Doing Everest Base Camp (EBC) - walk in from Jiri and walk out via Phaplu/Salleri - no flights
Normally when you do an Everest Bace Camp trek the plan is simple. You take a flight to Lukla hike up to Namche Bazar then to EBC and back to Lukla to catch your flight to Kathmandu.
Well this looked far to easy. We decided we just take a bus... The way sir Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did! Well to be fair some people still walk in from Jiri, but then they take a flight back, Hillary and Norgay didn't do that and neither would we!
You need: TIMS card - 2,000, Everest National Park Permit - 3,000. We got ours in Kathamandu, but you can get them at a checkpoint an hour past Lukla. For TIMS card you need a picture, so make sure you have one.
Transport There is one bus to Jiri leaving from Old (Purano) Bus stand, best to go at least 2 days before to get a ticket. The bus leaves at about 5am. When you get to the bus stand you will realize it's a hell on earth nothing like relatively organised Naya (New) Bus Stand or Swiss rail-type bus stands in India. Yes I do think that transport system in India is well organised. You have to ask around at different ticket stalls before someone points you to Jiri.
We found our guy fairly quickly and were told that the tickets for the next day were sold out due to a festival, but not to worry we just had to show up at 5 am and they would get us on the bus somehow, easy!
Ticket Price is 550 npr
Kathamandu - Jiri - Shivalaya, 188 km on a bus and 11 km hike.
We showed up at 5 am as prescribed, were told that we will have to stand until we get out of town then we can get a seat on the roof, simples!
To say that we piled up in the bus like sardines in a can would be a classic British understatement... but I can't describe it any better...
When we squeezed in we literally filled in all the empty spaces on that bus. Two kind Nepali girls let Dovile to share a quarter of their sit with so she found herself hanging halfway in the air. Still better than me being a 5-way sandwich. The key was if you breeze out you take less space!
One thing you realise really quickly is that Nepalis have weak stomach... Every 10 minutes you here someone yelling "PLASTIC!!!", a well prepared conductor would swiftly pull out a plastic bag and pass it on, a second later a puke-filled bag will be passed on to the nearest window. That system worked like a clockwork! Empty and full bags would pass back and forth right by your face.
6 hours later (once we leave the town my arse) they finally let us to get up on the roof. Oh what a treat!
While riding one roof was refreshing, to sit on a luggage rack you need an iron arse, my advise have your Lonely Planet ready, this is the best service it'll give you on this trip.
We arrived to Jiri at about 3 pm after the most enjoyable 10 hour bus ride of our lives (so far..).
We had to choose if we stay in Jiri or push on to Shivalaya. I was set on going, so I asked Dovile for second opinion and she said it was a good idea. The whole point of asking for second opinion is the chance that a voice of sanity would stop you from doing something stupid... So we pushed on.
We walked for about 1,5 hours until we joined a dirt road, I knew that Shivalaya was connected by road so that must have been the right way. Luckily soon enough we bumped into a group of 4 Americans who had the same idea until local told them otherwise and turned them around. So we decided to join the forces and find our way together.
The American guys were a funny bunch. They were from Colorado, now... why 70% of all yanks that I met on the road were from Colorado? It must be the most populous state i guess...
We had to bushwhack for a few hours, soon it got very dark and we were only saved by decent headlamps of our Yankee friend. Do not buy a £5 ebay head torch, not if your life may depend on it.
We managed to get to Shivalaya by 7pm in a pitch dark, after getting lost about 7 times and almost breaking our legs on slippery rocks.
We dropped at the first lodge, and went to our room for a mandatory "leach control". This is not a code word for something, literally means pulling leaches of each other. Some of them were more like blood balloons...
Shivalaya - Kinja - 27 km - 8 hours
Our first full day of trekking started with a nasty surprise. There is a conservation area called Cheese Circuit which captures Shivalaya. This means that to be in Shivalaya you need buy a 2000 npr permit. The permit office was still closed and I thought for a while if we should just go, but than I didn't know if there were any further checkpoints on our way and it was better be safe then sorry. So we bought the permits. Turns out there were no checkpoints and we left Cheese Circuit area in a matter of few hours. We should have just bounced before 8 am.
It'was a very steep climb up till Deurali, then you descend all the way down. It looked like you could take a bus or a jeep all the way to Bhandar. Since it was late September we had to deal with a bit of a funny weather. The mornings are cold, the sun comes out mid afternoon - you get really cold and sweaty , than sure as hell it starts raining by 3pm. Everyday is the same and repeats itself to the minute. I had a bit of a sniffle when I left
This is one part of the trek where it's easy ti get lost, mostly because there a bunch of villeges around and a lot of trails crisscrossing, but not to worry every local knows where you supposed be going and will turn you around if you stray of course.
We got to an empty village of Kinja being socked in rain, tired and hungry.
The first lodge we asked offered us to stay for free on condition that we eat our dinner and breakfast there. Happy days!
Our bill next morning only came up to 1100 npr - yes $11 for doing something that amazing.
Kinja - Jumbesi - 17 km
This probably wasn't the hardest day in my life on a trail, but it damn sure comes close.
Kinja is at 1600 m and Lamjura La (the highest point) is at 3530 m, this means almost 2000 meters of vertical gain. You have to kick your knees up a lot, and it gets tiring. Also you have to deal through the whole cold-hot-wet cycle again.
We managed to get to Lamjura La by 3pm.
This is me looking down on Lamjura La towards Jumbesi behind me.
We really wanted the next town just to come. Every step down seemed like ages. It's a funny feeling when you finally have fought your way to the top and now you just want to roll down. We thought it took us ages to get down to Jumbesi (maybe two hours..).
What a beautiful sight!
Remember me telling you about the whole COLD-HOT-WET cycle, and the sniffles that come with it. I decided that it was a perfect recipe for pneumonia, or at least it didn't feel like it was going to get any better. So we decided to stay for a day or so until I get better.
We stayed at a place of a local Medical Center girl. The Medical Center was supported bu NGOs and there were quite a few European folks coming down every couple of years. Hence the girl spoke very academically correct English.
Jumbesi is a large village, it was one of the key points on EBC trek and now is one of the biggest victims of Lukla Airport. In old days flocks of trekkers would pass and provide much needed income to the locals. These days there are hardly any trekkers, we saw only two other couples. There are plenty of lodges which are almost entirely empty.
Jumbesi is also connected by road, you can grab a jeep to Kathmandu, although this is something that you may need to arrange a couple of days in advance. Goods can be transported by road and not carried by porters, hence food prices are relatively low. There is a huge difference between places connected by road and not. The roads brings a lot of development and make everything twice cheaper.
Second day we decide it would be better to stay put, and recover from the cold before it turned to pneumonia. Our hostess's dad has recently decided that life in Jumbesi was far too much and enrolled into Jumbesi monastery. She was going there to visit him and offered us to join.
this is one of the most respected monasteries in Nepal, this becomes clear when you see a helipad, a well honored monk wouldn't travel otherwise wood he?
Sorry we couldn't take any pictures here...
We were invited in for a tour and a lecture. We set through about 2 hours of Tibetan chanting, and I saw a couple of monks recording the lecture on their IPhones. Than we made a donation and managed to get out of the room. When I asked our girl about the lecture she said: "I was getting a bit bored, I don't actually speak Tibetan, but if you do than it's really powerful" Well, at least we got our fully legitimately blessed scarves!
Our 3 day stay only came to just under 3000 npr.
Jumbesi - Kharikola - 25km
Today we decided to push forward and get over the Taksindu La. I was quite looking forward to this day as this is where you get your first glimpse of Everest. It took us just under two hours to get to Salung, literally a bunch of spread-out lodges one of which was called - Everest view Point. A perfect place for a cup of tea.
You see a few old lodges which gone out of business after the airport was built. Which is a real shame as this is a beautiful part of journey.
We reached Taksindu La by mid-afternoon. The push to the pass is very steep and it's made more difficult by endless caravans of donkeys carrying supplies to Namche and upwards.
We stayed at a little guest house by the river. It is run by a lonely grandma who spoke no English and simply had to guess when we were ordering food. Both dinner and breakfast we just some random combination of potatoes, eggs and noodles. At the end of the day it didn't matter we just wanted our calories.
Kharikola - Chaurikharka - 19km
Another day that involved a lot of ups and downs and shearing the trail with endless caravans.
When you get to Surke, the trail splits. The upper trail takes you to Lukla, and we took the lower one down towards Namche.
This was the last place where we got to enjoy solitude, free electricity and cheap food. The next day we were going to enter a trekkers highway, with crowds brought in by 20 flights a day from Kathmandu.
Jiri to Lukla part is fairly cheap - price of Dal Bhat is 250-300 npr which is fairly good indication.
Chauriharka - Namche Bazar - 16 km
This was a very difficult day, you move constantly up having to cover 1500 m of altitude gain.
We quickly realized how lucky we were to have a whole trail for ourselves over the past 7 days. Suddenly the trail turned into a tourist highway. Flocks of clean and cheerful tourists, fresh of a plane were passing by, hi-5ing and greeting everybody, such a contrast to the two of us being washed up, tired and dusty.
Additionally a lot of overexcited freaks thought it's be a good idea to stop and block the entire pass for photo-session, seriously? As this wasn't enough, you get a bunch of scary Yak caravans which threaten to rum you of the road. We thought that if this how it's going to be for the rest of the trek, we may as well turn around and just go home.
We reached Namche by 3pm. It's a fairly big town complete with numerous lodges, German bakeries, shops and trekking agencies.
Namche Bazar - Rest day.
The general rule of thumb is that you do one rest day at 3500 meters and another one at 4500 meters. I don't think we actually needed an acclimatization day as we have just crossed 3 passes going over 3500 meters, and were still acclimatized from the Annapurna trek we completed a week before starting EBC. However we had the time so decided to spend a day exploring around Namche.
We decided to explore surroundings and visit Khumjung and Khunde villages.
While still being fairly cheap Namche is considerably more expensive then villages where we stayed previously. Cost of room is 200 npr and a Dal Bhat - 450.
Namche Bazar - Shomare - 15 km
Luckily our worries about massive crowds didn't came true. Lukla to Namche is very busy indeed, however, then people seem to spread out, perhaps some trek to Gokyo lake.
This was one of my favorite days. You start by going towards Everest with a number of 7000-8000 meter peaks towering right over you.
You descend some very steep steps towards the river bottom at Phunki Tanga, than you have a very steep climb up to Tengboche. A beautiful village with a view of snow-caped mountains and an impressive monastery.
Trekking to Tengboche is a good alternative to spending a rest day in Namche. We decided to push on and descend to a small village of Shomare (4000m) just an hour past a major village of Pangboche.
There are only a couple of lodges in Shomare one of which happen to be closed.
At dinner we met two other guys (Indian and Dutch) who were trekking from Jiri, although they were smart enough to hire a car and spare themselves a horror of bus ride from hell.
It was their second crack at EBC. The first time was 2 years before when they got as far as Lobuche, than got snowed in for a couple of days and had to abandon the trip.
Their plan was to push the next day all the way to Lobuche with an altitude gain of almost 1000 meter. I told them that it sounded too ambitious and that picking up more than 500 meters in a day is pretty dangerous. They said that they have done 1000 meter gains before and were alright. Well there is a big difference between ascending from 2000m to 3000m and ascending from 4000m to 5000m. Well best of luck guys.
Shomare - Dukla (via Dengboche)- 10 km
This was going to be a quick day. Dukla is literally a guest house at a trail head. It's located at altitude of 4600m and is a good place for a second acclimatization day.
We were going to take a lower trail via Periche, however, somehow we managed to miss our turn and ended up in Dengboche.
We decided to cut a corner here and take a higher trail which passes right above Periche.
In a couple of hours of easy walking we reached Dukla. And guess who we saw there? The guys from the night before... Both of them got cut down by altitude sickness and they decided to take a rest day. What did I told you? Don't mess with altitude!
There are a lot of people who get in trouble on EBC trek, mostly because Lukla Aiport allows you to get fairly high fairly quickly and do the whole thing in a space of a 2 week vacation. And this could really let you down. We saw about 6-7 helicopters a day flying towards Gorak Shep to pick up tourists who underestimated the effect of altitude and had to be brought down to Lukla.
Cost of Dal Bhat - 500 npr
Dukla rest day.
Today we decided to go Dzonghla at 4900 meters for an acclimatization trip. It's a beautiful hike, there aren't any people apart from occasional porter hauling supplies. And you get to pass by some amazing scenery.
Dzonghla is a base for a trek to Gokyo over Cho La Pass. This trek involves crossing a glacier, hence you are highly recommended to take a guide even if only for the 2-3 days needed to reach Gokyo.
Below is a view of Dzonghla from a ridge above.
Dukla - Gorak Shep - 7,5km
This is a short day, but altitude makes it fairly strenuous. First you have to get over the pass right above Dukla. This is a very strange place as it acts as a memorial graveyard to all those people who have died on the mountain over the years.
Shortly after the pass we reached Lobuche for a quick cup of tea moved onward to Gorak Shep.
You get to walk parallel to mighty Khumbu Glacier, admiring mega-tonnes of ice slowly moving a few centimeters a day.
There are 2 large lodges at Ghorak Shep. If you would like to stay at the newer one which is more solid it's 400 npr and a cost of Dal Bhat is 650 npr. Which if you think about it should only come to $15-20 for staying at the top of the world at 5200 meters altitude.
Day 13 finished with me falling sick (again), this time I came down with a nasty stomach bug. I spent these 2 days laying down and not eating anything but tea and sugar. Not the highlight of the trip.
Gorak Shep - Kala Pattar - Lobuche
After spending 2,5 days laying down and not getting any better we have decided to abandon the trip and descend to a lower altitude for recovery.
I was really gutted at the thought of us having to give up when we were literally a few hours away from the EBC and Kala Patar peak.
We packed our stuff, payed our bill and were leaving when I decided - now or never! EBC wasn't such a big of a deal as there wasn't any expeditions at that time. Kala Pattar a top of the hill towering over Gorak Shep at 5550 meters was the real prize.
We decided that it had to be done.
Normally it takes about 2 hours to hike to the top, altitude may make it harder though.
A few minutes after we started to hike I realized that I was running out of steam. I simply couldn't make my legs move. My first reaction was- it must be the altitude. However, I was well acclimatized, spent 3 nights sleeping at 5200 meters, and haven't gone much higher than Gorak Shep. It couldn't have been altitude... Than it downed on me... I spent almost 3 days not eating, normally it's not a problem if you don't exercise you can go for several days without food just by burning your reserves. However, at an altitude of 5000m + your body burns calories at much more accelerated rate. My best guess is that, while lying down, I simply ran out of energy. We went through our backpacks and pockets trying to find anything that I could use to refuel my tank. We scored 2 dry breads, and a hand full of Halls cough-sweets, sweets - great! Than I saw them proudly stating on the pack - "Halls-sugar free only 1 calorie"! Sugar free - bastards. Well 1 calorie is better then nothing - I swallowed a whole hand-full hoping it would make any difference.
I worked out a system where I would count 20 steps than stop and count till 20. After 100 steps I'd stop and count till 100, and every 10 minutes i'd take a 5 minute break. It was very odd feeling, I didn't feel tired, didn't feel dizzy or nausea, I just simply had no energy to go as if I just finished a marathon just before that.
It snowed the day before and the track was covered in fresh and soft snow. I was doing the whole thing wearing my summer trainers. Not a good idea... But with a bit of inventive engineering every problem can be solved. I got 2 stiff plastic bags, put them over my socks and tied around the ankles. And Voila! what you can see on the picture above is my improvised water and snow proof socks.
4 hours later we finally managed to get to the top for some stunning view on the Everest range.
After taking few pictures and getting our breath back we walked down to Gorak Shep in under an hour. We popped back into the guest house for a bowl of soup and some hot tea.
In Gorak Shep it's very common for groups to leave some sort of memorabilia. Usually it's a signed T-shirt or a scarf, my favorite was the one below - Wexford Strawberries for Sale.
Over the next 3 days we have retraced our steps back to Lukla. This time we decided to make a detour and visit actual Lukala Airport just to see why is it being called most extreme airport on the planet.
Watch this little video. Next time I'm taking this flight.
On this day we pushed all the way back to Bupsa, it was a bit too ambitious and we had to walk the last hour in twilight stumbling over rocks, which is not the best thing when you tired and just want to get get some of that Dal Bhat.
We stayed in a house of a professional mountain climbing guide. He came back home from an expedition as we were having dinner, they just had an attempt at one of the 7000m peaks, unfortunately they didn't manage to summit that time. He had a bunch of pictures with him on the summit of Everest, Annapurna and some other peaks. It was amazing to meet someone who actually been to the top of the world.
Bupsa - Ringmu - 17km
This is a hard day because you have to get over Taksindu La at 3500m. Prepare for the trail to be quite busy and for numerous donkey caravans that you will have to give way to.
We have reached Ringmu by late afternoon, and asked a guest house owner to call his mate in Salleri and check if we could book a Jeep.
Ringmu - Salleri - 14km
Just over 3 hours. The road actually stretches all the way to Ringmu, however there were numerous landslides which made it impassable. We had to climb over several trees and climb up and down a hill to negotiate our was around the landslides. Once you out of the forest it's a straight pass to Phaplu airport (2 flights per week to KTM) and a couple kilometers further to Salleri.
Salleri is proper town with all the standard amenities and civilization. We stayed at the place recommended by the GH owner in Ringmu, but were told that because tomorrow was Dewali there might not be a Jeep for the next couple of days. It's been long 3 weeks on the road and we were well set on going back to Kathmandu and preparing to our next adventure - India.
Luckily we got some good news! There was one Jeep going and we could get 2 sits! A ticked guy showed up at our guest house, wrote us two tickets (1200 npr each) and told us to be outside on the main road at 5am.
Salleri - Kathmandu - 272km
This was the most beautiful and most horrible ride I ever took. And that is a lot...
The whole journey took us 14 hours. There was another French couple and a bunch of Nepali guys who were picked up and dropped off at various points along the way.
It seemed like a new road was in process of being built. But in a sort of a funny fashion... you would be driving on a dirt track than a good road for kilometer or so than back on dirt and so on. A few times the road takes you up on a ridge and drive along the ridge with a void on both sides. I think that by now they must have finished the road which should make the journey shorter and way more pleasant.
Somewhere halfway trough the journey we came to a foot bridge where we ditched our jeep, crossed the bridge, had lunch and were picked up by another jeep. You have a guy looking after your group all the time so there is no chance you will miss a jeep.
They dropped us off at Patan just on the main road to Kathmandu we were far too tired to haggle and took a first taxi to Durban Square (600npr) shearing it with the French guys.
Getting to our hotel in Kathmandu was like coming home, it was so strange to hear all the noise, having warm nights and not having to dress up when going to bed. We missed civilization... 2 days later we really wished we were back on the mountain...
If you liked it please comment so I know how much effort to put in!