During the last 14 days, I’ve had the opportunity to go through the highs and lows of high altitude trekking with my guides and fellow trekkers.
I take a moment to share with you some of my personal experiences….and to some extent those of my fellow trekkers….in case you may have developed an interest in trekking to Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar.
Start and Finish: Flights from Kathmandu to Lukla and vice versa
A lot of the information on the web focuses on how dangerous the flight is and how Lukla is one of the 10 most dangerous airport to fly into.
It appears to me that the fine Nepali pilots have mastered the flights to a fine art.
In reality, it is simply more frequent that flights are delayed… often by many days….due to weather conditions.
I talked to many trekkers who had to wait 3 days to fly into Lukla and/or back to Kathmandu.
We were lucky as the flights we took were not delayed….which is unusual.
Tip #1: make sure to build cushions into your itinerary
A typical day on the EBC trek
My days typically started at sun rise and ended at sun set.
It started and finished with a warm meal at the tea house we stayed at for an overnight. Every day, we stopped at various tea houses along the way for lunch or for a snack/beverage.
The lead guide set the pace at which we trekked, which in his experience, offered the best opportunities to acclimatize to the ever diminishing levels of oxygen and therefore to reach our ultimate goal: Everest Base Camp.
None of us complained that it was too slow. The climbs were more often steep and challenging than gradual. We often took short breaks after a steep climb to regain some of the energy we had just depleted.
The. Thinner the air, the harder it gets to use your muscles.
By the end of every day, all I had left into me was the determination to carry on for as long as it takes.
I’ve seen people of different ages and levels of fitness. Invariably…..and although unhealthy people may still make it to Everest Base Camp by sheer determination, they looked and sounded very miserable along the way.
Tip # 2. Always follow your guide pace and advice. If you disregard, the only thing you may gain by going at a faster pace is higher than normal…. and potentially dangerous….altitude sickness
Tip # 3. For your own sake, do not attempt without doing a few multi day treks close to home first. Do not attempt if you’re not fit.
The tea houses were very basic.
As soon as the sun set, the place….including our bedrooms….were frigid. The walls or ceilings. of the bedroom were moldy
Cold…. no…. frigid showers were the norm. Paying for a hot shower, if available, did not guarantee the presence of hot water
Toilets were either flush toilet or….as tHe New Zealanders call it….long drops I.e. a hole in the floor. I never got used to the long drops. Try squatting when your legs are as stiff as a tree trunk. I became magically constipated when offered no other choice.
Tip # 4 make sure to have an adequate sleeping bag for cold environments. You should stay warm at night
Tip # 5. Practice personal cleanliness redux at home or on your practice treks. For me, it’s psychological. Feeling dirty saps my energy.
Tip # 6 Prepare yourself emotionally for poor sanitary conditions. If you have not travelled to third world countries before, this will be quite the shock.
I was struck with altitude sickness…and unfortunately at the same time diarrhea…in Namche Bazaar.
My symptoms were similar to those I experienced on Kilimanjaro: stomach upset, loss of appetite and a frequent desire to throw up.
I immediately went into diarrhea management and rehydration mode. I tried to conserve my energy whenever and wherever I could.
By comparison, most of my fellow trekkers developed severe migraines…even debilitating ones …. at later stages.
Fortunately, I had none of these. … and all things considered…. I fared better than most at Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar.
Tip # 7. Do not leave without proper altitude sickness medication. Chances are you will get sick and that you will find this very unpleasant.
Tip # 8. Never give up because you feel miserable one day. It’s normal to want to withdraw from pain. However, to the extent the symptoms are moderate, you’re perfectly safe. It’s one of the prices to pay to pursue such an activity.
The awesome rewards: Scenery, Everest Base Camp, Kala Pattar….. and personal sense of achievement
I’ve never trekked through anything so beautiful. The constant sight of Hiimalayan peaks are beyond this world.
Everest Base Camp is really just a coordinate on a map…. a place you reach so that you can claim to have reached it…..although climbing through the Morraine of the Khumbu glacier was pretty cool.
Kala Pattar is a serious challenge. Leave in the middle of the night on an empty stomach. The views of the sun rising over the surrounding peaks were amazing. Many of my fellow trekkers were not able to enjoy. Sheer migraines and slightly impaired judgment. I thought this was hilarious….. probably because I was fine. Sorry. I know this is cruel.
My last tip. Remain modest. It takes sheer determination and complete disregard for personal comfort to get there.. and you should rightfully be proud…. but also bear in mind that the level of discomfort you will experience is just everyday life for the Nepalis of the area