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Trekking to Base Camp, Everest

Day 1: Lukla (2804m) to Monjo (2800m)
This is it, the one I've been waiting for; the Himalaya 2-week trek to Everest Base Camp, and I've finally arrived, having flown into Lukla very early (7am) onto a runway straight out of a James Bond movie. Cut into the very mountains, I can't stop gaping out at the runway which even goes uphill so as to aid the plane from crashing into the huge mountain behind, that seems far too close through the cockpit, and getting…err…closer. A sharp turn, and sudden stop later, I get my bag and as a man possessed, walk straight through Lukla, and begin.
Not the greatest of starts as I twist my ankle on the 1st day, the views are so damn good that I was not concentrating on the treacherous path and tripped. I reached my planned stop at Phakding by around 10am, so I sat down by the Dudh Kosi River to spend some time sketching.
I then continued on to Monjo, shortening tomorrows walk down to around 3 hours. There is just so much to see, it's an amazing community with magnificent landscape views, houses being built using nothing more than stones, hammer and a chisel, clicking away with no cement, yaks everywhere blocking the narrow, steep paths, Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the wind, sculpted Mani stones dotted all aound, all to a backdrop of some of the world's tallest mountains.
*Phew*. Now I rest at the first place I come across which has a sweet single bedroom with absolutely amazing views, all for the price of a can of coke. I must admit what attracted me here was the add advertising Western style toilets.

Day 2: Monjo to Namche Bazaar (3440m)
Waking up in the Himalaya’s with a bowl of muesli – home from home…. It was a little chilly last night, which is really not a good sign of things to come.
I was feeling down this morning as I thought I was travelling really slowly due to my large load and the pain of my ankle, making matters worse I had read my map wrong (which is also not a good sign of things to come, seeing as to save money I've not hired a guide or porter) I had emerged at the halfway point sooner than expected, combined with my 1st ever glimpse of Everest all be it…in cloud. A truly amazing spine-tingling moment. Then, 3 hours after I started, I arrived very tired at Namche Bazaar, what do I do with this extra free-time I've gained? Fall asleep again. I just keep telling myself it's the altitude (which, during this morning's steep climb was already having a breathless effect on me); Namche Bazaar is an incredible place, considering it's 3500m above sea level, the only way things are delivered here is by yaks and porters, I can't help but look upon it in amazement. The capital of the Khumbu region is built into the side of a mountain and is very pleasing to look at it's got to be one of the most picturesque places I've been to, combining human marvel with natural wonder.
Yak meat for dinner (disguised as beef), and am already resorting to a hot water bottle at night for my cold feet. I purchased a metal flask in Kathmandu, on the advice of a crazy Aussie character Bodie that I met - fill with boiling water for bed, and by morning you also have treated water to drink.

Day 3: Acclimatisation day
The first 'rest day' to allow time for my body to increase its red blood cells for transporting the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. However, 'rest' it was not as I climbed 450m to Everest View Hotel, since to aid acclimatization it's recommended to ascend to a point higher than where you will sleep. This Japanese construct is typical to the country's defiance of nature, built at the top of a mountain, there's oxygen available on tap, helicopter flights and international cuisine too - I had a small glass of orange squash. Though this still gave me the privilege to sit at a posh table overlooking the incredible Everest once more, this time without cloud.
The task ahead is now really taking shape in my mind in an increasingly daunting way. Altitude, tough trails, the increasing cold and my bag to attend to - it's not quite a hike up Ben Nevis. A scary challenge, and one of the toughest I've faced physically and mentally, it's making me nervous.

Day 4: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3870m)
SNOW! Very pretty!! I argued with my self whether I should set off or rest in Namche another day, to the mental soundtrack of "Should I stay or should I go?" Spurred on by others, I decided to press on, and now that I'm here, snuggled in my sleeping bag, this was one of the most strenuous days.
As I started the clouds lifted and I was treated to pristine views, then the clouds came in bringing with them a snow storm, for the final climb, I could barely put one foot in front of the other, this was not just from tiredness, but because the slightest mis-step or lack of concentration and the ice carries you back down the slippery wet path, a hard days walking. Through the snowstorm I plodded on to Tengboche, once there I went into the first lodge that I found and refused to move until all my kit was warm, the lodge was filled with a good crowd and Adrian the red haired Scot kept everyone entertained with his humor.

Day 5: Tengboche/Thyangboche to Pheriche (4200m)
I left Tengboche/Thyangboche without getting so much as a glimpse of one of the world's best panoramic views. Just as tough and as long as yesterday's walk, I resorted to cumbersomely walking in the deep snow rather than slipping on the icy path most of the way. But at 4200m, I have arrived, the highest point I've ever been to, I am really looking forward to my rest day tomorrow. Altitude-wise, I'm feeling good. I have an open-ended ticket, so if it takes a month to acclimatize, I am fine with that.

Day 6: Acclimatisation Day
My boots are covered in ice, I dreaded putting my feet inside them this morning, but I don't care as I was surrounded by beautiful blue skies. I planned a strenuous day walk to Chukhung about 4 hours away to see Island Peak (a relatively accessible 6000m peak), making the most of the good weather and views.
Having clear skies brings another problem Sunburn!, no matter how much sun block I used my face felt as though it had been in a toaster, wow did I burn. I would like to believe that having the rugged climbers look it would make me attractive to the girls but on looking in a mirror the truth is I looked like a clown, add to that chapped cut and swollen lips, and mild hurting snow blindness, despite wearing sunglasses.

Day 7: Pheriche to T/Dughla (4600m)
A short 2 hour walk today, the environment is now a lot more barren as I climb above the treeline, less vegetation, more rocks, less river-water and still cold. Today gave my face a rest from the sun,

Day 8: Tughla to Lobuje (4920m)
Up and away by 7.00am, and arrived by 9:30am! The only way to stay warm is to keep moving and get out of bed. This gives me another day to acclimatize, rest, and  stay cold; I spent the rest of the day sketching the surrounding scenery.
Dal Bhat for supper again (rice, curried vegetables and lentil soup). I could, of course, have something else – but I did not want the BIG BANG that everyone talks about.
Day 9: Lobuje to Gorak Shep (5170m) to Everest Base Camp (5364m) to Gorak Shep.
Finally, the big day arrives, and I'm nervous wondering if I have any strength left to get there. I did, but barely. Got an early start and arrived at Gorak Shep around 9am, but with no rest for the wicked, set off at 10 to Base Camp, with some relief of only carrying my day bag.
This walk proved the toughest yet, but fitting since it's the final hurdle to Base Camp. I've never walked so slow, serious effort was needed for each step, and I was breathless with every few meters, all the views to Base Camp were spine-tinglingly stunning. 
After about 3 hours, to the sight of the infamous debris of a crashed Russian helicopter, I made it! In a stumbling, drunken stupa, I was actually there, and a wave of immense joy came over me, even if I had no energy left to smile.
Base camp is as you would imagine it lots of futuristic tents, flags from Poland, Chile, India, USA, Nepal, solar panels, walkie-talkies, generators. One Italian estimated that there was 400 people in camp at present, while Boris the German trekker that I met in Namchee Bazaar  said he reckoned there was 1700, either way, it's very busy and many teams are in camp preparing to summit in the next couple of weeks. The trek has really put into perspective what an incredible feat it is. I sat and ate my way through a pack of Jaffa Cakes before I make my way back  for the walk back before the light fails me.

Day 10: Gorak Shep to Kala Patthar (5545m) to Pheriche
I put on clean clothes today, but I still did not feel clean, I even had a shave, 
I've just completed the final challenge, climbing Kala Patthar to 5545m (18200ft) - it'll be a while before I go higher. Most don't feel like doing both, but no way was I missing the historical Everest Base Camp and Kala Platter. I've lost track of which walk's been the hardest, but this was equally as tough. However, it was definitely worth it, as the clouds cleared revealing a full 360° view, including Everest (8850m) and its South Col, the Lho Ha pass to Tibet, Lhotse (8516m) and Nuptse (7864m). Although there were higher mountains all around, I still felt on top of the world like never before! It's made the entire trek worthwhile.

Days 11 and 12: Pheriche to Namche Bazaar
What a delight these 2 days have been in the warmth of the bright sun, although I'm retracing my steps, I recognize hardly anything - last time it was just white, bright white everywhere, now there's green forests, blue rivers, brown paths, purple flowers and crisp mountains, alive with colours, people and wildlife, just as I imagined the lower Himalayas to be like. Before I would stop to add layers of clothing, now I'm down to a t-shirt.

Days 13 and 14: Namche Bazaar to Lukla to Kathmandu
Final last bit now, but why is the end always uphill?! I don't want to see a hill to climb for another week after this trip! I did a long slog and managed to get back to Lukla in one day.
A truly remarkable trek living up to all my expectations – one I would definitely do again!

Written by Neil Fulcher, Vancover, Canada


Everest Base Camp

Neil Fulcher

Richie Barnes


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