ViewRanger user Daisy @SmallGirlBigWorldUK is a travel blogger from the Lake District, UK. She uses her new blog, Small Girl Big World, to document her travels across the world, including here in the UK, Asia and South America. She’s preparing to leave her life as an engineer behind and explore the world, sharing her experiences as a solo female traveller as she goes. Her most recent trip was to Nepal, trekking to Everest Base Camp, and here’s an extract of her expedition, starting on day 2:
After meeting my trekking group the night before it was an early start dodging the monkeys at Kathmandu airport and boarding the small twin otter plane for the flight up to Lukla. Now, I’m not the most confident flyer so the trip to Lukla (the world’s most dangerous airport) was a huge thing for me in itself! Fortunately the flight was pretty good and I might even go as far as saying I enjoyed it! Plus I had to have my big girl pants on as I didn’t know anyone well enough to hold my hand! We stopped off at a tea house for some Dhal Bat and set off on our short (3-hour) walk to the next village of Phakding where we would spend our first night at altitude.
The next morning we were up and out by 8am to start our second trekking day, climbing the 600m in altitude to Namche Bazaar. Trekking through the valleys leading up to the mountains was something else. I wasn’t sure what kind of landscape I expected but it definitely wasn’t lush green forests and White Water Rivers. It was crazy that we were already at an altitude of over 3000m and we were looking up at monsters of mountains above us just glancing through the clouds every now and then. The trail from Phakding to Namche was very crowded and filled with trekkers, porters and cows carrying supplies up to the town. I was secretly hoping it wasn’t going to be that busy the whole way but being October it was one of the most popular times to visit.
Namche Bazaar was one of my favourite places along the route to BC. The whole town had a kind of ski resort vibe with busy cafés and bars on every corner and tons of shops to grab last minute trekking gear. The tour I was on had two nights planned in Namche to acclimatise but you should note that acclimatising does NOT mean resting. Our acclimatisation day involved a 5 hour round trip trek up to the village of Thamu to visit the monastery before heading back to town to hit the bakeries for apple pie and the last of the free Wi-Fi!
Day 5 we trekked to a village called Khumjung. The cloud had really come in so there wasn’t much to see as far as views go and I had a huge feeling of pressure on my head which I think was the start of altitude sickness. We had a free afternoon in Tengboche so we headed to the bakery for chocolate cake before going to the monastery to watch the monks in action. At 4pm visitors are invited into the monastery to watch the monks pray.
Day 7 of the trek and we were getting a big jump in altitude from Tengboche up to Dingboche at the foot of Mt. Ama Dablam, nearly 800m in total. This was a hard day and the altitude was starting to affect most people. At Dingboche we had another acclimatisation day but again this did NOT mean a rest day. Instead we climbed 600m pretty much straight up and then straight back down and sadly it was a cloudy overcast day so again we didn’t get the views of the mountains we had hoped for and we were starting to worry this might carry on for when we reached base camp.
On day 9 we had a huge climb ahead of us straight up to Lobuche, it was a long hard trek that day but we started to see glimpses of the mountains around us peeking through the clouds... Lobuche, Ama Dablam, Nuptse but still no Everest. We headed straight to bed to try and sleep before the final push to BC the next morning!
Soooo excited for day 10!! We left Lobuche at 6am and started up the Khumbu Glacier towards Gorakshep and Everest Base Camp. The air felt so much thinner up here that even brushing your teeth was hard work! A few of the guys started finding breathing quite hard, especially on the climbs. The landscape up there was totally different to anything else we had trekked up to this point. It was rocky and barren but beautiful and the mineral rocks in the streams made the water look like glitter and the best part was that by 8am the sun was out and it was the most perfect weather we could have hoped for! I was sky high that day; I could have sprinted to base camp! That’s maybe a slight exaggeration…
It was another two hours to base camp from Gorakshep and it was pretty much a scramble the whole way, climbing over boulders and down rocky tracks. I can see why so many people injure themselves up there, it really isn’t an easy route and the constant flow of traffic from trekkers and guides to and from the camp made it even trickier. It’s hard watching your feet and other people around you when all you want to do is look up at the view the whole time and what a view it was. It was more amazing than any photograph you could ever take. The photos I’ve taken and posted on Instagram and on this post can’t do what I saw a scrap of justice.
Just making it to base camp was such an achievement and standing at the foot of all those mountains in the cold air and sunshine looking up was so peaceful and humbling I could have stayed for hours just looking around and being there. So many people were coming and going, climbing the stoopa for their base camp trophy photos, leaving messages in the rocks and even having shots. My group stayed for around 45 minutes before it was time to jam jam back to Gorakshep. It felt weird walking away from base camp. I’d put so much effort in over the last 8 days to get there and then 45 minutes later it was over… I smiled to myself as we left thinking "I’ve done it, I made it, I was at Everest Base Camp!" Genuinely chuffed to bits with myself. Huge tick on the bucket list achieved.
On the walk back to Gorakshep my guide Hem had half joked about climbing Kala Patthar that evening to try and catch “Everest on Fire”. The original itinerary had said that we would climb Kala Patthar the next morning but me and a couple of the others didn’t want to pass on the chance to see a sunset on Everest.
Kala Patthar is 5545m and in that altitude and after 10 hours trekking I will be the first to admit I was bloody knackered!!! Since I’ve been home from my trip to Nepal, I’ve had a few people ask me for tips and advice about the trek to BC and one thing I’ve told everyone is to climb Kala Patthar in the evening to see the sunset on Everest. What I saw that night was, to me, a once in a lifetime experience. “Everest on Fire” hands down my absolute highlight of the whole trek! Worth the bloody awful climb, worth the frozen fingers, worth the dancing on the spot like a lunatic to keep warm… Truly amazing. Again photos don’t do it justice but I’ve got the memory to last a lifetime.
Day 12 and we set off back to Tengboche. I think the whole group was looking forward to day 13 and the hike back to Namche Bazaar. We’d all talked about getting back to Namche for a long awaited hot shower, drinks and pool in the Irish bar we’d spotted on the way up and seen as we weren’t climbing anymore beers were definitely back on the menu! Also, travel tip: Do not play Sherpas at pool or foosball… you will lose!
It was the morning of the last days trekking and it was a 7 ½ hour hike back to Lukla, past new groups of clean smelling, fresh faced hikers excited on their way up. It was really hitting home with me that I was on my way back to reality.
We had made it to Lukla and the tea house was buzzing with trekking groups back from their adventures. We dumped our bags and sat down for our last meal with the full group. Our porters and guides joined us for drinks, thank yous and unfortunately goodbyes as only our main guide Hem would be returning to Kathmandu with us.
Our original flight to Kathmandu was meant to be at 8am and at 1.30pm we were finally called to board. Even though I was scared, flying in and out of Lukla airport was a pretty amazing experience. Our final night of the tour and we headed out in the Thamel with the group one last time. The Thamel is such a vibrant part of Kathmandu, brilliant bars restaurants and shops around every corner and the live music was awesome.
I loved my time up in the mountains, it’s been the best experience of my life so far and even though my body was aching and I’d only had one shower in the last two weeks (don’t judge) I was happy there, I’m a mountain girl through and through. And they don’t get much better than the Himalayas; it’s such a magical place with so much wild beauty around every corner. I spent so much time trekking looking at the scenery around me and getting lost in my thoughts about life, love, plans and travels that the time had flown by. I have 100% fallen for Nepal, from the busy Thamel streets and temples of Kathmandu to the peaceful mountain trails and warm tea houses of the Himalayas. I think a trip to Nepal is something that most people should try and do at least once in their life. You won’t regret it.
Read Daisy’s full travel journal of Nepal on her blog.