feeling the effects of altitude. Since we were tired we didn’t venture this village much except for the monastery that evening. After having some funny conversation at Vijoy & Viking’s room Nihit, Nishith, Sree and I went to our rooms and slept.
The next morning Sree woke me up asking me to take my camera and come out, as soon as I came out in open I realised that we have done some serious stuff, the view outside was breathtaking, it seamed as if I was at some other planet altogether. The hard work was paying off. In my lifetime I had never woke up to such a brilliant view.
DAY 6: TENGBOCHE TO DINGBOCHE (14304 ft)
After almost an hour of photo session we started for Dingboche and the route was dominated by great views of Ama Dablam. This was another tough day in the office as the trek started with an easy terrain but post lunch few steep climbs coupled with extreme cold and windy weather was testing us. Again it was a breathtaking panoramic view all around but I couldn’t dare to take either my gloves out our the bandana that was acting as a cover for my face since it was extremely cold, after all my efforts I could only manage to take one picture of milky white water while crossing the river.
Finally after almost eight hours we reached Dingboche all exhausted and though this village was one of the prettiest on the route without clicking any picture this afternoon I crashed on to my bed only to wake up for dinner. According to Narayan Lama I was in good state of health, as I was getting good sleep. The night sky was so clear that we could have got our names registered in Guinness Book for counting the stars if only we were left with any energy. This evening Narayan Lama told us about a couple who got stranded en route summiting Ama Dablam claiming life of pilot of helicopter deployed to rescue the couple.
DAY 7: ACCLIMATIZATION DAY AT DINGBOCHE (14304 ft)
Again this morning we woke up to an astounding view of Ama Dablam & Lhotse and we were having an extended photo session this being a rest/acclimatization day.
At this height trees were gone and grass was the only natural green thing barring few plants at some resorts. The panoramic village situated on banks of River Imja is in itself an attraction.
Post acclimatisation DG spotted the meadow on the other side of the climb and his idea of having a small picnic at the stupendous esplanade was welcomed by all. I was able to utilize the time taking a quick nap with help of cap acting as a shield from sun-rays and Bikram’s playlist working as lullaby. Obviously the nab wasn’t a long one as the mountain monsters in Shree, Nishith and Nihit had spotted me sleeping.
DAY 8: DINGBOCHE TO LOBUCHE (16207 ft)
This near 8 hour trek was a difficult one but only for phantasmagorical views in reward.
The first few hours were an easy walk with stunning views all around, spotting small old houses which reminded us of Shire from those Hobbit tales.
On this day after the lunch we made a steep climb to reach the memorials of those who had sacrificed their lives summiting Everest.
By the end of this day we had the phenomenal views of Pumori, Nuptse and Thamserku. The chill in the air was increasing, the lack of oxygen was now felt, but all this was overridden by the excitement and anxiety that we were going to be at The Everest Base Camp the next day itself.
DAY 9: LOBUCHE (16207 ft) TO GORAKSHEP (16961 ft) TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (17598 ft) AND BACK TO GORAKSHEP
This day wasn’t an ordinary day for any of us, we were trekking on the glacier now, greenery was left far behind, we saw two avalanches en route Gorakshep and the thumping sound arising out of it was not only heard by our ears but also by our souls.
After hours of trekking we reached Gorakshep and in no time after lunch we marched for the Everest Base Camp. The rain was the forecast, chilling breeze was the law of the land in that part of earth and clouds were getting denser every fraction of the second, but our resolve to reach the EBC the same day overpowered all odds. And here we were at the EBC standing next to the infamous schoolbook landmark The Khumbhu Glacier. At this point in that thin air, we were breathing our achievement to counter lack of oxygen. Reaching there, one can only wonder what could be the feeling at the top if such was the grace of reaching the bottom of the top.
DAY 10: HIKING TO KALA PATTHAR (18192 ft) AND DESCEND TO PENBOCHE
This day was reserved for summiting Kala Patthar and as usual I woke up to the now familiar voice of Sree at around 3:30 am after which I was told that weather was bad and there wouldn’t be any view for us, I was happy that now I could sleep for some more time (at that height many were complaining about sleeplessness, but touch wood that has never been an issue for me), but Nishith successfully persuaded me to start the trek and if en route even after the dawn the spectacular view eludes us then we shall return. I had no choice but to accept the condition and follow the path to glory. Somehow after hiking for around 45 minutes we realized that we are not going to get any view of Everest as the clouds were blocking any view and there was hardly any visibility. We waited at one point for another 1 hour having weird and funny conversations at that height meanwhile Viking and Vijoy took Dawa along with them as they told us that they want to summit kala patthar even if there was no view as they may not get a chance of coming here again. We came back to Gorakshep cracking all kinds of jokes and having fun. Altitude wasn’t bothering any of us as we were absolutely acclimatised to that altitude.
In order to spend extra time at Namche Bazar, we decided to descend further to Pengboche as our destination for the day instead of Lobuche as per the itinerary. With our lungs getting more and more oxygen as we were descending we all were now feeling as if we were Superman. This day we descended a whopping 20 km.
DAY 11: PENBOCHE TO NAMCHE BAZAR
Today we were back to civilisation. We reached Namche Bazar quite early, did some local shopping, took long baths, some of us went to the pub. Narayan Lama was also not restricting us anymore. By this time we were sharing our experience with the trekkers ascending, we were giving them the necessary tips (even if they were not interested in that).
DAY 12: NAMCHE BAZAR TO PHAKDING/LUKLA
While Col. Basudev, DG, Debesh sir, Ashoke and Depayan decided to walk till Phakding and enjoy the serene landscape, five of us viz. Sree, Nishith, Nihit, Vijoy and myself decided to reach Lukla this day itself and take a flight to Kathmandu on the next morning i.e a day before schedule as Narayan Lama through the owner of Café Danphe, Lukla had arranged for rescheduling of tickets. Our reason for reaching Kathmandu early was to explore the capital city of Nepal.
I wanted to thank the Mountain Resort and its honest staff at Phakding for the act of returning 23,000 NNR, but as soon as we reached Phakding it started raining so respecting the majority decision I decided against going to the resort as it was at some height and we would have to hike a bit for that. The rain was getting heavier and so was our resolve to reach Lukla. Despite wearing ponchos we were all drenched in water. The fresh water streams I mentioned earlier had by now converted into waterfalls. All wet and tired we finally crossed the gate of Sagarmatha National Park and were in Lukla Town now.
Now we were connected to outside world like before through Wi-Fi and internet without any extra cost. The food menu had expanded and so was our hunger.
DAY 13: KATHMANDU OR LUKLA: THE CONFUSSION
This morning we were supposed to fly to Kathmandu and explore the capital city of Nepal, but rain gods had different ideas. Dense clouds were not only acting as a layer between Earth and the Sky but also between us and Kathmandu. Finally at around 2 PM we were sure that we were not flying that day but by this time other five members of our group along with Narayan Lama and Dawa had arrived.
We roamed around in streets of Lukla and the feature of this day was the grand lie by DG sir to his wife about a mug which was available but he took the one of his own choice informing her that the one of her choice wasn’t available (though otherwise he is a gentleman)
DAY 14: LUKLA TO KATHMANDU
The cloud cover was still there though not so dense and we had our fingers crossed because if we had not flown on this day then some of us would have to reschedule the flight from Kathmandu to India. Luckily the flights resumed and we boarded the cute little Dornier aircraft for one more time. The trek had ended and we were leaving with countless memories. Pictures of The Base Camp, The Glacier, The Meadow, The Barren Trails, The Yaks, The Narayan Lama, The Bikram, The Dawa, The Great People from these Villages were still so clear. But then every great story has an end and with a resolve that we would definitely come back we left the paradise. The trip was no less than a fairy tale for us.
We bid goodbye to our wonderful guide Narayan along with Bikram and Dawa. This trip would definitely not have been such beautiful without them. They were like our shadows during these days. took care of our food, took care of our health, efficiently managed to accompany us despite all of us walking at a different pace. Keeping everyone’s moral high.
After reaching Kathmandu few of us went for nearby World Heritage site whereas others including me opted for Exploring Thamel Shops. in the afternoon Nishith, Nihit and myself explored the local shops and bought a lot of souvenirs after loads of bargaining whereas in the evening Shree took me along with him for purchasing stuff for his friends and family.
DAY 15: DEPARTURE
This day the wonderful team with loads of memories was disintegrated with a resolve that we shall again come together for another exiting mission sometime soon.
PS: Our lovely planet Earth is revolving and rotating at the same pace but the Mankind is travelling places like never before. Whereas there is nothing wrong in exploring places the trash produced by travellers can have an adverse impact on ecology. Since we are travelling in huge numbers, its important to travel responsibly more than ever, to respect the local culture more than ever. Also it is a responsibility of respective Governments to abolish the myopic polices of short term economic gain through tourism at the cost of environment and restrict the maximum number of visitors in the areas where overcrowding can potentially impact the environment. Lets conclude with a pledge that we will travel responsibly.