Everest Base Camp Trek

Pippa Wilson on 24 October 2020
I am not sure how I begin to try and condense my diary of my Nepalese adventure into a short blog but I will try. What I can summarise is how it changed me, gave me a more positive outlook, increased my confidence, reduced my anxieties, put my life into perspective and how I can thoroughly recommend the experience. To embrace a culture so far removed from the everyday life we experience in the UK was truly humbling and I was truly overwhelmed by the spectacular scenery of the majestic and the awe-inspiring Himalayas.

I flew with Etihad airways from Manchester to Abu Dhabi and then on to Kathmandu where I would meet up with my fellow trekkers. We had two nights in the Hotel Manang in the Thamel area of Kathmanu which gave us the opportunity to do some sight seeing and also stock up on any last minute purchases required for the trek. Kathmandu is an amazing bustling city full of amazing smells and sights. We had arrived in Kathmandu during the Diwali celebrations, the festival of lights, so the city was buzzing with lights and music and full of coloured pictures made from flower petals and coloured powders.

After a repack to reduce the weight of our bags to be carried by our Sherpas and Yaks, we had a very early departure for the airport to fly to Lukla affectionately named as ‘the most dangerous airport in the world’ due to the number of plane crashes that happen there. I did film the terrifying landing and departures from Lukla, the links are in my full blog.

The first day of trekking to Phakding was a great opportunity to start to really get to know my fellow companions and the walk was very enjoyable. Beautiful lush green valleys and our path winded along close to the banks of a glacial river. It was undulating – as much descent as ascent so we didn’t struggle with altitude. Very cold in the mornings but once we started walking we soon removed the layers and by late morning would be walking in just t-shirts. During the trek we stayed in tea-houses which are small lodges with rooms upstairs for sleeping. A tea house bedroom room consists of two platforms on which there is a foam mattress and a pillow. They also provide a duvet/blankets but you are expected to bring your own sleeping bag and ours were provided by our trekking company. The walls are chipboard and paper thin so ear plugs are essential. There is no heating except downstairs in the main dining room so we only went to our rooms to get our sleeping bags out and ready and to change into something more comfy for the evening. Food at the tea houses is mainly fried rice, noodles and also the staple Dhal Baat. You are advised to stay completely vegetarian as all meat is carried by hand for days up the mountain!

The next few days we trekked higher and higher, entered the Sagarmatha National Park where our trekking permits were checked and crossed 5 suspension bridges including the impressive Hillary suspension bridge. Each day, as we ascended further and further, we started to feel some effects of the altitude. Initially it was just a nagging headache and this was eased by ensuring we were fully hydrated. We were advised to drink between 4 and 5 litres of water per day and were encouraged constantly by the Sherpas who provided water filters so that we didn’t need to carry the full requirement of water each day.

Our first view of Everest was just before we reached the town of Namche Bazaar and it was an emotional moment. Everest is not a particularly spectacular mountain and it doesn’t look so high from this side – there are more exceptional peaks to see and take photographs of but of course Everest is the highest and the most famous so it was an achievement in itself to see it with our own eyes. It is said that you are never too far from an Irish pub and In Namche we found the worlds highest but we didn’t go in until we were on our way back down the mountain. ‘No alcohol on the ascent’ was the instruction issued by our head guide. We had a couple of acclimatisation days on our way up – one at Namche where we visited the Tenzing museum and another at Dingboche. These are not rest days – you still go for a hike up high but then return to sleep low. Climb high and sleep low helps the body to acclimatise and certainly by the time we got to Dingboche the effects of altitude were starting to show.

Three of our party were suffering flu like symptoms and griping stomach pains. I was suffering with a bad head almost constantly and was struggling to sleep. I was confused, disorientated and had extremely vivid and wacky dreams. Flatulence and massive emotional mood swings was also a big issue. Altitude sickness symptoms seemed to be very much like a cross between a hangover and menopause and I had not expected this – I knew about the physical issues of altitude sickness but wasn’t prepared at all for the emotional ones. They did relent a little after the day of acclimatisation but then you move on and go even higher.

On the 8th day of trekking we eventually reached Gorak Shep and then on to Everest Base Camp. This was a very difficult day for me, and I did eventually resort to using Diamox. Without it I wouldn’t have got past Gorak Shep so I have no regrets at all. The side effects were interesting. I didn’t have the constant urge to pee like some of the others had but I did have excruciating pins and needles whenever I stopped moving. I had pins and needles everywhere especially my fingers and my cheeks. The landscape here in the Khumbu valley is bleak and desolate – there is nothing growing and all you can see are rocks, glacial rivers and higher up, snow. The air is very thin and it is hard to breath especially at night. I woke a few times gasping for air. The trekking was gruelling and relentless however and not the most enjoyable day but it was a great feeling to finally reach our destination, the goal we had been working towards and training for, for months and months.

The return to Lukla was much quicker – we descended over three days although they were very long days and we covered great distances however as we descended we found it so much easier to breathe. In summary – it was an experience of a lifetime and one that I will remember for ever.

Full blog and diary of my adventures can be found here http://www.snow-white-skiing.co.uk/ebc/