Everest Base Camp Trek: Part 2

Hello Friends and Family,

It's time to get you caught up on the second half of our trek to Everest Base Camp. 

We had heard mixed reviews of the Everest Base Camp trail. Some described it as riddled with trash, dirty and not really that special while others described it as a magical, awe inspiring experience. We were determined to let our own experience mold our opinions of the trail.  We were pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness of the trail and access to multiple recycling huts along the route. So far in our journey the trail was nothing short of remarkable.

Just the shear magnitude of the mountain peaks jutting into the skyline was enough to take your breath away. At dawn we were greeted by a thin blanket of frost and at night we were lured to the warmth of the fire by air fragranced with the scent of burning yak dung. Sounds like paradise, right? In a strange sense it was somewhat of a paradise, that is until the yak dung burned out and then paradise turned into a dead sprint to the warmth of a sleeping bag. 

The trail was void of TVs, motorized vehicles, cell phone service (from 14,000 feet and beyond), etc.  You were left with your own thoughts and an overwhelming sense of determination to climb higher. 

Most of the nights ended with us falling asleep by 8:30 p.m. and rising the next morning by 5:30. 

Day 7: Wednesday, October 17th

Agenda: Dingboche to Lobuche (Day 4 - No shower)
Starting Elevation: 14, 689 feet (4,410 meters)
Ending Elevation: 16, 109 feet (4,910 meters)

The previous day, Josh and Sherpa Bee had a board meeting to discuss the agenda for day seven. 

We headed out at 7:00 a.m. and were slapped in the face with an uphill climb right out of the gate.  Luckily, the trail leveled off fairly quickly and we were able to catch our breath.

The trail meandered through a beautiful valley and as the sun came up we were able to snap a picture of our shadow puppets.

Scenery from the day's journey

The low-lying clouds made it feel as if you could fly.

Josh finally admitted that he could not tube down this section of the river. Not because it was too difficult or dangerous but because it looked too cold. 

We approached the Mt. Everest Memorial for those who have lost their lives during the quest to summit Mt. Everest. Most of these people were actually able to summit the mountain but lost their lives on the return to Base Camp due to the unpredictability of the weather and dangers of the climb.

Scott Fischer was a famous American guide that lost his life during a blinding storm in 1996. We both read the book "Into Thin Air" during our climb to Base Camp. This book detailed the events that unfolded during that tragic spring season of summiting Mt. Everest. This was a common book for trekkers to read while making the journey up and down the mountain.

Although the memorial was sad, we were moved by the passion of these climbers. One memorial that stuck with us read "Always live a story". That is exactly what we have aimed to do during our journey around the world.

We made it to Lobuche in a little under three hours and secured a room at a teahouse. Josh made sure to lock the door to our room made out of wood that was strikingly similar to #2 pencil. There was really no reason to lock the door when a deep sigh could potentially make the whole building collapse. Doesn't he look just like a robber in this picture?

Awww...home sweet, super cold, dingy home.

We were warned that the next town, Gorakshep, was so small that it did not have enough accommodation for the amount of trekkers on the mountain. We decided to trek there in the afternoon to secure a room for the following night. Everyone thought we were crazy when we told them we were doing this. Maybe we were but we didn't want to sleep in a tent in 0 degree F weather.

The three of us made our way to Gorakshep in less than an hour and a half. We were bound and determined to get a room. After being told countless times that no rooms were available, we were able to pay a guy a deposit of $11 to secure the last room in town. The place was a complete dump but we were happy to at least have somewhere to lay our heads for the following night.

We were completely exhausted as we headed back to Lobuche. We had dinner with several of our fellow trekker friends and called it a night around 8:00 in the evening.

Day 8: Thursday, October 18th

Agenda: Lobuche to Gorakshep (Day 5 - No shower)
Starting Elevation: 16,109 feet (4,910 meters)
Ending Elevation: 16, 864 (5,140 meters)

It was a cold start to the day. We were also extremely tired this morning because we woke up at 3:00 a.m. the night before as a result of a large Spanish tour group that stomped all over the teahouse floor as they ventured out at 3:30 a.m. in pursuit of catching sunrise somewhere on the mountain. We nicknamed this group "The Spanish Armada." Leanne asked several of the tour groups that we ran into if they woke up early to catch the sunrise. She just wanted to put some faces to the stomping. Unfortunately, we never had the pleasure of meeting "The Spanish Armada" face-to-face. 

We finally warmed up and found ourselves back in the presence of Gorakshep.

We had already put in a decent hike for the day and it was only 8:00 in the morning. We drank some tea, ate a snack, set our bags down and set out for the destination that we were aiming for from the start…Everest Base Camp!

The trail traversed over a ridge through the mountain.

We passed frozen ponds along the way. Both Josh and Sherpa Bee made several attempts at throwing large rocks into this frozen pond in an effort to crack the surface. That water had been frozen longer than we have been traveling so not even the slightest crack was visible to our eyes.

We added rocks to the cairns for fellow trekkers.

It was a very long trail but we finally made to the Everest Base Camp sign. There were two locations with tents that were quite a bit further from the sign. Of course, we had to go all the way to the second campsite. Leanne was elated. This had been a dream of hers since she was a little girl. We were actually standing at Everest Base Camp! We couldn’t help but imagine what it must feel like to actually summit the mountain. It is quite a process and an expensive process at that to summit Mt. Everest. It takes at least 4-6 weeks and over $70,000 to make the attempt. That $70,000 doesn’t even guarantee that you will make it to the top let alone live to make it back down to Base Camp.

Even though we weren’t attempting to summit the mountain, we felt a true sense of accomplishment just making it to Base Camp.

We made it! 17,598 feet!

After some wide smiles and high fives, it was time to make our way back to Gorakshep.  On the way up we had heard the thunderous roar of an avalanche on the backside of the mountain. On the way down, we actually witnessed an avalanche. It happened so fast that we were only able to snap a picture at the tail end of it. That mountain is truly alive. This is just one example of way it is so dangerous to climb it.

Josh was excited to head back down the ridge.

A couple of hours later and one bag of Gummi Cherries lighter, we were back in Gorakshep.

Josh went to check out the sunset while Leanne staked a claim on our seats by the fire in the crowded teahouse.

A note on Goakshep:

We were forced to stay at Kala Patthar Guesthouse which is part of Buddha Lodge.  The guy that ran this place was really horrible and we wish there was something we could do stop people from going there.  He kicked all of the individual travelers out of the restaurant so he could cater to his “Precious” tour groups.  Another thing he did was run into the dormitory after everybody was asleep and started yelling at them and ripping off their blankets because they had more than one.  One couple was forced to share one blanket because of this clown.  We hid in our room with our two blankets and lay as quiet as two field mice just in case he decided to kick our door down to get our extra blankets. We guess it’s ok that we were treated as little more than garbage that walked through his door.  We’re tourists and we were nothing to him but a couple of bucks.  The thing that really upset us was how badly he treated our guide.  Our guide wanted to charge his cell phone and he wanted to him to pay him $5.00 to do this.  Granted, there was no cell phone reception but he used it for other things.  He only makes $15 a day for god’s sake!!  Our guide was forced to watch all of the preferred guides and porters (the ones from the big tour groups) eat before he was finally “allowed” to eat.  We realize that there are only a handful of places to stay but if you have any option please do not send business to these two guesthouses.  If you don’t have a choice that’s completely understandable, we didn’t.  Just be prepared to be treated like a second-class citizen. 

That was by far the worst night of the trek. Our room had no power, the bathroom was a squatter outside and was too vile to even explain in this post and it was hovering around 0 degrees F in our room.

Our friend, Andy, said it best when he renamed it “The Death House – where people go to die”.  The majority of the people staying there had a terrible cold including Leanne (somehow Josh escaped the dreaded cold). Throughout the night there were continued echoes of coughs, sneezing and sniffles.

We couldn’t wait to make our escape the next morning. One night at this place was one night too many.

Day 9: Friday, October 19th

Agenda: Gorakshep to Kala Patthar to Pheriche (Day 6 - No shower)
Starting Elevation: 16,864 feet (5,140 meters)
Kala Patthar: 18,209 feet (5,545 meters)
Ending Elevation: 13,911 (4,240 meters)

This proved to be the longest day of the trek. We woke up at 5:30 AM to eat breakfast and head up to the summit of Kala Patthar.  It was so cold that our fingers and toes were completely numb.  We took off our gloves a couple of times to check for frostbite.  We probably weren’t even close but were just being babies.  We could see the sun creeping down the mountain as we crept up the mountain and raced to meet it halfway.  On our way up we ran into one of the second-class citizens from the guesthouse. He went up for sunrise and was on his way down the mountain. We asked him how much further up it was since Josh was struggling a little bit.  He responded, “Oh!  You’re not even close!!”  This was not the type of encourage we were hoping so we just grumbled to ourselves about how you should never say things like that to people heading uphill.  It got a little worse when Josh had a bought with altitude sickness.  We stopped for a few minutes, had some sugar then powered our way to the top.

18,209 feet! What an amazing view!  All the hard work had paid off and we knew in the back of our minds that this was as far along as we were going to go.  It was very rewarding and we enjoyed a leisure trip back down the hill to Gorakshep.

On the way back down we ran into the crew but did not tell them that they weren’t even close because we’re not jerks.

Sherpa Bee spread peace among mountains.

We swung by the guesthouse to check out and leave the death house behind us.  Leanne was starting to feel ill from the altitude so we needed to get down in elevation fast.

Leanne still smiled despite feeling ill.

We stopped in Lobuche to have lunch and passed by the memorial again. We then powered on a few more hours to Pheriche.

It was beautiful walking into the town. Josh said it looked a lot like the highlands of Scotland.  Babbling brooks and cobblestone paths were present along the way. We stayed at a nice little guesthouse that was fairly empty.  We trekked a total of 7 hours with a 30-minute lunch. We rewarded ourselves with Oreos that night and snuggled into our warm sleeping bags for the night.

Day 10: Saturday, October 20th

Agenda: Pheriche to Namche Bazaar  (Day 7 - No shower)
Starting Elevation: 13,911 feet (4,240 meters)
Ending Elevation: 11,286 (3,440 meters)

Leanne got a little silly with her choice in clothing this day and even brought out the mustache glasses to see if she could conjure up some laughs along the trail. She tried to make the best out of 7 days without a shower. She was successful because those glasses made people laugh…a few people even clapped for her and thanked her for making them laugh. It is much easier to joke on the way down than it is on the way up.

This yak looked like how we felt, TIRED!

It was one last morning of waiting for the sun to warm our toes.

The sun finally kissed our limbs.

It got so warm that we even had to shed some layers of clothes.

Although the food along the trek was less than desirable most of the time, the vegetables were grown in gardens throughout the villages. It was nice to have fresh vegetables, especially when it came to eating French fries or chips as they were referred to on the menus. 

Laundry day! One of the most beautiful laundry days we have seen during our travels.

Josh made sure not to get too close to the edge.

We headed to that town way over there for lunch.

Banana gum time! These two kids were absolutely adorable. The little boy was so thrilled that he put the entire packet, wrapper and all, in his mouth. They also couldn’t stop laughing at Leanne’s mustache glasses. Leanne forgot she was wearing them when she approached them. The little boy kept pointing and laughing out the word “mustache” over and over.

We finally made it to Tengboche for lunch. French fries and potato momo filled our tummies. Momo, a traditional Nepalese food and is a dumpling filled with various fillings ranging from vegetables to buffalo. They come steamed or fried. Leanne preferred steamed while Josh preferred fried. Leanne ordered this round of momos.

After lunch, we continued our descent down the mountain.

Take a look at the load of wood this porter was carrying. Unbelievable!

We got silly on the bridges.

We stopped at a small village and Leanne bought a necklace from a sweet woman. We passed her on the way up the mountain and promised ourselves we would find her on the way down to support her shop. It was worth buying the necklace just for the priceless picture Leanne was able to take with her family. 

It was a race to get down the mountain to beat the impeding fog.  We finally made it to Namche Bazaar after 6 hours of trekking. We took the longest hot shower and didn’t even recognize ourselves afterwards. The funny thing is, after you haven’t showered for a week, you convince yourself that you’re not really that dirty. Wrong!

We followed a bull to the local bar that night where Josh drank his first beer in over 3 weeks.  We met up with the crew again to share some drinks and reminisce about the past few days.


Day 11,  Sunday, October 21st

Agenda: Namche Bazaar to Lukla 
Starting Elevation: 11,286 feet (3,440 meters)
Ending Elevation: 9,383 (2,860 meters)

Day 11 was the final descent to Lukla. We said goodbye to our little animal buddies. We actually slept in and didn’t get started until almost 9:00 a.m. Boy did it feel good to sleep in a little.

We stopped to take one more picture of where we had our fist glimpse of Mt. Everest from the trail. This man spent well over 10 minutes trying to capture the perfect picture. We hope you are satisfied with the outcome, sir.

Even though we had climbed this same trail just a week earlier, it was such a change in scenery from what we had witnessed up above.

A few more bridge crossings.

That river was gorgeous!

Much of our time heading back to Lukla was spent moving out of the way of bulls.

After Leanne caught her cold from high fiving children along the trail, Josh decided fist bumping was a better way to go.

Six hours of trekking later, we were back in Lukla where it all started just 11 days prior.  It was a day filled with downhill and uphill battles.

Some children have dogs as pets others have chickens.

A Starbucks knockoff

To celebrate our successful journey up and down the mountain, we went to see a live band play that night in Lukla. Unfortunately, it was the one time we didn’t bring the camera. It was a cover band and although their English wasn’t that good during the verses, the choruses were spot on for singing along.

The next day we started with a breakfast of champions…sugary pastries. We couldn’t even eat all of it because it was so sweet. We had grown accustom to bland, disgusting food for the past two weeks.

There was a free shoe giveaway for the locals. Pretty cool!

And just like that, we found ourselves back at the airport.  Sherpa Bee worked some magic and got us on a flight one day earlier than scheduled. We had originally planned to complete the trek in 14 days but with the cancelled flight and a strong sense of determination we made it in only 11 days!

Day 12 – another crazy flight this time back to Kathmandu.

Window scenes

Overall experience – Thumbs up all around!!!!! We want to give a special thanks to Pasang and Manil at Mountain Guide Trek & Expedition for making our journey so incredible. 

We ran into Asaf (our buddy from Chitwan) on the flight back to Kathmandu. It’s a small world among travelers in Nepal. 

We made it back to Kathmandu and spent the next few days reflecting on our accomplishment, drinking some beers and eating comfort food with our new friends. We will have more on this in our next post.

We miss you all so much. Thank you for continuing to follow in our adventures!

Leanne & Josh