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The Call of Mountains. Everest Base camp and the Glorious Himalayas.
The amazing journey from Bangalore to Everest Base Camp.
A Group of 11 friends heard the Himalayas calling and set out to conquer the Everest Base Camp.
It was at Vasan’s house in Oct 2017. When I walked in late for the party, the discussions were already on. The dates were almost set. This amazing group of Trekkers that had previously scaled Valley Of flowers, Hemkund Saheb, Kailash and Mansarovar set plans for the Everest Base Camp(EBC). A Group of 11 committed to this.
I called Ang Chiring Sherpa, a very experienced trekker, and climber. More importantly, a fantastic person who takes great care of his trekkers. He was only more than willing to take us on the trek. April 15th-29th he said. We only said, “Yes”. The rest is only to be experienced. Believe me, whatever I try to write here, will never let you fathom the mesmerizing and mystical Himalayas.
If you speak to the experienced Sherpas or to the climbers including Aparna Prabhudesai (Aparna also told us how she summitted the Everest in 2016), who we ran into at one of the tea shops, they will tell you, that one has to be lucky to trek the entire 14 days without issues of Mountain Sickness or any other kinds of fatigue and sickness. If the weather Gods are not on your side, or if you are not careful while trekking, you can come back without completing it. As Aparna summed it up, if the Himalayas are asking you to go back, respect it. We were lucky. The Mountains were calling.
We started with a mountain flight to Lukla from Kathmandu after blessings of Lord Pashupatinath at Kathmandu the previous evening. This flight is crucial, If you have not been on these mountain flights, it is an experience in itself. Having traveled the world, I feel that Lukla Airport is one of the most difficult ones to land on. Only an extremely well-trained pilot can get you in safely, because we land in a 550-meter strip that starts at the edge of a Valley. (Luckily it does not end in one, but while taking off on the return the flight just kisses the strip goodbye as it takes off into the valley). But why talk of return, while we are just starting off!!
The Trek began after a Lunch at Lukla, we looked at the menu card and said, “Can we get all these during the trek?” Chiring said, “Yes, of course” and he was right. Each hamlet we stayed in, each tea shop we went to, had an identical menu. But let us talk about the trek.
We trekked through ‘not so difficult’ first day to Phakding from Lukla. We were actually losing altitude as we went from 2860 meter to about 2610 meters, but we got our first glimpse of the beautiful Dudh Koshi river and we said hello to the Khumbu region.
The next day was a trek to Namchee Bazaar. This is the largest town in the Khumbu region and has a market where you can buy anything and everything related to Trekking. We stayed at Hotel Namchee, which even had pakodas on their menu. Namchee Bazaar trek was long and difficult, as we were only then getting acclimatized to the Altitude. Namchee is at about 3450 meters. We had an extra day here for acclimatization. The next day was all about visiting the Sherpa Museum and a local trek to climb about 200 meters to get a better view of the KhongDe peak. Also for good views of Thamserku and Ama Dablam.
Namche to Deboche was through the Sagarmatha National Park and climb towards Tengboche Monastery and woods which gave the first sightings of the Rhododendron Flowers. Deboche also gave us our first peek at the Everest and other ranges like Loptse and Nuptse. Our Lodge and host at Deboche were both great. We had the entire Lodge and Teahouse to our 11 member group.
Deboche to Dingboche the next day got us through lush forests of Birch and Rhododendrons. We crossed the Imja River to reach Pangboche. The Imja valley gives amazing views of the mountains and gets us to ascend to Dingboche. We had an extra day at Dingboche where we did a side trek to adjust to the new altitude of 4310 meters. We reached a small hill from where we saw the Makalu, Iceland peak, Ama Dablam, Kung de, Cholache, SiriTse, Loptse, Labuche and the Barunche peaks among other mountains. We had an exciting experience when we suddenly saw Yaks approaching us from the other side of the hanging bridge. There was no room for both us and the Yaks and we did get scared! Luckily we got away without any issues. We made sure there were no animals on the bridges after that experience.
The trek to Dhugla (Thukla) next day was easy. 3 hours only. Our Sherpa felt it best to take it easy and acclimatize slowly. We asked the hostess casually what she could cook for us. She surprised all of us when she said she can make poori channa. That’s it. 11 portions of order for dinner was decided in 30 seconds flat. The palette was satisfied and the day was easy.
The next day to Labuche too was about 4.5 hours and relatively easy. This trek saw us pass through large plains instead of narrow hill tracks that we were used to. We had Tabuche on our left, Nuptse on our right. The Thamserku, Amadablam, KhangThenga and Malangpulung and AmbigaChe behind us as we faced the Labuche peak. A couple of hours of trekking and we got to see my favourite peak the Mt. Pumori. The trek drops to the Khumbu glacier moraine. The legs were tiring a bit now. Got a chance to shower and relax in the tea shop. It was time for some Rummy and three cards.
We were now ready the following day to get to the EBC. The final frontier for us. We reached Gorakshep at 5110 meters from Labuche by 11:00 AM. We took a break, had lunch and set out for the EBC. We had Kalapathar the following day but EBC was what we all set out for. 2.5 hours each way from Gorakshep to EBC. We meandered on rough terrains. As we walked by the Khumbu Glacier the Nuptse range was always by our side. Five of us reached the base camp ahead of the rest of the group. We just could not believe it. We had reached the base camp. It took us a while before it sank into us that we had actually done the entire climb. The cold air and chill were set aside by the thrill. We took several pictures here, but the images are captured in our minds and hearts forever.
Hold on. The Kalapathar was still on.
The next morning was at 4:30 AM. At temperatures of 8 below Zero. Getting the legs to move was very difficult. 8 of the 11 attempted it. 3 of the 11 gave up halfway. This was by far the most difficult part of the entire trek. We were going from 5140 to 5540 meters. We could feel the effect of the cold and the lower levels of Oxygen. We breathed hard. We pulled every ounce of energy, strength and will, to get to the peak of Kala Pathar. Wow. The Sun was just coming out from behind the Everest, and the Himalayan peaks glittered. This is a sight we will hold for our lifetime. The glowing Everest rising above Nuptse and other gigantic mountains had us spellbound. We had done it. The feeling was just coming in as we started to climb down to Gorakshep.
This day was a lot more than we expected. Kalapathar had taken all our energy. We still had the day to be completed with a 7-hour trek to Pherichee back from Gorakshep after Lunch. We started at 12 Noon and with tiring legs headed for Pherichee. We walked through rain and snow that day and were relieved to reach Pherichee at about 6:45 PM. If we thought Trekking down was easy we were wrong.
So the return was a slightly different route till Pherichee, but the next day we joined the same trail we took on the way up but chose to stay at Kyangzuma. From Kyangzuma we now chose to trek through Khumjum to visit the Hillary School and the Monsatery that housed the Yeti Skull. Yes. Yeti Skull is what you read and it is right. This was a beautiful trek as we now had a completely different terrain and were going through woods and plains making it very interesting.
The following day we went to Monjo again through Dabuche. The Rhododendrons were in full bloom and we got to see them in many vibrant colours. With them in bloom, we saw many Himalayan birds including the Whistling Thrush and the Monal. We also got lucky and saw the Himalayan Thar and the Musk Deer as we trekked back through Sagarmatha national park.
The last day of the trek was today, we were getting back to Lukla from Monjo. A 6-hour trek through familiar terrain through Namchee bazaar, Phakding where we bid goodbye to the Dhudhsagar river, the Khumbu Valley and the Mountains. We took our flight from Lukla and got to Kathmandu and then to Bangalore the next day. If the Mountains had called, we had responded. Waiting for our next call.
About the Author
Naveen Bannur and K S Mahalakshmi and avid trekkers and travel enthusiasts.
Naveen is also founder of SurgeryXchange, an organization that helps with access to lower cost hospitalization and medical expenses and also provides medical second opinion. He also runs EDUCAIT an NGO that helps children with education aid, behavioural coaching and also impacts Govt. Schools with on-ground teaching staff.