Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Everest Base Camp Trek June 2009

5 friends got together to go to the Everest base camp, here is detailed blog on the trek

The Journey: Hyderabad to Delhi - 13th June: The Group started from Hyderabad on the 13th and were seen off by friends who wished us good luck and a safe journey, Diyanat, Mario and Dr Prasad boarded the indigo flight to Delhi and then boarded a train from old Delhi railway station to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, which is a town Close to the India -Nepal Sinauli Border.  Priyank and Mithun took a flight directly to Nepal.  The group carried backpacks, weighing 20 kg's each, consisting of warm clothes and food items to use on the trek. We all got down from the train at Gorakhpur (U.P).

 It was a very hot day with temperature close to 44 degrees with dust around. We were sweating badly and were looking for an AC taxi to the border town, Sinauli, and the drivers were quoting a high price. Finally a driver agreed for an AC taxi for Rs 600. The moment we sat in the taxi the driver asked us to roll up the windows and switched on the Air Cooler, and as we went ahead he asked us to roll down the windows and said “There is no AC in the car”. We were not amused and we didn’t have any choice but to go on with it. It’s never easy and never-never cheap.

At Gorakhpur

Sinauli India – Nepal Border - 14th June: The grouped reached the border in about 2 hour’s time and the taxi dropped us just before the border. We took a rickshaw from there, it was kind of funny to cross the border in a rickshaw, we were amused and were smiling, it was a different experience altogether.
We went into Nepal and were looking for a taxi to Kathmandu. After bargaining a lot we managed to hire a taxi for Rs 4500 and our journey began at 4 PM.

Into Nepal

 It was a long journey through the Ghats and the driver was speaking Hindi, much to our relief. On the way a Maoist was killed by some group and the roads were blocked and we were stuck on a ghat road for 2 hours. It was pitch black. The group was angry, shouting and protesting. We were little scared. With the arrival of the riot police the way was cleared and we managed to move on, driving into the valley of Kathmandu which is at 5000 feet above sea level. It was night and the sky was lit with stars. As we approached the Kathmandu valley it got cooler. We reached Nagarkot which is a hill at 7000 feet above sea level and 30 kms far from Kathmandu at 1 AM of 15th June and slept like babies till noon. Huh! The cradles were missing.

Nagarkot (15-16th June): We spent 2 days at Nagarkot which was meant for acclimatization, it was beautiful up there. Nagarkot is lush green and the hotels are on the slopes of the hills among the forest. The night was filled with light bugs that moved around the trees, adding sparkles and the sky resembled a blanket full of bright stars, a scene that we can never forget. We went to Kathmandu in the noon of 16th to Thamel which is the main hub of all tourist activity with most of the shopping stores and hotels located there. We spent some time shopping and renting gear Next day was our early morning flight to Lukla (9380 feet) which is a village on the hills where our trek will begin

Rainbow at Nagarkot

17th June (To Lukla by Flight): We started early morning at 5:15 AM to the domestic airport at Kathmandu which is an altogether different experience. The flight was scheduled for 6:30 AM but was delayed by 4 hours due to bad weather at Lukla airport and at about 12:30 PM we got in the plane, which is a small 16 seat Dornier.  The on board stewardess just had the role of giving out sweets and cotton wool and take her seat, nothing much catering in this flight. We could see the amazing view of the distant snow covered peaks which were a delight to the eyes. About half the entire stretch of the Himalayas is visible from the flight. After about 25 minutes the plane approached the Lukla runaway which looked like a small strip of road, how on earth is the place going to land there? A feeling of dread and excitement, mixed with trepidation as we descended and ‘hit’ the runway. The plane came to a halt and we could see the smiles all round, we were happy to reach Lukla safely, especially remembering the crash at Lukla in 2007 when a similar plane crashed on landing and all passengers were killed, there is no margin for errors at this airport.

At Lukla Airport

Lukla to Phakding (17th June): We got off the plane, collected our luggage and went off to see our guide and porters. Our guide name was Ngima, he was an enigmatic Sherpa who could just speak few English words, but we managed to communicate in English and sign language. It was frustrating but we had no option, we were all excited and had some warm tea before we began our trek to Phakding. It took us 3 hours to reach Phakding and we stopped at Phakding for some rest and food. At Phakding we had our lunch, and some yak cheese which made us feel heavy. So we decided to rest, stay overnight at Phakding and start in the morning otherwise the plan was to go till Monjo. It was cold at Phakding and the tea houses made of wood were not so warm, we wore our clothes and a blanket to warm ourselves. Phakding has some leeche plants and apple orchids in the surroundings. We had freshly made apple pie in a nearby restaurant. The phone costs were high and the food started getting costlier from here onwards, next morning we started for Namche.

Phakding to Namche (18 -19 June): Had our morning tea at 7:30 AM and started off to Namche. It was going to be a 6-8 hours climb. We went past Benkar, Monjo, walking through blue pine and rhododendron forest and took a halt at Jorsale for breakfast. The terrain till Jorsale was almost below 3000 meters with few uphill’s and downhills, but after Jorsale we started feeling the climb and the altitude. We found many water falls on the way. The river Dodh Koshi was flowing all the way, from the glaciers and we crossed many bridges over it. As we pushed up, we were losing out on breath and energy, we slowed down, the climb was mostly rough and uneven steps all taking you up and up till Namche. It’s here that we developed a slight headache but continued going up. We continued our climb without lunch. We exerted ourselves and took no rest periods in between. Now, this meant an invitation for Acute Mountain Sickness, which we learned the hard way. We all reached Namche by 3:30 pm and had lunch at 4 PM. This was a big mistake that cost us later in the form of fatigue. At Namche we were exhausted and just wanted to take lunch and rest. we all slept with some headaches, we stayed another day at Namche for acclimatization and rest, we went about in the Namche village to check out the early morning views of the peaks and the neighborhood, we could see excellent view of snow covered peaks, but rest of the day it was cloudy and the nights were misty, it rained few times.

Namche Bazaar

Namche to Tengboche (20 June): We all started at 7 AM for Tengboche (12500 Feet). Here we could see the first clear view of the Everest and the nearby peaks namely Ama Dablam, Lhotse and Nuptse, truly amazing and very clear. We took some photos and admired the views storing them in our memory cards as well as in the neurons. We continued on and descended about 1200 feet to the river level and stopped for lunch at Phunki Tenga (10600 feet). After lunch was the toughest climb. We had to again go up by 2000 Feet to reach Tengboche, the weather become very misty and we could hardly see anything more then a distance of 10 meters, it was drizzling with strong winds blowing which was robbing the heat from our bodies, which could have lead to Hyperthermia (body loosing heat fast and leading to dizziness) but we continued up the trail slowly few steps at a time and taking rest every now and then. We reached Tengboche at 4:30 PM and had some hot tea. We were all wet and cold. We heated ourselves at the chimney fire in the Tengboche hotel.

First View of the everest

It was very cold at Tengboche and we had to take our gloves and jackets off. We rested for the evening and had early dinner and went off to sleep. We had a restless night and couldn’t sleep properly. We could feel the effect of declining oxygen in the air and our bodies were reacting differently, some had headaches, others were feeling low and tired but we had to move on, these symptoms are normal as you go higher and higher due to low oxygen in the air, but we also have to monitor ourselves for fatal conditions like HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) where the lungs get filled with water and blood and HACE (High altitude Cerebral Edema) where the brain gets enlarged. Both are fatal conditions that can kill a person rapidly. The only cure is rapid descend to a lower altitude area where there is more oxygen, Next day, we got up early to visit the Tengboche monastery which is the biggest and most sacred in Nepal

On to Dingboche

Tengboche to Dingboche (21-22 June): After Breakfast we trekked from Tengboche to Dingboche (14,500 feet) as we went up there were no more trees on the path, just low lying shrubs. And this town is the highest permanent village in Nepal. After this point there are only seasonally villages catering to climbers and trekkers. As usual, the scenery was amazing. It was the first day that we felt like we reached the mountains, as we are surrounded by snow covered peaks on all sides. The sky was clear and we had a nice breeze all around.

As we went up communication was a problem, we couldn’t call back home as none of the radio phones were working due to bad weather, people back at home were spending sleepless nights praying for our well being, they were happy when we called from Dingboche for Rs 200 per minute using satellite phone, we could also sent a email for Rs 20 a minute, We stayed another day at Dingboche for acclimatization and rest

Dingboche to Lobuche (23 June): After a day of rest in Dingboche we ascended to Lobuche (16000 Ft). It was a gradual climb until we reached the terminal moraine of the Khumbu Glacier where the climb was more intense. We ascended into the highest parts of the Khumbu. The path traverses the hillside until we reach the few stone buildings at Dugla. We had our lunch here and then continued to ascend by the snout of the Khumbu Glacier, passing many Buddhist stone Stupas and Chortens. The path follows a pleasant, grassy valley and finally reaches the lodge at Lobuche where there are outstanding views of Nuptse Peak .It is impressive to see how the Glacier can push the earth around to create the moraines (debris of soil and rock) - the forces are hardly imaginable.
Up on the terminal moraine, we also passed through a memorial for climbers and those that have perished at one time or another climbing Mt. Everest or on the trek. Anyone who dies is buried here as it’s a big burden and cost to take the body back home, the memorial was a sobering and a clear reminder that there are dangers involved in the endeavor of High Altitude trekking and mountaineering.

Lobuche to Gorekshep (24 June): The trek from Lobuche to GorakShep (16900 Ft) followed along the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. Just before arriving in Gorak we climbed adjacent terminal moraines of the Changri Glacier which joins the Khumbu and crossed a stream of glacier melt and we rested at Gorekshep

View from kalapathar

At the Everest Base Camp (25 June): It took us two hours to reach Base Camp (17600 Feet) from GorakShep. To get there we continued along the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier with spectacular views of the Khumbu Ice Fall, Mt. Everest, and Base Camp, Most of us had tears in our eyes when we saw the serene beauty all around, all the hard work has paid, we were all overjoyed and could not control the joy, we all hugged each other for minutes.

We trekked through Base Camp to go and touch the bottom of the Ice Fall. It was much larger than one could imagine with bottomless crevasses and towering ice columns. Clearly, a very technical challenge to maneuver.

Journey Back to Lukla and Kathmandu (25- June – 01 July): We took the return journey the same path we came, getting down during the days and resting at nights, we reached Lukla in 3 days and had to wait for another 3 days to get a flight to Kathmandu as the weather was bad and visibility was very low, on 01 July we were back in Kathmandu, stayed 2 more days in Thamel area and took a flight via Delhi to Hyderabad on the 3rd July.

Contributed by Diyanat