Travel Diaries with Reccy by Ujjal Das, who trekked to the Everest Base Camp in Oct 2022
We recently embarked on a trek to the Everest Base Camp. We were prepared physically and mentally to do this high-altitude expedition and were really looking forward to experiencing the thrills of this once in a lifetime journey. It turned out to be a real adventure with many twists and turns.
Although we knew that the main adventure starts when you reach Lukla, little did we know what was in store for us when we reached the Ramechhap airport to catch the Lukla flight. We got to know that since the last five days there have been no Lukla flights because of bad weather and there was only a 5% chance to resume the Lukla flight. Around 500 people were waiting at the airport to catch the Lukla flight. We didn't know when our turn would come, as one flight can carry only 15 people.
I started having second thoughts about talking to Reccy to organize an alternative trek as this one seemed almost impossible to do. Suddenly we came to know about one available alternative, where we would have to start from a different valley. So, without putting much thought into it, we pulled up our socks and jumped right into it - since we were traveling on a tight schedule.
We took a flight to Phaplu, from where we had to go to Surke by jeep for the whole day through a road which was in an extremely bad condition, and everytime the jeep covered some distance, the resulting jerks and jolts made us feel that our bones would shatter at any point. This alternative route cost us almost USD 500 (INR 40,000) extra. Fortunately we met two Belgian trekkers who were going to Gokyo Ri and we decided to share the cost. So, we reached Surke at night.
Tapas, from Reccy, had told me earlier that the first day's trek is always difficult and extremely challenging and advised me not to stretch on the first day. We started our trek up the ridge, through a jungle trail, and somehow, we reached the top of Phakding Danda by midday. After that, we started walking down from the other side towards the valley when we came to know that it had rained for 5 days at a stretch. It was not something we wanted or were mentally ready for.
While walking down through a dense jungle with knee-deep mud, and almost 70-80 degree slopes at multiple places, my friend and fellow adventure enthusiast Buro da told me he had never had such an experience in his life. My tracker showed that we had crossed 19 km distance on the first day, which reminded me of Tapas’s advice. Even our guide was complaining that he was tired.
Finally, we reached the end of the first day's walk after multiple slippery falls (one fall was so severe, it bent one of my walking poles) to find all our clothes inside the rucksack to be completely soaked. Right from the beginning of this trek, there was concern with weight restriction for the Lukla flight. So, we had kept our belongings to a bare minimum. We had two sets of all types of clothes with us. After the first day’s hike, one set was totally soaked and unusable.
Our guide informed us that the second day’s route would be better but still was noncommittal about when we would reach our original EBC route. The weather was cloudy but fortunately it was not raining. We had to reach Phakding on that day to be on track, however, by day end we reached a place called Monjo and were greeted by the beautiful Ama Dablam - one of the most beautiful mountains, originating in the Khumbu Himal range of the Everest region.
Next day, within two hours of walking, we reached Phakding. We were incredibly happy that finally we were on the course to EBC. It was a beautiful trail beside the fabled Dudhkoshi river, with several beautiful settlements made by the foreign nationals of multiple European countries. We found a German bakery, a Sherpa hospital, and many other Sherpa tea houses. We crossed the Dudh Koshi river three times at different elevations using the wire bridges.
We were running behind our schedule by two days because of this route change and the additional walk. I was constantly thinking of how to compensate for this delay and reach home before the Diwali festivities!
The only option available was to eliminate two acclimatization days from our schedule, which our guide was neither happy nor agreeing with. He had been guiding for the last 10 years with an impeccable track record, and if something happened to us, it would spoil his reputation. Also, he was getting instructions from his superiors not to compromise on the acclimatization process.
Finally, we agreed for half-a-day acclimatization at two places, as we had started hiking from a much lower altitude - around 1500 meters, because of route change, whereas the standard EBC trek starts from 2800 meters elevation at Lukla. I committed to our guide that if I didn’t feel good, I would not go to the EBC, I would be returning from some earlier stop. I took this decision as to be with friends and family for the Diwali festivities was far more important for me than accomplishing the EBC trek at one go.
Our first acclimatization day was at Namche Bazar, at an elevation of 3600 meters. From Phakding, we reached Namche Bazar before lunch. Then after lunch, we went for an acclimatization walk to the ridge of Namche with around 500 meter height gain. Our guide allowed us to walk the next day to our destination Thyangboche. The weather was good, and the skies were clear, so we got to witness some of the finest natural wonders. We got to see the gorgeous Nuptse wall, the mighty Everest towering above the rest, Lhotse, the Ama Dablam and many others.
Before lunchtime we reached Thyangboche - it was a beautiful place to witness all the majestic mountains along with a beautiful monastery. It was supposed to be our destination that day, but our guide told us to walk further down to have lunch that presented itself like a place for the base camp of Ama Dablam.
After finishing lunch, another two hours of walking brought us to Pangboche - the stop for the fourth day. We were almost half-way to our fifth day destination. Next day, an early morning start brought us to Dingboche with just two hours of walking.
This was our next acclimatization destination. The guide told us we must go for an acclimatization walk for a height gain to the ridge peak of around 5100 meters from where we could see the spectacular Imtza valley and the Imtza lake. Buro da - my companion, was the fastest person in our group and I was the slowest. As expected, Buro da reached the peak, whereas I came back some 100 meters away from the peak feeling fatigued.
After dinner was over, the guide informed us we would be trekking to Lobuche the next day. We were elated to know that - finally we caught up with our schedule. We kept on checking our oxygen level, it was around 97 to 98% all throughout. Next day, early in the morning, we started for Lobuche at an elevation of 4900 meters. Our target was to reach our destination before lunch.
After lunch, we went for a walk almost halfway to Gorak Shep, our last stop. Early in the morning the next day, we started for Gorak Shep and reached it within half an hour. After having some soup, we started for EBC. We were tremendously excited and thrilled to walk along the Khumbu glacier, a story of which we have been hearing since our college days. We reached EBC around 11 am, and after clicking some remarkable photos that would serve as our trip’s memorabilia, we came back quickly to Gorak Shep. It was because our guide had suggested we go to Kala Patthar on the same day after lunch, which was supposed to happen the next morning. Kala Patthar is one of the most notable landmarks located on the southern range of Pumori in the Khumbu Himal range of Nepal.
We started for Kala Patthar after lunch, and we would have to gain a further altitude of around 500 meters. I reached within 2 hours, Buro da reached much earlier but due to strong wind he came back early. I reached there at around 4 pm and took some photos. By the time the clouds had started creeping in, and it whitened within 10-15 minutes. By the time I came back to Gorak Shep, it was already dark.
Next day, we started going down for our next stop at Pheriche, as per schedule. It was supposed to be a 7 hour walk. However, it took four and a half hours for me to reach Pheriche, the others had reached much before. It was one of the places I really liked - a beautiful valley with strong wind. This was a different place from all the other places we had stayed en-route to EBC. Although my heart yearned to spend some more time there, our guide told us to finish our lunch and walk for another two hours to Pangboche, our next stop.
We entered our known route. Our next stop was supposed to be Namche Bazar, as usual we reached there by lunchtime, and we moved to Monjo for a night stop after another two hours' walk. Suddenly, and surprisingly, we found ourselves ahead of schedule, and by pushing ourselves a little bit more, we could have finished the trek a day earlier. But I was dead tired at Monjo after nine days of non-stop walking.
Besides, we had already spent nearly USD 200 (INR 15000) extra for rescheduling/buying another return ticket in case weather plays spoilsport again. We didn’t want to buy another ticket one day early. The last day's walk from Monjo to Lukla ended before lunch. This trek is supposed to be a 120 km walk/hike, while my tracker showed that we had walked around 170 km or so, because of the detour we took initially. Finally, I was incredibly happy to be back home before the Diwali celebrations began! Thanks to Reccy for catering to our needs throughout the trek and for helping me to accomplish one of my rarest dreams in life!
As told to the Cross the Line correspondent.
You too can get ready, pack your gear, and embark on some of the most remarkable adventures with Reccy.