We ate our breakfast, with a swirl of anxiousness and excitement bubbling in our stomachs. The next time we would pick up our bags and hiking poles would be to slog it for one final push to Everest base camp.
So off we were, now breathing in half the oxygen available at sea level, delirious with emotion.
The signpost pointing the way to Everest base camp is something I had seen growing up and watching documentaries and movies. To be actually standing next to it felt surreal and amazing!
At this altitude you can really appreciate the glaciers, the avalanche debris, and snow being blown off by the wind on the ridges and summits.
Being so close to base camp now, you can often spot Everest’s summit peaking out behind Nuptse. Along with a pair of binoculars, and being there at the right season and time, you can spot climbers near the Hillary step.
With base camp in sights now, it’s even more important to take breaks and to pace yourself, as you’ve climbed up a few hundred meters of altitude at this point. Breaks and a steady pace will help you in avoiding that altitude sickness.
On our way we had mostly clear skies, giving us the view of Everest’s summit, as you can see here in the background. The glacier here leads up to what is called the Khumbu Icefall, a treacherous hill of moving ice that must be navigated to enter the Western Cwn. The Western Cwn is a flat glacial valley that leads to the massive vertical Lhotse Face. This is then climbed up to then start making your way across Everest’s South Col route.
Finally, we arrive at base camp, and so do some clouds!
Getting into base camp requires some navigating around the Khumbu glaciers, nothing technical though. Just don’t wander too close to the edge and slip off.
You really do appreciate the fact that you’re in such a hostile and alien world as compared to where you started the trek off from. This was the height of summer, during winter this would be all in a sheet of snow and ice.
There is a unusual emptiness at base camp. We arrive near the end of May, the peak period of Everest climbing and best summit windows. However due to multiple avalanches and deaths the year before (2015) and the year before that, a lot of people are still hesitant to return, and so this was one of the quietist summers at Everest.
Of course, our journey comes to a summit here, at this iconic stone. The culmination of weeks of trekking and climbing to reach this beautiful and unique place.
For a better view of Everest, the mountain near Gorak Shep, called Kala Pattar, 5643m, can be climbed up on the way back from Everest base camp, or early next morning.
The victorious journey back to Kathmandu begins now. The excitement to breathe more oxygen and feel more stronger and energetic as the days go on keeps us going.
The walk down to Pheriche was brutal as we were hiking through an open valley for most of it and the wind was just tearing into my face.
Here you can attend a quick high altitude safety lecture from the Himalayan Rescue Association.
After a couple of days, you return back down to the treeline, the greenery and resultant fresh oxygen revitalises you!
Don’t forget to look behind and around you, at this amazing scenery and environment that you are now leaving behind.
By the time we returned to Lukla, we had found out that there was a backlog of people waiting to fly back to Kathmandu, due to no flights for the past entire week from bad weather. Thankfully our leader Dawa managed to pull some strings for us and get us on the flight on time. As a missed flight would have meant a missed international flight for most of us!
That is something you should be aware of, as it can and has happened!
Back to Kathmandu, I was finally able to shower after nearly a month. Feeling clean and rejuvenated, I spent my last day exploring the ancient city’s culture and design.
The aftermath of the deadly earthquake which killed over 9,000 people could still be seen in the damage to the buildings.
Regardless, the city still has a mystical atmosphere about it and unique architecture to be admired.
At the days end, we all gathered up at the roof of our hotel, to take one last look at that beautiful Nepalese sunset, and say cheers to this whole great adventure!
Until next time! And maybe an Everest summit?