So finally, after a long time planning and a bit of a visa disaster in India, we arrived in Kathmandu ready to start our Himalayan adventure – the Everest Base Camp trek.
Here follows some insights into our little expedition where we combined the efficiency and organisational skills of a German, with the mountain and survival skills (plus weird habits) of an ex-Royal marine – what could possibly go wrong…
Trek day minus 2
Having spent a rather long night in Delhi’s transit lounge – which itself followed four days holed up in Bangkok because we didn’t think to get an Indian visa in advance of our attempt to travel there – we made it into Kathmandu for a few days downtime before our 12 day trek. Chris being Chris decided that the two things he desperately needed were a shower and ‘a couple of pints’. Unfortunately he got the order the wrong way round – and a few pints was more like half a dozen followed an unholy amount of Gin – meaning that when he finally got into the hotel shower the inevitable happened…he slipped, whacked his head, and ended up with lumps and big black bruises all over his body. He really is a man-boy sometimes.
Day minus 1
Mostly spent sleeping off a nasty headache, which Chris put down to an early onset of altitude sickness. It was definitely nothing to do with the gin. Hmmm.
Day 1 – Kathmandu to Lukla (2840m)
So it was up at 4.30am (ouch) to jump on an early flight from Kathmandu to Lukla airport, which is possibly the scariest flight I have ever experienced (except from the return one…). Apart from the fact the plane is old, small, and gets thrown around by mountain turbulences like a rag doll in a pit bull’s mouth, the pilot then has to land on what I imagine could be the world’s shortest runway. But all credit to the plane and the pilot, he smashed us down onto the runway safely meaning the Everest Base Camp trek was on…
Highlight of the day – finally putting boots to mountain
Lowlight – getting a pilot’s eye view of the scary approach to Lukla airport
Oxygen rate compared to sea-level – 70%
Day 2 – Phakding to Namche Bazar (3440m)
After a monster breakfast – the great thing about trekking is that you can eat like a beast and still end up losing weight – we set off for Namche Bazar which is about 9km away with an altitude gain of 900m (including ups and downs). The first 6 or 7km were quite easy with hardly any altitude gain which meant that by the time you got to the last few kilometres there was some serious climbing to do. But after a bit of huffing and puffing, we were soon at our lodge in time for some more carbs.
Highlight of the day – the look of concentration on Chris’ face as we crossed a rather bouncy, 110m high, suspension bridge (photo below).
Lowlight – the steep, 2 hour climb into Namche
Oxygen rate compared to sea-level – 63%
Day 3 – Namche Bazar (acclimatisation trek up to 3800m)
Acclimatisation days help your body adjust to the increasing altitude and decreasing level of oxygen, by climbing up a few hundred meters and then descending again to sleep at a lower level. We climbed up to the highest hotel in the world and past one of the highest airports in the world, and it was during this climb when I really started feeling the high altitude for the first time. Breathing became really difficult and after every 5 minutes I had to stop gasping for air. But some afternoon tea with a first glimpse of the mighty mount Everest made it all worthwhile.
Highlight of the day – on the very day Chris was bemoaning the fact that the rest of the world seems to produce better trekkers than the UK (Canada, Norway, New Zealand etc.) a bunch of likely lads from Doncaster in North England showed up, in the sub-zero temperature at 3,500m, calves proudly out. Those islanders are a weird bunch.
Lowlight – looking out of the window at hours of heavy snow and suddenly realising that 12 days in the Himalayan winter was going to be tough.
Oxygen rate – 62%
We were promised a quite challenging day and it surely delivered. We had about 400m to gain point-to-point but with a number of ups and downs along the way it was actually closer to climbing 1000m all in. And to make matters worse, my testosterone-fuelled husband decided he needed to set the record straight regarding some fellow trekkers who had arrived in Lukla the same day as us….so what would happen was everyday we’d set off early, only to be overtaken by 2 Canadian men about an hour later, followed shortly after by 4 Australian men. So by day four Chris had had enough of this apparent humiliation and decided he was going to let them pass, give then half an hour, and then fly by them and show them how to climb a mountain. Which bearing in mind he was carrying his full kit whilst his ‘competitors’ had loaded up their porters and were only carrying day-sacks probably wasn’t very wise.
Anyway, long story short, I arrived at our guesthouse in Tengboche an hour later to find my husband lying on his bed looking completely exhausted, but proud of the fact he had scored a meaningless victory over Canada and Australia in this non-race.
Highlight of the day – reaching half way to Everest Base Camp.
Lowlight – the fact my husband left me for the day to indulge his sad man-challenge
Oxygen rate – 62%
Day 5 – Tenboche to Dingboche (4410m)
Today was a slightly easier day than previously, mainly because the climbs were more gradual. And it helped that the views along the way were spectacular. But the air was getting notably thinner above 4000m and the temperature really dropped too. I had to sleep with two layers of clothing, a down jacket, my 4 season sleeping bag and a duvet in order to stay warm at night (no heating in the lodges – meaning our water bottles were literally frozen solid each morning!).
Highlight of the day – the incredible views
Lowlight – the bitterly cold nights and having to wash and get changed in the freezing weather.
Oxygen rate – 56%
Day 6 – Dingboche (acclimatisation day, trek up to 4800m)
We spent a second day at Dingboche to give our bodies chance to adjust to the rapidly thinning air. The aim was to trek up to 4,800m and then down again. I made it up to about 4,700m before I started getting dizzy and a bit nauseous (the first signs of Acute Mountain Sickness – AMS) and so had to turn back quickly. Chris carried on without me of course – when it comes to mountain climbing the idea of an English gentleman is a myth, ladies!
Highlight of the day – potato and cheese momos back at the lodge (photo below)
Lowlight – feeling the first proper effects of altitude sickness. Not nice, and much more on this to follow next week!..
Oxygen rate – 55%