09 October 2018: Namche Bazaar to Phortse
After a big breakfast, we grabbed our gear and bid Namche goodbye. Once out of town the main Everest trail is mostly flat for about 2 miles with multiple views of Everest summit and Ama Dablam, a beautiful double-peak granite pyramid. We stopped for tea at the Thamserku Lodge in Sanasa. It was such a beautiful area with sunflowers, rhododendrons and views of the mountains. Soon after leaving Sanasa we turned from the main trail and headed uphill along the Gokyo Ri Trail, a much less travelled route. This section of trail included a bunch of rock stairways that reminded us of something out of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. These narrow stairs were wedged between steep inclines on our left and sheep drop offs to our right which made things interesting when coming face-to-face with yak caravans. We stopped for lunch at the Snowland View Lodge in Mong. After lunch the trail dropped quickly about 1000’ to a river crossing and then the trail immediately climbs steeply to the Sherpa village of Phortse. There we stayed for the night at the Thamserku View Lodge owned and operated by Karma Rita Sherpa who has summited Everest 9 times. He’s also an accomplished distance runner with many awards and photos hanging in the main room of the lodge. In 2007, he placed 2nd in the Everest Base Camp Marathon. Total for the day was approx. 7.2 miles, 6 hours and 3000’ gain.
(Karma Rita Sherpa)
It was a chilly start but the steep climb out of Phortse quickly warmed us up. We had amazing views of Ama Dablam most of the day as well as a large Monastery in Tengboche located across the deep valley. We were told we would be staying there on our return route. We took a tea break at the Gomba Lodge in Upper Pangboche. After about an hour break, we continued on to Orsho for lunch at the Sunrise Guest House. The second-floor dining room offered clear views of the surrounding mountains and a flock of yaks and horses grazing nearby. After filling our stomachs with the usual rice, noodles and dal bhat we continued above treeline to our final destination of the day, Dingboche (4410m/ 14468’). Dingboche is a busy little village since, like ourselves, its used as a multiday acclimation point for those continuing on to Everest Base Camp. We stayed at the Peak 38 View Lodge and Restaurant for 2 nights.
Today we slept in since it would be an easy acclimation day. We headed out just after 9am for a short but steep out-and-back to a viewpoint above the village marked by the usual Prayer Flags and numerous rock cairns, built by trekkers before us. A bit further up the hill we found a cool rock outcropping that reminded us of the Disney movie The Lion King’s Pride Rock. After some pictures here, hiked back down to the lodge. The total hike was just a bit under 2 miles with about 700’ gain. The rest of the day was spent resting, reading, washing cloths in the stream, hot showers for some, and exploring the village. Most of us walked down to the Bakery for hot chocolate, card games next to the warm fire and a free showing of a documentary about Everest Summit Sherpas. It was interesting to learn how the local Sherpa go up and set the safety ropes and ladders before the foreign climbers arrive and then go back up to remove them at the end of each climbing season. These guys are amazing and the true heroes of any successful summit. Some of us purchased cans of Everest Beer which we planned to crack open when we arrive at Base Camp in two days’ time. By now we had spent enough time with each other it felt like we had been best friends forever; so, when someone did something stupid, we were quick to joke about it. Both Asia and Sam fell on the stairs earlier in the day and scraped their hands so, of course, they were harassed about whining all day. Then, at dinner, Sam accidently dumped the entire ketchup bottle on his food and the table. I just had to share that story; got you again Brother. LOL!
12 October 2018: Dingboche to Lobuche
We departed our lodge at 7:30am and headed back up the hill to where we had climbed the previous day. After that initial steep climb the trail levels off as we passed through ruins of an old village and views of the Cholo Glacier and Cholatse Tso glacial lake to our left (west). We gained altitude very gradual until we crossed a rickety bridge over the Lobuche River and stopped for tea at the Thuka Guest House. From there the trail climbs steeply to a plateau covered with many monuments to Sherpas and loved ones that have died during past Everest expeditions. One monument was in memory of 3 Sherpas that, along with 7 other climbers were killed in a terrorist attack while they were climbing Nanga Parbat in Pakistan in 2013 (see picture below). After a brief break there we continued paralleling the Khumbu Glacier, just out of sight on the other side of a tall berm to our right (east). The temperature and wind chill continued to drop as we neared the village of Lobuche (4910m/ 16109’) which sits between the Khumbu and Lobuje Glaciers. Here we would spend our last night before pushing on to Base Camp. After getting situated in the Alpine Home Lodge, James, Sam, Allen and I climbed the nearby berm for our first view of the Khumbu Glacier. This would be the same glacier that we were to walk on the next day to get to Base Camp. Total for the day was approx. 6.8 miles, 5.5 hours and 2300’ gain.
13 October 2018: Lobuche to Everest Base Camp to Gorak Shep
The day was finally here; today we would visit Base Camp! We all loaded up with a big breakfast and headed out at 7am. Some were feeling various symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) but all pushed on, except for Jo who had stayed back a few days ago due to a previously existing illness. The trail started out unusually smooth and flat before finally becoming rocky like we had become accustomed to hiking. We stopped briefly for tea and lunch in Gorak Shep (5140m/ 16864’) and then continued to Base Camp (5365m/ 17601’). I remembered feeling both excited and disappointed upon reaching Base Camp. I was excited to finally achieve a life-long goal; but disappointed that there wasn’t a better view. The problem was that I had envisioned Base Camp being higher up on the side of a mountain with a view below not that of standing in a bowl looking up. Don’t get me wrong, the view of the surrounding mountains and the glacier we were standing upon were amazing. The beauty of the area must be experienced to truly appreciate it. It just wasn’t what I had expected but beautiful just the same! We stayed there for about an hour taking pictures and sharing the experience. Asia, Sam and I cracked open our Everest Beer and toasted our accomplishment before our group headed back to Gorak Shep for the night. Total for the day was approx. 7.6 miles, 6 hours and 1778’ gain.
Watch for Part 4, Summiting Kala Patthar (18514’) and the return to Kathmandu, coming soon.
In the meantime, please read about Karma Rita: Sherpa, climber, runner, father, and successful Teahouse Proprietor.