Day 7 to 9 of our trek to Everest Base Camp
Join us on our journey to Everest base camp, if you have read our previous posts, days 1 -3 and 4 – 6 then great, thanks for following along, we appreciate it! If not then why not have a read then head back to this post for the conclusion. The two previous posts can be found by clicking these links:
Day 7 – Dingboche → Lobuche
With our morning routine of breakfast, getting ready and re-packing our bags perfected we had left our lodge and began trekking for the day by 8am, which for us was a record and a small personal achievement. We were now just one night away from reaching Everest Base Camp, and even though Dom was still suffering from altitude headaches nothing was going to stop us.
The trail began with a short climb out of Dingboche up and onto the ridge overlooking the village below. The landscape had now completely changed, apart from a few lonesome shrubs, there was no vegetation to be seen. It was replaced with rocks of all shapes and sizes scattered across the landscape, it was very much like walking through a desert, but surround by the snow-capped peaks of some of the highest mountains in the world. The trail followed the valley, gradually climbing towards the the Chola Tsho lake and Thukla, our destination for lunch.
As we made the small decent down into Thukla, which was just a gathering of a few restaurants and lodges, we crossed a small stream which had started to freeze over, the temperature was dropping and we also noticed we had started to breath heavier due to the altitude. Thukla stood at 4620m and once lunch was over we had to tackle the climb up to Chukpa Lare. It was only 10:30am and usually too early for lunch, but looking up at the pass we had to climb, we needed all the energy we could muster. We both went for the veg chow mein for a change and both instantly regretted it, it was cold and had no taste. Nonetheless, we ate it, took on some fluids and relaxed for 30 minutes to allow the food to settle, before reassuming our usual position of backpacks on, trekking poles in hand and setting off towards our end goal, Everest base camp.
The climb up to Chukpa Lare took 40 minutes, it was hard going with some steep sections on loose ground, made worse with the lack of oxygen in the air and trying to catch your breath, with your heart beating faster trying to keep up. Once we reached the top stood before us was cairns, and memorial monuments with pray flags strung between them, remembering the mountaineers who had lost their lives while attempting to summit Everest. We took time out to wander around the monuments, reading the plaques of the deceased and paying respect, it put things into perspective the length that people will go to summit the world’s highest peak. It makes the trek to Everest base camp a walk in the park.
From Chukpa Lare, Lobuche was only a couple hours away with a gradual climb up to 4910m, this section was easy compared to the climb we just achieved. Before we knew it we had arrived in Lobuche, this was made up of just a few lodges and the main feature of Lobuche peak towering over the village at 6119m. We checked into the Mother Earth lodge before crashing out in our room for the rest of the afternoon, we were both suffering from bad headaches and wanted to try and rest for the long day ahead tomorrow.
Day 8 – Lobuche → Gorak Shep → Everest Base Camp → Gorak Shep
Today was the day that we would finally reach base camp, after seven days of hard trekking we had nearly reached our end goal. So it wasn’t great when we both woke with bad headaches and had lost our appetite on top of a disrupted nights sleep. Altitude can have some weird effects on your body and we were luckily not to suffer as bad as some of the other trekkers we had met on the trail. Dom only managed a slice of toast for breakfast and Claire half a bowl of porridge, not ideal considering on average we were burning 2 – 3000 calories a day.
We began our trek earlier than usually today, because before we get to base camp we had to reach the few lodges of Gorak Shep, check into the lodge, drop off our bags and have lunch before hiking to Everest Base Camp and then returning to Gorak Shep. We had a long day of trekking ahead of us so was glad (for once) to leave early and get going. The trail from Lobuche to Gorak Shep ran parallel to the magnificent Khumbu glacier. Not only is it the world’s highest glacier but it’s the first obstacle climbers needs to navigate when attempting to summit Everest if you would like to know more about the glacier then click here.
The hike to Gorak Shep took us three and a half hours to complete, and while the elevation gain was only 200m it was hard going due to the altitude. We were both finding it a lot harder to breathe and the pace was slow, carrying our own backpacks didn’t help either. We later learnt a rucksack weighing 10kg at sea level feels more like 25kg at around 5000m.
We reached Gorak Shep at 11:00am, checked into the Himalayan lodge and left our bags in our room before heading down for lunch. We both managed a measly portion of veg noodles, despite the morning’s walk we had no appetite at all and had to try and force ourselves to eat. We were back on the trail to Everest base camp at 12 noon, this time just with the camera in hand and our water bottles. It was a relief not having to carry our rucksacks to base camp and back.
The trail started off fairly flat as we left Gorak Shep before gradually climbing up onto a ridge running along the edge of the Khumbu glacier. At this point, Claire started to feel nauseous and along with her headache wasn’t feeling great. Being this close to Everest base camp neither of us was going to give up now. The trail carried on along the ridgeway with inclines and declines all the way along, with a few flat sections to catch your breath. Along this ridgeway is the final time you can view Everest’s peak, at base camp your view is blocked, remember that for any photo opportunities. After an hour or so of following this ridgeway, we took a steep decline down over some fairly big rocks and unsteady ground all the way down to the Khumbu Glacier.
Everest base camp was in our sights, all we had to do was follow the trail across the glacier, climbing up through and past some large boulders tentatively perched on the edge of large blocks of ice, leading to the large pile of rocks that mark the position of base camp. This section on the glacier has a near complete covering of rock, making it easier to cross and navigate, but there was ice in some parts on the surface. Around 10m from base camp, Dom was ahead with Ram, when Claire got her footing wrong, slipped on the ice and twisted her ankle. At the time because we were so close, she hobbled on grimacing with pain with each step she took. We turned the corner, and there, stood before we were Everest Base Camp. We had made it. Through blood, sweat and a few choice swear words we had achieved something-something we had always wanted to do but not thought possible.
We were extremely proud of ourselves, even more, so that we managed to complete the trek without the use of porters. After waiting our turn for a photo with the pile of rocks resembling base camp, we had our photos taken and then spent the next ten minutes exploring the glacier and taking many photos. We couldn’t/don’t want to stay too long as it was cold, with a bitter wind sweeping off the mountain. Our time was up and we made our way back following the path we took on our way from Gorak Shep. We both were still struggling with headaches and Claires ankle was starting to swell. We returned to our lodge in Gorak Shep an hour and a half after leaving base camp, overall it was a four hour round trip and worth every step.
Day 9 – Gorak Shep → Lukla → Kathmandu
Today didn’t start well, we both only had three hours sleep and Claire had woken up to a badly swollen ankle. We got down to breakfast where Ram made the decision we could no longer go on with our planned trekked over Cho La pass and Gokyo lakes. Claire could only hobble, and with the altitude causing us problems a decision was made that our trek had ended and we were to get a helicopter evac. Thankfully our travel insurance covered everything, that’s why it’s important to always travel with insurance, making sure it covers all activities you intend to participate in. Want to know more about travel insurance? Check out our post…….. Within a three hours of deciding, we could no longer complete our trek the helicopter was on its way to Gorak Shep.
We were both gutted that our trek had ended this way, but looking after our health and bodies was more important than any trek. We had got to base camp which is an achievement in itself, and without a doubt, will return to Nepal and complete the trek to Gokyo and Cho La pass. The helicopter flight from Gorak Shep was an experience in itself, it was a first for both of us made even better from the views that we saw. What was a little heartbreaking was the fact the flight took ten minutes to reach Lukla, following the same route we took 8 days to walk. Once at Lukla, after a brief wait, we transferred onto another helicopter and flew to Kathmandu, our final destination. Our time in the Himalayas was over, it was, without a doubt, an experience that we would never forget. Being surrounded by such natural beauty for 8 days and completing our trek to Everest base camp is something that will stay with us forever.
Once we had landed at Kathmandu airport, Claire was transferred to hospital by ambulance to get checked over for altitude sickness and an X-ray on her ankle. One thing we will mention is that when we landed at Lukla which is at lower altitude both our headaches and Claire’s nausea disappeared within 5 minutes. At the hospital, the X-ray results returned and Claire had badly sprained her ankle, it also showed an old fracture which she never knew about. Once she was all patched up, given painkillers and watched over for three hours, it was time to head back into the hustle and bustle of Thamel and a nice big juicy steak.
We’d like to say a special mention to Ram our guide and Bishnu the managing director or Nepal Hiking Adventure Company, they looked after us from start to finish and provided a top service which we couldn’t fault. If you’re thinking of trekking in the Himalayas you should definitely consider contacting them for a competitive quote.
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