Once you hear the call of the mountains your life is not the same again. Especially when the mountain that is calling you is none other but the Everest.
I needed something exotic and spectacular for 2017 and trek to the base of the tallest mountaint in the world was exactly that. When I saw the offer from the Green Planet Travel agency from Croatia it just felt like it was everything I needed. I wanted to go on this trek with all my heart and didn’t really care about the cost. I firmly decided that the 2017 is going to be the year when I witness sunrise above the tallest peak of the world.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. My original plan was to visit my best friend in Ireland, something that I have been promising her ever since she moved there 4 years ago. I was already looking for flights when Everest came calling. It was so strong and powerful that I immediately forgot all the promises and plans that I had. Luckily for me she understood my choice. That’s one of the reasons she’s my best friend, she understands me.
Preparation for this trip is not much different than preparation for any other. It’s always good idea to get in touch with people that did the same thing and listen to their advice. You can’t go wrong there. On rei.com, worldtravelfamily.com, theplanetd.com. I found a bunch of really useful information about the trekking route, physical preparation for the trek and the equipment I was going to need there, as well as good advice on how to buy equipment in Kathmandu. Globemad.com gave me really great information on the food to try in Nepal, and livingthedreamrtw.com gave in depth analysis of the food in lodges and teahouses along the trekking route. Rest of the time I was just taking it all in, the photos and the stories, while trying to contain crazy outburst of butterflies in stomach so I could function properly without getting a diarrhea from all the excitement.
That whole time the trip seemed just like a dream, as if it wasn’t really happening, and then on 15th of September I got an e-mail from Vlatko, the owner of the agency, with the date of the departure confirmed for 30th of October. In that instant it became so real. It was time to go from daydreaming to serious preparations.
Few words about the equipment
I bought most of the equipment back home in Zagreb. Getting really good walking boots was of the utmost importance. It’s probably the most important part of the equipment whille trekking. According to most of the articles you’ll find it’s really important to buy the shoes at least a couple of months before the trip so you can break them in, and that is true to some degree because if you get some really good, quality shoes that fit perfectly you won’t have to. It’s much more important how they fit, do they keep the ankle stabile, is there enough room for toes (buy them at least size bigger so you can have room for more than one pair of socks on your feet), does the foot slide when you’re going downhill and how their weight feels while walking. I read at least 10 different articles on what to look when buying them and I think I did really well with mid trekking shoes I bought. Don’t be cheap when buying. Quality does cost a lot, but your feet will thank you once you start walking. However, I do have to say that the trekking route is not that difficult and I have seen people get by with regular sneakers or fakes they bought in Kathmandu. You don’t have to spend 300 dollars on shoes, but it helps if you do. Especially if you are as sloppy as I am and always trip while walking. I swear to God if it weren’t for the shoes I would have broken my ankle 10 minutes from Lukla on the first day.
You can easily buy the rest of the equipment in Kathmandu. Most of the hotels are located in Thamel where you have hundreds of stores selling equipment at every turn. I was lucky enough to go shopping with the owner of the local agency that organized the trek so I was able to get really good gear for cheap. For example, I got really good genuine fake North Face down jacket for just 50 dollars (and it’s so good I will be able to use it for years to come), really good trekking pants for just 10 dollars and few more things for 10 dollars (really great fleece lined woolen hat for 1,5 dollars was on of those things). For 15o dollars you can buy everything you might need whereas back home you would have to spend at least twice the amount.
As far as other things go: bring a lot of wet wipes. A lot of the times you won’t have luxury of hot showers on the mountain and when you do (which you’ll have to pay extra, of course) it won’t be an option because of the cold, so most of the time wet wipes will be all the hygiene you’ll have. I almost ended up regreting going up there without the cold medicine and vitamins. I got a really bad cold on my way down and it wasn’t until Namche that I got to the pharmacy where I bought a bunch of vitamin c tablets and pastilles for my sore throat. Active charcoal and probiotics are a must to treat any diggestive problems you might have (and trust me, you don’t want diggestive problems up there). If you’re on a budget and don’t want to spend too much money on water, buy chlorine tablets for purification. The taste sucks but you will be able to fill up on almost every step from creeks along the way. It helps if you get some fruity effervescent tablets to cover the taste of chlorine (and increase the vitamin intake along the way) because you’ll need to dring at least 3-4 litres of water every day to minimize the risk of altitude sickness.
Few words about physical preparation
I’ve read a lot that you must take Diamox once climbing the mountains to prevent altitude sickness, but to be honest I didn’t even bring it with me and did fine without it. I also met a lot of people that got altitude sickness despite taking it. Whether you take it or not is a matter of choice. I think the most important thing is physical and mental preparation, and I found some really great advice on how to prepare your body for such a trek here, and on livestrong.com you have a complete guide on physical preparation for high altitude trekking.
Regular and intensive exercise is my way of life so I was pretty confident that my trip will go without any issues, at least as far as altitutde sickness is concerned.
My programme included 12 day of trekking, and once I got to Kathmandu I realized I would be going alone with my guide/porter which gave me some freedom to adjust it according to my own needs.
1st DAY – 2nd of November 2017 Kathmandu – Lukla – Monjo
One of the things that catches your eye while preparing for this trip is Lukla airport located at 2800 meters above the sea level. It actually consists of one just landing strip around 500 meters long located on a cliff in the middle of the town.
Landing on this airport was at the same time the scariest and the most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I survived it, which is the most important thing about it.
Getting out of the airplane my heart just started pounding like crazy, it wasn’t just the excitement from finally being in the place that I dreamed about, but it was also the altitude. I really felt that I was 2800 meters above the sea level. Adding to the excitement was the fact that our flight from Kathmandu was 4 hours late. At one point I thought it will be cancelled. FYI: be ready for such delays when going on this trek. Sometimes the flights are late because of the air traffic and sometimes (quite often actually) because of the fog and clouds making landing in Lukla impossible. No wonder everyone was telling me ‘I hope you fly today’ before going to the airport.
I was welcomed in Lukla by my guide/porter Ming Mar. He was supposed to be my only company on this trek. Silent company, because he didn’t really speak English. Just basic understanding. Nonetheless, the man deserves some kind of monument for sticiking it out in my company for almost 12 full days. Even I can’t do that sometimes.
Delayed flight meant late arrival in Lukla which meant that we didn’t really have time to soak up the first impressions because we had to get going to our first stop on the trek. The first day we descended to the Dudh Koshi river valley to Phakding that was the first overnight stop.
This part of the trek only just gives you the hints on what to expect in the days that followed, but you still see more green hills than snow covered peaks that rise high up into the sky.
his was also first time I was introduced to yaks and suspended bridges. Both were unforgettable.
When passing the yaks always remember to stay on the hillside. They are quite moody creaturs and because of one accidental twitch they can send you rolling down the hill and that can lead to serious injuries (it has know to happen). Suspended bridges on the other hand are a whole different story. I don’t have any advice on them, just relax and enjoy the experience. They are whole lot of fun. Especially when there is a lot of traffic on them and they are rocking from side to side. Once you get off them you feel like your knees are made of ruber and the whole world is still rocking underneath you. Really really fun and nothing to be afraid of. They are really firm and stable and most of the time they are crossing the rivers so even if you fall there is something that will alleviate the fall 🙂
Along the way we met hundreds of other trekkers on their way back to Lukla and I saw my future in their exhausted faces. They looked like something sucked out all of the life energy out of them. I didn’t like the look of it 🙂 Get ready for a lot of traffic along the way, this is very popular treking route. There are tens of thousands of people going through it every year.
Ming Mar decided to take us a bit further from Phakding and ended up finding us a lodge little bit before Monjo with some issues while doing so. It seems that solo trekkers aren’t really welcome in lodges along the way because they are not as couples or groups. In almost every place along the way we had trouble finding the right accomodation. Or maybe it wasn’t about that, maybe they just didn’t want ME in their lodge? Come to think of it… I don’t know 🙂
My first dinner (and almost every dinner after) was sherpa stew. The perfect food to end your day and warm up before going to sleep. Maybe a little bit short on calories (and you need calories in the mountains) but light enough for you to sleep like a baby after with the hum of the wind in the peaks above you and roar of the nearby river in the valley below giving you the perfect sleeping sountrack.
Few words about the accommodation
Don’t expect a lot of comfort. Rooms in the lodges usually consist of one or two beds with a small nightstand with no heating and in most cases shared toilet (higher up you’ll mostly have squatting ones with a bucket to wash down after you do your thing 🙂 ). The rooms are usually separated just with plywood (noise cancelling headphones are a must) and windows are only good enough to protect from the strongest of the wind (and they still let the cold inside). You will go to sleep in the cold and you will wake up in the cold. Up to Namche Bazaar the conditions are still fairly good and you can do with just the covers that you get in the lodge, but as you climb higher it gets colder so you’ll need a sleeping bag (rent one in Kathmandu and get some sleeping bag liners). Beds are comfortable enough for a good night of sleep after a full day of walking. In some of the luxurious lodges along the way you can even find rooms with your own private toilet with showers. The only electricity you get is the light. If you need to charge your batteries you have to pay extra. For the internet as well. Lower down it doesn’t cost more than 3-4 dollars for the unlimited charge and unlimited access to the internet but the higher up you get the more expensive it becomes. Almost every lodge has Geyser gas showers with hot water but I didn’t really use the option because you don’t have a warm room to dry up afterwards. The only part of the lodge that is somewhat heated is the common room where you’ll spend most of the time eating, reading or talking to other trekkers. You are in bed usually by 8 or 9 pm and you start with your breakfast at 6.30 or 7 am.
2. DAN – 03.11.2017. Monjo – Namche Bazaar
The first morning after waking up I looked out the window and had this view:
It really is great feeling to get your first glimpse of Himalayan peaks after good night sleep.
Shortly after leaving our lodge I gazed upon my first 6000 meter peak, Thamserku.
The trail took us along the river the whole time while Thamserku was following us with his watchful gaze.
The trail is mostly flat and just when you start thinking you’re actually bored because there is nothing to see and you’re always following the same boring river, the path opens up and you get this sight in front of you:
Landing in Lukla, the view of Everest from Kala Patthar, Ama Dablam and crossing the Tenzing-Hillary bridge. Those are the things that I was looking forward to the most before the trip. I remember seeing these bridges in The Everest movie. I started jumping from the excitement when realizing that i’ll be me walking across in just a couple of months.
The top bridge is the one you cross on the way to Namche while strong wind is rocking you back and forth and raging torrent roars underneath you. Definitely the best thing about my second day on the Himalayas. While crossing the bridge, somewhere in the middle I just got so overwhelmed with the emotions that I actually had to hide my tears of joy from people passing me by (didn’t want them to think I was crying because I was scared 🙂 ).
After you cross the bridge you have a long and strenuous climb to Namche. That’s the first time you’ll feel the altitude. With each step you take the climb becomes more difficult, you are struggling to catch your breath and at one point you get the feeling like the whole ground is shaking beneath you. When that happened I would always slow down or even stop completely just to give the body the time to adjust to the altitude. It’s important not to rush those climbs because rushing usually leads to altitude sickness.
Arraving in Namche was everything I expected it to be, but I was still surprised. This is the capital of the region and a real tourist town with bars, irish pub (the talles irish pub in the world), pizza place, bakery, hotel with wellness, fountain, bunch of stores, pharmacies… While walking through the streets of the town you almost have the feeling as if you’re somewhere in the Swiss Alps and not in Nepal.
3. DAN – 04.11.2017. Namche Bazaar (aklimatizacija)
To reduce the risk of altitude sickness it is recommended to spend two nights in Namche with the maximum rest so your body can adjust and get ready for the days ahead. Still, I’m a complete savage that hates the word rest and likes to molest other people, like poor Ming Mar, so I arranged for the two of us to go up to the Everest view point at 6 am. The first view of Mt. Everest. You can actually choose which one you want. You can either climb up to 3800 meters to the Everest View hotel or you can choose lighter option that conserves the energy and climb up to Tenzing Norgay memorial (shame on you if you don’t know who he is!). This was one of the few sane moments I had so I choose the latter.
I expected some emotions on the first sight of Everest, just like the day before while crossing the bridge, but I was as cold as ice (I never take advice). Instead, the only thing I got was a reminder that there is a really long way ahead of me before I got to my goal.
I was more impressed with my first Himalayan sunrise. Great experience. Spiritual, purifying. Stunningly beautiful.
Upon my return to the lodge I met Jamu and Vivian from Germany and while talking we mutually agreed to do the rest of the trek together (they wanted to do it that way, I swear it. I did not force them in any way 🙂 ). I was no longer alone. Somebody actually wanted to spend time in my company. Poor guys didn’t really know what they are getting into and I didn’t want to tell them because I was so lonely 🙂 . I didn’t forget Ming Mar, it’s just that I couldn’t really talk to him and I really like to talk.
After the breakfast I took a short walk to the saturday fair and around the town. Got some really nice shots before going to the internet caffe to get in touch with my friends and family before going radio silent until my return to Namche, a promise I made to myself before the trip.
4. DAN – 05.11.2017. Namche Bazaar – Deboche
Once you leave Namche and climb just above it you get in sight of Mt. Everest and Ama Dablam that just keeps following you the whole time. On this day the Everest was hidden by a thick layer of clouds. Even from that far we could see it being beaten by strong winds. I was trying to imagine being in those conditions up there and it sent shivers down my spine.
Around half way between Namche and Tengboche we ran into Chris (Vivian and Jamu met him on the way to Namche, and then lost him). Suddenly our group rose to 7 members. Clicking sounds of my camera while Ming Mar silently watched was replaced with the conversation with other people. It really felt nice to have some company for a change. It really did.
The way from Namche to Tangboche has a short climb in the first part, then it flattens before going down to the river valley where you cross the only suspended bridge on this part of the trek and then you have another long and difficult climb up to Tengboche. It was all fun up to that bridge. After that the only sounds you could hear coming from us was collective choking and swearing and cursing of the person that got us on this trip instead of some nice tropical beach resort holiday.
I was looking forward to Tengoboche because of the Buddhist Monastery, but I completely forgot it was the peak of Mani Rimdu festival up there. You can imagine the shock when we barged into the thousands of tourists (I really think that there were thousand people up there) partaking in the festivities. Poor Ming Mar looked completely lost in that crowd.
Vivian and Jamu were lucky enough to find the accommodation next to the monastery but Chris and I had to split from them to look for the place to spend the night. Tengboche was overcrowded and we had to walk down to Deboche where we failed miserably trying to explain Ming Mar that I could share my room with Chris (he actually lost his guide somewhere) to ease the search. Chaos of the arrival in Tengboche threatend to turn into a complete disaster, but then when all hope was lost Chris’s guide appeared like a true hero, explained Ming Mar that we can share the room and told us that he actually found the acommodation.
5. DAN – 06.11.2017. Deboche – Dingboche
We agreed with Vivian and Jamu that they’ll call us via their guide when they leave Tengboche so they can pick us up along the way to reform our small group. For some reason that didn’t happen and we had to keep going without them. The route led us to Dingboche where we were scheduled for two day stay for another acclimatization.
First part of the day we were walking through the rodendrone forest we just wanted to get out of as quckly as possible. It was shading us from the sunlight and it was really freaking cold. We picked up the pace before we froze to death.
Along the way we passed the metal bridge that collapsed during the 2015 earthquake. Stark reminder of the tragic event that hit Nepal few years ago.
With each step we made took us a bit closer towards the 4000 meter line while Ama Dablam followed us like a watchful hen would follow her chicks.
On our way up we met people from all over the world, like this granny who requested me to take a photo of her…
…which I happily obliged to, but after I showed her the photo she asked to be payed for the modeling job she just did. Well played gran, well played 🙂
During the lunch break we agreed to a plan for the rest of the climb. Two nights in Dingboche with acclimatization climb to Chkhung followed by a climb to Gorak Shep, overnight stay there, before climbing up to Kala Patthar, walk to the Base Camp and return to Pheriche if we don’t collapse from all the walking somewhere along the way.
After Pangboche you climb above the 4000 meter line for the first time and find yourself in an alpine desert that keeps following on your way up.
6. DAN – 07.11.2017. Dingboche – Chukhung -Dingboche (aklimatizacija)
Vivian and Jamu realized it before Tengboche, Chris did as well but he didn’t get his chance until Dingboche. When he finally did he ran like a wind up the mountain and left me alone agan. It was just me and Ming Mar again. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t run away because he had a job to do.
Silence again. The hum of the wind. Breathing. Camera clicking. Helicopters somewhere in the distance. Bells of the yak heards passing us by. Back to where we were from the beginning.
I’m really happy I did the acclimatization climb to Chukhung because I got away from the commercial paths towards less popular parts of the Everest region where I had the chance to get close to Lhotse, Island Peak (this one will be my first 6000 meter peak 🙂 ) and have a look at Ama Dablam from a completely different angle.
The landscape we were going through was a barren wasteland with almost no life at all. It was hard for me to even imagine how the locals could survive in such a brutal conditions without the tourism brought in by the mountains. I actually thought the landscape to be beautiful. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling you get when you eat your lunch on the terrace just beneath Lhotse, and you can actually hear the hum of the wind up high up there in the mountain.
Or that wonderful moment I had with this yak just underneath Ama Dablam…
Or the haunting beauty of the stupa comemorating Polish climbers with the same mountain that took their lives hidden by the clouds in the backdrop…
Sad reminder that these mountains are unforgiving place that took hundreds of lives.
At the end of the day I was really happy because my body was perfectly adjusting to the altitude. There was no headache, no sickness, and although I did feel the lack of oxygen I didn’t have any problems breathing. Everything was going well and I was completely confident that I’ll be able to handle 1200 meters of climb that lay ahead of me in the next 24 hours, starting tomorrow morning.
7. DAN – 08.11.2017. Dingboche – Gorak Shep
My physical preparation was perfect, I had all the necessary gear and equipment, but I didn’t prepare for the food on the trek which was a big mistake.
Few words about the food (or how I got a diarrhea 5000 meters above the sea level)
I decided I won’t eat meat while trekking. Part of it was a simple personal choice, but part of it was because all the meat you get on the mountain is delivered from Lukla in not very sanitary conditions. In Lukla and close to Lukla that meat will still be fresh, but the higher up you get the longer it travels… You get where I’m going? Most of the people actually recommended skipping the meat where possible with focus on the local food as the safest bet.
Local cuisine is carb rich, and it has to be. High up the mountains carb rich food is your the best choice in altitude sickness prevention. Whole bunch of carbs (cheat day without the cheating because your body burns it all up and it still isn’t enough. Fire away, eat all you want and you’ll still loose your weight 🙂 ) and loads of fluid. I personally recommend dal bhat, the logical choice after you’ve spent all day walking and sherpa stew before you go to bed to warm you up.
For someone that almost exclusively eats low carb food with no grains at all, the food on the trek comes as a bit of a shock. Your choice mostly consists of rice and pasta. Delicious meals. Beautiful meals. Perfect homecooking, but a very big hit on my diggestion that haven’t had that kind of food in almost two years. My diet usually consists of protein, fats and fiber from the veggies. Sudden jump to such a carb rich diet created a big shock to the organism. After only 2 days I started having some serious bloating issues (which gave me the best idea for the photo on top of Kala Patthar).
Penultimate part of my trek was 8 to 9 hour climb from Dingboche, through Dughla and Lobuche, all the way to Gorak Shep on 5100 meters (and even though you would think that, this actually isn’t the highest settlement in the world because it isn’t inhabited all year round).
The walk from Dingboche to Dughla was actually quite easy with beatiful vistas of the surrounding peaks and great view of Pheriche valley. Along the way you encounter the remnants of old times like this old, abanoned shack with just the perfect backdrop.
Just when you start thinking how easy the walk is (and that you’ll be in Gorak Shep in no time), behind Dughla you get to a steep climb that lifts you from 4600 meters to 4900 meters and reminds you that you’re not on some light walk on a tropical beach but in Himalayas. Still, the reward after the climb is the amazing view. It always is. I guess that is why I climb.
Above Dughla you have hundreds of stupas raised in the memory of those killed climbing these mountains. Most of these bodies are still up there covered by ice and snow. This is one of the ways to comemorate them.
Once you climb up the path flattens again and you have another relatively easy walk to Lobuche.
In Lobuche I had dal bhat for lunch that was supposed to give me the energy for the last part of the stage to Gorak Shep, but instead it almost took everything I had. I felt something was not right as soon as we left Lobuche. Actually I started feeling that something was not right with my stomach after the breakfast, the lunch just made it worse. However, I decided to neglect it because it was just the stomach. I could handle it. Anyway, the path from Lobuche to Gorak Shep didn’t seem that difficult to me. It was only 200 meters elevation. How hard can it be?
As we went further into the Khumbu Glacier valley we finally reached huge rock hills. It was hard. It was very hard and it was in those huge piles of rock that I almost fell apart. You are going up and down the whole time. Everytime you climb you hope it will be the last hill you pass but once you get to the top you just see endless piles of rock that stretch in front of you. Somewhere in the middle of that wasteland I thought I will have to give up on everything and just tell Ming Mar that I can’t go any further. It was only for a second, a second of insecurity and fear before I remember how much I wanted to get to Kala Patthar, to see the Everest and there was no chance I was gonna give up this close to the end. I kept dragging myself and was soon rewarded with the sight of the promised land…
(This photo was actually taken the following day on my descent, but… Just so you can get the impression)
It was right before Gorak Shep that I bumped into Chris going back after sucessfully finishin trek to the Base Camp or he was just running away from me. Depends on your point of view…
With what little remaining strength I crawled to the lodge where I immediately went to the toilet to perform the exorcism after which I felt truly reborn. All those issues I had on my way to Gorak Shep were gone.
I might have been wrong for going such a long way from Dingboche to Gorak Shep in just one day and might have been better to stay in Lobuche for one night before doing the walk from Lobuche to Gorak Shep in one day and then the climb up to Kala Patthar the next (and would recommend that to you if you did the trek in as many days as I did). I would have one day less to descend, but would save myself from all the torture I had to endure, with time to spare for a walk to the Base Camp.
This way I had to go through a brutally punishing day. Once you get up to 5000 meters above the sea level you really start to feel the lack of oxygen. Every step you make takes all your strength and your body is fighting and struggling to get more oxygen that just isn’t there. Even while you’re standing and resting you have the feeling like somebody is choking you. The smallest movement and you start hyperventilating. Absolutely brutal.
8. DAN – 09.11.2017. Gorak Shep – Kala Patthar – Pheriche
You can’t really sleep above 5000 meters. You wake up every half hour and if you do a total of 3-4 hours of sleep you consider yourself lucky (that is 3-4 hours of bad, shallow sleep). The night before going to bed I had everything ready for the next morning. Air temperature was well below 20 degrees Celsius and it wasn’t much warmer in the room where I slept. I wanted to get all my layers on as quickly as possible, that’s why I slept in my base layer and shoved everything else in the sleeping bag. It took me less than 2 minutes to get ready. I didn’t even feel the cold.
I told Ming Mar I wanted to start climbing up at 4 am. I wanted to be on the top before dawn. Poor guy. First he had to put up with the misery of my company for over a week, and as if that wasn’t enough I had to start dragging him to climb some dumb stupid hills at 4 in the morning. I tried repaying him by sharing one of my hypernutritious energy bars just before starting our climb.
The night before I remembert this Ted Talk in which Patrick Hollingworht describes his climb to the top of the Everest and explains that on his final ascent from Camp 4 he just took it one step at a time. One step and then rest. As this was my first time doing any high altitude treking Kala Patthar was my Everest and I decided to do the same. Step by step. Well, actually, at the beginning it was 20 steps, then 10, then 5 steps and rest, then 1 step and just before the top I started crawling on all 4. All the while you are trying not to look towards the top because you don’t want to know much further you have to go, but after an hour of agony you think the top most be near so you look up only to realize that you’re not even half way there. You don’t actually see the top because it’s still dark, but you do see the lights all the way up there coming from those lucky bastards that already dragged themselves to the top. Really brutal torture for both the mind and the body. My lungs were struggling to get some oxygen with every breath I took but there just wasn’t any (50% less oxygen at 5000 meters) and my felt felt 3 or 4 times heavier. Each step I made was pure agony, but the reward at the end of it was just…
It was also the time to take out the sign I made the last night in Dingboche (and special thanks goes to Chris for the inspiration, and to Nepalese food of course 🙂 ).
After few minutes at the top I moved away from the crowd (and it really was a crowd), turned towards Mt. Everest and just started crying. It wasn’t just a few tears falling down my cheeks, it was full on weeping. I was crying my heart out with the head stuck deep into the hoodie of my down jacket so no one could see me. I cried because I rembered how scared I was the day before that I’ll fail to get to Gorak Shep, I cried because I remembered that small fat clumsy kid wandering aimlessly through life, I cried because at that moment I put crown on a journey that I started two years earlier (and stopped being that fat kid), I cried because I was so exhausted I had no strenght in me to hold back all the emotions. Up there, while crying for almost half an hour, I had my catharsis and found peace and joy that I never felt before.
Now that my goal was accomplished I no longer felt the cold or the lack of oxygen. >We were slowly walking back to Gorak Shep while I was trying to soak up every moment of it. I also had the time to do a quick battery change on the camera just as the sun rose above Nuptse.
I cried a few more times, dropped huge load of tears that just froze on my face and then started descending with peace in my heart. Just before reaching Gorak Shep I ran into Vivian. Unfortunately Jamu got the altitude sickness in Tengboche and had to go back to Kathmandu. I could see she was suffering from the altitude so I told her: If you don’t have the strength to get all the way to the top and if getting to the top is not that important to you, the view of Everest is as equally good when you reach half-point. If you’re doing the climb just for the view you don’t have to give up before even trying because you think you won’t be able to get to the top, and I noticed a lot of people were doing that.
I decided to skip the Base Camp. I had no energy left in me, and the Base Camp outside of the summiting season is just but a buch of rocks with small sign that says ‘Everest Base Camp 2017’. Instead of the Base Camp it was just a quick breakfast in the lodge before starting the descent.
The way back was all about the pleasure. I had the chance to make up for everything I missed the day before on the walk between Gorak Shep and Lobuche.
While standing somewhere in the middle of that ginormous pile of rocks, watching towards the Khumbu Icefall and Base Camp a group of Americans passed me by and I’ll never forget the moment when this lady from that group stopped next to me, looked me in the eyes with the most sincere smile on her face and said: ‘God, I just love your smile!’ Such was the size of my joy that other couldn’t help but notice it. And the whole group stopped to look at me wondering what made me so happy. I told them I touched the Heaven earlier that morning.
I was below 5000 meter limit soon afterwards, safe and full of energy on my way dawn. This time I skipped lunch in Lobuche. Ming Mar thought my stomach issues were down to that one meal so he recommended we continue walking down to Dughla. Once we got there the clouds started descending from the mountain peaks creating beautiful and mysterious atmosphere that followed us all the way to Pheriche.
It was late afternoon once we got there. I was completely exhausted, but blissfully happy.
I enjoyed every moment while talking to the people I met there, sharing my story and reliving the joy of my ascent once again.
9. DAN – 10.11.2017. Pheriche – Tengboche
I slept for almost 9 hours and felt I could sleep another 9. While having breakfast I was shocked by this crazy Ukrainian guy who, against all rules and advice, was smoking a cigarette (and still had no issues at all on his way to the Base Camp). That sight literally took my breath away even more so than looking at the surrounding peaks while brushing my teet earlier.
Walk from Pheriche to Tengboche was exactly that. Light and pleasant walk with the amazing sights. I was soaking them all in knowing full well that I’ll miss it all.
This time I was looking forward to the rodendrone forest (it must be beatiful when they blossom in April and May). Landscape around me came back to life now that I was out of the alpine desert.
Most of all I was looking forward to seeing the monastery again, especially now that the festival was over and the crowd was gone.
As soon as I settled into my Harry Potter room in the lodge (will explain this later 🙂 ) I took a to walk to the monastery and was lucky enough to come just in time for afternoon prayer, open to public. While walking around or sitting inside and listening to the chants you can’t help but to feel the sacred energy and that special connection with the place. I was glad I left the camera and the phone behind. This was the perfect occassion to get away from all the technology, even it was for just half an hour.
Now, as far as my Harry Potter room is concerened… I call it the Harry Potter room because it is not much bigger than his cupboard under the stairs. In fact, it was a cupboard under the stairs and somehow I forgot to take a photo of it so . Despite of obvious low quality of the accommodation I was actually happy that I had a place to stay the night and somewhat decent bed to rest in. It’s interesting how your expectations can change when your surroundings force you to.
Just before dinner small voice in my head told me it was time for another short walk to the monastery. The voice (I was finally going mad from the lack of oxygen and obviously halucinating 🙂 ) told me that it’ll be worth it.
As I watched sun set on the west revealing the red crown on the top of the Mt. Everest I told myself that my journey was complete and I could go back home now. I got back to the lodge where I enjoyed really inspiring conversation with Nancy from the US during which she planted the idea if Kilimanjaro in my head (thanks for that! 🙂 ). There is also this great thing she said: ‘Back home on the couch is nice and cozy, but back home on the couch there is nothing happening.’ Even though I really craved my nice and cozy couch back home at that point, I agreed with all my heart.
10. DAN – 11.11.2017. Tengboche – Namche Bazaar
Once in Tengboche don’t miss out on the morning prayer in the monastery that starts at 7 am. Give it a little bit of effort to wake up earlier because it’s well worth it. You’ll get more intimate atmosphere than tduring the afternoon prayer when the room is usually full. With a lot less people it becomes easier to soak up the energy of that beautiful place.
After the prayer it was time for a not so pleasant walk to Namche. While in Pheriche my throat started to be just a little bit sore but now it threatened to escalate into something a lot more serious. I dragged myself to Namche where I pillaged one of the pharamacies of all the vitamin C and Strepsils pastilles they had.
Return to Namche also meant that it was time to end my radio silence and get in touch with my friends and family to let them know I’m alive (much to their collective disappointment 🙂 ). I was happy to hear that the rest of the world didn’t fall apart while I was gone.
11. DAN – 12.11.2017. Namche Bazaar – Lukla
Vitamins and pastilles did their job so on my the last day of walking I was feeling fresh and well rested. Ready for the 20 km walk from Namche to Lukla.
Before the last ascent to Luka we stopped at a small tehouse for lunch. Small shabby house with one small plastic table surrounded by a couple of plastic chairs. I feel asleep there while waiting for my lunch as the wind was caressing my cheeks. It was one of those perfect zen moments where you just let the sounds, the smells and warm mountain sun wash over you.
Family that ran the teahouse has two of the cutest children I’ve ever seen in my life (nepalese kids are truly gorgeus). Before moving on I rememberd that I had a bunch of candy in my backpack. I gave it all to the kids and it was one of the most charming moments of my life, seeing them so happy. To thank me the older brother went into the house and donned me with this gorgeous multicolor khata (traditional scarf that is donned around the neck during certain ceremonies or when the guest is leaving your house). It was time for me to be grateful and happy now. That khata hangs in my room just above my bed so every day I wake up it is the first thing I see. It reminds of that beautiful moment I had just before the end of my trip. Definitely one of the highlights from Nepal and one of the most beautiful moments ever.
Cherry on the top was when I met Boris and Željka from Croatia. Of course I had to run into someone from back home, this world is way to small for that not to happen. It was great feeling to be able to speak your own language with someone after some time.
At the end of our trek Ming Mar found the accommodation in the lodge located right next to the airport and that meant there will be no more walking for me. The best thing about the lodge was the rooftop terrace that gave me the perfect view on the runway that I’ll be taking off from the next day.
During the dinner I listed all the things I’ll do in Kathmandu: first, half hour shower, followed by a massage and than face-stuffing with food (mega cheat day(s) where I’ll eat all of the things I would never have eaten in my everyday life) and sleeping in warm, heated room where temperatures don’t go below zero.
I didn’t miss the internet or tv or my car while up there… I only dreamt about warm shower and sleeping in warm, heated room. Sometimes you have to go half way across the globe, climb up to a barren wasteland that just wants to murder you to realize how little you need to be happy.
12. DAN – 13.11.2017. Lukla – Kathmandu
Ming Mar had to put up with me because he had no choice, but as soon as that finished the poor guy ran away before I could even thank him properly. Almost had to run after him to leave him the tip. I do have to say that I understand him. I would have done the same.
Miraculously our flight back to Kathmandu was only 30 minutes late.
I have to say that the take off from Lukla airport is a lot more fun than the landing, especially because you actually see how little of the runway you have left right before you lift off.
If you sit on the right side of the plane you’ll probably have one last chance to gaze upon Himalayas and Everest before returning to Kathmandu.
Return to civilization. Half hour shower (and crying while doing so) with hot water. The shock when I saw myself in the mirror or what was left of me, I could see all my ribs. An hour long massage. Devouring the MoMo-s. MoMo-s are the best. I got hooked on them while returning from Kala Patthar. Now I’m only dreaming about my return to Nepal because of them… Just so I can have one more bite. Argh!
It was kind of hard to believe for me that after 12 days in the mountains I was suddenly sitting on the hotel terrace just in my t-shirt. It was even more unbelievable that I got used to peace and quiet so much that I almost got ran over by a car because I forgot I had to look out for the traffic. I forgot that there are cars in the city (and those damned things don’t have bells on them like the yaks do!)
Back home simultaneous feeling of joy because of the experience I had and a complete emptiness because of the return to the boring everyday routine. Up there in the mountains I met a huge bunch of really great people, but most importantly I met myself. I had the experience I could only dream about and put myself on the road with no return. Now, as I’m sitting at my table looking at the map of the trek, I’m already thinking about my next adventures and next climbs while remembering the promise I gave to myself on top of Kala Patthar as Everest was standing tall and proud right in front of me: If I ever get the chance, I’ll try to go all the way to the top.