Everest Trek experience from a real life travel journal by Mr. Kashyap V Jammalamadaka from San Francisco. His daily effort during Everest Base Camp and Kalapathar trek to keep handwritten notes worth reading. Useful for those who are preparing for their Everest Base Camp Trek Experience in future.
Here he goes:
“Journey of thousand miles start with single step forward” – Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher.
An experience of trekking to Everest Base Camp, walking thru Khumbu region was one of the highlights of my trip and very few treks are completed alone – for me, this is THE one. This trek was planned almost 7 months in advance and I was committed myself to this plan. All this could have not been possible without extensive support of my wife and constant encouragement to take up this trek. Taking care of 4yrs old while I am away for my long distance training hikes was not easy on her. So thanks to my wife for constant support and encouragement.
Seeing Mount Everest with my own eyes is definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Majestic and beautiful mountains in Everest region are mesmerizing and same time, intimidating and frightening. In midst of these mountains, I was nobody and all my problems seem to be immaterial compared to Mother Nature. There are many saying in the mountains but I like below the most. It is really world’s best trekking experience : Everest Base Camp Trekking.
“Man doesn’t conquer mountains, you conquer yourself”
“The Hardest Walk Is Walking Alone But It’s Also The Strongest”
“You cannot climb a mountain without its permission; you have to wait for its calling”
I like this saying as this makes the person very humble and egoless, puts in perspective that any accomplishments in mountains are possible because that mountain allowed you to. I completely agree with this.
Trekking to Everest base camp was more challenging than I have anticipated, both physically and mentally as I was on guided solo trek, but was absolutely worth it. Though the best times to trek were April – May (Spring) or October – November (Autumn), second week of September turned out to be pretty good with no rains till 9th day of trek. There are many blogs which will provide the checklist, training, day to day mileage etc., I will try to emphasize more on my experience trekking thru to EBC.
Landed in Kathmandu On Sept 7th evening and was received by Extollo team (Nabin ji and Shiva). After the introductions, drove to hotel where I was staying for couple of nights before the start of the trek.
Trekking dates – Sept 9th – Sept 20th (12 days)
EBC trek starts from Lukla, small town perched on a mountainside. Most interesting part if the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, as Lukla airport is considered the most dangerous airport in the world. The planes are mostly 15 seater, twin engine flights. It has a single runway which is short and angled to help flights land (in reducing speed) and for take off (increasing speed). The airplanes get one chance to take off successfully; if they fail, they plummet to the valley below.
We (Guide and myself) took early morning flight to Lukla and it was very good planning as the skies were clear and had no issues with weather. After we landed in Lukla, met our porter Phulman. Both guide and porter were extremely helpful throughout my trek and help me get to EBC and back down safely.
We took a short tea break and guide explained the terrain and distance we will be trekking on Day 1. I was very excited to say the least and couldn’t wait to start trekking. Trail was very easy and actually we lost elevation as Phakding was at lower elevation than Lukla. On way to Phakding, met small kids going to school. These small kids have to walk 2-3 kms each way on those hilly terrains. Parents were not accompanying them to drop off / pick up from school so these kids were going in groups, cracking jokes and laughing, helping younger kids get thru the hilly terrain. Beautiful sight and different perspective on how privileged kids are from developed countries.
Also saw beautiful views of mountains, Dudh Kosi river and crossed couple of many hanging bridges. After 3hrs of trekking, we have reached our first tea house in Phakding. It was very clean, rooms were good with attached bathrooms and food was delicious. Met couple of other hikers in the tea house, played cards for sometime before calling it a day at 7:30pm post dinner.
Today is most difficult days of the trek as it is 11 kms long combined with massive amount of elevation gain. Hardly slept for 5hrs and I was ready to start the trek by 6am. Quickly ate breakfast and drank ginger-lemon-honey tea, This tea was my staple drink everyday till I was back to Lukla.
We started our trek by 6:30am and started out walking right next to Dudh Kosi river, originates at Everest Base Camp. Passed through multiple prayer stones, giant Mani wheels (mantra – Om Mani Padme Hum written in Newari language), hanging bridges and reached Jorsalle. Had a snack break in one of tea houses and started trekking again. As we have started, guide told me that it is another 3hrs to Namche Bazaar and it is all uphill. And yes, it was very steep uphill and crossing couple of hanging bridges which includes highest bridge named after Edmund Hillary – “Hillary Bridge”. Bridge is hanging up in air measuring 282 mtrs (~1000ft) from the river flowing below. If you have fear of heights, better not to look down and walk in the center. Guide was explaining about the landscape and different mountain ranges and all I could think was about how surreal nature is. The sounds of river/streams/waterfalls, slight cool breeze, birds chirping made the experience worth trekking. After couple of hours of uphill trek walking slowly (Zam – Zam — lets go slowly) we reached Namche bazaar. After checked into tea house, ate “dal bhat,” traditional Nepali food of steamed rice, lentil soup, and vegetable curry. They have a saying “Dal bhat power, 24 hour,” eat dal bhat, you will have enough energy to trek for 24 hours. Being south Indian family, I am no novice to dal bhat as I grew up eating “pappu annam with ghee”. Food was sumptuous and I left to my room for some rest. From my room’s window, I could see Mt.Thamserku and Mt.Kusum. I just sat near my window and absorbing the views and still can’t get enough. After 3-4pm, clouds rolled in and it started to drizzle a little.
Well, next day is acclimatization day, so had early dinner and off to bed to get some sleep. I had mild headache and my guide confirmed it is not AMS. I was glad because once you get AMS symptoms (headache which starts from back of the head, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness), you will be asked to descent to lower elevation to re-evaluation. In most cases, you will not be coming back up to higher altitude.
Hardly slept for 5 hrs and woke up by 3am, only to keep rolling in the bed for next couple of hrs. Finally at 5:30am, I woke up to beautiful views of mountains from my room, fresh and crisp air gave me lot of energy and made me forget I slept for 5 hrs. Got ready and went to dining area for my lemon-ginger-honey tea along with awesome breakfast. I stuck to oats porridge/omelet or boiled eggs for breakfast on most days.
After breakfast, trekked to Sagarmatha National park where you get views on Mt.Kangtega, Mt.Kongde Ri and first sighting of Mt.Ama Dablam. It was surreal experience to stand and watch these giant mountains around you. For me, Mt Ama Dablam stood out for its sheer beauty and significance. I could not have been more amazed and be in awe of this mountain.
Visited Tenzing Norgay statue (first sherpa to summit Mt.Everest with Edmund Hillary) and museum of sherpa’s. For here on, we went on to Hotel Everest View. Steep uphill followed by Nepali flat till we reached the hotel. On the way to hotel, got an opportunity to take a picture of Yak with mountain scenery. Couldn’t get first glimpse of Mt.Everest as it was cloudy but had good views of other mountains while sipping hot tea and snacking on coconut cookies. After 1hr break, retraced our steps back to Namche bazaar for lunch. Rest of day, relaxed, spoke to couple of trekkers, learnt more on symptoms of AMS and went to Irish bar to see documentary movie on “Sherpa”. Had early dinner (dal bhat) and off to bed.
Hardly slept for 5 hrs and again woke up by 3am. This has been my routine for next 5 days till EBC. Got ready and went to dining area for my lemon-ginger-honey tea along with awesome breakfast.
Today was another long day ahead of us, 10kms with 430 meters of climbing. Don’t lets the distance and elevation gain fool you. These are mountain mileage and net elevation gain is not considered. Trek started off on top of river valley and in the distance, I could see Himalayan mountain ranges and Tengboche sitting on a hilltop. The trail had several Buddhist stupa’s, lush green vegetation with background of snow capped mountains. For me, this was a dream and I am living my dream to fullest extent. On the way, came to Mt.Everest view point. The clear skies gave me opportunity to see majestic mountain Mt.Everest and other mountains as Lhotse and Nuptse.
After taking few pictures, the trail started to descend all the way to 10,000 ft and there were couple of tea houses in Phunkitenga for lunch/snack before the ascent to Tengboche. I was zapped out of energy due to lack of sleep and carrying 15 lbs of day pack. We stopped at a tea house near Somare and had early lunch so I could muster energy for another 2 hrs all the way to Tengboche. This trail seem to be never ending trail of ascent. Finally, made it to Tengboche, my favorite stop of the trek. I loved the Buddhist monastery that overlooked tea house, views of Mt.Ama Dablam and Mt.Everest from warm, inviting dining room of the teahouse made my stay worth it here. Food was ok at the tea house.
During the trek, saw many porters carrying variety of things up and down the mountains and these porters/sherpa’s are the real hero’s of these mountains. They carry more than 50 kgs per person and yet make it seem so easy while I am carrying 15 lbs with great huffs and puffs.
Had lunch (dal bhat) and went off to room for rest. Trekking solo was really challenging and lack of sleep and tiredness caused psychological imbalance and started to question the purpose of trek and being alone between these mountains. Requested guide that I make a phone call to talk to my family. Spoke to my wife and her small wisdom talk gave me confidence again. While I was resting and self introspection, realized what was weighing me down and I corrected my thought process. With this, I was able to sleep peacefully for couple of hrs. When I woke up, it was dinner time, so had very light dinner and went back to bed.
Overall it was very good day with first sighting of Mt.Everest, buddhist stupas, monastery visit and self introspection. Guess solo trekking is not bad at all, at hindsight.
Today trek started started through the valley of Tengboche and a steep descent. With crisp and fresh air, started the hike with lots of energy but eventually altitude gain caused slowness. I started to notice that my breathing is getting heavier, my pace has slowed down (which is good for mountains). Temperature was down to 10F, which means more layers, gloves and head wear.
The pressure that I need to complete EBC was peeled off from my mind and this gave me new energy to trek and enjoy the nature at a slow pace. Every small uphill seemed like a challenge, air was getting thinner, and steep uphills were causing exhaustion. Only thing that kept me going to constant mental strength (mind over body fight).
Finally, arrived in Dingboche, feeling much less tired than I assumed. The owner of the tea house has not yet arrived so requested staff (very new) to make me some lunch with available ingredients and vegetables (grown in their own backyard – pure organic). Food was extremely good and I went to room for a nap.
From Tengboche, electricity is from Solar panels. Hence they charge for all electronic devices charging, request everyone to turn off the lights before they sleep. Otherwise there could be blackouts in tea houses.
As I started going up in elevation, the rooms were getting smaller, the walls of the rooms are made of plywood but blankets were heavier due to temps drop. Ear plugs will not work if next door neighbors are loud. Lucky for me, given off season, there are hardly other guests in the tea houses.
Guess during such long treks, some injuries or body aches are expected and I was no stranger. My left shoulder started bothering me and any small movement was hurting. I was bummed and spoke to guide. Shiva helped me carrying my backpack for last 30 mins of climb as I was experiencing severe pain in shoulder. I wanted to avoid medication at all cost at higher altitude, so I resorted to pain spray which relieved temporarily. My face and limbs started to swell, happens for me at higher elevation.
It is very important to ascent to higher elevation every day to keep your body properly acclimatized. Today is no different and I had to hike up to the base of Nagarzhang peak (vertical prayer flag pole). Lack of good night sleep was due to combination of altitude and diamoxx (more frequent peeing). I was ready by 6:30am for acclimatization trek and today altitude gain will be 300-400 metres.
It was the hill right in front of the hotel and it looked steep from get going. Looking the elevation, I was wondering how I will be able to handle it. Lack of sleep and mild fatigue is now playing games with my mind. Lucky for me, my porter was carrying my backpack so, I didn’t had much extra weight to carry than my own weight :-).
As we started trekking up the hill, I noticed, my porter was trekking in crocs while I had all the hiking gear I bought in REI (LOL) but still couldn’t match his grace at which he climbs/treks mountains. Salute to these mountain heros (Guides and Porters/Sherpas) who makes our dreams come true and yet they are very humble, cheerful and help you through out the trek when needed. After couple of hours and making our way through rocky parts on the mountain, reached the base of Nagarzhang peak. It was very windy but warm sun made it worth sitting on mountain top and watching mesmerized views. Guide showed me the trail we would be taking next day to Lobuche. The trail seems flat and walk across the valley. Secretly I was very happy as tomorrow should be easy day for hike and gives enough rest to the body (how wrong was I). Spent about 45mins – 1hr and we retraced back our steps to hotel.
We sat in a bakery right outside the hotel and chef baked warm butter cookies and he offered couple of tasting. Cookies never felt so good!!! Spent time in the dining area playing with hotel owner’s 2 yr old son, reading a book and after early dinner, went to bed to get some rest for next day.
My shoulder pain bothered me quite a bit and spray medication was keeping the pain at bay during night times, but mornings, it is back. I soon realized that I need to deal with this for another 5-6days till I am back to Kathmandu. Well, as they say, no pain – no gain.
With 5hrs of disturbed sleep again, day began with throbbing headache and more fatigued for me. I realized that today will be an uphill battle for me for any kind of steep hills and I need to stay strong and win this mind over body thing. After initial ascent of the hill, we were on the gradual uphill through the valley. Though initially it looked like a doable trek, after 1.5hrs, I took a break, found a large boulder and napped for 15-20 mins. I actually fell asleep and woke up to my own snoring (lol). As soon as I woke up, my guide asked if I had any headache, nausea – checking for classic AMS symptoms. No AMS symptoms, so we are ready to move on. 20 mins nap refreshed me and I was ready to trek for few more hrs. After trekking through the dusty valleys, rocky trail and wooden bridge to cross Dudh Koshi river, time to stop at Thukla for snack and a rest. The scenery was spectacular…snowy, rocky Himalayas surrounded and walking in midst of these majestic mountains was surreal.
WARNING: Remember to take it slow, you are getting quite high in altitude and altitude will wear you out quicker than usual. Go as slow as you need and keep consistent pace.
From Thukla, climbed one of the hardest uphill (but short one – 30-45mins) to reach the memorial place where trekkers/sherpas were buried who lost their lives in mountains. This uphill, Shiva helped me carry my backpack again as my shoulder pain was unbearable. Once at the top, guide told me that it is all flat from here to Lobuche. Though I want to believe him, I was still expecting some surprises. But I was wrong, final stretch was flat and downhill to Lobuche. Checked into the tea house, ate lunch (dal bhat) along with my regular tea. Went to room for some rest and came back to dining area in 1hr as I couldn’t sleep. This time, it was the excitement that I am very close to Everest Base Camp.
I had consistent throbbing headache while I am walking but once I am in tea house, head ache vanishes and my shoulder pain is back. While battling these pains, I saw another trekker sitting alone and eating his snacks. Went over to him and introduced myself and he was from Czech Republic and his name was Tom. He was trekking with a friend, who had AMS and had to stop near Dingboche. Asked him about his trekking itinerary and to our surprise, we both were on same itinerary. We decided to hike as a group from here to EBC and back down.
We had early dinner and called it a night as the D-Day is tomorrow and want to get some rest and be fresh for long trekking day. From here on, all days, we will be trekking for long hours.
Day began with excitement as today we would see EBC. Still had throbbing headache but not of concern as it is not AMS related. First 1.5hr trek is through valley and it was slow, steady climb much of the way from Lobuche to Gorakshep. High altitude made me walk very slow but sceneries were beautiful – 360 degree view of tall, rocky, snow capped mountains. Breath-taking and mesmerizing sceneries to say the least with morning sun reflecting from snow caps.
The trek ended with climbs up and down very rocky hills. By this point in time I was mentally getting very tired of climbing and climbing and climbing with no end in sight. On the way to Gorakshep, got clear views of Mt.Everest and walked on the side of Khumbu Glacier (world’s largest glacier). After 3hrs, we have finally arrived at Gorakshep.
Weather was very cold and windy near Gorakshep. Went to tea house, had some nice hot tea and early lunch (dal bhat). After 30-35 mins of break, lightened the load of the day pack, refilled water to start the last 3 kms trek to EBC. My headache has now started to bother me and not allowing me to enjoy the views but pressed on to reach EBC landmark (famous rock).
I With all winter gear on, hiked up and down rocky slopes to EBC. This trek was north along the Khumbu Glacier. Off in the distance I could see Everest Base Camp (famous rock), expedition tents and I was pumped up. EBC did not look very far but was separated by many rolling hills of boulders and rocks. Navigated myself through uphill climbs, rocks and boulders, narrow paths, and checked my phone for elevation. It was around 17,896ft. My highest point in elevation ever. YAY!!!
At this point, the trail descents towards the landmark rock. Little did I know, I was crossing Khumbu glacier/walking on it to get to EBC. My excitement was elated and this gave me more energy to walk bit faster though fighting for oxygen and dealing with throbbing headache. Finally after the last stretch of rocky path and reached the famous landmark of Everest Base Camp. YAY!!! and I was super elated, bit emotional and very thrilled to be at EBC. Standing in front of beautiful and majestic mountain was surreal experience. Took some pictures but trust me, pictures don’t do justice of the beauty of these mountains. I have seen many videos, pictures of these mountains prior to my journey to EBC but nothing like standing in front of them and admiring their beauty.
Note: Mt Everest is not visible from EBC as it is hidden behind Mt.Lhotse.
After spending 1hr at base camp, we could see clouds rolling in at faster pace. We have decided to retrace our steps back to Gorakshep. On the way back, I was very pumped up but my body was tired, so I dragged myself over the same rocky terrain and reached Gorakshep by 4pm. This was by far the longest trekking day in 9 days of ascent. Had good dinner – noodles (no dal bhat anymore) and spoke to couple of other trekkers who also completed EBC today. Went off to bed early as next day’s plan to trek Kala Pattar to get great views of Himalayan range.
After good night sleep finally, I was awake at 4am but not in any state of mind to trek Kala Pattar. My guide checked the weather and it was snowing and very very cloudy. He said it will be hard to trek and get any decent views of Mt.Everest. So decided to sleep in for couple of more hours. Woke up 5:30am and had heavy breakfast to start our trek to Pheriche. It was said to me that view from Kalapathar is far more better than that of Everest Base Camp and is also commonly known as major highlight of EBC trek.
Woke up early, had good break fast to get started. Rain hasn’t stopped from yesterday and we had our rain gear on for 2nd day of descent. Within 2hrs of trek and uphill, we have come to Tengboche. Visited Tengboche monastery but it was closed. So didn’t waste time and started our descent from Tengboche to Phunkitenga. This trek passes through beautiful juniper and fir tree forest. It was surprisingly steep and extremely slippery due to the rains, so steep that I found it hard to believe I had actually walked up this trail 1 week prior.
At Phunkitenga, we stopped for slight snack and tea as it was too early for lunch and continued journey towards Namche Bazaar, starting with 2hrs of uphill climb and then followed by another 2hrs of Nepali flats to reach Namche bazaar. All through the hike, it was still raining. Headache vanished but shoulder pain still kept bothering me. Other than small niggles, body was more appreciative of more oxygen supply.
Time for long hot shower after 6 days finally. Freshened up and was ready for big lunch. Guide, friend from Czech republic and I went to bakery for lunch and had most tasty food ever. Burger never tasted so good. I was still not drinking alcohol on mountains, but other 2 didn’t hesitate. After lunch, we walked in rain for some more time for shopping and went back to hotel. Trip was not over but felt like it was the finish line. Guide re-iterated that we had another 20 kms of walk, so we had to get to bed early for early start tomorrow.
Woke up early and gobbled up heavy breakfast for another 20kms. Checked tWalk from Namche to Lukla took 6 hours, plus an extra 45mins for lunch in tea house after Phakding. Most of the trail from here on is either going downhill or moderate nepali flat and goes right next to Dudh Koshi river through the valley. Now that we were at a lower elevation, temperatures were warmer as the rain subsided.
Finally, arrived in Lukla with last 1hr of uphill climb. After all the gruelling uphills in past 11 days, this uphill was easy. This could be due to abundant of oxygen supply at lower elevations. Felt very happy as I crossed the entrance of Lukla and I didn’t want to walk any further. I just sat on the side rock and was absorbing the feeling of completing the journey to EBC and back. Today was much clear day in Lukla and hence saw so many hikers starting their journey towards EBC. I was glad I am done and safe to be back to Lukla. Thanks for mountains for giving me this opportunity and blessing me to enjoy its nature and keeping me safe at all time.
My hike would not have been successful without help from my guide Shiva, who helped carrying my day pack when I was in extreme shoulder pain, helping me calm down when I am very nervous or in panic state, for being able to answer patiently to all my stupid questions on the way. My hero was my porter Phulman who was extremely cheerful, happy and energetic every day. Not sure how both of them do this day 10-12 times a year with smile on their face, but hats-off to them.
Took early morning flight out of Lukla to Kathmandu. Reached Kathmandu by 845am and i was ready to hit the bed for long sleep. Didn’t care for lunch as I was very tired and wanted to rest for rest of the day.
Hiking beautiful trails of Himalayas, watching amazing and mesmerizing views, breathing cool and crisp air was absolutely amazing. In front of these majestic and beautiful mountains, we (humans) and our problems are such miniscule and ego doesn’t stand a chance.
This trek (for me personally) was physically and psychologically very challenging and hiking up to Everest Base Camp in some ways is more exhausting. There is just something about the physical effort required at such low oxygen levels that tired me out but my training did help me to recover faster.
Thanks for guide Shiva/porter Phulman and Extollo base team (Naba ji/ Nabin Ji and Hema Patel) for making this trek a wonderful experience for me with perfect planning and all logistics taken care. Impeccable planning and co-ordination of the entire team, providing guidance at the right team, sending all the detailed instructions ahead of time and answering all the questions I had. I will recommend this team to my friends and others who plan to trek Everest Base Camp.
Thanks to my gym instructor Brie who trained me harder in every class (literally kicked my butt) and ensured I was physically trained for multi-day trek.
Last but most important, big thanks to my wife who let me pursue my passion without any questions asked and supporting me. She sacrificed her weekends completely engaging our 4yr daughter and I know it is a daunting task week after week for 7 months.
Training (6 months)
Follow the link attached at Training tips for Everest Base Camp Trek for the detailed training information on How to improve Everest Base Camp Trek Experience in Nepal ?
For more details on trek/itinerary/ and other details at: https://extolloadventures.com/everest-base-camp-and-kalapathar-trek-15-days/
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