“I think that drive and mental strength are the factors that distinguish ordinary for extraordinary achievements. In competition, it is not the physically strongest climbers who win, but rather the mentally strongest.” – Jibé Tribout
Click here to read the Part-I of the post if you haven’t yet.
Next morning when the golden ray of the sun kissed my forehead, I woke up to this magnificent view from the window.
I ran outside to get a glance of the sunrise and the view out there left me spellbound. I stood there for quite some time and tried to soak this marvelous sight of nature to my heart’s content, watched the sun-ray slide down from the peak of the mountains slowly and gradually. It seemed like someone removing the blanket of darkness from the mountains. Tengboche is an excellent spot for some splendid photos of the mountains.
Tengboche to Dingboche (5 hr / 14,300 ft) :
We set off for Dingboche around 8AM. There was a short, but steep descend at the start passing through a small jungle. The route was full of rhodendron trees.
There were a couple of tiny villages on the way. We walked down till we came across the stream.The bridge was broken, but there was a temporary one.
From that point, there was a small steep ascend and mostly flat-road after that. As we were moving slow, I was getting plenty of time to enjoy the scenic beauty on the way. We stopped at Somaroi for lunch. The landscape changed drastically after that, so did the height of the trees. It was shrubs all around the ground looking like green patches.
The sky was clear enough to gift us some magnificent views on the way.
The sight of Ama Dablam was getting larger as we were approaching Dingboche. This stretch was the easiest of all. We reached Dingboche before we could know. We checked-into Everest Resort where we had a nice stay.
The wind there was freezing cold. We were safe inside the wall of the resort, basking beside the heater in the dining hall. In the evening when I went out to take some sunset shots, my hands were trembling at such rate that I would have to take 3-4 clicks to get a stable shot. At night, cards was keeping us busy.
Next day was an acclimatization day. We were supposed to climb up a little bit and to come down. I like these acclimatization days more because you don’t have to slow your pace or wait. You can go at your own pace or may be faster; explore the most you can and then come back to the hotel. The guide had told us to go till the flag-post point, the route after that was tricky and treacherous. There was a peak named Nagarjuna peak (16,669 ft)up there; 2.5 hr of steep ascend in not so easy path. I had made up mind to try my best to reach the top, least would stop if the path would cross its safety-limit. I reached the flag post in an hour and moved ahead for the top.
The route got narrower, steep and bumpy. It was so steep that I would have to stop after every 15-20 steps to catch my breath. As I didn’t have day-pack, I hadn’t taken water-bottle with me. Luckily, I had some dry-fruits with me. That helped me a lot. After one more hour of climb, I was on the verge of breaking. The sight below was scarier, I would have to climb all the way down !
Someone coming down told me that it’s just 30 mins more to the top and it’s worth it. So I continued. The last stretch was bit tricky with no clear route in sight. One needed to cross some large rocks, boulders and make way to reach the top. Once you reach there, the marvelous picturesque sight will make all your pain fade away.
I just sat there for a couple of minutes till I was full with this gorgeous and beautiful sight of nature. Descending is always easier, but more dangerous. It took me 1 hr to climb down that mighty mountain. I was literally running down. By the time, I hit ground it was around 1:30 PM and my knee was pleading before me to give it a break. Everyone already had his/her lunch when I reached hotel. I did some stretch-up and had my lunch. We were mostly surviving on Dal-Bhat. I tried so hard to stay awake in the afternoon, but the tiredness was so much that I couldn’t. There is also another alternative for day hiking at Dingboche: to Ama Dablam base camp.
As we had one day less, we had to make up for it anyhow. So next day, we planned to go to Gorakshep directly in-stead of Lobuche. But the issue was there was only one guide and he had to stay with the other group. Still we took the risk. “Great things in life never happen the easy way.” We had only one thing in mind: to reach EBC.
Dingboche to Lobuche ( 5 hr / 16,207 ft ):
So next morning, we(Swayam, Barsha & I ) left early for Gorakshep. The porter was with us, but he wasn’t much of help. He was a kid studying in 8th Std who could neither speak nor understand hindi or English. Just after moving for a short distance, Barsha felt ill. She was struggling from day-2, still she managed to reach this point; that was an achievement for a first time trekker itself. She told not to take risk and wait for us at Dingboche. It was a matter of one day only, we were scheduled to come back there next day itself. As there wasn’t any guide with us, so I also didn’t force her. Because in those unknown territory and hostile conditions, getting medical help in case of emergency would be uncertain and very difficult. Moreover, we were covering two days’ distance in one day. And if the illness was due to AMS, it could be fatal. So we sent her back to the hotel at Dingboche with the porter and we continued the journey.
The initial stretch till Thukla was an easy one: long stretched, but mostly flat green terrain. One could see the village Pheruche down to the left valley. We were moving fast as we had to reach Gorakshep anyhow. After an hour of walk, there came a stream just before Thukla. There was a small bridge to cross it. The water near the bridge was frozen and iced. From Thukla, there was a long steep ascend. Just the sight of that gave us Goosebumps. The wind was getting colder and unbearable. The wind was so chilled that we had to look for big rocks and took shelter there in opposite direction of wind in between. The other route via Gokyo was visible from there. Group of trekkers were coming from that route. That was a longer, tougher but more scenic route. That route met this one at Lobuche. Once we passed the steep ascend, there was a little descend afterwards. That was the best descent I had ever come across, because that saved us from the super chilled wind. The path to Lobuche seemed like never ending. There was a flat stretch before Lobuche. After 3.5 hrs, we finally reached Lobuche. Just then the porter also joined us. We went to a hotel and had lunch. After a short rest, we set out for Gorakshep around 12 noon.
Lobuche to Gorakshep ( 5 hr / 16,961 ft ) :
We were just at the edge of Lobuche that we saw a trekker who was returning from Gorakshep fell flat on ground. He must be in his 50s. He had lost his sense. We had some Glucose with us, that we offered the group attending him. Someone took out his jacket, two held upon his face to give him some shade. After around 5 mins, he regained back his senses and told that he had to kala pathar in the morning and was coming back directly. As Lobuche was just at a stone’s throw way, they carried him to a hotel and we moved on. The path was mostly flat, but the burning sun above and the super chilled wind were adding to the misery. After a 40-mins walk, there came a short but steep and tricky ascend. As the porter was going bit ahead, we missed the actual route and got stuck at the wrong one. A local returning that way helped us and showed us the path. The terrain had changed totally. No trees, no shrubs, but only stone and rocks all around; surrounded by mighty mountains both side. Then we got the glimpse of Khumbu glacier, one of the biggest in the world. There was hardly any energy left in the body, still we were pushing ourselves. Finally around 3 PM, we reached Gorakshep, our last stop.
It wasn’t the end of our misery, but the start. We were supposed to stay at Buddha Lodge. But as we reached late, the owner had sold the rooms to foreigners with some good money. As it’s the last stop, so very few hotels and lodges are there. There is scarcity of place most of the time. He offered us a tent to stay, but we hadn’t brought any sleeping bags with us. Finally, he allotted us a tiny room with two tiny beds and a broken window. The room was just big enough to fit two bodies in that. There wasn’t any electric bulb in that. We first approached the owner to change the room, but it only felt in deaf’s ear. We then tried contacting XLanc members to get another hotel, but all in vain. EBC was our priority, so we decided to adjust one night anyhow. It wasn’t that easy though. We had patched the broken window with tapes to prevent the chilled wind, but the room was so suffocating that we opened it. There was -25 deg C temperature outside with chilled wind. We slipped under the blanket and waited for the sunrise.
Gorakshep to Kala Pathar ( 4 hr / 18,200 ft) :
Next morning, we were supposed to go to EBC with the porter. We woke up around 5 AM, got freshened up, but the porter-guy was nowhere in sight. We looked for him everywhere, but only got disappointed. It was nearly 7AM, we couldn’t spare any more time. We were about to leave for EBC that a passer-by told it would be extremely cold at this early morning hour at EBC. So I thought of going to Kala Pathar first and then to EBC. But my friend was skeptical about going to Kala Pathar keeping in view the last day’s fainting scene. So I alone went. The look of the Kala Pathar route was scary. It was extremely steep and slippery. Though there wasn’t much wind at that time, but the temp was so low that even after wearing two gloves I felt like my hands will burst in cold. I was changing my hand holding trekking pole each 2 min and was tucking the other hand inside the jacket. After one hour of climb, I still was left with 90 mins of climb with no sight of the destination. I was in a dwindling situation whether to continue or to return back. The returning trekkers were motivating me to make it till the top. After around another 15 mins of climb, I got the glimpse of the peak.
Only that one glimpse fueled my body and there was no turning back. I climbed up slowly and steadily and made it to the top in less than 1 hr. That last stretch went through boulders and big black rocks. Once I reached the top, the mesmerizing sight of surrounding mountains faded away all tiredness. The might Mt. Everest was right in my front. The Everest base camp and Everest glacier were also clearly visible from Kala Pathar. This was my highest point climbed so far, 18,200 ft. At back, Mt Pumouri was standing tall. At south-side, 3-4 small lakes with crystal blue water were visible. I was 360 degree surrounded by tall, mighty mountains.
It is moment like this that makes all pain, effort and fatigue worthwhile. I sat there for some time and tried to imprint each and every sight in my mind. In front of those gigantic mountains, the philosopher in me realized how small we are. Though I wanted to wait a little bit and to drink the sweet elixir of nature bit more, but I had “miles to go before I sleep.” In just 45 mins, I climbed down and reached Gorakshep around 9:45 AM.
Swayam had already left for EBC by that time. Our guide had also arrived by then who informed me that the porter had left last evening only due to some emergency. I quickly had my breakfast and started for EBC.
Gorakshep to EBC ( 3 hr / 17,600 ft) :
Around 10AM, I started my journey for the final lap. The road to EBC seemed like a cake walk after doing Kala Pathar. The path was mostly flat with little bit of ups and downs through rocks and boulders. But the body had started showing signs of tiredness and fatigue by then. After around 1 hour of walk, I got the glimpse of Everest Base Camp. With each further step, the sight got clearer. Towards right, there was this big glacier. Some party was going on at EBC, I could hear the loud music far before. That electric music helped me walk those last few steps. Around 11:45 AM, I put my foot steps on the heavenly land of Everest Base camp.
To the left, some party was on: dance, music and crowd. To the right, there were a lot of yellow tents pitched. And up above was this mighty mountain. I explored the base camp area in and out. Each 5 min, a helicopter was landing there with some luxurious tourists. The snow on the mountain was bit bluish and was dazzling in sun.
But it was nothing like Kala Pathar. One could see happiness and accomplishment in the face of the trekkers. Everyone was in a rejoice and cheerful mood. They were congratulating each other on the success of 11-days long trek. I started back my journey around 12:15 PM and reached Gorakshep around 1:45 PM. I had egg- fried-rice in lunch and immediately set out for Pheriche.
Gorakshep to Pheriche ( 6 hr / 14,100 ft ):
This was the toughest day for me. Kala Pathar, Everest Base Camp and journey back till Pheriche, all in a single day ! That too without a guide 😀 There was another challenge in front of me: to reach Pheriche before it gets dark. The same route had taken around 7 hrs in fast pace from Dingboche while coming. It was already 2:25 PM, when I left Gorakshep. That means expected time of reach at Pheriche around 9:30 PM. In no way, I could afford that. I had to double the pace, but the body had already faced enough for the day. There wasn’t any alternative, but to make it happen. The initial 30 mins path was bit tricky, the rest I literally ran, jogged would be more appropriate though. I crossed Lobuche before 4PM and reached Thukla around 5:30 PM. I climbed down that last stretch before Thukla so hurriedly that my right ankle was almost worn out. But this much of progress gave me a feeling that I would make it to Pheriche before dark. After crossing the bridge, there were three roads: the middle one leading to Pheriche. I followed that only, but after a few meters ahead I had had to take right and had climbed all the way down. But I went straight as there wasn’t any route visible that way. So I was going towards Dingboche. Though I knew this, I thought there would be a way down to Pheriche as it was visible while we came that way. And there wasn’t a single passer-by to ask or verify. It was starting to get darker and fear was getting a grip over me. After walking for some time, I got the glimpse of Pheriche; but it was down in the valley. And no route was in sight to climb down till there. I was high, very high than Pheriche’s level. It was getting darker. Then suddenly, I saw someone coming on a horse, like a savior. He guided me a way to climb down that humongous height. In those prevailing darkness, I made my way to Pheriche before it was too dark. I stayed at White Yak Lodge. Barsha also had moved there by then. This was the best stay during the trek: with no crowd and over friendly hotel staffs.
Pheriche to Namche Bazaar ( 6 hr / 11,280 ft ):
We left early next day, moved steadily to Tengboche. We had lunch there and moved to Namche Bazaar. As Barsha’s knees were in bad shape, we were moving very slowly. It was almost dark when we reached Namche. We checked into the same hotel
Namche Bazaar to Lukhla ( 6 hr / 9,200 ft ):
Finally, here we were: last day of the trek. We followed the same rule: ”Slow & Steady”. We reached Phakding around 2 PM, had lunch there and continued till Lukhla. The last stretch seemed like never ending. It got dark while we were still at a 40 mins distance from Lukhla. Barsha was in bad shape, hardly able to lift her leg. In those darkness and gloomy forest, She literally limped, jumped, but never stopped and made her way to Lukhla. It was around 7:30PM when we reached Lukhla. The sight of first street lamp of Lukhla gave me more happiness that day than EBC or Kala Pathar. Next morning we flew back to Kathmandu.
It was truly a journey of a lifetime. Three days back to back flight cancellations, one day short in time, no guide support, knee injury: nothing could stop us in making it to EBC or Kala Pathar. We were destined to make this happen. It may sound like bragging, but it is well deserved. Each three of us had pushed his/her limits and had went through hell lot of obstacles and difficulties.
“To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again. The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.” -Sir Francis Younghusband
“Alok! You should go for Everest Base camp once, you’re good.” Prakash, a fellow trekker, a journalist by profession, had told me this during my first trek to Har ki Dun in 2015. I had laughed hard on him that day. And today it is history: done n dusted. Everest base camp through Gokyo-Ri route is also in my bucket list and only mountain knows when it will be echoed.
Tips of the Trek:
- Book Kathmandu to Lukhla flight in Tara Air either in first or second or third slot. After 12 noon, the weather at Lukhla is susceptible and more prone to change. Do NOT ever go for Sita Air.
- Take TCell sim. Up above, Tcell has better coverage than Ncell though is bit costly. At EBC, both works that too with 3G. At Dingboche, you may get network at Nagarjuna peak.
- Take some energy bars or dry fruits; but don’t add much of weight. Travel as light as possible.
- Fix your lunch or dinner menu before leaving Lukhla, otherwise you’ll have to survive on Daal-Bhaat only throughout 11 days. Though there aren’t much options, but talk to your organizer & keep two-three alternatives handy.
- Make sure hotel rooms are confirmed for Gorakshep well in advance.
- The golden rule: Not to sleep in the evening and to do some stretch-out after a day’s trek.
- If you’re new to trekking, do the insurance. It’ll cost around 1500 IC(Indian Currency) for 11 days.
- Keep enough INR 100 rupees notes with you. INR 500 or 2000 rupee note will be difficult to exchange up there.
- If you’re going in April or afterwards, you can skip the sleeping back. There will be enough blankets at tea-houses. This depends on weather also.
- If you’re thinking of taking porter, take from Lukhla only. At higher the cost is more plus getting a porter is also uncertain.
- Take some good quality gloves or make sure it’ll keep you warm in those chilly wind.
- Go out once at night at Tengboche or Dingboche and enjoy the night sky. Up ahead i.e. at Lobuche or Gorakshep , it’ll get difficult due to extreme low temperature. Plan the trek keeping in view of moon’s status for better result.
- There is a day-hike from Tengboche to a high spot from where you’ll get an excellent view: a bird’s eye view of the monestary with the mountains in the background. Apart from Nagarjuna peak, there is another alternative of day-hike to Ama dablam base camp from Dingboche.
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PS: I know the post was very long, but hope you had a good read. FYI it was just half the story, the rest we’ll talk over a cup of coffee or a glass of beer 😀
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