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View Full Version : Nepal - Everest Base camp trek - Ascent (1 of 2).



ExploringRTW
28-10-07, 07:32
Everest Base camp trek - Ascent. 19th June - 29th June.

The alarm went off at 4:00 am and we felt dead !!

We got showered, finished packing a few bits & pieces and jumper in a Taxi at 5:00 am we’d ordered the night before. The Driver gave us a smooth ride to the airport as opposed to the normal Wacky Race style driving we’ve had in the past. He stuck by his quote of the previous evening and served us with what looked like a genuine smile.

We were soon checked in after discovering the cheekily hidden exit tax which has to be paid at a separate counter. Incidentailly, as is in India, nobody wanted to queue but the combination of being tired and British was too much and I wasn’t going to tolerate it this morning. So, as a few pushed pass to get to the front I told them that there was a queue here and they all looked sheepish and jumped into a line. (Nobody was as surprised as me !!)

We got ourselves a coffee and settled down to wait for our flight at 6:30. Eventually our flight was called at 06:40 and we bordered the Courtesy bus to our aircraft. Off the bus we were just in the process of starting to board the aircraft and were told that the weather at Lukla(the landing point and start of the Everest trek) was too bad and we were returned to the waiting area and given a complimentary cup of coffee. No sooner had we sat down to drink it we were called hurridly back to the bus again and wisked off to the plane.

Boarding was very quick and a lot of the baggage just got stashed at the front of the plane across the footway/front seats. It looked like something out of a Harrison Ford movie. Soon we were in the sky and around 30 mins later over a very cloudy Lukla.

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Hurrying to the plane.

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Luggage stashed ala Harrsion Ford.

After a further 5/10 mins we were flying back to Kathmandu !!! The weather had been too bad to land.

We waited in the airport until 11:00am at which point the company decided to cancel the flight for today. We collected our luggage and returned to our Hotel much to the surprise of the staff. After a quick tea we took a couple of hours sleep and had our breakfast at lunch-time !

There was a silver lining to all this though. Sylvia’s hired rucksack turned out to be very cheaply made and had split when we were packing the previous evening and so we had the opportunity to get it repaired before leaving again. I also was able to buy a head-phone socket splitting device for the Ipod which allowed us both to listen to it with both ears. i.e. in Stereo. I also managed to get a 2GB memory card for the camera at a very good price as well. (it’s not every-day you get to trek to Everest !)

In the evening we found a reasonable Thai restaurant which ended the 3-4 day grip our favourite Pizza restaurant had over our minds & stomachs. We managed to get to bed by 9:00pm in preparation for our re-knewed attempt at flying to Lukla the following morning.

We awoke somewhat more refreshed than the previous morning and were ready for our Taxi…..which didn’t turn up. Even at 5:00 there aren’t that many Taxis in our part of Kathmandu so I had to go off and try and find one which luckily happened in 5 mins. However the time somehow had got to 5:30 before we left and I was a little anxious of getting to the airport on time. He didn’t appear the most conscientious of drivers and I had to haggle quite hard to get him to a reasonable price. None-the-less he got us to the airport on time and we were soon back in the waiting lounge again munching on some Hog-Nobs we’d managed to find for breakfast the previous day.

At 06:18, 12 minutes before our flight was due to leave, we were quickly summoned together with the other passengers to board the courtesy bus again.

As quickly as we were seated, the door was closed, and we were off taxing, Even as the plane was still turning from taxing to the runway, its turbo-jets were at full throttle and though we were not precisely lined up for the runway, were soon belting down it like we were being chased by an enemy. We were off!! If yesterdays packing of equipment looked like something from a Harrison Ford movie, today we were in it !! There was no time for pleasantries. We were packed in, buckled down and off !! The British air authorities would have been having kittens….we loved it and were grinning from ear-to-ear !!! There is still the capacity to enjoy a good adventure even at 47, 11 months and 3 weeks and two days !!

Soon at flying altitude we saw far more and thicker clouds than we’d done the previous day and so weren’t that optimistic of landing again today. In fact we learnt that for one woman on board this was her 4th attempt to get to Lukla. Behind us we had a Nepal-naturelised Italian who gave us a blow-by-blow account of our flight as we neared Lukla, and possible scenarios. He worked as a scientist 2 days walk from Everest’s base camp.

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With clouds thicker than the previous day we were not optimsitic of landing.

As we got closer to Lukla the plane started to roll from the left to right and back again quite violently as the pilots looked for a hole in the clouds to get down through. These movements could be likened to the feelings of a roller-coaster type ride at a fairground. We were now definitely further in Harrison Ford territory. It turned out that the woman who’d tried 4 times to fly out was also a nervous passenger and here she was having to deal with this flight. She put her face in her hands and didn’t look up hardly ever as I remember.

All of sudden, out of nowhere the plane was in a small dive and we could just see the runway, all 300m of it !! Eeeekkkk The Italien had continued to give us a blow-by-blow account of our decent for which we were sort-of grateful. We landed very bumpily and stopped very quickly….fortunately. Turn around was incredibly fast. We were off, the baggage was off, the returning passengers baggage on, the passengers on, and the plane back on the run-way…in less than 10 mins. The Pilots actually leave the non-passenger access side prop running whilst the changeover goes on. The plane builds up its thrust to full steam as far as I could see. Once the props appeared to reach their maximum velocity we heard the turbo-jets kick in. The plane stood at the beginning of the runway shuddering as the brakes held it back from take-off. Behind it, the trees branches and leaves were blown as in a gale-force wind. Finally the brakes were taken off and the plane charged off down the runway. About 250m or so along I could see clear space between the planes wheels and the run-way. It was off and on it’s way back to Kathmandu.

Around this time our Italian ‘friend’ Peter told us a secret. The flight back was worse. Hmmm, how pleased we were to hear this. I actually found it hard to believe at the time as landing on a short run-way must be harder than flying from it…..mustn’t it ?!?

I took a few photos of ours and other planes taking back to the sky and we found ourselves a Café to get some coffee and sort ourselves out. Whilst I’d spent some considerable time reading our guide book and studying our map we didn’t really know where to head from the airport. We had a few coffees and found directions to somewhere in town that would be able to repair a buckle broken on my ruck-sack at Kathmandu airport.

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At Lukla, looking outward at the take off zone.......

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Up, up and away...whilst we started to wonder where to start from.... !!



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Seen on the ceiling of a cafe in Lukla, certainly cut me down to size before even starting the trek !!

We got our bearings together and found the repair shop. The buckle was replaced with another redundant one off my ruck-sack in about 3 mins for the princely sum of about 40p !!

So, finally we were off on our adventure within an adventure. The weather was over-cast but ok, we’d arrived early enough not to have to worry about getting to a Hotel in time and we had good reliable information on what to expect for each leg of the trek(sorry, couldn’t resist the pun !) and on the importance of acclimatisation as we ascended.

We walked for about an hour or so and found somewhere which looked ok for breakfast. We had the choice of a cup or large pot of tea with our boiled eggs. A cup wasn’t going to be enough albeit that the large pot seemed expensive. We were thirtsy(or so we thought ) and so opted for the pot, ….. all 3 litres of it along with about the same volume of milk !!! >8:O) Needless to say that we didn’t finish it !!!!!

We set off and had a pleasant walk to Phadking where we arrived 3 or 4 hours later. We started to look around for a Hotel and bumped into an American couple we’d seen on the flight yesterday and today. We chatted to them for an hour or so and learnt that they were Drew and Tanya. We weren’t that keen on the look of their Hotel but after faffing around a bit, decided to stay there too. We had a pleasant evening with them and all of us took off to bed pretty early as you do on these treks.

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Some of the many Budhhist writings we saw.

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...and their prayer wheels.

We’d decided to do a really short trek to Manjo the following day and so didn’t get up until 09:00 am, finally leaving at 11:00 ! However somewhere along the way Sylvia decided she fancied going further, to Namche Bazzar, our first 2 night acclimatisation stop-over, and a further 3 hours trekking. I wasn’t that keen as it was already late but the logic of adding a day back into our trekking time, after the failed flight yesterday, appealed to me and so we set off towards Namche.

The first part of the day went fine except that we were both feeling the full weight of our rucksacks soon after leaving. We stopped for an excellent lunch at Monjo and set off again. Within the first hour we crossed 3 suspension bridges that are synonymous with Nepal, albeit Swiss made and subsequently safer than the character ones of yesteryear….thankfully. The third one being between 200 & 300m high and the same in span.

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The third suspension bridge !!

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Neither Sylvia or I are that enamoured with heights and so assured each other that the best thing not to do was to look down when crossing. I set off and found my legs a bit weak under me and then I felt the weight of Sylvia on the bridge which somehow re-assured me. Half way across I had to look down…well, you have to, don’t you ! And it was a good sight, better than catching unintended glimpses through the holes in the bridge anyway !!

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One of the many porters carrying supplies up the mountain.

The next 2 hours were hard, it was all up hill and steep. Furthermore I was worried that we hadn’t yet seen any of the ‘half-way’ landmarks we’d been advised to look out for in the guide book. It was now 5pm and we knew it would be dark by 6:30pm. Fortunately, around this time we met a porter/guide for another group who re-assured us that Namche was only an hour away. Relieved we continued, taking stops as we needed them….which became more frequent for me! That last hour was very hard for me and I felt twinges of Altitude Sickness(AS), feeling slightly dizzy at times.

A group of Americans caught up with us. Their plan was to get to the Base camp and back down in something like 8 days, the time normally allocated soley for a safe ascent. One of their party was already taking Diamox(for AS) on their first day as they’d flown in from Georgia(USA) to Kathmandu yesterday and flown to Lukla this morning, and were now on their way to Namche Bazzar. (0-2650m in 48 hours !!, the normal safe ascent rate being 300-500m per day-albeit that flying into Lukla is generally considered safe if you stay at Kathmandu for 24 hours prior-Kathmandu being at around 1100m) I spoke to one of their party about how serious AS is and he said they knew as a friend of theirs had nearly DIED of it a while back. I couldn’t believe my ears. Crazy, really Crazy !! AS takes a few lives every year and it is so simple to avoid by adding a few extra days at strategic points in your ascent.

We finally entered Namche just as the light was beginning to fade. Our friendly guide/porter we met ‘knew’ of a good Guest House where we could stay(and he would probably get an introducers fee) and so we followed him through the town expecting to pay the normal low rate as long as you eat there as well(otherwise you have to pay an additional $10 penalty). I was really feeling tired and everything in me was struggling just to walk these last few hundred meters up a few steps.

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Namche Bazzar.

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Work is very hard here, and these guys carry a number of these all day as far as we could see.

Once inside, the Hotel looked good. Our new-found friend explained our situation to the proprieter and he gave us a price of $13 for the night, instead of the $3 we’d expected. We tried to haggle with him to meet us half way (as we were going to stay for 2 nights) but the best he would give was $10, but still way off the ‘norm’ that we’d expected at this point in the season, so after looking to our friend, we left. 200m later we entered another good Hotel which offered us a room for $3 plus an additional $2 each if we wanted a shower, so we looked at the room…which was Warrrrmmmm, and took it.

Fed, we reflected on the day and enjoyed our first major day of independent trekking. Namche was to be our final point to decide wether to take a porter and/or guide. We weren’t sure and so went to bed early to sleep on it.

At around mid-night we both woke up as if we’d already had a whole night sleep. I looked at the clock and we both finally managed to get back to sleep.

The following day we got up around 9am as this was to be an acclimatisation day. My stomach was burbling as in India with the gastroenteritis and I felt sick too, possibly from AS. We still managed to walk around though to see the town and its characters. Dosed with some Imodium, a Yak steak and a few glasses of red wine I hoped to be fit enough to set off again the following day.

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One of the characters of Namche.

Cont'd........