Mount Everest Base Camp, 3 Passes and Beyond
The toughest days are ahead
Today I woke up at 7am and had some porridge with apple for breakfast. I had been tossing and turning all night. The foam mattresses don’t compare with the comfort of my pillow-top mattress back in Canada.
When acclimatizing the idea is to hike to a higher altitude and enable your body to develop a tolerance to the higher altitude and then return back to the initial altitude. Dozens of people are airlifted with helicopters daily during high season because of acute mountain sickness (AMS). People who don’t listen to there body when headaches, decreased appetite, fatigue among other symptoms are present. Many people get these symptoms, the best thing to do is descend to a lower altitude and see how a person is feeling.
I took my hike in the Khumbu region, hiked up to the Mount Everest restaurant and ran into my English friend Tom who I had become friends with my first night in Phukding. He was with Becky, Joaquin (Wacco) and Adrian. I joined up with them and we all got along really well. I was no longer hiking alone and ran into a great group of people. That afternoon we had a good few hours of trekking to Khumjung and Kundu reaching an altitude of 3840 meters.
There were many friendly local people stopping to chat, children yelling Nameste as we passed by. It was a great afternoon. I took my first hot shower since arriving in Nepal, it was glorious and totally worth the 250 rupees. After meeting up at the Himalayan Java coffee shop in the centre of Namche, I learned a new card game cambio and tried the best chocolate brownie in Nepal. After dinner we met up again at the Irish Pub for a few drinks. The whole gang met up for the first time and I met Vic and Tyna at the Irish Pub as well.
Adrian was telling me of his plans to do the three passes as well as base camp. I have seen so many people and groups trekking the direct route to Everest Base Camp. With the independent trekkers, groups, locals, porters and guides headed towards base camp – I’ve started referring to it as ‘Everest Base Camp highway.’ I have often mulled over whether I was going to do the three passes route or just go up to base camp. From all I have heard of the views and cool experiences of the 3 passes; and the convenience of meeting Adrian, I am doing the three passes. I had to pick up some gloves, no problem in Namche, I got a pair for 700 rupees. The real start of the adventure begins tomorrow.
Big day! Wow, this has by far been the best day of the trek so far. I rolled out of bed and headed down to meet Adrian at 8am. We took off early in the direction of Thame, climbed from 3440 meters to 3820 meters. We passed a few couples heading the other way but mostly just saw local people, yaks and the beautiful vast mountains. Shadows and clouds working there way over the mountain passes. We stopped for lunch in Thame around noon and with the weather looking good decided to push on to Lungden. Not really a recommended move as Lungden is 4368 meters and it is not recommended to go greater than 500 meters per day.
No one to say no and we were both feeling good so we kept on and hiked 14 kilometres. We gained about one thousand meters in altitude in a day. The hiking was extremely challenging. We passed valley after valley, after valley before we finally made it to the little town of Lungden.
The tea house was similar to many others along the way, tiny but quaint, we were the only two to spend the night. We were surrounded by beauty that can’t be described in words. Every single direction had mountains towering over us.
We had a friendly face greet us and got a great deal on the place. The friendly face who greeted us was Mingma Sherpa. After potato soup for dinner we were hanging out so I played a few songs on guitar and he played some traditional tunes on the tugna (Napolese term). It is a traditional Tibetan instrument known as a daymen. We had a blast and crashed at 8pm. I totally recommend staying at the tea house if you’re in Lungden. It is called Kongde View Lodge & Restaurant (E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
This sleeping lodge was definitely authentic, with gravel flooring and potato sacs filled with hay and placed into pillow cases. It’s barely noticeable when your exhausted from hiking. Most places seem good to offer an extra blanket. The night was freezing cold.
Day five already but we’ve made good progress from Namche. We woke up at 6am to get an early start on the day of trekking. I ate some eggs but they did not sit well and I ended up throwing it up before we started. Sorry for the details.
After leaving Lungden we continued to pass many valleys and climbed uphill all morning. About an hour after we had left we passed a young Korean woman, she looked to be having a lot of difficulty making up a steep portion of the mountain, a bit ahead was her guide awaiting her. As we passed I only spoke a few words with her but she looked exhausted, we wished her goodluck and we carried on.
It’s turned into another day of big ambitions. This overtook the previous day as the most challenging day for sure. Physically and mentally stressing we hiked through Renjo La passage, the first of three passes on our route. It was all uphill, no exaggeration, we started at 4368 meters and crossed the path at 5360 meters.
Oxygen levels putting stress on the body to work harder, breathing at twice the normal rate, pulse pounding, it took almost everything but we made it.
The views of Mount Everest and so many surrounding himalayan mountains is breathtaking. We spent a bit of time at the pass eating snickers and taking photos. We carried on as it was pretty windy and cold. So much pain to get to the peak but totally worth it.
The way down was supposed to be a fast couple kilometres to Gokyo (4790 meter altitude). This was not the case, there was no path, it was a massive boulder field, no path markings anywhere to indicate where it may be safe to hike. Look over a ledge and whoops, it’s a 40 foot cliff, better try a little bit further down the mountainside. It was brutal. When a path appeared it was sandy and slippery, I almost fell to my death twice. Thankfully I was using hiking poles. We made it as the clouds were rolling in. A light afternoon snow layered the ground and tea houses, very common at this altitude.
In the early afternoon in Gokyo the temperature typically drops. Today it dropped quite quickly and a snow storm rolled in. Throughout the day we were looking back to see the if the Korean woman was anywhere in sight, not once did we see her again. It was a bit concerning that there were no towns to stop in; she was going to have to make it over the pass and through the field of boulders in the snow with the light fading.
This where most normal people schedule in a rest day. Adrian and I had our own ‘rest’ day. Slept in until 7am and ate a delicious crepe with banana and chocolate. The turquoise blue glacier lake provided mountainous reflections and a perfect place to settle a town.
Right beside Gokyo is a Gokyo Ri, this is a peak at 5360 meters and gives a 360 degree view of the himalayan mountains. We started at 4790 meters and climbed straight up to 5360 meters. It was a brutal start to the day, climbing 550 meters of straight altitude. There was a decent path so despite some shortness of breath I made it up after an hour and a half. This view rivalled that of the Renjo La pass. Spectacular weather has given us crystal clear skies and stunning views of Mount Everest.
After having lunch and picking up our bags in Gokyo we carried on to the town of Dragnag. We passed by many falling boulders and rough terrain. We spent a few hours passing through a seemingly endless dry glacier field, covered with rocks and lakes. It was an amazing place to walk through.
Just as the rest of the trek so far there were extended periods when the trail was unmarked but we managed to continue through and saw other trekkers along the way. Dragnag has about 5 tea houses and is located close to Cho La pass (our next pass) so we spent the night. We met a few other people and hung out in the dining area (pretty standard as it is where the fireplace is located). We had a light snowfall in the evening, just enough to cover the ground. After a standard Dal Baht (typical Nepalese meal) for dinner we turned into bed in expectation for a big day in the morning. We will attempt to cross the Cho La Passage, continue through Dzongla and meet up in Lobuche with our friends from Namche. It is Beca’s birthday and it would be a blast to link up with Wacco and Tom again.
I hate waking up early but it was worth it today. Alarms set for 0515 am. Adrian and I had a quick breakfast and took off for the Cho La pass. There was a layer of snow covering the ground from the night before. I was fully geared up with my gloves, thermal pants, hat and jacket. We left Dragnag at 4700 meters and trekked our way through the snow covered boulders, balancing from one to another. Thankfully there were some porters near by to point us in the right direction.
As we passed by a few groups who had started earlier we were making some good progress. We passed by a couple from England who we had spoken to for a bit in Gokyo.
“Tell the Canadian not to kill the Britt!”
The English woman remarked as we hiked by destined to make our way to Cho La pass. I was keeping a quick pace and Adrian was following just behind. At this point I was sweating and my layers had started coming off.
The path was poorly marked as per how most of the trails have been so far. Climbing up to 5420 meters the altitude was a massive challenge. With oxygen saturation levels between 70-80% above 5000 meters the physical and mental challenges were on a level that I have not experienced before. This was the third peak in three days that we have reached greater than 5400 meters. The views were magnificent, it’s become almost impossible to choose my favourite viewing areas. After reaching over the pass we had to climb down and we spent hours hiking on glaciers, and through areas of unrivalled in beauty, it seemed surreal.
We kept pushing on this afternoon, it was intense, fatigue was setting in. We stopped over for a tea and juice in Dzongla. Even though he is living in Colorado, Adrian is from England and likes to stop for a proper tea when we can. The wind was blistering this afternoon and after hearing 3 separate times that we were one hour away we finally made it to Lobuche. This was a killer day! The beauty and uniqueness of the passage can’t be described in words.
Adrian and I had in the same time covered two of the passes, monstrous elevation, Gokyo Ri and about twice the distance as taking the standard route to Mount Everest Base Camp.
We made it by sometime around 3pm and immediately ran into Beca and wished her a happy birthday. It was nice to see most of the whole Namche gang was out, had a few beers but the party ended early as everyone was eager to get to base camp early the next morning. I was reluctant to wake up early but ended ordering a 0530 am breakfast before heading to bed. We are supposed to stay the night in Gorek Shep; there are only a few tea houses. With the town so close to Mount Everest Base Camp it was recommended for us to leave early to secure a room.