Sneak Preview

A Personal Guide: Climbing Mount Everest Base Camp

Ahh, the great Mount Everest…where do we start. Standing at jaw-dropping 8,848 m (29,029 ft) high & nestling on the border between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on the planet, the highest point of the globe: The top of the world!

Known to the locals as “Goddess Mother of the World” or “Goddess of the Valley”, this great mountain is considered a God.

I cannot argue with that.

photo-1454496522488-7a8e488e8606

Everest is so tall and its climate so severe that it is incapable of supporting sustained human occupation, however, the valleys below the mountain are inhabited by Tibetan-speaking peoples up to around 4,270 metres high.

One thing we learnt very quickly was that Everest is no joke…and even the climb to base camp is one to be taken very, very seriously!

Before embarking on our journey up the great Mount Everest, I failed to find an article which warned me of its dangers and the severity of altitude sickness.

Not only will this article share with you my epic story, through good times and the bad, but I promise to give you real advice and honest guidance to ensure you have a successful trip.

The decision is yours to make…

 

Back in February 2017, I embarked on my first trip to Nepal to begin a journey of a lifetime. To this day, Climbing to Everest base camp is one of the biggest achievements of my life, but it didn’t come without its challenges.

Before I jump into the story…I have put together a list of things you need for the trek, alongside the itinerary.

 

What you NEED for the trek:

Gear:

>> Sun Glasses

>> Scarf Face Mask

>> Fleece hat that covers your ears

>> Sunscreen

>> Cap stick

>> Hand Towel

>> Cold weather Down Jacket *

>> Wind Stopper

>> Rain Coat

>> Fleece Jacket and Trouser>> T-shirt (short or long selves)

>> Trekking Trousers

>> Polypropylene thermal tops and bottoms

>> Trekking Boots: Head torch *

>> Snow Gaiter (depends on time of year)

>> Camel Pack or refillable water bottle

>> Trekking Poles (optional) *

>> Day Pack minimum 25L wih a side pocket to keep a bottle

>> Spare batteries for Camera

>> Down Jacket *

>> Sleeping Bag (preferably a bag that covers you as cold as -20: check the label) *

* = guided tours will normally provide these items for you

Trekking permits (this gets a little complicated):

Firstly, you need 2 permits:

1. Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS Card)

Necessary Documents:

>> Two copy of passport size pictures

> Form with necessary details

2. Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit

Necessary Documents:

>> Form with necessary details

Tourism Agency Association of Nepal (TAAN) is responsible for issuing the necessary TIMS card for Everest Trek.

There are three different types of TIMS card. One is organized trekkers card, second is freelance individual trekkers card and the third one is SAARC country card. Cost and colour of each card is different.

 

*(1) The 3 types of cards are (TIMS):

>>  Organised TIMS Card (BLUE COLOUR  USD 10) – If you are trekking through an agency you need to obtain organized TIMS card. This is blue in colour and will cost USD 10 for each card. Your agency is responsible for issuing the necessary card for you. You just need to provide your passport details and one passport size picture to your agency.

> Individual TIMS Card (GREEN COLOUR USD 20) – If you are trekking independent then you need to obtain an Individual TIMS card. This is green in colour and will cost you USD 20 for each card. You need to go yourself to issue this. This can be easily issued either from Thamel or Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu.

SAARC Country TIMS Card (RED COLOUR USD 3) –  South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, (SAARC) if you are from SAARC country, i.e. India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh and Afghanistan then you can issue SAARC TIMS for Everest Trek. Even if you are trekking independently you can issue this for your trip.  This can be issued for you, if you book through an agency.

 

* (2) Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit (USD 30 + 13% Govt. Tax)

Mount Everest is located inside the Sagarmatha National Park, Solukhumbu. Trekkers need to obtain necessary national park entry permits. There is a checkpoint in Monjo, which the staff there enforce that you had obtained the correct permits. There are few checkpoints along the way where you need to register your permit. If you are trekking through an agency, they will issue this permit for you.

For independent trekkers, the cost is the same to those trekking through an agency. This permit can be issued either in Kathmandu or directly in Monjo. The cost is the same in both Kathmandu and Monjo. Personally, we recommend you issue the permits directly in Monjo.

 

Other essentials:

>> First Aid kit.

>> Trekking Route map.

>> Insurance (YOU MUST HAVE THIS)

> DIOMAX (altitude sickness pills)

 

 

Before embarking on your great adventure you have to consider two very important opinions (& honestly I do not recommend number 1…and ill explain why later): 

1) Trek to base camp without a guide. Here you are required to organise your own accommodation at each village along the way, buy and prepare your own food, supply all our own equipment, register your trekking permits and be your own porter. Whats more, you will have to book your flights from Kathmandu to Lukla (note: flights can only take off if the weather conditions are perfect in 3 different locations due to the size of the aeroplane- if your flights are cancelled for the day, you are not refunded)

2) Trek to base camp with a guide. Guides treks include accommodation, food, down jackets, sleeping bags, permits, flights (paid reschedule if cancelled) and a porter if necessary. 

After hours of research, we sceptically decided to book the trek with a guide instead of doing the trek alone. We choice Pioneer Treks Nepal, and we couldn’t have been happier.

(Note: trekking up to base camp without a guide is doable, however, personally I would not recommend this if you are not a serious hiker and have not yet been as high as 5550 meters)  

My Journey

After arriving in Kathmandu, we were greeted by our incredibly friendly guide and business owner: Binod. Captain Binod has been a tour guide for over 12 years and had climbed to Everest Base Camp countless times. With that knowledge, we felt in very safe hands.

After partnering back up with my best bud after 3 months apart (ohh, the pain), we sat down in our hotel to be briefed on the epic journey ahead.

 

Here is the day-to-day itinerary we received (this is normally the same for all organised treks):

>> Day 01: Arrival day in Kathmandu International then transfers to Hotel.

>> Day 02: Kathmandu city tour and trek preparation.

>> Day 03: Fly to Lukla at 2840m (9088 Ft), then trek to Phakding at 2610m (8352 Ft).

>> Day 04: Trek from Phakding to Namchebazaar at 3440m (11008 Ft).

>> Day 05: Rest day at Namchebazaar.

>> Day 06: Trek from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche at 3860m (12352 Ft).

>> Day 07: Trek from Tengboche to Dingboche at 4410 (14112 Ft).

>> Day 08: Rest day at Dingboche.

>> Day 09: Trek from Dingboche to Lobuche at 4910m (15712 Ft)

>> Day 10: Trek from Lobuche to Gorekhshep at 5140m (16448 Ft), then trek to Everest Base Camp at 5364m (17165 Ft).

>> Day 11: Hike to Kalapathar at 5550m (17760 Ft), then back to Pheriche at 4240m (13568 Ft).

>> Day 12: Trek from Pheriche to Namchebazaar at 3440m (11008 Ft).

>> Day 13: Trek back to Lukla at 2840m (9088 Ft).

> Day 14: Fly back from Lukla to Kathmandu at 1300m (4160 ft) then transfers to hotel.

Note: Due to the bad weather of domestic flights from Kathmandu to  Lukla and after the trek from Lukla to Kathmandu are delayed by a few hours or cancelled for a day or more. It could happen even in best trekking seasons, as climate change has begun to dramatically affect the world and especially the Himalayan Region of Nepal. 

Day 2:  As the sun set over Kathmandu around 6pm, butterflies began to churn my stomach and the reality began to sink in. This was it… there was no turning back. Mount Everest, the ultimate challenge, was about to begin.

We were told to rest & eat heartily…for tomorrow we begin the climb.

Day 3- The Climb Begins

The deafening screech of the alarm that woke me sent shutters down my spine. As I fumbled for the alarm clock, disorientated and unaware of where I was, I was sickened to see the screen flashing 4:10am. I sat on the edge of my bed to gather my thoughts. As I look over my shoulder towards  Big P (the ginger giant in the photos) we both gave each other the same look:

Shit…what have we got ourselves into.

With no time for breakfast we jumped into a taxi and drove to what I can only be described as organised chaos; Kathmandu’s domestic airport. With no security checks, we checked our bags in and walk through to our designated gate… the only gate.

Luckily for us, the weather was perfect & we were called through almost instantly (something Binod had not seen in a long time). 

Now…I’m not being dramatic…much…but what I saw next was PETRIFYING. If being told Lulka airport (our destination) was the second most dangerous airport in the WORLD and that many aeroplanes often overrun the landing strip to crash theatrically into the side of a F*****G mountain wasn’t enough, we were greeted by a small 15 seater, twin propellor aeroplane the size of a minibus. 

Great! Cheers for the warning!

Was I the only one completely shitting myself? surely not?

After looking around for someone clammier than me, I decided I was a strong, independent man, “who ain’t scared of nuffin!”

With one deep breath, I boarded the plane and sat as close to the “Top-Gear” looking pilots as humanly possible. 

It wasn’t until we took off until I realised how stupid I had been…the fight was incredible and I had no idea what I had been so scared of. The light plane jumped around like a toy in the sky and the views from the tiny windows were utterly spectacular. It was here where we got the first glimpse of the great Mount Everest.  

Landing safely in Lukla, by only several inches may I add, we disembarked the tiny tin machine and met our porter for the first time. In an attempt to get used to the altitude, we inhaled several deep breaths and took in the dramatic surroundings.

Soooooo…Remember when I told you about how you should never underestimate Mount Everest?…”Even if it is just to base camp?”. And how I said trekking without a guide is somewhat unwise? 

Yeah?… well, here’s why:

It had been two hours since we had arrived in Lukla. The views were already breathtaking and the sense of freedom was growing. I honestly felt like Edward Hilary… a true adventurer. 

That was until we bumped into a “lovely” Danish girl who was on her way down from her 12 day trek to base camp.

Knowing she had made it down without a scratch in sight, and evidently overwhelmed by the whole ordeal, she excellently told us about the 4 people who had, unfortunately, died this week in an attempt to reach base camp. 

…3 of which were without a guide.

Hmmm…thanks danish girl, this is exactly what we needed wasn’t it? Way to boost our confidence…we weren’t even halfway through Day 1!!

It was then we began to notice the rescue helicopters than flew shallowly over our heads every few hours.

6,7,8 helicopters a day would roar across the sky to save those in need.

HELI

***Important***

Never climb too quickly!! Altitude sickness is a serious thing and can affect ANYONE, regardless of age, fitness or agility. Porters who have climbed 100 times, can fall sick and die without any warning on their 101 attempts. Altitude sickness picks and chooses its victims…WALK SLOWLY AND DO NOT RUSH!! 

The slower you walk, the better your chances of not falling sick! If you begin to get a serious headache, start to throw up or completely lose your appetite… STOP….take a DIOMAX (altitude sickness tablet) & head back down about 400 meters to spend the night in the village below. Acclimatisation is seriously important

This is not a race…LOOK UP AND SMELL THE ROSES.

Day 4: The Altitude Test

Beginning the second day of climbing was by far the most exciting. Having had played football with the local village kids the night before, we set off at 7:30am for the hard 800m climb to Namche Bazaar (3400m).

The day couldn’t have started off more perfectly. Clear blue sky, suspension bridges traversing across the glaciered rivers, and donkey traffic jams that clogged up the mudded pathways…it couldn’t have been more magical. 

However, as we grew closer to the Namche Bazaar we could feel the air thinning and the fast, energetic pass began to slow. 

As you begin to climb past 3000m the lack of oxygen is apparent and is where the majority of people who will be sick, begin to experience the first symptoms. Past 3000m, altitude sickness is far too common.

Turning the corner after a strenuous 2 hour climb, we were greeted with a stunning view of the distancing mountain peaks… and for the first time… we caught a glimpse of the majestic Mount Everest.

I’m not sure if it was the reality that set in or simply fatigue, but it was here were we watched countless people begin to show

Boasting lively bars, music, schools, colleges and thousands of working donkeys, we were relieved to finally arrive before dawn. 

(NOTE: If you do decide to trek alone…please take a rest day here! Everyone does! Namche Bazaar is an awesome place and acclimatisation days are a necessity. Even the best climbers in the world require them.)

 

Day 5- Acclimatisation day 

Day 6 (Tengbouche, 3860) / Day 7 Dingbouche (4410)

 

Walking through the foothills, edging closer to the top of the planet, we snaked through sub-tropical, alpine and tundra vegetation, culturally rich, lively settlements that were dominated by legendary Sherpa communities and climbed vertiginous suspension bridges festooned with prayer flags and colourful rhododendron forests.

It was here…Dingbouche…were we realised just how lucky we were to have Binod from Pioneer Treks with us. The reality of how serious our situation would have been if we were alone, makes me so passionate about the importance of getting an experienced guide for the Everest trek (note: The Annapurna circuit can be trekked without a guide). It is also very important to do your homework & choose the right company… we met many people who disliked their tour guides and hired new ones halfway up for an inflated price.

Just like Jake Gyllenhaal in the movie “Everest”, Big P with the desire and ambition to make it to the top, kept from us just how seriously ill he felt after leaving  Namche Bazaar

He lost his appetite, his energy, his sense of humour…he was no longer the person I knew. The two days that went past and I knew something was wrong, but he kept quiet and soldiered on. 

After arriving in Dingboche, Pete could no longer stand, see straight and the pain in his head was so excruciating he said: “I would rather die”. 

It was here, we realised just how dangerous the climb was, and just how deadly altitude sickness could potentially be. With no wifi or phone signal, we are unable to call the air ambulance from our phones. Binod, being extremely experienced and knowing the area well, kept his calm and headed to a small hut where he knew we could acquire a phone line.

2 hours had gone by before the helicopters confirmed Pete’s insurance could cover him, but as the sun was beginning to set and clouds drew in, the helicopter pilots let us know it was simply too dangerous for them to rescue anybody today.

The 6″5 giant who could hardly stand, harnessed all his energy and began the journey, in the dark, back down the steep mountain path towards the village below. 

4 hours had gone by and we had had finally descended 200meters back down to a nestling village close to the river. It was here, where we had to spend the night praying for Pete’s safety. 

The sun rose and the sleepless night was over. Torn between staying on to complete what I set out to complete….or being smart and heading back down to Kathmandu in the rescue helicopter that was racing towards us, I started to go crazy.

This was the hardest decision of my life… 

This is was I wrote in my diary, word for word:

“When I wrote this, I thought the rest of the day would be somewhat uneventful. God, I was wrong. Pete (Big P) suddenly fell sick and we had to call the helicopters in.

This is the hardest decision of my life! Do I stay or do I go? 2 days away from base camp, but can I really leave my best mate? When I saw Pete in such a bad state, I knew the decision was made. WE ARE GOING DOWN. TREK OVER.

Now the helicopter hasn’t come…I now have an important decision to make… can I really do this on my own?”

Day 8: My Journey Alone

 

With Binod’s business partner waiting for Big P at the hospital (which he spent 3 nights in), Pete wise words encouraged me to carry on and complete the journey I had set out to achieve.

But this time…I was to do this alone. Binod and I… to the top of the world!!

Sneak Preview

Honestly, day 8 was lonely. Although I had arguably the best guide in the god damn world…I couldn’t help but think about Pete and if he was okay. The long trek up to Pheriche was hard…and the air was scarily thin.

That night was cold…really cold. The clouds had come in and the snow began to fall. The oxygen was so low I found myself getting out of breath just turning over in my bed and the breath against the pillow instantly turned to ice.

As a sat quietly in the bedroom room, with no lights or electricity, this was the first time in my life I felt truly alone. 

Day 9: Lobuche (5000m)

The next day was positive. We had walked so far the day before, the trek up to Louche was gradual, short and the views were better than ever.

Here, the numbers began to thin once more, with 3 out of the 4 hikers I HAD MET from Kuwait retiring and oped for a horse to take them back down to Namche Bazaar. 

Smart move guys.

Sitting around the indoor fireplace that was being fuelled by donkey poo (nice), I silently closed my eyes and let reality sink it. I was one day away from Base Camp.

Sitting 5000m high, drinking a cup of Chai, I couldn’t believe a dream that seemed so unrealistic a few months ago was about be achieved. I was 1 day away from being at the top of the world.

Day 10: EVEREST BASE CAMP (5550m)

 

Setting off before sunrise, and hours before anyone else had even woken up, we had a big day ahead of us. Deciding to leave our bags in Louche meant we had no choice but to return. This meant we would not be staying in Gorekshep (5140m) and forced us to walk 9 hours in total back to where we started.

The cloudy morning soon turned into a fantastic bluebird just in time. As we turned the corner, the peak of Mount Everest was in sight… THE PEAK. The top of the world. Towering above us in the distance stood the most powerful mountain of all. With power and authority, pathetic clouds crashed into the top and dispersed into smoke. simply…INCREDIBLE.

As we continued, the rocks began to loosen, the wind grew stronger and the temperature dropped to -16 in the midday sun. Rocking us back and forward as we walked, every step felt like a thousand as the air from my lungs screamed at me to hold on a bit longer. 

One last turn….just 100m and there I was… EBC (EVEREST BASE CAMP).

Finally, day 10!! we had made it to Everest Base Camp and we were the first ones there.

The feeling indescribable, the emotion overwhelming! Binod and I both let out a huge scream and reached for the sky. 

I MADE IT! It was done!!

It took another 2days to get back down. Beaten up, toes bleeding and proudly exhausted, we chugged a well-deserved beer and jumped on the first fight back down just in time to see Big P in hospital. 

 

ADDITIONAL INFO

Best times to Trek:

 

There are two main seasons being pre and post-monsoon, which is March-May and Oct – Nov.

We went in February, which I highly recommend. Although it is a lot colder & the air slightly thinner,  we didn’t experience traffic jams on bridges and huge tour groups. From March-May and Oct – Nov, the trek gets very busy. Sometimes you are unable to find accommodation in villages if you do not arrive before 12pm.  

So…thats it. I hope you enjoyed reading this and much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or simply message us at 

 

gokotravels@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top