Friday, June 8, 2012

Beautiful Nepal's, Mt.Everest Base Camp Trek

May was fast approaching and again it was time for us to plan for some new, adventurous trek. With the schedules in Office allowing us to plan for a big trek, after some discussion, we decided to do Mt. Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal. Everest Base Camp trek popularly called by Indians as EBC Trek in Nepal is a wonderful trek amidst the beautiful Snow capped Mountains of Nepal. Nepal, without any second thought is the land of Beautiful Mountains, Mind blowing Valleys, Hard working, friendly and ever smiling people and most importantly a country which Loves peace. So we, a group of 9, finally planned for this beautiful trek, with loads of expectations and much to our satisfaction, we were not disappointed at all. It all started with two close friends discussing about the various treks that they wanted to do and finally both of them decided on doing this long and difficult trek. Then it was all about informing to other friends and finally it ended up in the formation of a group of 9 Engineers working in different IT companies. It was a new group, and all of us were skeptical about the other guys in the group who were almost like aliens. We didn't even know the names of each other initially. But by the end of the 21 days of trek we all were very good friends who helped each other at difficult times. I still can't come out of the things that we were discussing, jokes we were sharing, songs that we sang, Mafia game that we all played with lot of intensity and finally the final bye that we bid in Katmandu. Overall, it was a wonderful experience trekking all the way to Kalapattar which is at an altitude of 5545 meters and then to Everest Base Camp abbreviated as EBC which is at an altitude of 5350 meters. The views were just mesmerizing and the difficulty level, as I felt was somewhat moderate. Not so difficult, not so easy.

      EBC trek is not the same trek that we do in India. It is filled with several unique Nepali styles of treatment to all the trekkers. Why I am saying this is nowhere in India during these treks, will you find Hotels and Lodges all along the way. This trek is nothing but going from one village to another which is located at a slightly higher altitude than the other. It was very easy for us to plan the trek so that we were having rest days in the middle for acclimatization purposes. Acclimatization, you will realize the importance of this process only when you go higher and higher. One more thing about EBC is that you can choose the difficulty level of the trek. In case you need to make your difficulty level to High, then you can choose to trek many passes like Jerry (5 days walk to Lukla), Chola Pass, Gokyo and Gokyo RI pass, Lama Pass and many others. This is just like a computer game, where you can make the game more brutal. But, for this we need more days for the trek, more rest days for acclimatization and more money for the stay and food. One sad thing about the trek is that it is very very expensive. Surprisingly you need to pay just 100 or 200 Nepali Rupees per day for the stay. But, on one condition. You should have your food in their Lodge itself. After seeing their menu, you will realize why they have that simple condition. As the altitude increases, the temperature decreases, oxygen decreases, complications increase, the layers of clothes on your body increase and at the same time, the prices of food increases exponentially. Imagine paying 250 Nepali Rs for a single Chapati/Roti without any curry or paying 240 Nepali Rs for a single Boiled Egg or 250 for two slices of Plain Bread. By the way, one Indian Rupee = 1.6 Nepali Rupees. Not much difference but still, on a whole it makes hell lot of a difference.

  A few Frames from this trek can be seen in this link: Photos from Nepal

Our plan went something like this.

Bangalore to Delhi by Train:

 36 Hours (Samparka Kranti Express - Sleeper). Be ready for a hot ride from Andhra Pradesh to Madhya Pradesh as the sun was scorching down and temperature was around 49 Degree Centigrade. But the experience will be fun and without mentioning, it saves lot of Money.

Delhi to Katmandu by Flight and one night stay at Katmandu:

 Final round of shopping and preparations can be completed on this day. Almost everything you need for the trek will be available in Katmandu. But make sure you have the right Bargaining skills as shops in Katmandu try to loot you completely.

Katmandu to Lukla by flight and Trekking to Phakding: Altitude range 2840m (Lukla) to 2610m (Phakding)

 It was an early morning flight and make sure you have your breakfast in Katmandu by that time. The flight to Lukla would be fun as all of them are small planes but a bit scary as well. It would take around 30 minutes to reach Lukla from Katmandu and be ready for the first Chill that hits you as soon as you set your foot out of the flight in Lukla Air Port and there starts the change in the conditions. Now starts the trek towards Phakding which is surprisingly at a lower altitude than Lukla. The trek was easy which takes around 4 hours and most of the way it's a descend. But as it will be your first day during the trek and as the conditions will be different, you might find it difficult for a while. Also walking on the long bridges was an amazing experience. It was a bit scary initially but after sometime standing at the middle of each bridge with doodh koshi river flowing at the downside and the winds slamming your face was an Unforgettable experience.

Phakding to Namchi Bazaar: Altitude Range 2610m(Phakding) to 3440m(Namche Bazar)

Oops. What a trek this was. Still can't forget how tired we all were that day. Early in the morning we left and guide didn't tell us how difficult it was. But it was a steep ascend from Phakding to Namchi Bazaar. This day, I would say, was one of the most difficult days during our long trek. For the first time during the trek, you can have a glimpse of Everest on the way. But due to horrible weather conditions we couldn't see anything from that point. Also don't forget to have your Lunch at a place called Jorsale which is the last village that you get before Namchi Bazaar and that too in a small tent. Food there was delicious especially Dal Bath. Namchi Bazaar is a beautiful Place which is covered by a mountain called Kangtenga. If you are interested in Photography, you can get some really nice shots from here.

Rest Day in Namchi Bazaar and a trip to Mt.Everest Five Star Hotel: Altitude Range 3440m(Namche Bazar) to 3860m(Everest View)

 As it was a very difficult trek to Namchi Bazaar, it will be good to take it easy the next day. Taking easy means not a complete rest. This day you can plan for a trek to Mt .Everest five star hotel. The views that you get during the trek is just amazing and the panoramic view at the top just mesmerises you for sure. For the first time, you can see Everest from this place. It's a bit steep ascend but it's worth the energy you spend. One thing about rest days is you need not carry your heavy bags during the trek. It will take just 4 hours for ascend and descend. But make sure that you spend some time in Mt. Everest Hotel as the feeling will be very unique. As expected, prices were high and we just had a Honey Tea and enjoyed the day there. Just for the info a day's room rent in this hotel is 185 US Dollars which comes to 185*85 = 15725 Nepali Rs. I still can't forget the Panorama shot of Namchi Bazaar which I took on the way. Also in Namchi Bazaar, don't forget to visit the Sagarmatha National Park from where you can get a Panoramic View and also the German Bakery which has a unique ambience and they serve some delicious food as well.

Trek from Namchi Bazaar to Tengboche: Altitude Range 3440m (Namche Bazar) to 3860m (Tengboche)

 One more difficult day of trekking as the path was too steep. This trek includes a steep descend initially and then starts the problem. It's too steep an ascend till you reach Tengboche. But as soon as you reach Tengboche the beautiful views there, will take care of all your tiredness and you will forget the ascend part very quickly. Kongtenga peak, I am sure steals your mind and heart for some time and then the Kong de, Thamserku, Ama Dablam and many peaks adds to the beauty of Tengboche. One more attraction in Tengboche is the Buddhist Monastery. With Kong de in the background, this monastery looks awesome. This will be open from 7 am to 9 am and then from 3 pm to 4 pm. The monastery is worth a visit. Also there is one small peak in Tengboche. From there you can see the Kongtenga's best View. I got a beautiful First Kiss shot (Golden Rays falling on the peak) during Sun rise. For this you need to wake up at 4.30 am and then trek for almost 20 mins (approx 200m) and then wait for Sun to rise in opposite direction. You will get the best view of Tengboche Village as well from here.

Trek from Tengboche to Dingboche: Altitude Range 3860m (Tengboche) to 4410m (Dingboche)

Somewhat not so tiring trek, but still it tests the fitness levels. It takes around 4 hours to reach the place. Ascend and descend will always be there and the views you get on the way are just amazing. When you reach Dingboche you will see the best view of Ama Dablam. You can also see Nuptche, Island Peak, Peak 31 and many other beautiful peaks. But compared to other places Dingboche looked dull. The main reason for this was the weather. It was completely cloudy and just when we reached Dingboche, it started raining. Then the rain suddenly changed to Snow. It was our first experience seeing anything other than Rain drops and Hailstones falling from the bright white clouds and we took advantage of it by playing in it. But make sure you won't do it too much as these are main reasons for AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). I got few decent shots as well with snow pouring down on Dingboche with the partially visible Ama Dablam in the back drop. It kept on Snowing the entire night. One more thing in Dingboche is the presence of HRA (Himalayan Rescue Association). You can attend the Pep Talk that they conduct about the precautionary measures that everyone should take as we go higher and also the symptoms of AMS and how you should react to each and every situation. A girl called Rachel from New Zealand took the session and overall it was a good experience with the HRA guys and I would like to congratulate them for giving such services.

Rest Day in Dingboche: Altitude Range 4410m (Dingboche) to 4700m (Ama Dabalam Base Camp)

As part of your acclimatization, you can take a rest day here only. As told before, rest day is not complete rest. So, the previous day, we decided to go for Nangkar Tshang peak which is at an altitude of 5616 meters. I had heard that we get wonderful views from there. It was supposed to be a 4 hour trek to and fro but to our bad luck, weather was so horrible and we had to drop the plan. I had heard it's a steep ascend as you will be moving from 4200m to 5616m. So after hearing this news from our guide, we all got disappointed but then suddenly we decided to go to Ama Dablam Base Camp. Wow. What a feeling when we reached that. It was a steep ascend and there was no marked route for this trek and guide helped us in going there. When you reach the peak you will get a wonderful view of Chola pass and the Ama Dablam Peak. But clouds, of course, played spoilsport. There is a small lake at the base of Ama Dablam and surprisingly the water was a bit warm there. As it was very windy, we had to leave very early.

Dingboche to Lobuche: Altitude Range 4410m (Dingboche) to 4910m (Lobuche)

After spending almost two dull days in Dingboche, it was a nice experience next day morning, to see a completely clear sky. It was fun to shoot the ‘first kiss shot’ every day, with sun rays falling on the beautiful Snow Mountains. Then the trek was, as usual, ascend and descend. The valley on which you trek is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It was a flat stretch till you reach a place called Thokla. It's the Lunch Point and after your lunch, be ready for a steep ascend till Lobuche. This is a bit tiring. Lobuche is a small village which is covered majorly by a mountain called Nuptche and Kumbu glacier. What a beautiful Mountain Nuptche is. It looks awesome. Just behind Nuptche, Mt. Everest is located. But you won't get to see it from this place. During sun set, wait for the last kiss on the peaks of Nuptche. I luckily got to see and clicked some Photos of this. You will also get to see some beautiful Nepali Birds in this place. Also, of all the places, Lobuche is supposed to be the coldest. I still can't forget how cold I felt when I went out at 7. So, dress cautiously and make sure you dont catch cold or fever at this place.

Lobuche to Gorakshep: Altitude Range 4910m (Lobuche) to 5140m (Gorakshep)

This is the easiest of all the days and also the penultimate day of our ascend. It is Just a trek for 2 hours. But we walked very slowly clicking Photos from all possible angles and we took around 3 and half hours to reach Gorakshep. Path is flat, but one steep stretch is a bit tiring. Our guide was desperate to reach Gorakshep early in the morning and then trek to Everest Base. That would have been a bit tiring. Most of the people do in this way. But we wanted to take it easy and we all decided to go to Gorakshep and take rest there. In the end it turned out to be a wonderful decision. But staying in Gorakshep was a bit expensive and the prices of food here were expensive. The first wonderful view of Everest can be seen from Gorakshep just behind the Nuptche Mountain. It was satisfied feeling to see Everest from such a small distance. Along with Everest, Pumori, Peak 44, Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Peak 31, Lhotse and other beautiful peaks are visible along with the Kumbu glacier which was the surprise package. It's so big that the entire EBC is built on this Glacier and believe me it looks very beautiful. Overall Gorakshep was a good and deserving place to stay for two days.

Gorakshep to Kalapattar and then Gorakshep to Everest Base Camp: 

Altitude Range 5140(Gorak shep) to 5550(Kalapattar) 
Altitude Range 5140(Gorak Shep) to 5364(Everest as Base Camp) 

Leave Gorakshep as early as possible as this will be your target during this trek. Kalapattar at 5550m. Leave at around 4 AM; you will reach Kalapattar by 6 or 6.30 am. Temperature will be in negatives at around -5 to -10 Degrees C. Make sure you have dressed properly otherwise frostbites will be the end result. The view from Kalapattar is just mesmerizing. Whatever peaks you might have seen will be seen completely with a panoramic view with the Mt.Everest being the major attraction. A sense of achievement will surely hit you and that happiness, on top of Kalapattar, at 5550m is unexplainable and unforgettable. Photos sessions should be there for sure and then start to descend back to Gorakshep. Have breakfast and then start your trek towards another target, Mt.Everest Base Camp. It’s a 3 hour trek from Gorakshep and it’s not steep but as you might be tired trekking to Kalapattar, its safe to take this trek easy and you can take your own time in reaching Everest Base Camp. A walk on Kumbu glacier will be fun for sure. Many say there is nothing in EBC, no views and it's just a stone that is there in EBC. But what I felt was that It was like a temple for trekkers. Many expeditions were going on. There were many colourful tents on the Kumbu Glacier and it was surely an inspirational moment for me to reach EBC. Also the views from EBC are just awesome. Weather gods were courteous on us this day and we thanked them many times. Meeting the group from Pune who were attempting to climb Everest Summit was a special feeling. The Energy Drink they offered in their tents was a special gesture from them and speaking with such passionate guys was very motivational. Overall, the best part for me of our trek was the walk in EBC. A long trekking day, that too at such a high altitude. We were all tired and I am sure if you follow this plan, you all will be tired as well. But this experience, I am sure will be a unique one. After the trek we celebrated the occasion with a bottle of coke (coca-cola which cost us 500 Nepali Rs).

Gorakshep to Pheriche: Altitude Range 5140m (Gorakshep) to 4240m (Pheriche)

We finally started descending. That too, in the same path that we ascended - Gorakshep to Lobuche and then, a diversion in Thokla. You can have Lunch In Thokla. The path till Thokla is a complete ascend and then a plain walk for an hour amidst the beautiful valley that leads to Pheriche. It takes around 3 or 4 hours from Gorakshep to Pheriche. Don't forget to visit the HRA head office in Pheriche and do find some time to go near the river. Weather was not favorable for any clicking and I could appreciate the beauty of Pheriche only in the next morning. It is a very nice place to buy a plot and build a farm house or something like that.

Pheriche to Kyangjuma: Altitude Range 4240m(Pheriche) to 3550m(Kyangjuma)

Remember the trek from Namchi Bazaar to Tengboche? It was a steep ascend and descend. It will be the same again. It will be another tiring day for sure. Kyangjuma is a small village located just 30 minutes before Namchi Bazaar. The trek is tiring and it takes a bit more time than the usual. Reaching Tengboche from Pongboche itself is tiring since the final 40 minutes is too steep an ascend. You can plan for Lunch in Tengboche and then the descend starts. Till Phungi Tanga, it's a steep descend but then starts the struggle. It is a steep ascend for almost an hour and half and then a plain walk for almost half an hour. Then you will reach this beautiful small village called Kyangjuma. Weather was not favorable, so we did not get any views from Kyangjuma.

Kyangjuma to Phakding: Altitude Range 3550m (Kyangjuma) to 2610m (Phakding)

5 hours of ascend and descend will take us back to Phakding. On the way we again have to pass through Namchi Bazaar. Shopping in Namchi Bazaar is not advisable since prices are almost double to that of Kathmandu. After some rest in Namchi Bazaar, start descending towards Phakding. We saw some lovely, colorful Birds on the way during our trek this day and on the way, you can see Mt.Everest for one last time.

Phakding to Lukla: Altitude Range 2610m (Phakding) to 2840m (Lukla)

This is also an easy path. It involves a bit of ascending and descending as usual. But we took it very easy as it was our last day. We all walked together slowly for the first time and believe me it was fun. It needs just 2 or 3 hours to reach Lukla but we took almost 4 hours. As soon as you enter this place, there is a Bihari Hut. He serves delicious Samosa, Jilebi and other dishes. We all badly needed that spicy food and I am sure even your mouth waters after seeing them. Also there is one movie tent, where they will play movie of your choice and we all had some fun watching House Full2. Even though movie was not that good, the experience was great.

Lukla to Katmandu:

 Early morning flight to Katmandu. It was a bit scary drive for 40 minutes as there was a plane crash few days back and luckily we reached Katmandu safely and finally we were done with the EBC trekking part. Katmandu, it’s almost similar to Bangalore and there is an area dedicated to tourists called Thamel. You will get almost everything here but you should have the right bargaining skills. Don't forget to visit the famous Pashupatinath temple. It's one beautifully built temple. Also Farewell dinner organized by our Guide in a restaurant was good and it offered some Nepali Folk performances as well which was like Icing on the cake.

Bungee Jumping and River Rafting:

Finally another plan was ready. Some of us in the group wanted to do Bungee Jumping and some wanted to do River Rafting. This is done at a place called The Last Resort, which is just a 3 hour drive from Kathmandu and it comes within 12 Km from Tibet border. After the briefing session Bungee Jump happens from a steel suspension Bridge over Bhoti Kosi river gorge. The fall is from 160 meters height. The Bungee Jump offers you a free fall of 3 seconds and the Swing will give you a free fall of 7 seconds. As the guide was saying, more the free-fall, more the fun and of course, more the danger. But that’s what adventure is all about. It was good watching 3 from our group doing the Jump and they said it was one beautiful and scary experience. After Bungee jump, it was time for river rafting in Bhoti Kosi River. What an experience it was. Many, long rapids, very friendly guide, fast flowing brutal river. As the river was small, our raft used to hit the big rocks often and all the turns and twists were damn fun. Rapids were very violent. Rapids named “Mid Night Express”, “Golden Gate”, “Oh My God”, “oo-laa-la”, “Zone of Home” were too scary. I still can't forget how one of my friends fell in Mid Night Express and how one flew fast when we were asked to jump off from the raft. It was one scary experience. Also the way we all stood on a small rock for almost 15 minutes when our raft got stuck between the rocks. One raw raft experience it was. I had paid 2000 Indian Rupees for the day’s plan and I was extremely happy after the Rafting was over. Bungee Jump was around 7200 Nepali Rs and Rafting was about 3200 Nepali Rs as part of the package (travel, Lunch included). It was truly one adventurous day.

Katmandu Rest day:

As it was Nepal Bundh, we spent almost entire day in lodge and then a bit of shopping during the evening. There are many beautiful places in and around Katmandu. You can explore them for sure.

Katmandu to Delhi and then back to Bangalore from Delhi :

 One and half hours from Katmandu to Delhi and a two and half hour flight from Delhi to Bangalore and that's the end. Overall, it was an extremely good experience trekking amidst those beautiful snow-capped mountains of Nepal. Seeing Mt.Everest from such a close distance was a special feeling. Also experiencing different temperatures both extreme hot and cold was a unique feeling. Walking on the steel suspension bridge was a different experience for sure and clicking these with my small camera was an honor. We trek always but it's the photos which helps us to remember what we had witnessed through our eyes for a long time. Totally, I added a lot to my memories’ bucket and I hope I decide to take that extra step. Yes I am talking about climbing the mighty Mt. Everest which is called as Sagarmatha by Nepalese and Chomolungma in Tibet. As of now, it's not even in my wildest of dreams. But who knows. So many unexpected things happen in each and everyone's life. Life is full of Surprises and I wish some special Surprise is waiting for me as well :) I know it will be difficult. But still no one knows where the Life's Boat takes us and I am sure we all will have different destinations. Let the mighty Mt. Everest wait for me :)

 If you have missed the link for the Photos at the top, here it is again :)

A few Frames from this trek can be seen in this link: Photos from Nepal