Part 1 of 2 – the bit before things got nasty

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…

flying into lukla everest base camp trek

Skimming along a little close to the mountains

lukla airport everest base camp trek

I suspect I wasn’t the only one thinking ‘pull-up!’ as we approached the end of the runway, which drops off a cliff!

…the first day’s trek from the airport was a relatively easy introduction to the mountains, bimbling along for a few hours at about 2,500m above sea-level between Lukla and Phakding. Meaning that we’d arrived at our first lodge by lunchtime and were treated to a huge plate of macaroni cheese (Chris) and fried eggs on potato rostis (me). So all in all a very pleasant start to our adventure, save for the fact it soon became apparent that the Himalayas can be quite cold in March – but more of that later…

Highlight of the day – finally putting boots to mountain
Lowlight – getting a pilot’s eye view of the scaryย 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%

Don't look down!

Don’t look down!

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 andย 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.

first glimpse of mount everest everest base camp trek

First sight of Everest, the slightly cloudy peak in the far background (just above my head)

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%

Only the Brits would wear shorts in the snow!

Only the Brits would wear shorts in the snow!

Day 4 – Namche Bazar to Tengboche (3860m)
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.

First signs of some mountain weather. But more about that later....

First signs of some mountain weather. But more about that later….

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!).

mountain lodge everest base camp trek

Room with a view

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%

    Washing options were 1. paying for a hot (but expensive) shower; 2. using wet-wipes in the room; 3. using a bucket of ice-cold water; or 4. just not bothering to wash. I chose option 2, many fellow trekkers appeared to go for option 4 (stinky), an ex-British Marine had to go for option 3 (which weirdly he seemed to enjoy - as did the locals who looked on with astonishment).

Washing options were 1. paying for a hot (but expensive) shower; 2. using wet-wipes in the room; 3. using a bucket of ice-cold water; or 4. just not bothering to wash. I chose option 2, many fellow trekkers appeared to go for option 4 (stinky), an ex-British Marine had to go for option 3 (which weirdly he seemed to enjoy – as did the locals who looked on with astonishment).

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 lodgeย (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%

Vegetarian momos - mmmmmm

Vegetarian momos – mmmmmm

Part 2 (days 7-12) of our ill-fated adventure to continue in the next post: Everest Base Camp Trek – Part 2….
A sneak preview of day 7. It all went a bit pear-shaped for me once the Himalayan weather came in. Brrrrrrr....

A sneak preview of day 7. It all went a bit pear-shaped for me once the Himalayan weather came in. Brrrrrrr….

About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

32 Thoughts on “Everest Base Camp Trek chronicles

  1. I’m so impressed you did this! One of my friends went to do it last year and showed me his videos. I’d have been a mess after that first flight, but the footage of him looking like he was on his death bed with severe altitude sickness just a few hundred metres from the camp really got me wondering if I’d ever be able to do it!

  2. Blimey! Impressive. Chilly. Mmm. Momos.

  3. Always such a pleasure to read your posts! What an amazing trip – still in my places and things to do ๐Ÿ™‚ As for washing options – they made me laugh because when I was in Peru – I tried option 3 and then option 2 and finally gave up for option 4…believe you don’t pay attention any longer even more when you get a free wash because it’s raining all day long!
    Looking forward to your new adventures! Bis bald ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. @Arianwen: it was really tough and I think a lot of people (incl. me) underestimate how hard this trek is. Chris witnessed some even more horrific AMS victims higher up, but more on that in the next post. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. @Michelle: Never tried momos until then. I haven’t lived, have I? ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. @MDP: Thank you my lovely. It is nice to hear you are still enjoying our rants! I guess if nobody washes on the trek you can’t really smell how bad it is. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I loved reading this Tammy, your husband sounds like quite the character and I love your colourful descriptions! This brings back so many memories, we did the same trek in 2009, so I am loving re-living it with you! Look forward to the next installment…

  8. Thanks Sarah! Oh he certainly is. The shock in the locals’ faces when he started washing himself in the freezing cold were quite funny.

  9. Wow – what an adventure! I really struggled with the altitude in Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail so I’m not sure how I’d handle this. But I would love to climb Everest!

  10. It certainly was Andrea. I really loved the whole trek. The important thing is to take your time and then altitude shouldn’t be a problem. We were on a tour that was 12 days long, so were a bit restricted in terms of acclimatization. If you want to do it I suggest you do it a bit slower than we did. But it is def. worth every struggle-just seeing Everest is so cool.

  11. Amazing stuff. Thank a lot for writing that. I will come here to read more and recommend my friends about it.

  12. Tammyonthemove on May 1, 2013 at 8:55 am said:

    Thanks very much. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  13. I’m supposed to be doing this trek in two months, after reading this i’m beginning to wonder if I have the physical fitness level to do it! Amazing photos ๐Ÿ™‚
    Claire recently posted…The Road To CambodiaMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on May 16, 2013 at 9:32 am said:

      Don’t worry Claire! If you have a reasonable level of fitness and you take enough time to acclimatize you should be able to do it. If you still have two months time then I recommend you do a bit of fitness training though. You don’t have to, but it will make the trek a bit more pleasurable. Go for it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Wow seems intense! Hilarious what Chris decided to do on day 4! Can’t wait to read part two!

  15. Lucy Peat on October 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm said:

    Brilliant blog. I’ve just booked EBC for October next year and can’t wait. Your packing list is really helpful, I got caught out in Peru when I didnt have the best kit and got pretty wet on the first day of trekking! Look forward to the next installment.
    Lucy x

    • Tammyonthemove on October 24, 2013 at 1:49 pm said:

      How exciting! The most important things to take are warm clothes. The nights are so bitterly cold. I slept in leggings, fleeces pants, a long sleeved merino shirt, fleece, down jacket, sleeping bag liner and a 4 season sleeping bag. That kept me nice an warm, but as soon as you have to get out of your sleeping bag it is just so cold again. Good luck!

  16. Nishi on March 1, 2014 at 10:08 pm said:

    I’m planning to go on this trip the last week of April into may, and
    having trouble deciding if I should take a down jacket…. For the nights, or simply take a lot of good warm layers to go with my fleece. Any thoughts?

    • Tammyonthemove on March 3, 2014 at 12:23 am said:

      I am a person who feels the cold really badly, so I would definitely take one. The nights are still cold in April. You can always rent a down jacket in Kathmandu like I did.

  17. That trek looks intense, I would like to do it someday but not sure my body wants to! I would have froze in shorts!
    Hannah @Getting Stamped recently posted…What to Pack For an Overland Safari โ€“ The Real ListMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on March 19, 2015 at 1:50 pm said:

      It is definitely not easy. You should definitely train beforehand, but with a good level of fitness and enough time to acclimatize it is perfectly doable.

  18. That airport landing looks INTENSE! What a trek, not many can say they have done it congrats.
    Carrie @Jetwayz recently posted…Disney Parks Around the WorldMy Profile

  19. Aloke Surin on April 11, 2015 at 1:29 pm said:

    Which month and year was this trek done in? Exact dates, please! Thanks.

  20. I wanted to know if you used a trekking company or your own guide. If you used a guide, how did you go about getting contact information for someone local?

    • Tammyonthemove on September 16, 2015 at 8:36 am said:

      We used a local trekking company, but it was a private tour, so we had one guide and one porter just for the two of us. A lot of guides actually wait at arrivals in Lukla airport (they did when we went anyway), so you can speak to a few there and then. I preferred having it all booked beforehand though as I didn’t have much time. But if your time is not restricted you could look into booking in Lukla.

  21. Pingback: Traveling with a Purpose: An Interview with Tammy Lowe | Let's Roll, a travel blog by FlightNetwork.com

  22. Pingback: The Everest Base Camp Packing List for Trekking Females - Her Packing List

  23. Trekking is always the most adventurous activity and is soo much fun. Would definitely share your experience with my friends who are fond of trekking and looking towards Everest. The runway for landing looks so small, wonder how Pilot managed to land the aircraft with such a small runway.

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