While in Vienna, we began making plans for our next destination. We came across a couple who had hiked to Everest Base Camp and were especially interested since EBC is one of the highest hikes that doesn’t require any technical climbing (using ropes, ladders, etc.). So, in late October, we found ourselves leaving Vienna on a 10 hour flight headed to Thailand.
We left Bangkok, Thailand and landed a few hours later in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kathmandu, and what we saw of Nepal, was a big shock for us. Nepal is listed at the 168th richest country in the world, out of the 187, which means Nepal is poorer than India, Pakistan and several African countries. I (Hunter) remember thinking that I had never thought it would be possible to fly to such a poor place on an international flight. I had assumed we’d have to take several local flights and ride a mule for two weeks before getting to somewhere as poor as Kathmandu.
Before beginning our hike, we stayed in Kathmandu for three days so that we would have time to buy some local gear and meet our guide, Tika.
On the first day of our hike, we met Tika outside our hotel at 4:00 am and took a taxi together back to the same airport that we had first arrived at.
Our hike would begin in a small village called Lukla, which was about a 30 minute flight from Kathmandu.
The Lukla airport is well known as the world’s most dangerous airport due to the the shortness of the runway (just under 400 yards/meters), the elevation at 9,383ft. (2,860m) and the fact that it is situated on the side of a mountain at an angle.
Upon arriving in Lukla, we met our porter who would carry our biggest bag up the mountain for us. We considered not hiring a porter because we felt a little bad about having someone take our luggage for us, but the truth is, if porters are not hired by foreigners, then they have to carry far heavier cargo for locals who pay them 1/4th as much as a typical hiker would. They often have to travel further distances as well.
Lukla, like all other mountain villages in Nepal, does not have any roads, cars, machines, power, running water, sewage, trash dumps etc. There are not even tractors for the farmers. Everything must be either hiked in by a porter or carried by a pack of mules or yaks. Some villages had a space for a helicopter to land, but they were only used for emergencies and not for transporting food or supplies.
The starting point for all explorers heading into the Everest region is Lukla. It is also home to all of the search and rescue aircraft that are responsible for rescues in the region.
After two days of hiking, we arrived in Namche Bazaar, with an elevation of 3,440 meters (11,286 ft), which is the hub for both locals and trekkers alike in the Everest region. Out of all the mountain villages we saw throughout the trek, Namche was probably our favorite. To help acclimate our body to the increasing elevations, we stayed in Namche for two nights.
Quote from my (Hunter’s) Instagram:
“During our hike we stayed in what are called ‘tea houses’ – AKA glorified huts. Some were as nice as maybe the worst hotel room in the Western world, others were more like shacks. These tea houses were apart of tons of villages throughout the Himalayan region.
The villages have been here for hundreds of years where different tribes have and still continue to live off the land. There was no running water unless there was a stream nearby and no electricity unless it’s from solar or hydropower AND NO roads. All of these villages were only connected by trails. No vehicles whatsoever, not even tractors or other machines. Everything must be hiked in made by hand or in a very rare case, flown in by helicopter if the village had a flat place for the helicopter to land.
Even the house windows were carried up by locals and all the houses were made with local stones that were HAND chiseled out of rocks. And yes, people actually live their whole lives in these villages, walking for hours in-between the small towns to visit someone or to buy something.”
Quote from my Instagram continues:
“Some of the tea houses had rats running through the walls and halls at night and partially dirt floors. One of the pics I posted was what some of the bathrooms looked like in the villages – whatever came out of you, went straight into their composting pile.
I don’t want to sound disrespectful to their villages but I want to tell the truth. And the truth is, these villages were disgusting. There was fluid running through the streets, people washing in the same river you drank out of, trash everywhere, people coughing and spitting snot on the streets all over the place, people peeing on the trails and crapping just off the side of them. All the locals seemed to always be coughing and spitting snot somewhere because a lot of them were sick. Some of it was just disgusting. One of the things we learned is how amazingly strong the human immune system is (because we didn’t die, haha).
Overall these people are tough and I have a lot of respect and sympathy for them. Hopefully, things will get better as more people visit and bring in money.”
It was in Namche that we began meeting other hikers who were also headed to Everest Base Camp. Since we were all going in the same direction, we hiked together (more or less) for the rest of the journey. It was incredible to have these people with us who quickly became our friends (-Lora).
On our acclimatization day in Namche, we hiked to an Everest viewpoint and got our first real glimpse of Mt. Everest and the surrounding mountains. Pictures don’t do it justice, these mountains were absolutely huge and no mountain range that we’ve ever seen was this massive. We then hiked past the Everest viewpoint to a small village called Khumjung, which was at 12,401ft (3,780m) in elevation, and then back to Namche for another night.
After leaving Namche, we noticed that we began to see more yaks since they are better suited for the cold and low oxygen levels.
We passed through a village called Tengboche but continued hiking and stayed for one night in Pangboche, which was at 3,930m (about 13,000ft.) in elevation.
After Pangboche, we continued on our way and arrived in Dingboche, which was at 4,410 meters (14,470 ft) in elevation, where we would stay another two days to allow our bodies to acclimatize.
The day after we arrived in Dingboche, we hiked to Nangkar Tshang to help acclimatize our bodies to the elevation. We thought it would be an easier hike, but it turned out to be extremely long and somewhat steep. We got up to about 17,300 ft. in elevation, which was the highest point we had been so far. The very top (which would require ropes and technical climbing to access) was about 18,400 ft. After this hike, we returned back to Dingboche.
From Dingboche, we traveled to Lobuche, a village that sat at 4910m elevation (over 16,000ft.).
After Lobuche, we arrived in Gorakshep , which was the last village before we reached Everest Base Camp. Both Lobuche and Gorakshep are very barren, with very little oxygen and warmth, nothing grows at this altitude. We felt like we were on the moon. Only sand, rock, and ice could be found no matter the direction we looked. Even though the images can be deceiving, once night fell, we froze. Starting two days before Dingboche, we were both having headaches from the altitude. By the time we reached Lobuche and Gorakshep we felt like shit. Constant headaches, stomach aches, nausea, dizziness, weakness etc… The people who live here are incredible and very tough.
There were several times we did not know if we would need to get evacuated out due to feeling so bad. Thankfully, we did make it to base camp.
After base camp, we tried to summit a nearby mountain called Kala Patthar Summit (18,500ft / 5550m), because it is a little higher than EBC. We only made it about halfway up before we decided to turn around since we ran out of water and were feeling pretty horrible physically. We did not want to need to get helicoptered out.
Our guide was nice and helpful, but in the times we most needed him, he didn’t come through. After hiking several hours from Lobuche to Gorakshep, our plan had been to hike to EBC and then take a short cut to Kala Patthar before returning to Gorakshep for the night. We didn’t feel great and were experiencing some forms of elevation sickness. Nonetheless, like usual, we trusted our guide to make sure we had brought enough water with us once we had left Gorakshep and started to EBC. On us, we only had one water bottle each (2 liters total). By the time we got to EBC we were rationing out our water and assumed there would be a water source (that wasn’t frozen) that we could drink from before attempting to hike a few more hours to Kala Patthar. Well, there wasn’t and we had to make the sucky decision to turn around before the summit.
If we did need a rescue, it would have to be from Gorakshep in clear weather, and only during the day. Altitude sickness can get dangerous very quickly, especially for someone who is dehydrated, so we didn’t risk it. We still reached 18,000ft+ by this time and are happy we made it to EBC and back safely.
We had a pretty tough night sleeping in Gorakshep after returning from EBC and Kala Patthar, so we were a little anxious to leave as soon as we woke up. Getting to a lower elevation was all we could think about.
Since we didn’t have to go slow on the way down (because we were losing elevation and gaining oxygen) we would hike for 10-11 hour days and didn’t take many photos since the route was almost the same.
Just five days after reaching base camp we were back at Lukla and ready to leave for Kathmandu. Thankfully we had the very first flight of the day, which meant that if we didn’t get to leave due to the weather, neither did anyone else. We were nervous that the weather would cause our flight to be canceled and we’d be stuck in Lukla until we could find another one out. Due to the danger of flights to and from Lukla, they cancel all flights if any clouds are present between Lukla and a nearby mountain pass.
We were one of only a handful of flights that got to leave that day and were one of only two flights that got to actually land in Kathmandu. The others were directed to another airport 6-hour bus drive away. Several people we met were stranded in Lukla for days, thankfully it didn’t happen to us.
The trip was amazing! The hike was very challenging due to the length, elevation and the living standards we dealt with, but it was worth every bit.
The Himalayas are absolutely incredible and if you have to do one thing before you die you must come and visit them. Even if you don’t hike EBC, just get up and close to them. They’re amazing!