I went to Nepal in 2007 with the intention of trying the Everest base camp trek. Mainly due to the circumstances of the weather that year the flights to Lukla were rained off. I’ve been to Nepal several times since, but on each occasion there was some reason or another why the base camp trek remained an unfulfilled ambition. However, this year 2016, that ambition was realised.
Lukla, is the start of the Everest base camp trek. Lukla itself is at an elevation of 2,860 m. It has what is described as the ‘most dangerous’ airport in the world. The runway is only 527 m long and as the planes come in and out of Lukla airport it is easy to see how it gets its reputation.
We arrived at Lukla airport, flying in on Tara Airlines, on the 14th May 2016. We were meant to be flying the day before, but considering this was Friday the 13th – the day after seemed like a better option.
We set out on the trek going through the initial check posts and then got into our stride. The trek to base camp is a 12 day round trip; coming down obviously taking less time than getting up. We decided that we were not going to try for base camp itself, but only to Kalla Pathar, which is one stop before Base Camp. Kalla Pathar, is at an altitude of 5550 meters, and the place from where almost all of the iconic shots of Everest have been taken.
So we headed off towards Namche Bazaar, with a climb that is reckoned to be the hardest part of the trek. Namche is at 3,440 metres (11,286 ft) at its lowest point. In the burning heat of the sun we climbed and climbed this winding route which seemed never-ending. And finally in pouring rain, exhausted and already suffering from altitude sickness, I arrived at Namche.
There was an acclimatization day here, where I got my first sight of Everest, then we continued the trek the next day.
The altitude as we got higher and higher, became more of a problem for me. Hari, my friend and guide on this trek, seemed entirely unaffected by the altitude and the exertion, but then he is a very experienced guide and has been at the trekking game a long time. He never seemed out of breath and nor once did he break a sweat. While the sweat poured off me and walking and even talking was very difficult.
We made it through Tyengboche, where there is a large and famous Buddhist Monastery. With another siting of Mount Everest in the clear light of the early morning – the day after we arrived.
We pressed on, but by now the altitude was taking its toll. In the end we made it to “Lobuche”. This sits at an altitude of 4930 meters (and which is 16,175 feet). But I was suffering severely from altitude sickness by this time, with an upset stomach, headache and double blindness; which is having double vision and being out of focus at the same time. Altitude sickness is a serious business and cannot be taken lightly. We were going to stay at this altitude in one of the Lodges – but Hari advised that we needed to start heading down immediately. It was a great disappointment to me and somewhat reluctantly, I took his advice and we set off down the mountain. We did pretty well on the way back down, making good time, getting back to Tyengboche in one stage, and Namche Bazaar the next day. We didn’t need the rest days on the way down and on the following day we were back at Lukla ready for the flight home. I was on the whole and particularly in retrospect pleased with my performance. Having finally seen Mount Everest for myself – I was satisfied and we returned to Kathmandu the next day.