This is a guest post from travellingpaulabear about her experience trekking to Everest Base Camp posted on her blog back in 2016. If you would like to share your adventure with Ammonite Adventure, we would love to hear about it. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I’m definitely not going to sit here and type a day by day report about what happened every day at Everest Base Camp Trek because let’s face it, that would be pretty boring. However, I will start from the start. Prior to leaving Australia, I caught a nasty cold, I thought my super awesome immune system would kick in and go into the bad-ass mode to fix me.
How wrong was I?! After my first few days in Nepal, it had turned into a chest infection and I was coughing like a pack-a-day smoker. Urgh! I continued to smash vitamins but it was persistent to run its course until every last tiny germ had expended itself in my body.
We flew from Kathmandu to a small little village in the mountains named Lukla (the most dangerous landing strip in the world, I have some pretty scary footage). Its altitude was 2800m above sea level, so I was already higher than the highest point in Australia.
The first day went by really quickly; it was a lot of downhill. However, after lunch, I started to feel really sick. Not chest infection or flu sick, I’m talking GASTRO sick. I was still in the process of fighting off my chest infection so when the little gastro bugs though they could come for a free hike with me to Everest Base Camp, I wasn’t at all impressed.
That night was probably the worst night EVER! I don’t know how much detail I should go into, but let’s just say .. I would have been better off setting my bed up next to the bathrooms. At one point in the night, I was throwing up in the bin in my room. The next day’s hike was the worst fucking thing ever, we had a massive uphill. now I’m not exaggerating here.
This hill was relentless. Up, up and guess what.. more fucking up! In a way, being sick was a blessing because I was more focused on not shitting my pants than climbing up the damn hill. Keep in mind that I didn’t have any food in my body so I was running on empty and still with the remanence of a chest infection.
Acclimatisation Day in Namche Bazar
That day I heard 3 helicopters fly over (they were evacuation helicopters). We eventually made it into Namche Bazzar (pronounced Nam-Chay Baz-ar), the coolest little town on the entire EBC trip. We spent 2 days here. If you climb over 500m in altitude in 24 hours you have to have an “acclimatisation day”, which means on your day off (not exactly a day off) you have to climb up to a higher altitude and descend down to the lower altitude and sleep overnight to give your body a chance to cope with the lack of oxygen.
We went out to play pool one night in Namche and I met a couple of dudes that were on their way back from Base Camp, he told me that 5 of his group had to be airlifted off because they couldn’t deal with the altitude. This scared the shit out of me, FIVE people didn’t make it. Was this common? Was I going to make it? All I was thinking was ‘I’m sick, I want to die and the trip has hardly started.
Kala Patthar Peak
I wonder if that is going to be me’. The same guy told me about an optional climb to Kala Patthar Peak. He told me that most people can’t do it as its very steep, extremely cold and the air is very thin. That night I went back to my room freaking out about everything. But wait – it gets worse. I then discovered that my goddam fucking period had decided to come for an unexpected visit. Just get me a helicopter now I was thinking!!
The next few days flew by. I was bouncing up and down the hills and no longer had a chest infection, my gastro had subsided and I chose to ignore my tummy cramps. I was too focused on what was ahead to complete my Everest Base Camp Trek. We had gained a lot of altitudes; we were already up to 4000ms in the first week. Some of our group members were starting to notice the effects of altitude sickness(the major trek difficulty)
Common signs are headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, exhaustion (duh) and not sleeping properly. If anything, I was going the other way around.. I was eating like a horse and sleeping sound every night. By this stage the group had fallen into their hiking paces, I was up to the front with a girl called Zoe, who is an iron woman (not sure how I kept up). Read more about altitude sickness.
Rosie and Annelise
Our group was fairly varied (I wont go through them all but just the ones worth noting), we had Rosie and Annelise who were 18-year-olds from Perth. Annelise was the funniest person on the journey to Everest, she said the word “literally” in every sentence, and most of her sentences started with a few taps on the bench followed by “no, listen..”.
Every day for her was “the worst day everrrrr” and everything was “the worst thing ever”, it wasn’t annoying or negative it was hilarious. Rosie was a little quieter but gave every day her best shot. I liked her persistence.
On the EBC trail, there were another few groups doing the same route on the same days as us. One larger group was called the Gecko group (they were all Aussies), we often made jokes that they were the better-looking group. Every time we saw them hiking, they all looked like they had come off the cover of an adventure magazine.
Whilst we all looked and smelled like we hadn’t showered (which was true, we hadn’t) one of their members soon became named “One Direction” because he looked so damn perfect and never broke a sweat. Another group were a New Zealand group, it was two kiwis and one American, but the majority ruled and they got named the New Zealand Group. Every time we saw this group one of the girls looked like she was dying. The kiwi dude often ran up the hills without a bead of sweat, Annelise would say that he was “the worst guy ever”.
The Thirty Five
Another group were the Thirty-Five, which was a male and a female who looked to be about 35. They always looked sad so we never interacted with them. We had a few days where it snowed, this altered a few peoples mood but not mine. I had expected it to snow a few times. I think the people who were struggling with fitness and altitude at the same time couldn’t deal with the cold on top of it all.
Base Camp – So Close!
Base Camp was getting closer and closer and I was feeling amazing. No sore legs, no aches and no signs of altitude (other than waking up gasping for air and having a bloody nose every morning). I think I was owed some good luck after the terrible start I had. On the day that we went to Base Camp, we saw a girl who was hunched over on the back of a horse getting carried down the mountain.
Our guide told us that she had ascended too quickly and hadn’t given her body the chance to acclimatise. Majority of our group were struggling on the base camp day, we had been climbing up and down for days and people were tired and sore. I don’t know why, but Zoe, myself and a few others were the only ones who still felt fine (probably because I was taking an altitude tablet called Diamox).
Base Camp was pretty cool, but not my highlight (I’ll get to that in a bit). We were walking around over a massive glacier and bits of ice. To get to base camp we had to walk across this bit of ice that had massive ice drop-offs on both sides, one small slip and you would be stuck in a frozen pool of ice.
Base Camp – Bit of a Let-Down?
Everest Base Camp was a little bit of a let-down, you can hardly see Everest as there are massive mountains in front of it. You would have to ascend a nearby mountain to see it.
The air at base camp was very thin, we were all breathing as if we had just run a marathon. We were on the way back from Base Camp to a small village called Gorak Shep (5180m) when I heard a thunder sound, I looked to my left and saw a massive avalanche (short clip in the video at the bottom).
Apparently, they have been really common since the earthquake because it loosened all the snow and ice. I wouldn’t like to be attempting to summit this year!!
Attempting Kala Patthar Peak
Everyone was knackered after the massive day of walking, but we still had about 10 people who wanted to attempt Kala Patthar Peak( the highest point of EBC trekking) the following morning, that was the climb that the guy had told me about in Namche Bazar, I remember him mentioning that only 2 of his group made it up.
Our guide explained that most people only make it halfway up and to not be disappointed if we had to turn around. The night of base camp everyone was in bed super early, I filled up my tin water bottle with hot water and shoved it in my sleeping bag. It was meant to get to -5 in the guest houses that night (we were sleeping at 5180m). I slept in a -20 sleeping bag, a -11 liner, 2 pairs of thermals, and two down jackets. I was still cold.
The 5 am Start
My alarm went off at 5 am and it was pitch black outside. I bounced out of bed and shoved on a few more layers (by this stage of the trip, we were all sleeping in the same clothes we hiked in). I was more rugged up than I had been the entire trip. It was FREEZING! I put hand warmers in my gloves and took my water bottle to the tea room to warm back up.
Drinking warm water was far better than attempting to drink frozen water. I didn’t even brush my teeth that morning because everything had frozen! Toothpaste and even my baby wipes had frozen rock hard. When I got into the tea house, the group had dropped to only 5 who were going to attempt Kala Patthar. I could understand, it was too early, too cold and everyone would have been too tired from the day before. We went to the top to see beautiful mountain views, the main part of Everest Base Camp Trek.
We all had our headlamps on and begun climbing. My hand warmers in my gloves were a godsend. The mountain was extremely steep. I can’t explain how cold it was, and the more we climbed the colder it got. Not to mention the air just got thinner and thinner.
400 Meters Altitude Over 8 Hours
We usually would gain around 400m in altitude over 8 hours of Everest Base camp hiking, so we had a chance for our bodies to adjust to the thinning of the air. This morning we just went straight up. Not even halfway up and two of the people decided it was too hard so they turned around. Then there were 3! Zoe (ironwoman) Rosie (the 18 yr old from Perth) myself and two guides, by the time we reached halfway my breathing got really heavy, it was like I was trying to breathe out of a straw.
I was thirsty but my warm water was now a rock hard ice block. Rosie needed a break so she sat down for a bit with our guides. Both Zoe and I continued as we didn’t want to get too cold. We were so close to the top, when we realised our guides and Rosie hadn’t continued.
We carried on, there were times where we had to use our hands to get up because it was so steep. Finally, we made it to the top. It only took one and a half hours to get up and we went from 5180m to 5545m (a few hundred meters higher than base camp) in that short period of time, altitude was a bitch.
Colder Than -20° (-4°F)
The views were amazing which made the climb worth it. We had a Nepalese guide meet us up at the top who told us it was colder than -20 (we later found out that it was -26). Due to the temperature of Everest Trek, we couldn’t stay up there too long as the cold was making our movements really slow, we were literally beginning to freeze up.
At one point at the top I remember wiping my nose on my glove (eww I know, but I had no other option), two minutes later I looked down at my glove and it was frozen rock hard. Frozen snot. Yum! I was so dehydrated and all I wanted was some water. Nope, not an option.
Zoe and I began our descent when we bumped into One Direction from the Gecko group. The guide asked us a few questions about the top and told us that 6 of his group members had started and he was the only one still climbing. He then asked if we knew the girl who froze up and had to be carried off the mountain.
He described her as “the Aussie with a green jacket and a nose ring”, that was Rosie!!!!! We left One Direction to continue his EVEREST climb and started to bounce down the mountain trying not to slip. I remember one part on the way down being so steep that I had to get down on my hands and bum and slide down.
I didn’t trust my feet, they weren’t working properly. We then bumped into another guy from the Gecko group who looked disorientated; he was just standing there doing nothing (which wasn’t a good idea at -26). I asked him if he was okay, he told me that he was meant to stay there and not move because he had already fainted 4 times from the altitude.
I insisted that he had to go down, that’s the only way to make altitude better. Plus, he needed to get moving. Standing still in that temperature was the worst idea. He listened and descended with us.
Safe Back at the Tea House
We made it back to the tea house where everyone gave us a cheer and told us we looked like a pair of the frozen snowman who had arrived from a blizzard. Rosie was getting her feet warmed up and slowly gaining circulation, thank god she was okay. She explained that she lost complete feeling in both of her legs from below the knees and her feet stopped working. She was literally immobile and had to get carried down.
I was grateful that Zoe and I didn’t stop for a rest, we probably wouldn’t have made it up either. Everyone was ready to leave to start their descent. I quickly packed my things (with the help of a few of the boys because my hands decided they didn’t want to work anymore).
As we were about to leave we saw a helicopter come over and land. Next minute we saw the New Zealand Group all get air evacuated. All three of them. Drama, drama, drama! We were all watching intently, thanking God that it wasn’t any of us. That day we descended a total 18kms to be exact. We found out that night that the Thirty-Five also had to be airlifted to the hospital the same day. I am so damn happy that our entire group made it, even if Rosie almost lost her feet.
The descent back went really quickly. We were covering 15-18kms a day and although there were still a lot of uphills, we were descending in altitude drastically. I was no longer waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air and I noticed that my nose bleeds were less frequent.
All in all, it was the most hilarious and fun trip of my entire life. I met some amazing people and was able to challenge myself to new levels. I recommend trekkers to once better try Everest Base Camp Trekking.