7 February 2016

Everest Base Camp

I haven't been feeling my usual well self lately, nothing specific, low energy and a little bit of SAD, I don't get depression symptoms but I think lack of sunshine and daylight makes me lethargic. I haven't been out and about much so I thought I would use my stash of photos and diary to write about a trip I did 3 years ago. 

From Cupcakes to Everest
My Epic Trek to Everest Base Camp 6th to 23rd Oct 2012
On the 4th Oct 2012 I was in my warm comfortable kitchen making cupcakes, 2 days later I was on a plane bound for Delhi en route to Kathmandu and the toughest 2 weeks of my life - a trek to Everest Base Camp.

I researched this trip for almost a year before booking it. Actually I wasn’t researching, I was plucking up the courage to do it, I was procrastinating. I kept telling myself I was too old (63), what if I wasn’t fit enough, what if I became ill with AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), what if a yak knocked me off the edge of a cliff, what if, what if……………. but there was one more what if - once the idea was in my head what if I never did it how would I know if I could achieve something that monumental? So with that in mind I chose the travel company, booked it and paid the deposit, there was no going back.

Drugs and Sweets
I read a lot of advice about health, clothing etc. Many people said they lost weight and recommended taking chocolate and sweets for energy, well not being one to miss an opportunity to eat sweets - a bona fide opportunity (yeah) I did just that. I took 3 large bars of Kendal mint cake, snickers bars, topic bars, a large bag of peanuts, boiled sweets, oat bars, liquorice (mainly to help keep me regular!!) and 3 large bars of chocolate to celebrate getting to base camp!  
The bag on the left contained a small pharmacy - a broad spectrum antibiotic, antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, imodium, Diamox to help prevent or treat altitude sickness, painkillers, plasters, blister treatment, decongestant tablets, re-hydration salts and glucose tablets. It took up a fair amount of space in my rucksack and I only used a few of them, but better to have them and not need them rather than the other way round. 

I met my fellow trekkers at our hotel in Kathmandu, Bonnie & John from Texas, Kat & Josh from New Jersey, this was their honeymoon! and Ken from the UK. Although the eldest Ken was super fit with the best resting heart rate of us all.
The next morning we flew to Lukla.

Day 1:
Our plane             Our pilots

The pilots get a round of applause after each successful take-off and landing. 
Tenzing-Hillary is considered to be one of the most dangerous airports in the world so it was with much relief that 40 minutes later we landed safely. If you google "The 10 most dangerous airports in the world"  Tenzing Hillary, or Lukla will be in the list. 

The runway has a moutain range at one end and the village at the other, just this side of those white markings. 
The airstrip was built by Sir Edmund Hillary and his friends to service the Everest region when he began his work of building schools and hospitals for the Sherpa people.

After lunch our adventure began at this archway, all treks in this region start here. Third from right is our main guide Sherpa Phurba, fourth from left his assistant Tsurin and far right is Far his other assistant, who was only 18 but very good at his job, he had responsibility for the red bag that contained first aid stuff and the essential defibrillator, which thankfully didn't have to be used. I keep in touch with Far through Facebook, his home is at last being re-built after being damaged in the earthquake.

Stupas and Chortens
The Tibetan for Stupa is Chorten, which means "The basis of offering". It's a temple or a shrine, a Spiritual Monument. It represents the Buddha's body, his speech and his mind, but most especially his mind, and every part shows the Path to Enlightenment. They are usually beautifully decorated and often strung with prayer flags and can have mani stones placed nearby. Buddhists walk round them to the left in a clockwise direction. This is the direction that the universe spins, and, according to Buddhist belief, if you go counter-clockwise you will risk incurring the disapproval of the gods. 

These stone structures are a compilation of many stone tablets, each with the inscription "Om Mani Padme Hum" which translates to "Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus", and is the mantra venerated by Buddhists. Like Stupas they are meant to be passed in a clockwise direction.

Our first suspension bridge, I thought I would be petrified crossing these but I was fine.

Our first night at our lodge at Phadking 2610 metres and only 3.5 hours trekking, mainly downhill and relatively easy through a valley of pine forests, rhododendron and magnolias trees, unfortunately not in bloom at the time of my visit. A very nice days walk.

Room with en-suite! I didn't expect this, I think all the rooms had en-suites. The bed was very comfortable with pillows, duvet and blanket which I didn't need because I was warm enough in my sleeping bag.

Day 2: Early start next day on the road to Namche

Entering Sagarmatha National Park

a hard working yak

Hillary Tenzing suspension bridge, I think it's about 109 metres long

It was sponsored by Sir Edmund Hillary's charity

At last we reached Namche. The weather was fowl. Looking for something cheep!

Our Lodge, the Yak hotel. 8.5 hours walking. A long and challenging day. The walk started relatively flat, easy and dry, then the climb up off the valley floor started. A tough two hour steep and relentless five hundred metre climb before reaching Namche. The trail was pretty but the weather turned to rain.

Day 3:
The dining room, warm, clean and comfortable. Very nice lodge and room. Good toilet and shower facilities. This was our first time at altitude, 3,400 mtrs and my first night was bad. We had walked slowly to acclimatise so I was ok with the altitude but I didn't sleep. There is a syndrome whereby you think you're going to die through lack of oxygen, you wouldn't because the body wouldn't let it happen, but every time I drifted off to sleep I would wake gasping for air. The next day I was tired, crying and wanting to go home, it was only day 3. I texted my daughters who were great, they replied with sympathy and simply said "You can do it ma". I had a henna tattoo on my hand and arm saying "You can do it ma". Everyone in the group was very supportive, thinking of all my friends, the beautiful sunshine and views of snow-clad mountains also helped. And I started taking Diamox, B&J and K&J had started taking it before leaving home. I didn't want to use it, I wanted to see how my body reacted naturally, but if I felt this way at 3,400 mtrs I was concerned at what might happen as we got higher and higher. I only took half the prescribed dose. Ken started taking it too.

Namche village, the capital of the Sherpa people. Nestling on the side of a mountain, traditionally the village was a trading post, with locals bartering yak cheese and butter for agricultural goods. However, after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's successful climb of Everest in 1953, the dynamics of the village changed forever as climbers and trekkers soon followed in their wake. At first the groups arrived in a trickle, but in the 60's and 70's this turned into a torrent, and being located at a confluence of trekking trails, Namche was best served to meet their needs. In addition, as it is the first place on the Kumbu trek that is above altitude sickness threshold, most travellers prefer to spend at least two nights here to acclimatise. 
Despite its huge popularity geographical restraints have contained its growth, Namche is prosperous and still remains a very nice small village. In addition to an abundance of hotels the village also boasts three small museums, stupas, a monastery, several cafes (known as bakeries), and many well stocked stores. If my luggage had gone missing I could have bought everything I needed, even the drugs, there is a very well run medical centre and pharmacy. 
We did a steep tough climb up to the Everest view hotel, back to Namche, a relaxing walk around the village, coffee and apple pie in a cafe, and I was fine.

A quick photo shoot with Josh on the way to school

Namche School, top middle, L shape with blue roof. The children do exercises before school starts

The Army base with helipad, in the top of the picture, and Sherpa Museum at the bottom.

View from the Everest View hotel. Mount Everest to the left and the mighty Ama Dablam barely visible through the clouds on the right

Back to Namche, going down was scary with steep narrow paths and sheer drops in places! 

Street scenes

Next: The tough trek to Tengboche


  1. This is a fascinating post.. the trek is a lot harder than I thought it would be. It's something I've always wanted to do, but now I know I wouldn't be fit enough. Well done you! Looking forward to part 2.

    1. Thank you Jessica, I'm doing part 2 now....

  2. Wow Polly, it looks amazing!!! Not sure how I would have coped with the bridges or the narrow paths with steep drops - I'm really not good with heights! I hope you start feeling a bit brighter soon. I'm exactly the same, I'm just hanging out for a bit of sunshine and longer days - wont be long now :-) xx

    1. Thank you Sarah, that's a good description, just hanging out for a bit of sunshine. I feel as if I'm in limbo at the moment. At least the nights are staying lighter a bit longer. It was scary in places, the bridges were fun though, except when a few cretins decided to start rocking them!

  3. Hello Polly,
    What a great adventure. It must have been amazing! Don't worry...spring is just around the corner!
    Big hug

    1. Hello Giac, yes it was, I would like to do it all again but I don't think I could get fit enough now! x

  4. Polly, I am in awe! What a wonderful thing to do, you must have been in heaven. I'm sending you some virtual sunshine - we have plenty to spare.

    1. Thank you for the sunshine Amalia :-) we have had one or two cold but lovely sunny mornings lately. Yes it was a great experience, one that I would love to do again. xx

  5. Wow! What an incredible journey. I just finished reading your most recent post and am in awe of the beauty you have seen in the mountains. Looking forward to seeing more, sweet Polly.

    Hugs to you!

    1. Hello Stephanie, it is a beautiful place and a beautiful experience. I hope you enjoy the next episode x


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