It was time to stop watching documentaries and movies of Mount Everest.
I needed to see the highest mountain on Earth and had to travel to the roof of the world in Nepal to see it with my own eyes.
I would fly into the capital, Kathmandu, where I would meet the group I would be hiking to Everest Base Camp with. Friends I would make for life!
The trek starts in the small town of Lukla, situated at 2,860m, which is accessed by a small plane called a Twin Otter. This is where expeditions into the Himalaya start from, including Everest.
Now Lukla airport is officially known as the most dangerous airport in the world, due to the very high crash rate, near 100% if the weather is not perfect. For this reason flights will only go if on the day the weather looks to be great. The landing strip is also at the edge of a cliff, at a 12% gradient, and only 500m long (a normal one is between 1800m – 2400m). We were all nervous as to what news we would wake up to tomorrow.
Arising at the crack of dawn, we were greeted with the good news that the weather was clear enough for our small plane to fly to Lukla.
The internal flights airport is chaotic and messy, this is where it’s good to have a local guide. We were in good hands with Dawa, our fearless expedition leader. Dawa also now runs his own expedition company for mountaineering treks and climbs. I recommend checking them out at Tramping Himalayas.
There is a strict weight limit due to the small size of these planes and crazy conditions they fly in. The hold baggage limit is 10kg and carry on is 5kg. You have 15kg to play with in total, distribute as you feel. Best to confirm closer to the time what the weight restrictions are as well.
After a short wait whilst a tractor pulls the plane, you’ll be making your way to board, mind your head!
As you can see in the video below, we landed safely! Keep in mind, we the passengers can see the cliff edge and end of the runway approaching…..
The mountains now appeared snow capped, signalling the beginning of our adventure into the Himalayas. The highest mountain range on Earth.
The landing strip is quite unique as you can see below. The drop is visible and doesn’t help with flight anxiety. All the more impressive how they do it!
The town of Lukla is very small, but it does have some places to pick up hiking equipment, coffee shops and even an “Irish Pub”.
We headed over to a local restaurant to meet our young porters and have a quick brief on the itinerary.
It had quite the view!
These strong lads would carry our duffel bags, which had things like our sleeping bags, extra and a change of clothes, additional equipment etc
We would carry our own day bags with things we would need whilst hiking on that particular day.
It is a huge help to have porters, and no mountaineering expedition anywhere is possible without them.
The restaurant is a good place to stock up on any last minute drinks, snacks and just to ground yourself before you set off.
With that all done , just before heading off, we went to gain some additional luck by turning the prayer wheels, a customary thing the locals do.
Blessed and feeling ready, we were off now! The official start of the trek begins! Our first destination, a teahouse in the Solukhumbu district, past Phakding.
The gateway into the Himalayas, it was all feeling real now at this point!
Ready to rock n roll! Pull out the hiking poles, or not, up to you!
Don’t forget to look up and around, enjoy those views, take a pause, breathe and just take it all in.
During the initial parts of the trek, you won’t be just walking through wilderness. You will eventually after certain amounts of time walk through small villages – these are quite good to just slow down at and have a look at local life and serves to be quite cultural.
And don’t forget to grab some extra luck by turning those prayer wheels!
Naturally as you are hiking through and into a mountain range, you’ll have to cross ravines, rivers and valleys. The most efficient way is to go over a suspension bridge. These bouncy, steel and wooden constructions can be quite vertigo inducing once the heights get more intense. Fun nonetheless and great for the views!
There’s lots of them, so get used to it. The alternative is when you have to hike all the way down, and then climb all the way back up again to get to the other side, which is when you start to miss those suspension bridges. This is the case as you get further into the trek.
The altitude isn’t extreme yet, but its still high, the key is the pace yourself, and take breaks. Fortunately the guides provide plenty of these, and at scenic locations. Take this time to get plenty of fluids and stretch out.
Take a break with a mate.
And maybe another..
I guess one more could be ok..
Alright party time!
I found the stone tablets with prayer inscriptions on them to be quite fascinating. The overcast sky adds a mysterious mood to them.
The glacial river starts to become a more prominent feature and the prayer flags flying above really give you that Nepalese spirit.
Thanks Fab, I thought we were lost…
As you get a few hours into the trek, you have the pleasure of hearing the gushing glacier river flowing by below.
I did promise lots of suspension bridges! Convenient aren’t they? Otherwise you’d be in for a very cold icy dip.
The village here is called Phakding, and usually serves as the first place to stop for a nights rest before heading out to the famous village town of Namche Bazaar. However on occasion your guide may ask if you want to push ahead a little more, about 2 hours more of hiking to get to another village, called Monjo to stay the night. This makes the hike to Namche Bazaar a bit shorter. We opted for this.
You can notice the gradual climb in altitude, as the horizon starts to dip away from view.
Another feature is the rocks start to appear more prominent, and in some cases are the size of buildings!
But we march on, with our steady pace, spirts high and the weather looking great!
We begin to mentally prepare for the suspension bridges, getting excited, nervous and ready for the prospect of not looking looking down.
After several hours of hiking , we finally arrive to Chumoa guest house to stay the night and rest up. It’s been a long day from the early morning flights and preparation. However, early morning starts of 4/5am are something that will be the norm for this trek!
Its toasty and warm in there, as they use Yak dung to burn and provide central heating via the stove.
You lose appetite at altitude and your metabolism speeds up. This means nowhere is it more important to be well nourished and carbed up, as you need that energy to keep you going. Otherwise you will fall sick and exhausted. For the appetite loss, the best way to tackle it is to just stick to simple easy to eat food. Dhal and rice all the way!
The accommodation is very simple and straight forward. Its in the mountains so don’t expect heating in the room or very good plumbing. This is actually one of the better ones as when you go further into the mountains, it’s obviously going to be more basic.
During the summer, the first few days you can hike around in a t-shirt, however at night the temperature plummets. You need to make sure you have some good base layers and a good sleeping bag. This becomes even more extreme when you get higher in altitude and closer to Everest. You.Will.Freeze!
Altitude sickness is the biggest reason to fail this hike. It’s kind of like road/car sickness that it can get anyone, but you can reduce the chances by keeping yourself very hydrated, pacing yourself slowly during the hike and acclimatising steadily. Another good way to manage it is by keeping the mind sharp by talking, and just doing stuff, like playing chess and cards!
Whether you decide to rest at Phakding or Monjo, it’s important you do choose a place to rest before heading up to Namche Bazaar, as it will serve as a place to acclimatize before the climb up.
That was it for day 1! Next up, the push to Namche Bazaar in part 2!
If you’d rather just watch it all in one go, check out Karl Watson’s travel documentary on our adventure! (It’s episode 3)