The early morning air was frigid and so thin I struggled to catch my breath. My legs felt coated in molten lead as I hauled them in slow motion up the boulder-strewn incline. Sobs caught in my throat and my head throbbed in time to my heartbeat. I knew that the only way to cure my altitude sickness was to descend, yet I was mesmerised by the view. Above me, sculpted snow-topped mountains stood against a crisp blue sky, among them, the tallest peak in the world: Everest.
Already, that Himalayan wilderness feels like a dream. Was it just last week that we were there, surrounded by the world’s most awesome mountains, trekking our way into the clouds? Did we really make it all the way to Everest Base Camp and back? Somehow, one painful, uphill, blistered step at a time, we did. The last two weeks have been filled with exhaustion, sickness, frustration and tears, but despite that, the trek to Base Camp was one of the most memorable experiences of my life in the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
Our Everest Base Camp Trek in a nutshell
I have so much to write about our Everest Base Camp trek including the logistics, costs, route and challenges, but here’s what we went through in a nutshell. From Lukla, it took us nine days to ascend to Everest Base Camp at 5,365 metres and five days to descend. During that time, we experienced sun so hot it turned our skin purple, blizzards and thick snow, hail and long hours of rain. Along the 62 kilometre trail we trekked by topaz rivers, through pine forests and tiny villages, up never-ending zig-zag paths and steep rocky mountainside to the moon-like landscape of Base Camp.
Every day, fuelled by mounds of potatoes, eggs and bowls of hot soup, we’d lace our weary feet into our boots and strap on our backpacks to face the road ahead, our sole purpose to reach the next dot on the map. In the evenings we’d collapse into our tea house and warm ourselves next to a stove fired by yak crap, drink litres of tea, chat with other trekkers and play cards until it was time to climb into our freezing sleeping bags. Exhausted from long days of walking, we were usually asleep by 8pm and up by 7am, woken by the snores, coughs and elephantish stomping of other trekkers.
During the trek we took just two hot showers and wore the same clothes every day. There were outdoor squat toilets, stomach bugs, colds, chapped skin and blisters to contend with, as well as altitude sickness. Some nights, the temperature slid to below minus five. On the snowiest day, we heard the thunderous rumbling of distant avalanches. We crossed dizzyingly high suspension bridges and passed caravans of yaks and porters carrying impossibly huge loads. Throughout it all, we were surrounded by a backdrop of the earth’s most epic mountains, a continuous stream of beauty unrivalled by anywhere else I’ve been in the world.
Recovering and our final week in Nepal
We returned to Kathmandu mentally and physically exhausted, sick and in desperate need of a shower and a clean set of clothes. It was the most amazing feeling to step under a scolding hot shower and slip between clean, white sheets again. Unfortunately, because of the delay at the start of our trek (our flight was cancelled on the way out), elections in Nepal and our poor health, we’ve had to cancel the volunteering we had planned for our last week in the country. We definitely over estimated how much we’d be able to achieve in Nepal and were naïve about how difficult travelling and trekking here would be.
Instead, yesterday we made what was supposed to be a seven hour bus trip, but actually turned out to be almost 12, to Pokhara. After struggling to get to grips with Kathmandu, this place feels like paradise. The streets are clean and dust free and there’s a lake surrounded by green hills and the jagged tops of the Annapurna mountain range. There are lovely cafes to relax and catch up with work in and we hope to finally recover from our illnesses here. Pokhara is the perfect slice of peace we need to get back on our feet and digest the fact that we made it all the way to Everest Base Camp and back – I still can’t believe we did it!
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