Table of Contents
- Part 1 of my journey to Everest Base Camp
- Part 2 of my journey to Everest Base Camp
Part 1 of my journey to Everest Base Camp
A worldwide pandemic has changed the way we travel. Due to covid-19, many of us have only had the opportunity to travel around our own continent in the past few years. December 2019, while on Christmas vacation in Oman, was the last time I was in an airport outside of Europe.
My studies are finished, and my first year as a junior doctor is done, so I took this opportunity during a break before my next job, to finally be able to travel out of Europe again. Travelling to airports with unknown signs, cultures, and an unknown assortment of snacks!
The best thing about airports is what they symbolize. An airport is a place filled with new beginnings and long-awaited endings, arrivals and departures, hellos and goodbyes. We begin in one city to end up in another, hundreds of kilometers away. You depart from a desert and arrive to a blizzard. Begin in winter and end in summer. Travelling from an environment of security, into something completely foreign; or the other way around.
For many, stepping out of a plane to Nepal’s vibrant and often bustling capital Kathmandu city is a pupil dilating experience. A clamor of sights, sounds, and smells that quickly lead to a sensory overload. Kathmandu can be both an overwhelming and amazing city as well as an exhausting place.
Kathmandu is also known as the ‘City of Temples’ – or the gateway to the Himalayan Mountains. 180 kilometers east of Kathmandu, on the border to Tibet, the world’s highest mountain ‘Mount Everest’ rises with an insane altitude of 8848 meters. Fortunately, the summit of Everest is not something that appealed to us, but instead we decided to reach base camp. This is located at an altitude of 5364 meters and seeing this, has for many years, been a dream of my friend Signe’s.
If you know a little about the two of us or have read our blog over the years, then you know that Signe is the sweet young woman who has travelled with me through a lot of different places all over the world. Many destinations and experiences we’ve had were primarily my choices, so this time it was my turn to follow her to one of her dream places! I was however hit with instant regret, after saying “you decide where to go”. Because with the prompt response of Everest Base Camp Trek, I knew full well that there was no going back.
We have been to a number of different mountain peaks in recent years, and all four of them are equally clear in my memory – because after each and every one of those climbs, I have told myself that I would never do it again…
Adam’s peak in Sri Lanka (2243m) was the first time I climbed to the top of a relatively high mountain. The trip was not particularly physically challenging, but without a doubt I can easily say that I was the most unprepared person on that mountain. It was not well planned at all, and the fact that I was at the summit in jeans, trainers and a sweatshirt was almost a miracle in itself.
Mt. Kinabalu at Borneo (4095m) was our second mountain. If one would have thought I was unprepared the first time, then I don’t have words for what we were this time. What can I say! The pictures speak for themselves here. Note to self: Buy waterproof shoes and jackets! Signe and I both learned a lot on this trip.
Quilotoa loop in Ecuador (3914m) was the third time we climbed a tall mountain range. On this occasion, I would give us credit for at least getting slightly warmer clothes in our bags, although still walking in sneakers, but who is perfect?
Pulpit Rock in Norway (604m) was the fourth and latest time I was lured into the mountains. A trip that was a failure in far too many ways, but we look back and laugh about it now. Would it have helped with if we’d had some proper equipment? Probably!
I’ve spent a lot of years traveling in the most inefficient ways possible,
and it has taken me to exactly where I wanted to go!
So, in late February 2022 we flew to Kathmandu. From home, we had bought a lot of equipment, because this time we weren’t going to go just wing it. After all, this was not a one-, two- or three-day trip, but a hike of 12 days – 8 days up and 4 days down. An insanely epic trip that I had already started regretting even before it even began.
We had brought our Scandinavian wool underwear, gloves, hats, and the other warmest garments from our wardrobes along with a first aid bag that I am almost proud of. In Kathmandu, we had to buy everything else we would need –trekking poles, toilet paper and especially snacks! Our 12 snacks were worth the hassle. There were days, especially at the end, where the highlight of the day was our little chocolate bar. Our body may not have needed the sugar, but our souls certainly did.
We did not have internet on the mountain, so I had decided to write a diary every day, which I ended up posting here. It is raw, honest and the best way I can represent the reality of the trip. So, if you’re curious about our trek to Everest Base Camp or just want to know my thoughts while hiking… then sit down with a cup of coffee and go come on a trip to the majestic Himalaya Mountains in Nepal.
Day 0: Kathmandu
19:00, Rest Up Kathmandu – We have been in Kathmandu for 2 days, met with our trekking company Mosaic Adventure who have arranged all our hiking permits, we have bought the latest needed equipment, tried to fix our jet lag and re-packed our bags to weigh half of what we had when we traveled here. The summer clothes have been left in the hotel’s storage room and the winter clothes are in our backpacks, which we will carry from tomorrow. We’ve had a hot shower and are on our way to bed early so we can be ready first thing tomorrow when our guide Ramesh will pick us up at 05:15 to drive towards the domestic airport.
We are both excited about what the next 12 days will bring in challenges, good views, and adventure. I hope we get a good night of sleep and most of all, that the weather tomorrow is good for the flight to Lukla.
Day 1: Kathmandu – Lukla – Phakding (2610m)
08:35 – Lukla Cafe – Early this morning our guide picked us up at our hostel in Kathmandu. The start of the hike. The start of an unforgettable adventure.
Ramesh was 10 minutes late compared to the agreed time. He quickly jumped out of the taxi and ran towards us while laughing and saying “haha, you worried that your guide is not coming?”. Ramesh seems funny and I’m sure he has a lot of good stories for us along the way; he seems like a perfect guide match for us.
In the taxi, Ramesh told us a little about how he expected the flight to turn out and that we should expect 2-3 hours of waiting time before we took off. At the airport, however, everything went easier than expected and after 30 min we were called to the gate and were ready for departure. The benefit of traveling during covid!
We all entered the little 18-people plane, were handed some chewing gum and took off shortly after. How do I best describe it? Slightly nauseating and with a pulse that one does not need to be a doctor to say is elevated. We first hovered over the blue-roofed buildings of the city, only to later have a view of the Himalayan mountains to our right. Did I mention that Lukla is the world’s most dangerous airport?
The runway in Lukla is only 525 meters long. It is built up along a mountain, and therefore has a very steep climb, which is necessary to stop the planes before they quickly reach the mountain at the end of the runway. Needless to say, we held our breaths during landing. Surprised at how easy both the flight and the landing went, we had the best start on the trip towards Everest Base Camp and we are very grateful for today!
20:00 – Phakding Tea House
We actually lost altitude today as we went from 2840m to 2610m. Three and a half hours up and down a gravel path with the occasional white and black painted Buddhist stones, Hindu temples and donkeys clinking with their bells on their way along the mountain.
We arrived at the tea house at 13:30 and a delicious Dal Baht was ready for us for lunch. After filling up with another Dal Baht for dinner we are now in our beds. Tomorrow will be much, much harder, so I better get to sleep, because we must get up early to get there before the afternoon rain begins.
Day 2: Phakding – Namche Bazaar (3440)
20: 30- Namche Bazaar tea house
Today was a hard day, we gained 830 meters in altitude. We walked for 6 hours, from Phakding to Namche Bazaar, and halfway we officially passed the entrance of Everest National Park. My expectations for today’s challenge with an almost constant upward elevation were high, and now I can say I was right. My lungs and knees felt reliable, and I’m proud that my body passed part 2 of this insane challenge, but I don’t have words for the feeling of exhaustion I feel.
It of course helps that we are surrounded by the wildly beautiful nature of the Himalayas. Today we got the first glimpse of Mt. Everest between some treetops, saw several waterfalls in the distance and crossed four long suspension bridges. Have you even lived if you have not crossed a Nepalese suspension bridge? Probably – and your life expectancy is much higher! They are made of slatted metal and are hurled across the great deep gorges with huge glacial rivers below. The kind that sways and swings in the wind, so you can just about feel that you are alive.
At 14:30 we arrived at Namche Bazaar, a small village with numerous tea houses, cafes, stalls and small shops, most of which are closed as there are not many tourists. We must be here for two days to acclimatize.
I’m very pleased that we’ve made it here. We spent the afternoon drinking a 3-liter teapot with ginger-lemon tea and dinner was Sherpa T-MoMo and fried rice with vegetables (we are vegetarians on the trip as meat is carried up here and therefore is 2-3 days old before it arrives). After a couple of rounds of backgammon with Signe, we are soon on our way into our -20 C down sleeping bags (rented from Mosaic), which we are grateful for, because it is already super cold here!
Day 3: Namche Bazaar acclimatization day
21:10 – Namche Bazaar tea house
We woke up this morning after sleeping amazingly and for no less than 10 hours. Today is an acclimatization day. Not to be confused as a day of relaxation, because at 06:45 the alarm rang and after a little breakfast, which is omelet and oatmeal with apple most days, we were on our way on a little day hike, luckily without our backpacks which felt so good! It was a short little 2,5 hours hike that went up, up and up. The point is to hike to high altitude, be here a for a little while (read: eat snacks and take pictures) and then to hike down to lower altitude to sleep. The hike felt good in the legs and we both feel great. Today, again, we saw Mt. Everest, which was much closer than yesterday.
After our hike, Signe explored the Nepalese form of a hot shower, I’m glad I did not, because afterwards she was freezing. We spent the afternoon exploring the city a bit, in search of finding a place where the sun could warm us – we succeeded and after a few hours at the local bakery with both chocolate cake, hot cocoa and free internet, we were back to our tea house.
Hours later, after dinner (surprise! Dal Bhat), a new card game Ramesh taught us and a few hours in the heated restaurant with good stories, we are now once again lying in our warm sleeping bags.
The day of acclimatization was clearly needed. Tomorrow we are on our way higher up the mountains and I just really hope it does not rain.
Day 4: Namche Bazaar – Phortse (3840m)
19:30 – Phortse village tea house
We woke up to clear skies and sunshine. On the route that the locals call ‘the scenic route’ (opposite to standard way to reach Everest Base Camp which is via Tyangboche) we hiked from Namche to Phortse.
The day started out well and the views were indescribable! Our lunch break was on top of a mountain at 4000 meters altitude, we both ate Dal Baht (shocking) but after the 4 hours of hiking in the morning I was totally exhausted. The last 2 hours were uphill and without enough oxygen in the air, it got difficult to breath. After lunch we did the most unmotivated thing I can dream of, we walked 1 hour down the mountain to cross the river only then to again walk another hour up the mountain on the other side, to where our accommodation was. A few tears and 7 hours later, we arrived at 15:00 to the small village of Phortse. Luckily, we stayed in a nice place at a Sherpa family where the father told us that he had summited Everest 12 times! We got a little star-struck. Also, Signe has promised me a foot massage tonight, so I am grateful for that.
I did not think that anything could get harder than day 2, but day 4 has without a doubt been extreme and to be honest I fear a little bit for tomorrow. I sincerely hope that we will have an advantage by having hit the 4000m mark today already, I guess we will find out soon enough…
Day 5: Phortse – Dingboche (4360m)
21:00 – Dingboche tea house
Today was the day we crossed the 4000m mark and the terrain has definitely changed. We crossed the tree line and the lush pine forest and growing rhododendron have been replaced by a rocky, dusty landscape, scattered with bushes, a sharp wind and blowing sand.
Halfway on our 6-hour hike, we stopped in the sun for lunch. We got a big bowl of (guess …) dal baht. The rest of the afternoon was spent in what the Nepalese call “flat landscape”, but which we back in Denmark would describe as rather hilly. Even the flat places have an uphill elevation!
It is icy cold in the large tea house, but warm and cozy in the dining room. The room is heated by a wood stove, where yak dung is used as firewood…
In many of the tea houses we have been to, we have almost been the only tourists. However, this evening the tea house was busier, and we chatted amongst the tables about everyone’s experiences until now. It was nice to meet others who have also accepted the challenge of getting to Everest Base Camp.
We are at 4360m altitude which is also the altitude at which you feel out of breath just by turning around in bed, so I guess I just won’t move much tonight.
I’ve gotten a blister on my one foot, and I find the hikes to be very long. Signe enjoys the days more than I do, she is happy and seems to enjoy the thought of the many hours in nature. So, I will put a blister patch on my sore heel and pull on my hiking boots again tomorrow. Luckily, it will be another acclimatization day with a supposedly smaller hike, so I’m grateful for that!
Day 6: Dingboche acclimatization day
20:32 – Dingboche Tea House
Today was our second and last acclimatization day on our way to Everest Base Camp. We had a steep hike in front of us, which we spent nearly two and a half hours completing this morning. When we first hit a rhythm, it was nice to get a bit out without our backpacks. It is hard not to enjoy a walk when it is with a clear sky and the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas surrounding us. After lunch we had the day to ourselves. We mainly sat in the sun, sheltered from the icy wind. We eventually went to the town’s bakery, where, together with our new Dutch and English friends, tasted the goodies and watched a film, which is put on every day at 14:00.
The evening was spent in the semi-warm dining room (the only heated area in the tea house – by a small stove), we taught our new friends the card game ‘Goofy’, and all played around the table while trying not to fall asleep too early. Tomorrow we are headed on to Lobuche, which I am excited about, Ramesh says it will take approximately 5 hours, which usually means anything between 4 and 7 hours.
Day 7: Dingboche – Lobuche (4940m)
19:30 – Lobuche tea house
We started the morning by once again packing all our things together in our backpacks. It has gradually become a ritual that we perform in half an hour while we jump and dance to get warm! Getting out of the warm sleeping bags in the morning is challenging. The even more difficult bit is having to change clothes. It gets significantly colder the higher up we get, so whether we succeed in changing underwear every day will forever remain a Himalayan mystery.
After breakfast we started the day’s hike at 8am like we always do. After two quick hours we had already reached our lunch break – it went fast today–maybe it is the idea of base camp tomorrow that gives us energy?
After lunch and a steep hour uphill, we crossed the ‘Thukla Pass’ and came to a memorial site for people who have died in the Himalayas in their attempt to reach the top of one of the many summits. There was a large field with fray prayer flags and structures of stones scattered all around. We took a short break and Ramesh showed us some of the many memorial stones. Seeing Scott Fischer’s memorial stone was almost like a testimony to me of how privileged I am to be able to move in this wonderful yet dangerous landscape.
We arrived in Luboche at 1pm, to a cozy tea house where Ramesh got us a “deluxe” room. There is not much deluxe about it, but up here we really appreciate a double-glass window and a coat rack in the room. There is a small glass covered shack next to our tea house, almost a greenhouse, where we sat alongside our Dutch friends in the sun almost all afternoon. We read our books for a little bit, took a nap, all the while our guides played Goofy with each other. It was nice to see that they enjoyed the newly learned card game. The evening went along with playing card games around the little wood stove.
We are both tired but fortunately have no symptoms of altitude sickness. Tomorrow is Base Camp and the alarm clock is set for 05:20. We are looking forward to it, but are nervous about the cold which is approaching -15 degrees C at night.
~ The beauty of simplicity ~
Part 2 of my journey to Everest Base Camp
If you are reading this, it means that I survived – there was never any doubt about Signe’s survival. Signe has proven to be a real mountain goat; it’s fascinating how nature gives her energy when I feel it is slowly draining mine. Not that I was doubting it, but I should stick to the depths and diving instead of the heights and hiking. At least as long as this experience is fresh in memory and if hiking trips includes -15 degrees C at night.
Part 2 of our crazy adventure to Mount Everest Base Camp was frankly brutal in many ways. No doubt it was insanely beautiful, unique and mind-blowing, but it was also incredibly hard, cold, difficult and challenging.
Continuation of part 1.
Day 8: Lobuche – Gorak Shep – Everest Base Camp (5364m) – Gorak Shep (5170m)
18:30 – Gorak Shep Tea House
Everest Base Camp Day! We have been waiting, looking forward to, dreading and been very excited for this day. I didn’t sleep much last night as I really felt the lack of oxygen. As the altitude increases, the atmospheric pressure decreases and the amount of oxygen in the air consequently drops, around Base Camp there is 30% less oxygen than at sea level. I discovered the disadvantage of knowing the symptoms of altitude sickness, because last night I (according to myself) had them all… Signe is fortunately well.
The day started out early and the ground was completely frozen when we left Lobuche. Honestly it was frozen all day. The morning was tough for me as I did not feel much better, but after 3 hours we finally reached Gorak Shep. Here we had a quick lunch, left our big backpacks, and shortly after made our way towards Everest Base Camp.
2 very hard hours later, where I had almost given up, we finally arrived at Mount Everest Base Camp!
The headache and nausea were replaced with feelings of extreme relief and joy, so unreal. What an achievement, what a success, what a win!
After some time at Everest Base Camp we went back to Gorak Shep where we would spend the night. However, Signe the mountain goat hadn’t had enough, so she and Ramesh went on a sunset trek to Kala Patthar. In the meantime, I wrote my diary and kept the sleeping bags warm. Tomorrow we thankfully start going down, back towards civilization and I can almost taste the oxygen.
Day 9: Gorak Shep (5170m) – Pangboche (3930m)
20:30, Pangboche tea house
Today was the first day going downhill, from Gorak Shep to Pangboche ~ 1240m elevation downhill! The night in Gorak Shep was not the best, it was honestly freezing cold. We woke up to frozen water in our water bottles, frozen sunscreen, frozen toothpaste, EVERYTHING was frozen – the water to flush the toilet was also frozen. Besides, I do not remember the last time I washed my hands using anything other than frozen wet wipes and alcohol gel. The water in the sink has been frozen for almost as many days as I can remember.
All in all, a tough night for everyone, even the guides. The morning started out early and we came back surprisingly fast over the glacier, back through Lobuche, past Dingboche until after 6 hours, 33,000 steps and 23 km we arrived in Pangboche. The first day downhill went well, we are both happy not to get too breathless by putting on socks and to be able to both eat and breathe at the same time. On the hike today, we also befriended a dog, who followed us for almost the entire hike, it was quite cozy with four-legged company.
Day 10: Pangboche – Namche Bazaar (3440m)
20:45, Namche Bazaar tea house
We woke up this morning after having slept reasonably well. The nights over 4000m have not been great, so it was nice to finally get a good night’s sleep.
Although the overall goal today was to descent in altitude, our hike today also went a lot uphill. Down, up, down, up, down. The dog laid in front of our tea house this morning and followed us for a few more hours, but I think it got tired of going up and down without getting offered anything but week-old protein bar. We also saw a large herd of wild mountain goats a little later in the day. After another long day with an additional 21 kilometers and two suspension bridges behind us, we arrived in the early afternoon at Namche Bazaar. The superhero Ramesh surprised us with an almost luxurious room with two (!) coat racks, private bathroom and, wait for it, a shower with hot water! We both had a much-needed shower. However, we did not bring shampoo on the trip, so our hair must wait. Once again, we spent the afternoon at the warm, local bakery. Never have I felt like I deserved a piece of chocolate cake so much.
There are a lot more people on the route now than a week ago. Most shops in Namche have opened up and our tea house is filled with people on their way up. We feel very grateful for having had the trail to ourselves for most of our trip up. We have really had the opportunity to appreciate this unique landscape with a minimal number of tourists. Early March has proven to be a perfect time to come here.
Our evening in the tea house went as followed – Dal Bhat for dinner, movies about Everest, popcorn and lemon-ginger tea.
Day 11: Namche Bazaar – Lukla (2840m)
21:10, Lukla tea house
Our last day on the hike and what a day it was. We walked another 7 hours and 20 km down from Namche to Lukla, which brought our total distance to a total of 130 km. We crossed 6 suspension bridges and had lunch in Phakding. After Phakding I remembered, that our first day mostly was downhill, which then meant that the last few hours from Phakding to Lukla would be uphill … My feet are full of blisters, my toenails feel ready to fall off and you can barely see my skin between blisters, sports tape and plaster. Oh yes, and dirt.
When we arrived at Lukla our guide Ramesh had again provided us with a nice room with a bathroom and hot water in the shower.
Later in the afternoon, we found by coincidence out that it was Ramesh’s birthday, so we decided to celebrate both his birthday and our survival with a feast in our tea house in Lukla.
Now we are once again in our sleeping bags and are both tired and sore. The mountain has also finally won again the mountain goat Signe, who for the next few days probably will be going backwards down stairs.
Day 12: Lukla – Kathmandu
06:14, Lukla tea house
We woke up to the last sunrise over the Himalayas, what a trip it has been. I have no words for how beaten my body is and how much excited I am not to be wearing hiking boots, to get my hair washed and not having to set an alarm. We dream of having Indian for dinner at a restaurant we came across in Kathmandu before we left and have decided to book a couple of nights in a hotel – our current standard of accommodation is clearly easy to surpass.
The flight back to Kathmandu departs here “between 6 and 8”, we are booked on today’s first flight out of Lukla, but departure times aren’t fixed because all depends on the weather. The short runway ends at the mountain cliff, so I think I will close my eyes and hold my breath when we takeoff.
17:40, Kathmandu hotel –
Grateful for getting safely through the world’s most dangerous airport. I’m grateful for running tap water, power in the sockets, clean clothes, a well-insulated house and not least sufficient amount of oxygen in the air!
For almost two weeks every morning I have been putting on blister tape on my feet, blowing blood out of my nose and struggling to get my sleeping bag into my backpack. I cannot describe the joy that fills me, knowing that this morning routine is finally done with. We do not need to set an alarm clock for 6am tomorrow and we look forward to waking up without ice in our water bottles.
We have had amazing Indian food for lunch and look forward to seeing a little more of Kathmandu than what we saw before heading off towards the mountains.
~ What comes up, must come down ~