A Humbling Trek To Mount Everest Base Camp

A Humbling Trek To Mount Everest Base Camp

Drifting in and out of sleep, the tinkering cow bells were a soothing sound as the yaks walked past my window to get an early morning start up the mountain.

Slowly waking up, I sleepily watched as the first ray of sunlight hit the bare timber floor next to my bed. Then the footsteps of the early morning trekkers dragging their weary bodies to breakfast began, as I listened to them quietly walk past my door I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag and appreciated the few extra moments sleep. Then there it was, the dreaded 6am wake-up call from our guide Diku, loudly knocking on our door “good morning Claire and Eric – breakfast is ready”.

That was our cue to be at breakfast within 15 minutes, I cursed under my breath and then summoned up enough courage to unzip my warm and cosy sleeping bag to face the long and arduous day that awaited me. It was day eight of the trek and it stopped being fun about two days ago and now it seemed like nothing but a relentless and monotonous death march.

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary


The upward trek


Walking in to the dining hall for my breakfast I was hit with the overpowering smell of the fire which was fuelled by yak dung, the overbearing smell destroyed what little appetite I did have. Sitting at the table trying to force down a ginger tea, I couldn’t help but start to feel a little grumpy, more than likely it was contributed to the coldness and the fact that I was becoming weak because of the loss of my appetite. All I hoped for was to find enough energy to pull myself through the last leg of our ascent to get to Everest Base Camp that day.

Thirty minutes after leaving Lobuche, just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse, the altitude started affecting me , I developed a thumping headache, felt dizzy and had trouble walking. At this point of the trek I was witnessing even the strongest and fittest of people flagging, I looked up at the constant stream of rescue helicopters flying into the valley, and I was seriously considering thumbing a ride.

Over the course of six hours, I slowly and sluggishly pulled myself up through the thin air, stopping at Gorak Shep for a short break. On the final track to Base Camp, altitude sickness was starting to kick in, I became very dizzy and one of my Sherpas (porters) had to grab my arm to hold me up, pulling me over rocks as my legs were about to give way. It was a battle between ego and logic, even though my body was telling me to stop I wanted to go to the end, I refused to be defeated. Now was not the time to turn around for I had got this far. When we reached the top of the final climb, I looked down at all the loose rocks and knew that I had no way of making it down without hurting myself.

Disappointed that I couldn’t walk the final hour I stood at the top and cried, I felt like a failure for I had not conquered my dream of reaching Everest Base Camp (I could see it, it was just there, but I couldn’t touch it).

Completely exhausted, I stumbled to take a seat on a nearby rock, wiping away my tears I then looked out into the distance. This was the first moment in the eight days that I really sat still and soaked in the view, appreciated where I was and the grandeur of actually having the top of the world standing right before me.

This was a defining and humbling moment for me, I came to understand that the Himalayas are not a place to come and conquer; they are a place to admire and respect. I was a guest in this wild, unpredictable and vastly untouched area, it should “be enough” to just simply be where I was.

If you are planning a trip to Everest Base Camp, take the time to research and plan well. Here are my top three tips:

1. Stay in the Moment

After four or five days into the trek many of you will start feeling exhausted, it will become a mindless chore and you will just want to get to the next guesthouse as soon as possible. Despite how awful you feel, take the time to stop, breath and soak in the scenery. Sadly it is often not until you come down to the bottom when you actually appreciate the beauty of what you have witnessed, my advice is to make an effort to stay mindful and present throughout the entire trek. Approach each excruciating step knowing that there is a spectacular lookout just up ahead, tell yourself it is worth it. It really is.

2. Embrace the Experience

You will experience uncomfortable and cold nights in the tea houses, where your room will be built from walls of ply wood, the water will be ice-cold, the toilets are dirty and you will go for about five days without a shower. Yes it’s hard and there is no luxury to be found. I hired a -20 sleeping bag from Kathmandu, used a silk sleeping liner and wore as many layers as necessary, and when I came across the opportunity for a hot shower, I took it. When you feel the need to moan and complain, take a moment to truly see and appreciate the experience for what it is, you need to remember that you are in an area where supplies are limited and hot showers and perfectly steeped tea is not considered a necessity but a luxury.

3. Avoid Altitude Sickness

Altitude can kill, so before planning a trip to high altitude places it is wise to do a bit of research to learn about the symptoms of altitude sickness. The main symptoms are severe headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, racing heart and dizziness. The only cure for altitude sickness is to descend for a few days. The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to drink at least three litres of water a day and walk slow. The higher you get the more you won’t feel like drinking the cold water – this is when I started to get my water bottle filled up with hot water, the bottle then made for a great hot water bottle for when I went to bed.

No matter whether you make it all the way or have to turnaround at Tengboche, trekking Everest Base Camp isn’t about the destination; it is about the journey, experience and the people you meet along the way. Whilst trekking, allow yourself moments of complete silence to appreciate and marvel at the spectre before you – life at the top of the world. If you take the time to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you, it is then that you have achieved what you set out to do, and that is to be a silent, humbled and respectable guest on the world’s greatest mountain range.


Trekking route

Way up: Kathmandu – Phakding – Namche Bazaar – Tengboche – Dingboche – Lobuche – Gorak Shep

Way down: Pheriche – Tengboche – Phakding – Lukla – Kathmandu

Our Guide

We use a small local company. For only a fraction more we had our own personal guide and two porters. Our guide was Diku from Destination Nepal