Trip Report: Nepal - Trek to Everest Base Camp

Nepal - Trek to Everest Base Camp
By Zig Sondelski
HIKE 10/20/2016 EXT

Report by Zig Sondelski, Photos by trek members
Ice had formed in my water bottle in my room and only froze more as we started our 5 AM trek up Kala Patar on day 9. We had spent the night at a tea house in Gorak Shep, the last village on the trek to Everest Base Camp. This was our coldest day of the trip, with the early start and altitude (18,500') and would be our longest trekking day thus far as we will start back down the valley after this hike up.

This adventure started in January when Michael Budig found a great Living Social deal and we got the "buy 3 get one free" offers (same as Kilimanjaro a few years earlier). After the discount, the TOTAL trip cost was about $2500 ($1900 for LAX/Doha/Lukla flights and the trek (lodging, breakfast, guides, fees and porters) and $600 for getting to LAX, lunches, dinners and tips, souvenirs). Our 16-member group was large enough to be only WMC members. By the numbers, the trek was almost 80 miles round trip with 18,000' of gross elevation gain (9000' net). The plan was to hike up in 8 days (including 2 acclimation days) and hike down in 4 days.
Preparation included a monthly get-together to share Nepalese/Indian food, ask questions and share answers and research and get whatever training in we could. Training ranged from hiking Mt Elbert in Colorado to para sailing, rafting, bicycling, backpacking and yoga (lots of cross training).
Nepal is half way around the world and is about the same latitude as Florida, so the landscape stays greener farther up than expected and farming is done everywhere a plot can be made flat (Nepal is pretty self-sufficient in food). This took about 20 hours flying time going east with a 10-hour layover in Doha, Qutar (sign up for the free city tour before leaving home). Most of the group opted for an extra day in KTM (Kathmandu) to recover, explore, stock up and repack to meet the weight limit for the Lukla flight (they do weigh in) and for the helper (porter) loads. Extra gear was left with the KTM hotel for our return.
Day 1 started with the flight to Lukla, transferring gear to the helpers and hiking mostly downhill from Lukla to Phakding. The flight to and especially the landing in Lukla was as exciting as the Youtube videos show it it. The landing strip was hemmed in by mountains, short, steep, (the runway slopes uphill and ends in a rock wall when landing) and is usually closed due to clouds in the afternoon so is really busy in the morning. This hike was easy, sunny and warm. Our first teahouse was pretty typical of the remainder: clean, tidy, $4 shower, breakfast included, where we bought dinner (good food and plenty of it), a wood stove in the dining room that burned one load of wood (or yak dung) each evening, piled stone construction, thin walls, single beds with decent foam pads, thick quilts to supplemented our sleeping bags with open doors and windows for fresh air (burr). Prices were reasonabl and got higher as we did. Day 2 was a tough day, regaining the altitude we lost yesterday plus a long steep climb up to Namche Bazaar, where one could buy an imitation of any outdoor brand imaginable. One common item purchased was down booties. Day 3 was acclimating, with a hike up to Everest View Hotel and visiting the Sherpa museum and back to Namche. Day 4 went to Deboche with a stop at the Tengbouche Monastery, requiring boots off and no photos to go inside. Today was the same distance and elevation gain as day 2, but so evenly distributed it was difficult to imagine it was the same. The rhododendron forests weren't blooming this time of year. Day 5 got us a little out of the Kumbu valley to Dingbouche with a fine French bakery and Day 6 to acclimate. Day 7 saw us back in the Kumbu Valley past the climber memorial to Lobuche. Day 8 was an earlier start as we went to Gorak Shep, on to Everest Base Camp and back to Gorak Shep for the night. Base camp on the Kumbu glacier was marked with prayer flags and a few rock piles as it wasn't climbing season. We couldn't see any evidence of the deadly avalanche and the area was quite clean. Amazing compared to what a large camp it becomes. Day 9 was a 5 AM start for 7 of the team to Kala Patar for the sunrise and our best view of Everest, then back to Gorak Shep to join those who remained and way down to Pheriche. It was a long day, about 13 miles after the early start - about what it took 2 days to hike up. Day 10 to Namche was another long haul with plenty of great views down the valley. A few arrived as it was getting dark. Day 11 was a "regular" hike back to Phakding and Day 12 was a morning hike to Lukla and a chance to explore the village, where almost all supplies for the valley are flown in, then carried up the trail. Day 13 was flying back from Lukla to KTM and a chance to really get warm again. The good weather allowed us to stay on schedule and not use any of our 3 contingency days on the back end, which were spent in KTM to recover, have laundry done, see more sights, shop and discover more great restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries.
To see more pictures and learn more about the trek, please join us at a presentation scheduled for the February 8, 2017 General Membership Meeting. More information can be found on the WMC web site General Menu/Trip Directory by typing "Nepal" in the Title Search block and selecting search. Team members were Bill Banner, Arthur Klinkenberg, Mike Dege, Jim Hansen, Katrina Easton, Lisa Verzella, Bret Mathews, Irene Yuan, Benjamin Sondelski, Shanni Baraki, Nathan Sondelski, Elly Rudasi, Barbara Boehme and Zig Sondelski. Thanks to Bob Norris and other WMC members who were kind enough to share their experiences and offer advice and answers to our many questions.

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