After 3 months of steak and wine in South Africa I felt I needed a work out. Of course, I could simply have started running but that would have been too easy …. I like to think big! So, I hopped on a plane to Nepal and went on a 14-day trip through the Himalayas to do the Mount Everest Base Camp trekking and visit the beautiful Gokyo Lake. It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Getting back to basic – sunny days, cold nights, daily hikes, high altitudes, snow, glaciers, ice and an unending panorama of spectacular scenery – turned this trip into one that I will always remember dearly.
The Getaway for Mount Everest Base Camp Trekking
As I like to be spontaneous, I was quite unprepared for the Mount Everest Base Camp trekking. This is in my usual style and soon everything was organised and ready for the great trek! The only part which I had researched beforehand, was with which tourist organisation to book. I made contact with Himalayan Joy Adventures, met up with the owner to discuss the possibilities and 1½ days later I was on a plane to Lukla. If you like to book in advance you can do so on the website. If you don’t have any gear (like me), don’t worry, Kathmandu has it all! On the day before the trek I bought all the necessary gear and was good to go. You save money buying gear in Kathmandu as it’s a lot cheaper.
The essentials for Mount Everest Base Camp trekking
The one thing you’ll really need to bring along for Mount Everest Base Camp trekking is a good pair of hiking shoes. For such a long trek, you’ll want to invest in top quality shoes for comfortable trekking. Rather spend the extra money on boots that don’t need wearing in otherwise blisters will make you miserable and ruin your hike. Other than that, I bought everything I needed in Kathmandu. When you travel for one year you cant carry many clothes. These are the essentials to buy in Kathmandu for a 14-day trek Mount Everest Base Camp trekking:
- Wind jacket
- Down jacket
- Thick pants to wear in the snow
- Fleece sweater
- Thermal underwear (pants and long sleeve top)
- Sunscreen (50)
- Wool socks
- Sleeping bag (possible to rent)
- Water purifying pills (for high-up in the mountains)
- Lip protection
Apart from that, I had 4 tops, my sport leggings and a long sleeve top as the weather changes all the time and you need to layer your clothes! I even took along mascara and lip gloss for Mount Everest Base Camp trekking, which of course I didn’t use! It’s amazing how fast you adjust to basic mountain life. The days of my wondering around luxury vineyards were over and it didn’t matter in the least.
Flight to Lukla – start Mount Everest Base Camp trekking
To start the Mount Everest Base Camp trekking, you need to get to Lukla which is a 40-minute flight from Kathmandu. This is where the fun begins! It is said this is world’s most dangerous airport and for me, as an ex-flight attendant, it was also the world’s coolest airport. The view on the way there is incredible but the fun really starts when you fly in to land at Lukla. The runway is about 500m long and the airport sits at an altitude of 2.859m. The runway has a 12% gradient to help the small plane stop in time and avoid hitting the wall!
The same runway is used for take-offs and I enjoyed this experience even more than landing! On top of the slope the pilot holds the breaks while building up speed. The plane takes off at high speed, heading straight for the 700m cliff ahead and then suddenly you are airborne! It’s like sitting on the world’s best rollercoaster ride.
Lukla to Phakding (2.610m)
After a cup of tea to catch my breath it’s time for the first trek, to Phakding. This is an easy 3- hour trek, mostly downhill through small villages. Thado Khola was my favourite, with Buddhist mani walls and prayer wheels, to which you can turn for good luck! This is the first of many you will come across whilst doing the Mount Everest Base Camp trekking.
The night is spent in Phakding in a so-called tea house, many of which are to be found along the route. They all consist of rooms with 2 single beds and blankets. The dining room is nice and warm so this is where you spend most of your time as it is heated. As I still had loads of energy left and the afternoon to myself, I decided to cross the river by suspension bridge and walk up to the Phema Choling Monastery which was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. Today the monastery is being rebuilt by the monks and the local community.
Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3.440m)
Today it’s time to head further up the mountain. Before entering Sagarmatha National Park there is a check post where you need to buy a permit to pursuit the Mount Everest Base Camp trekking (the guide will handle this). The trail along the Dudhkoshi River is stunning. There are a few suspension bridges to cross, together with the local Sherpa’s, hikers and, importantly, the number one transport in the Himalaya, yaks! All the food and supplies are either carried up by Sherpa’s and yaks or flown in by helicopter. I have great respect for the local community as they easily carry 60 kgs on their backs while I struggled with only a few kilos.
The steep hike up to Danda is made worthwhile as the first views of Mount Everest are waiting for you here. After that it’s another hour’s walk to Namche Bazaar where you arrive in mountain paradise. It is unbelievable to think that you’ll find bakeries, cafés, restaurants, shops and many more ‘luxury’ facilities so high up in the mountains. After this 6-hour hike I treated myself to a hot lemon, ginger and honey tea while quickly posting a video online with the last free wifi of the trip.
Acclimatisation day in Namche Bazaar
To avoid altitude sickness during Mount Everest Base Camp trekking it is extremely important to have a day to acclimatise in Namche Bazaar. So after breakfast, it was time for a bit of cultural sightseeing at the Sherpa Museum. Replications of the old way of life are on display as well as a prayer room inside a typical Sherpa’s home. It really is unique to see how people used to live so high up in the mountains.
Spinning the prayer wheels at the Sherpa Museum.
To help your body slowly become accustomed to the altitude, it’s advisable to climb up to the viewing point near the army camp of Namche Bazaar. As a big bonus, there is a stunning sight to be seen of Mount Everest, Lotse, Nupse, Aamadablam, Thamerserku, Kusum Ri, Kongde and the Imja Valley. I placed myself on a rock and just stared at all the beauty around me.
Hiking makes you hungry and what better way to warm up than a decadent serving of hot apple crumble! Khumjung Village has an excellent bakery and its pastries give you the energy you need to hike back to Namche Bazaar. A win-win situation I would say!
Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3.860m)
It’s a steep walk out of Namche Bazaar but once the path flattens it’s an easy trail to walk. The unfair part is that to reach Tengboche you first have quite a walk down to Phungitanga on the river bank and then after crossing the bridge, you must hike all the way up on the other side, through the Rhododendron Forest. Fortunately there are places to stop for tea and snacks to bolster your energy.
Tengboche is at the top of the Rhododendron Forest and offers spectacular views of Mount Everest. I love the Buddhist culture and I was excited about the opportunity to witness a ceremony at the Tengboche monastery, which is one of the largest in the region. The ceremony lasts about 45 minutes and is well worth the experience!
To kill some time I went straight to the bakery. For some reason the taste of apple pie is a lot better high up in the Himalayan mountains, sorry mum!
The town of Tengboche with the bakery in the back and Everest as a backdrop.
Don’t forget to shower here. This was to be my last shower before returning to Namche Bazaar. Why you ask? Well, it gets extremely cold high up in the mountains and taking off your clothes is the last thing you’ll want to do, trust me!
Tengboche to Pheriche (4.371m)
Because you climb a little every day it didn’t seem that hard. It is about a 4½ hour walk to Periche. You can feel the difference in weather while going up, as it becomes windier and my wind jacket is finally needed, along with my hat which I don’t think I took off for the remainder of the trip. With the breath-taking snowy mountains as a backdrop, the scenery around Periche is beautiful! Periche has a small hospital for people with altitude sickness. Here you can attend a briefing about the symptoms of altitude sickness and how to deal with it, quite interesting! My oxygen levels were at 89% which is great for these heights. The downside is the freezing cold at night! I slept in my sleeping bag with thermal underwear, scarf and socks and still it was cold. Welcome to the Himalayas!
Pheriche to Lobuche (4.940m)
What I love about the trek are the tea breaks. I have never enjoyed a cup of tea as much as I did while hiking. Imagine hiking for two hours and suddenly finding a terrace where you can relax with a delicious cup of tea with snacks while overlooking the mountain peaks, yak herds and other climbers. I started to like my detox boot camp during my Mount Everest Base Camp trekking!
Before you reach Lobuche you will come across a memorial place for those climbers who died while climbing in the Everest region. The sight is heart-breaking because I always believe that following your dream is the greatest thing you can do in life and these people paid a big price to do so.
Lobuche itself is situated at the foot of the Khumbu glacier which winds its way to the Mount Everest Base Camp (8.5km). Though I really wanted to visit the glacier, I decide to take a nap as my headache was killing me and sleeping is a good way to push through small altitude problems.
Craving for a piece of apple pie? In Lobuche is the last bakery on the way to Mount Everest!
Lobuche to Gorakshep and Mount Everest Base Camp (5.364m)
Day 7 has arrived and that means I finally get to see the Mount Everest Base Camp! My headache has gone and I feel like a child waiting for its candy. Although the track is very rocky, I’m so excited that it feels as though I’m flying over it. The whole route is amazing. The mountains with their snowy peaks and the glacier alongside leading the way to EBC. It is just mind-blowing.
After a quick tea stop at Gorakshep its time to go! To soak in the scenery, I take little breaks to sit down and enjoy the surroundings. Having hiked for 7 days just to experience this moment, I want to be in it for long as possible. When I spot the colourful tents of Mount Everest Base Camp I feel blessed, I made it!
Strolling around the campsite was fascinating. I could imagine how climbers spend weeks here in the freezing cold waiting for a good weather window to arrive to be able to summit Everest. While at base camp I got to see the shower and kitchen tents as well as the tent where the climbers gather before beginning their final ascent. Surprisingly, the Everest kitchen has excellent freshly baked bread with tea, not bad!
4 am hike to Kalapathar (5.550m)
The night in Gorakshep isn’t the best as it is overcrowded and noisy. Without sleep and breakfast, I hike up to the Kalapathar peak at 4 am to watch the sunrise over Mount Everest. It’s a magnificent site as everything is covered in snow.
How easy the whole trek was up to the Mount Everest Base Camp and yet it is now so hard. I feel lightheaded and needed to stop every few steps. But I have strong willpower and I pushed myself up this mountain. The scenery is something special to see. The sun is just setting on the left side of Everest and this effect is sensational.
Exhausted but happy that I made it to the top.
After breakfast in Gorakshep its time to walk to the next destination, Dzongla. I’m not going straight back down to Lukla but have 6 days left to trek to Lake Gokyo, over the famous and challenging Cho La Pass, exciting!
My adventurous trip to Gokyo Lake
As soon as I arrive in Dzongla the weather changes and it starts to snow! Not the best weather conditions to cross the windy Cho La Pass at an altitude of 5.420m. This is not a pass where you want to fall down and slide, it’s too dangerous. I decided to go the next day just to be safe and enjoy a lovely relaxing day off.
It’s Cho La Pass time!
The next day I set off. The walk to the Cho La Pass is unbelievably gorgeous! The thick layer of snow on the mountains makes the sight even more beautiful. Luckily it had stopped snowing and the sun was shining.
The way up to the Cho La Pass is hard, especially the last part as it’s a steep rocky climb where I have to use both my hands to hold on to the rocks. My dizziness kicks in again, which doesn’t make things easy, but nothing is stopping me from going over that pass today!
The pass itself is quite easy to manage though it is a bit slippery now and then, but the way up was much heavier going. The ice topped mountains around me are an exquisite sight … but you are still not prepared for the moment the prayer flags come into view! These flags are a relief to see in the Himalaya Mountains as they mean you have made it! When standing at the top, I’m just so proud and exhausted all at the same time.
Making friends at 5.420 meters high.
To save time I decided to walk straight to Lake Gokyo and skip the stop at Dragnag. This means that this long, hard day becomes even longer but I just can’t wait to see the Lake. But before reaching Gokyo you must cross the Himalaya’s largest glacier!
With the sun slowly setting, I walk along the Ngozumpa Glacier. I’m dead tired but as I walk along my spirits are lifted. What a magical place to see! I know I have mentioned the awesomeness of the Himalayas before, but the walk along this glacier, wow! Words cannot describe the beauty and energy that lie within.
Arriving at magical Gokyo Lake (4.750m)
One natural miracle after another crosses my path today. Just as I leave the glacier behind, I stumble upon the big green and foggy Gokyo Lake. My mouth just falls open once again. What a perfect ending to this hard but beautiful day!
I wake up feeling like royalty, with the view of Gokyo Lake right in front of me!
The Mount Everest Base Camp trekking was beautiful but this area is perhaps even more stunning. I would highly recommend doing both tracks just as I did. You don’t want to miss out on the best possible Himalayan scenery! Today is my last hike up and I couldn’t be happier to go downhill afterwards. I pushed my body through many hours of hiking and extreme weather and going downhill makes every inch of me quite happy. But I never take the easy way, no not me. Before going down, I first take on another challenging pass, the Renjo La Pass. One last hike up to see Everest and Gokyo amidst extraordinary scenery
Another steep climb: Renjo La Pass (5.360m)
From Gokyo it’s a steep climb up the mountain. Just when you think you have made it, there is another pass towards a different mountain, which you also must climb! The good news is that the Cho La Pass is much harder so if you compare this, it’s a piece of cake!
Taking a rest while going up.
After climbing 600m, you couldn’t be happier to see yet again the coloured praying flags flapping in the wind. Take your time to catch your breath and look up at the extraordinary sight of Lake Gokyo with Mount Everest as its backdrop.
Finally, time to go down, down, down
My legs are in a very happy state after the Renjo La Pass. Yes, it’s time to go downhill! I spend the night in Lunden (4.440m) which is about 7 hours from Gokyo. I just want to go down as I’m quite keen for a shower and some warmth that night. The hike from Lunden to Namche Bazaar takes 6 hours and is very enjoyable. This route is not taken by many people which makes it fairly pristine. The crowds going up to Mount Everest Base Camp are large, but on this route there are only a few people. The feeling of being alone with just the mountains around you is quite special.
The lower down the mountain you are, the more colours you see. I loved the blossoms on the trees. On your way down make sure to stop at Kharigandenten Phelling Monastery in Thamo. Light a candle for your loved ones and be amazed at the bright paintings inside the temple.
What about the food in the Himalayan Mountains?
I have good news for you. The food in the mountains is not bad at all! I did become vegetarian. The food in the Himalaya is carried up and you want to prevent getting sick during your hike. I usually had a vegetable omelette and oat meal for breakfast. Are you starving after the hike? Dal Bhat is the answer! This Nepali speciality is made from steamed rice, vegetables and cooked lentil soup.
Other than that you’ll find pizza, noodles, soups, curry and many more options! Make sure you always have snacks with you for power boosts. Garlic soup and some dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao are good options to prevent altitude sickness. There you go, a good excuse to eat chocolate!
The best thing is you can eat as much as you like because the pounds are just flying off your body. I lost 14 pound in two weeks time and that was exactly what I gained from my wine and food adventure in South Africa, winning!
Himalayan Joy Adventures
My Mount Everest Base Camp trekking was organised entirely by Himalayan Joy Adventures. By everything I mean the flight, guide, porter, overnight stays and permits. The porter carries your bag with a maximum weight of 10kgs. I had a small day pack with the essentials you need during the day and that works perfectly.
This trip has been an experience I will never forget. I travelled to many places and seen amazing things but this 14 day Mount Everest Base Camp trekking over glaciers and challenging passes, of course Mount Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Lake and the summit of Kalapathar can’t be beaten by anything!