We stepped off the 16 person plane at Lukla, rushing to get out of the way, so that the plane could reload. This single purpose airport, getting Trekkers and mountain climbers into the Khumbu valley, looked to be a pile of rubble with people yelling to be our guide for the Everest Base Camp trek.
Before us was a 10 day trek, 140km, and 2500m in altitude. I thank my lucky stars, every day, that J has experience in this country, which is so far removed from anything I am familiar with. We grabbed our bags, and made a quick get away out of the airport, walking directly to the tea house where we were to meet our guide.
That morning I had spent doubled over a Nepalese squat toilet retching anything that may have been remaining in my already empty stomach, an unpleasant reaction to the medication we had taken to help us at altitude (diamox, it increases the speed of your breathe, helping you take in enough oxygen throughout the day and especially at night). Obviously I stopped taking it then, and just took my chances from then on.
We meet our guide. 16 year old Pasang Dawa, was to walk with us for the first 2 days, a requirement to get us through the army and national park check points.
For me the first day was a struggle, lacking in energy, having eaten nothing and my earlier stomach flips did nothing for what should have been the easiest day on the trek.
A typical tea house, 2 single beds on either side of the room, enough space between to walk and maybe a space somewhere for your pack. The dinning room simple, but in every one, without fail, there’s a glass cabinet of the most expensive treats. Chocolate bars, Pringles, beer, just to tempt you.
This time of year is tricky, as it’s the monsoon and off-peak. So finding a room could have been difficult as the Shepa’s often leave the Khumbu, during this time. Traveling overseas to visit their holiday houses or their children studying abroad.
Each day we rose early, it began to get light around 5am, we would be packed, feed and on the trail by 6:30am. On the way up the days were usually around a 3 to 4 hour trek, often we were forced to stop for acclimatization purposes, rather than being tired or running out of time. Although at this time of year finishing trekking before lunch was perfect, because the clouds would start rolling in, obscuring our views and by 1pm it would be bucketing down.
The higher into the mountains we got the harder it would be to take each breathe, J describes it as running around and trying to breathe through a straw. Each day we got a little slower, and finally at just over 5000m in altitude, I started to get the dreaded headache, one of the first symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness.
The Food: the menu was always the same. Obviously their usual, traditional dishes and a few that Westerners must buy. We decided to keep it simple, cheap and Nepali, until one night where we ordered yak steak with chips and a yak cheese and mushroom pizza. Mostly we stuck to fried rice, fried noodles, noodle soups and my favourite snack of boiled potatoes dipped in an amazing green chilli sauce.
The trek was mind blowing! Honestly, it had never been something that I’d wanted to do before meeting J, but his history made it all the more important. I can now being to grasp (although that’s just with the tips of my fingers, I’m still very far from actually having an understanding) what his working conditions were like for those 6 years where he lead climbing groups into the Himalayas. It gave a great setting for some grim stories about his trekking days and gave him a chance to revisit the area. I’ve always said if he wanted to climb again, I’d be ok with it (but not happy, the more times you climb on these mountains, the more likely you are to end up a name on a plaque), but he said no, this part of his life is behind him now, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Since this trip, J my personal Everest Base Camp guide has created an eBook all about getting to Basecamp.
If you want to learn more about trekking to Everest Base camp either independently, or get some advice on what to look for before booking a guided trip, check out the guide, Remember to Breathe. It draws on Jay’s years of experience living and working in Nepal, and as you can see by this article, it is very up to date and current information.