Everest Base Camp Trek Overview, plus map

So here is a brief overview of the trek which I undertook, and also a few notes on the places and the geography of the place, which I hope puts it all into context:

Under the “Map and Places Visited” section further down there is a pointer to where I went each day, referenced to a copy of the map that I took on trek with me.

Dates

I went on trek on the 19th October 2011, and returned on the 9th November 2011, a total of 22 days. This should be an ideal time for anyone wishing to visit Nepal. It is a principally very dry time of the year, being after the summer monsoon, and the weather is fairly mild for most of the trek.

Climate

Expect (daytime) temperatures of 25C or so In Kathmandu pre trek, and temperatures warm enough for shorts in the Himalayas if the sun is shining for the first few days. Nightime temperatures in the Himalayas will always be below 0C, even in the tea lodges (see below). When you are above about 4,500m, expect even daytime temperatures of below zero. I will talk about kitlist and clothing separately.

Trek Organiser

I went with Exodus Holidays. If you copy and paste this link here:  http://www.exodus.co.uk/holidays/tni/overview  into your browser you will get all the information you need to tell you if it is the sort of trip for you. There are also trek notes, prices and what have you, in case it piques your interest more to make you wish to do it yourself. I should say that this was the first time I had travelled with Exodus, that I have no affiliation with them whatsoever, and that I found them to be excellent in every regard. I compared Exodus primarily against Jagged Globe before going, and I have no reason to suggest that Jagged Globe would have done a better or worse job. I am still very happy with my choice though.

Brief Overview

My trip was to take in essentially two elements, which are highlighted on the overview map included below:

The first is a trek from Lukla, at the base of the Himalayas, up though to Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar, which is (although technically very much a mountain in its own right at 5,545m) the iconic and much celebrated viewing platform for Mount Everest herself. The second would then be an attempt to scale Island Peak, at 6,189m on of the highest ‘trekking peaks’ in the Himalayas. It is called a trekking peak as it is capable of being climbed as part of an organised trek, even though it does involve technical equipment including ropes, jumars, ice axes etc to get to the top.

To get to Lukla where the trek, and almost all Everest treks that have ever been, starts, it is necessary to fly from Kathmandu. Once at Lukla you are in the Himalayas themselves. It is at 2,800m, or around 9,500 feet. From here there are no cars, no transport of any kind in fact other than two or four legs. The four legs bit refers to either yaks, or djos (a cross between a cow and a yak, used at lower altitudes), who carry the bulk of the loads throughout the region for trekkers and locals alike.

The region is called the Khumbu, after the glacier and river that flows from the south face of Mount Everest. As can be seen from the maps the geography is all in Nepal, but borders Tibet (in fact half of Mount Everest is in Tibet too), so many of the influences in the region are as much Tibetan and Buddhist as they are Nepalese.

Type of Trek

There are essentially just two types of trek available in the region. You can either camp in tents, or go into tea houses, or combine the two. Most trekkers opt for the tea houses, as they provide a roof over your head, and they also provide hot food, cooked and prepared for you. A typical tea house has a dining room, twin-bedded rooms, and a toilet or two. Some toilets are western style, most are ‘squat’ style. Some toilets are indoor, some are outside. Most lodges don’t have shower facilities, but some do, often just a hut outside where they will pour hot water over you for a few quid. Although there are ‘bedrooms’ you will still need a good sleeping bag to stay there. Our trip was tea house all the way except for nights 13 and 14 below, which were in tents.

The lodges by the average Nepali standards are actually pretty clean, but don’t expect western style cleanliness or warmth. I measured -5 C in my bedroom one night, and running water of almost any kind is fairly rare. They will typically have one heater in the whole lodge, which is a yak dung fuelled stove in the dining room. Be prepared otherwsie, especially higher up, to keep your hat, gloves, thermals and fleeces on inside the lodge. Most have electricity of varying quality, depending upon their solar heaters etc.

Most lodges charge around $1 or $2 a night for you to stay there, and make their money on food. The food is varied, fairly plentiful, and of a good standard.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the lodges that Exodus used. It is fair to say that some of the lodges we saw en route I am glad that we weren’t staying in. It is also very true that the higher you get up the mountain, the facilities get more basic, more expensive, and dirtier as a rule. Again that is to be expected – getting anything up to 16,500 feet will take forever by yak train, so don’t expect a lot.

Map and places visited:

Route map in yellow of the whole trek to and from Lukla

OK so am not sure how easily the above map is to read for you, but if you click it (like all other photographs on my blog) it will expand:) I will explain further below….

The days of travel are as follows:

Day One and two were travelling, and spent getting ready for the trek in Khatmandu.

The days below correspond then with the dates as planned in the trip notes, so the first entry “Himalayas Day 3” is the first day of the trek proper. You will see however from my blog (although I haven’t yet posted it all as I write this) that it didn’t all work out that way for me. This is the way that it was supposed to be therefore.My blog entries will ultimately tell you why things ended up as being different.

The places referred to are more fully described in the individual entries in my blog, and are as marked on the route in yellow on the map above. Most of these places are just settlements of perhaps 20 or 30 houses and lodges, but they vary greatly. Basically again as you get up the mountain everything is less abundant. There are probably 30 lodges and 100 buildings altogether in Lukla, the first and lowest point on the trail at 2,800m. By the time you get to Gorak Shep at the top, I think I saw three building in total. I’ve not provided links, but Google of course is your friend as always.

The distance from Lukla, our starting and finishing point, to Everest Base Camp, is approximately 35 miles, so the total distance covered including Island Peak is probably something like 80-85 miles I would say.

Himalayas Day 3 : Lukla (2,800m, 9,200ft) to Phakding (2,600m, 8,530ft)

Himalayas Day 4: Phakding to Namche Bazar (3,440m, 11,287ft))

Himalayas Day 5: Namche Bazar to Kyangjuma (3,650m, 11,976ft)

Himalayas Day 6: Kyangjuma to Phortse (3,850m, 12,632 ft)

Himalayas Day 7: Phortse to Dingboche (4,400m, 14,436ft )

Himalayas Day 8: Dingboche to Nangkartshang Peak (5,083m, 16,677ft) and back to Dingboche

Himalayas Day 9: Dingboche to Lobouche (4,940m, 16,208ft)

Himalayas Day 10: Lobouche to Gorak Shep (5,180m, 16,996ft), via Everest Base Camp (5,360m, 17,586ft)

Himalayas Day 11: Gorak Shep to Lobouche via Kala Pattar (5,643m, 18,515ft)

Himalayas Day 12: Lobuche to Chukkung (4,730m, 15,519ft) via Kongma La (5,535m, 18,160ft)

Himalayas Day 13: Chukkung to Island Peak Base camp (5,100m, 16,733ft)

Himalayas Day 14: Island Peak Base camp to Island Peak High Camp (5,600m, 18,364ft)

Himalayas Day 15: Island Peak High Camp to Chukkung via Island Peak summit (6,189m, 20,300ft)

Himalayas Day 16: Chukkung to Tengboche (3,900m, 12,796ft)

Himalayas Day 17: Tengboche to Monjo (2,835m, 9,302ft)

Himalayas Day 18: Monjo to Lukla (2,800m, 9,200ft)

After Lukla the trek ends with a flight back to Kathmandu for a day’s recuperation before returning back home to the UK.

If there are any questions or comments on the above, then please let me know – I am always very happy to have feedback or constructive criticism as to how to make it all more useful and/or easier to understand.

Himalayas Day 6 – Kyangjuma to Phortse

I awoke on day five of the trek proper with a nervous feeling for two reasons. Firstly I was worried that my stomach had not settled properly after yesterday’s diarrhoea, and secondly I was concerned about altitude, as yesterday I had my first altitude headache, and had taken paracetamol to alleviate it.

To help with the first of the above I had been given two sachets of hydration salts by Ngima, our guide, and I had drunk most of this with one and a half litres of water, during the night. The effects of the water, coupled with the fact that I am taking Diamox for the altitude, made me want to pee like a Russian racehorse, and then about every fifteen minutes. Trouble is, that even in a teahouse, the temperature gets pretty cold at night (we are talking below zero), and so you really don’t want to get out of your sleeping bag if you can avoid it. I managed in the end with just one trip at about 3am and a lot of willpower.

I felt thankfully actually better on both counts by the time I had looked out of the window. We were greeted by perfectly clear skies and a view of the colossal and majestic Ama Dablam (22,500 feet), staring right at us. This view could clear the sickest and sorriest of souls I can promise you.

After a breakfast of the now ubiquitous watery porridge and toast, we were set for the off at about 7.30am. Today was to be a short day in terms of distance, and practically speaking our second acclimatisation day since reaching Namche Bazar. This was great as far as I am concerned, as there is no such thing as either walking too slowly or too much acclimatisation for my liking.

After a brief group photograph (see below) we set off first downhill, and then crossed the river to begin a steep uphill climb towards Mong La, the highest place we have been to yet at 3,975m (13,117ft).

Kjangjuma, Solokhumbu, Himalayas. Life doesn't get an awful lot better than this.

So in the above you will see, from left to right, Ngawang, Ngima (kneeling), Ram, Rob, yours truly, Ben, Stefan, Pasang, Tony, Bruce (kneeling), Dave, and Mo.

The walk is the most picturesque we have been on yet. There were simply staggering views of Ama Dablam, which has now surpassed the Matterhorn as my most photographed mountain (are you reading this Paul?). But better, there is just magnificent scenery all around us. We can see the trail that we will start to take in two days time towards Dingboche, we can see the Gokyo River far below us, we see snow capped Himalayan peaks stretching into forever. It is magical.

On the way towards Mong La

We have a tea stop at Mong La, and are afforded the best views yet. Just look at this:

Staring in wonderment at the majesty of the Himalayas

I just don't need words to describe this.

This is by far the best view I have seen yet. I stand here and get all misty eyed all over again. I could have stayed there for days on end.

After our rest we descend steeply around 300m to a break in the Gokyo River, at a tiny hamlet called Phortse Tenga. On the way down we see mountain goats, pheasant, a peacock, and a musk deer! I had not expected to see anything but Yaks on this journey, and so this is a huge bonus.

Mountains goats below our path

Following lunch we have to gain the majority of the altitude we have just lost, and walk up the other side of the Gokyo River. Again it is stunning. The trees are lichen covered, and the sun shines like a perfect summers day. As we ascend we are afforded a view of Cho Oyu behind us, the sixth highest mountain in the world at 26,900 feet. It looks even bigger than that, if that is at all possible. How good can the views around here get? I want to stop every twenty yards at times to take photographs, as it is just so ridiculously wonderful.

Lichen covered trees looking back up the Gokyo Valley

In fact let’s just pause for thought a minute here. Imagine you are walking up a gorgeous path, with a glacial river in the valley below you coming off Mount Everest. You have deer, pheasant, mountain goats around you. The sun is shining, the air is still, and for miles in any direction you see nature at its most majestic, and that is an understatement, including the tallest mountains in the world. Do you laugh or cry? I can tell you I did a pretty damn good job of doing both at the same time this day.

Eventually we reach our destination of Phortse, at 3,840m. This will be the highest we have yet slept, but I feel now comfortable at this altitude. Our guide Ngima is brilliant at a practically making us go as slowly as we wish. Seven of the eight are happy with this, but one, Stefan, wants to get ahead most of the time, and I really hope for his sake that he doesn’t pay for it as we get higher.

The settlement of Phortse, at 3,900m

The one thing that I have learned as possibly my most valuable lesson in the mountains is that you have absolutely nothing to gain, and possibly everything to lose, by going up too quickly. That is perhaps an excuse, or a justification for the fact that I am probably the slowest of the whole group and lingering at the back most of the time, but that is just how it is, and doesn’t bother me one iota. I am just happy (the understatement of all time) to be here.

Aside from that fact, by going quickly you don’t get to stop, look up, and take in the sights like we did today. There are always things above you, around you, and below you. They are to be treasured. I am reminded of what someone told me when I did Kilimanjaro, which was ‘the worst thing you can do is put your head down and end up looking at the boots of the person in front of you – stop, look around, take it all in!’.

After we arrived at our lodge, the Namaste Lodge, there was a huge treat in store – a shower! The shower consisted of standing in an outside cubicle under a bucket of hot water, but the word hot was all that mattered, and it was my first shower in four days, so it was hugely welcome. In fact to have a shower you first ask the kitchen staff at the lodge to boil some water for you. They then take a big kettle, climb the ladder outside and fill up the bucket on the roof of the hut below. You then pull a chain inside and the water comes down. It works!

It is about -5 degrees outside, but the water is in fact hot from those buckets!

The Namaste Lodge in Phortse

The yaks arrive with our bags in Phortse

You may notice that up against the wall in the above picture is some brown stuff. That is in fact yak dung. They dry out the pats in the sun, and then use it for both heating the lodge dining room, and also for cooking – all kitchens that I saw had a nice big bucket of yak dung in there for fuelling the oven. Nice!

Dining room in the Namaste Lodge - yak dung heater essential!

After a dinner which was as welcome as the earlier shower, we had the briefing for the following day. Tomorrow’s walk is a tough one, both in terms of distance covered and most particularly (combined with) the altitude. We will leave for Dingboche, at 4,400m (14,500 feet) at 7am. Hopefully we are blessed with the same clear skies as we have had for the first four days. We must be due some bad weather at some point, and I just hope it holds as long as possible.

Today’s walk was simply the best day’s walking I have ever done. I may have better to come, but even if I don’t, I will always treasure this one very dearly. I feel so very blessed indeed. In fact it can’t get any better than this – can it?

Himalayas Day 3 – Kathmandu/Lukla to Phakding

Day three is what it is all about. The start of the trek proper! I wake at 4.45am in the hotel in Kathmandu and jump straight into a freezing cold shower and therefore straight out again. It may be my last shower for 18 days, and so it is very necessary and welcome nonetheless!

Everyone is in breakfast shortly after 5, and before we know it our bags are loaded onto the bus and we are off to the airport. The skies are clear, which is great, as if they are not, or it is windy, then the plane will simply not take off. This is a journey on a twelve seater plane, pictured below, to the world’s shortest runway, at just 250 metres. It is also christened ‘the world’s scariest airport’ as the pilots fly directly at the side of a mountain, to a runway banked at 15 degrees. They have to land the plane in exactly the right spot, and get one chance at it. If they miss, it is curtains, simple as that.

Our bags get loaded and weighed for the flight to Lukla - 12kg seems to have gone out of the window.

And our plane, A Dornier, to fly us into the Himlayas is duly loaded.

If I said I was nervous before and during this flight, it would dramatically understate the facts. Despite this, the flight was breathtaking, pure and simple. We are greeted with almost instant views of the snow-capped Himalaya, the sun glistening beautifully from the ice bound caps of every one, their names unknown to me, but their majesty unparalleled on planet earth. We are too far away still to see as far as the 8,000m peaks yet, but there will be plenty of time to see those, including the greatest of them all, over the coming days.

I don’t think I knew just how vast and amazing the Himalayas would look upon first viewing, but I was just staggered. It is one of those moments that just make you smile and be aghast at the same time. These are the moments that I am here for, and I am so overwhelming stunned by the views that I cannot wait to get closer to the mountains themselves, and I can scarcely believe at I will start walking into them literally in a matter of an hour or so’s time.

The snow-capped Himalayas come into view for the first time.

The flight takes just 30 minutes, and then the runway is fast approaching us. It looks like we are heading face first into it, so steep is the descent and so banked the runway itself towards us. Almost before we know it, or have too much time to think about it, we are somehow on the ground, and braking hard uphill to quickly bank right to the front of Lukla airport, which is no more than a stone hut. Around the runway are seemingly hundreds of Sherpas, all looking for work from each successive arrival of tourists. In peak season, which we are in, up to 100 flights a day will touch down here.

On the ground in Lukla - and yes the runway really does slope a long way!

We assemble the kit bags and after a bit of shuffling and reshuffling we are on our way. I have a moment’s panic as my new hastily bought (fake, from a backstreet shop in Kathmandu yesterday) camelbak seems to not let any water out through the mouthpiece. I am about to have a hissy fit and throw it off the edge of the mountain, but Mo takes it from me and manages to find that there is a sort of hidden valve there, and she gets it flowing. Thanks Mo 🙂

The first day’s walk is actually a net descent of 200m, to a place called Phakding. We have flown up to 2,800m, and to start going up further would be to risk feeling the effects of a too sudden ascent, so the trail (for all Trekkers heading to Everest in fact) takes them down this path on day one. It is a short walk, punctuated most memorably by several suspension bridges.

My first suspension bridge, the first of about 10 or so en route

Within minutes of being on the trail, the emotions of what I am doing, where I am, quite hit me. It is now very very real, I am here at last, on the trail, and as early as tomorrow I should get my first glimpse of Chomolungma.

The track is incredibly well laid, of mostly stone path and dirt trail. All the way we are passed in both directions by the incredible Sherpas.  They can carry considerably more than their body weight, sometimes up to about 120kg, or 290lbs, strapped to their head!

You cannot believe some of the loads these guys carry.

We are also passed in the opposite direction by seemingly endless djo trains and also mule trains. The djo is a cross between a yak and cow. Higher up we will see yaks, but they cannot survive down at this altitude, so their shorter haired relatives are deployed here instead. We learn that you must always let the djos and yaks pass you on the ‘down’ side of the mountain path, as they never stop, and you really done’t want to shoved off the mountain by one of them.

The djos carry the bulk of our luggage up the mountain.

The walk also sees us pass our first prayer flags, prayer wheels, and mani stones. The mani stones are basically prayer messages in the Tibetan/Buddhist faith, and take the form of often very intricately carved tablets, or are sometimes just carved onto bigger rocks. You must pass any of these to the left for good luck, as this is the direction of the earth’s rotation. You can also enhance your blessings and good karma, and keep away from negative influences by spinning the prayer wheels (three times is recommended).

Plenty of mani stones line the route from Lukla to Phakding

A prayer wheel, with various blessings attached.

The views all around are amazing. Towering peaks loom in the distance, although as yet only those to about 6,000m, as the valley that we are in, that of the Dudh Khosi, or milk river, obscures those further up and further away. We are probably within about 30 miles or so of Mount Everest at this point in time, our overall walk there and back being bout 70 miles or so.

Mountains only giving glimpses of themselves at this stage of the walk.

The weather is beautifully warm and sunny, and I walk with my lower pants zipped off, and just a T shirt, although when the sun hides behind the valley walls it feels a bit cooler. Everything is also very lush, the summer monsoon having only finished a few weeks ago. Other than the glimpses of faraway snowy peaks, sherpas and the yak trains, we could be hiking almost anywhere. There is green grass, lush vegetation and abundant flowers and trees.

The walk takes just around four hours, including a lunch stop, and we are here at Phakding in the early afternoon. We are to stay at the Tashi Tagey Tea Lodge. I am very pleasantly surprised when entering the lodge – the bedrooms are nice and spacious and clean, the eating area quite cozy and homely. It is far nicer than I had imagined. I was expecting a stone hut with a cold stone dormitory, and a yak dung stove. Maybe even donkeys or a manger or something too. Perhaps we will see that sort of thing higher up the mountain.

Our group at our very first lodge dinner

The bedroom in the Tashey Tagey Lodge. I was never very good at keeping my side very tidy 🙂

After a nice relaxing afternoon we have dinner from a menu that we can choose from, and it is great and plentiful. I drink ginger tea, and look wistfully at the bottles of beer on display at albeit stupidly high prices. I would love one, but decide better of it. By tomorrow we will be at 3,500m, and the onset of potential altitude headaches or worse will me upon us. We will need to drink around four litres of water a day to hopefully stave off the effects of AMS, and to drink alcohol at this altitude is foolish at best. I am now therefore on the wagon for the next 18 days, which can’t hurt me after all, even if it doesn’t sit well with me at the moment.

After dinner of our choosing (I got spaghetti with tomato sauce and it was delicious) we get our briefing for the following day. We will be walking for around 6 and a half hours from here to Namche Bazaar. That very name has excited me ever since I first heard about it on the trip notes.

We will tomorrow alone apparently cross 5 suspension bridges, the last two of which are very high, and then there is a very steep path, where at some point we should catch our first, but fleeting view of the thing I came here for – Everest! We all troop off to bed around nine and will have an early start at around 6.30.

The trek is on, and we have completed our first day in the foothills of the Himalayas. I am so excited about everything that I will see higher up, and this day is a great (and also nice and easy) taster for it all, and yet I have already seen and learned so much. I hope I can sleep…….

Himalayas Day Two

Day two in Kathmandu starts with breakfast at a fairly civilised 8am. I am tired as I had a bit of a fitful sleep due to having the window wide open all night, which in itself was entirely necessary due to the air conditioning in the room seemingly pumping hot air out instead of cold, and the dial not making any difference no matter which way it is set. Outside you can hear dogs, monkeys, endless traffic and all manner of other strange sounds. It is all so different too that it makes you want to listen to it and try to make sense of it all.

After breakfast we meet Ngima, who then does a full briefing with us. We have to get our trekking passes issued, and then he explains the route to us for Everest Base Camp and Island Peak. The journey will differ slightly it seems from the trip notes, but for the better. He gives us a map each which has been highlighted and noted where we will spend each day.

We will spend two days around Namche Bazaar it seems, which is great, as this will be the first night at altitude proper (above 3,300m). Whilst there we will also get to spend time at the Edmund Hillary hospital, which actually makes me really emotional thinking about it for some reason. We will also I think get to spend the 8th night at Everest Base Camp! This is so unexpected (whilst EBC was always part of the route it was due to be a very fleeting visit) it about floors me, and I have to look out of the window as I think I am welling up. We will also spend just two or three nights now (as opposed to what I thought was four) in tents on the glacier at Island Peak, which still seems like a long way away for some reason, probably because it is.

After breakfast we head back into Thamel, to ‘The Summit Brothers’ mountain hire shop.

A typical shopping street in Thamel.....

And the 'Summit Brothers' Hire shop.

We are duly decked out (for those of the group who don’t already have them, which is about half) with plastic boots, crampons, ice axes, helmets (mine looks like it is off a building site and it is suggested that I look like Bob the Builder) and the like. We have to pack all of our Island Peak equipment separately as it will be taken today to Everest Base Camp and we will thus not see it again on the trek until the climb itself.

After a leisurely lunch of pizza in Thamel, we go back and pack for the trip proper. Everything has to be sorted into four bags. One for Island Peak with the climbing stuff, one for the trek with all clothes, sleeping bag, toiletries etc, one day bag/rucksack with waterproofs and camelbak and the like, and then anything else is left behind at the hotel so that you have a clean set of clothes to change into when you return from the Himalayas. As I am packing I realise that I have forgotten to pack my Camelbak, and so I head back into Thamel again to buy one. After a bit of haggling I get a rather cheap and nasty looking one, which is probably because it is actually cheap (about 8 quid including an albeit flimsy insulating tube) and nasty, and I hope will last the course.

Duly packed and ready for the off, I get a message from a friend I used to very recently work with, Louise, who is trekking in Nepal with a friend of hers at the same time as me. She asks if I would like a beer and dinner, and that sounds like a perfect way to round off my stay here, and so we meet at 7pm. A thoroughly enjoyable evening is had and we have some great food and a copious supply of Everest beer. I find out during the evening that Lou had altered her trekking plans to come back to Kathmandu so she could see me whilst I am out there, which was very flattering. Thanks Lou if you ever come to read this 🙂

Lou and I at 'Old Orleans' restaurant in Thamel, much recommended if you are down that way.

I get back to the hotel rather later than I should for what will be a 5am start in the morning, but nomatter, it was so good to meet up, and I actually wish afterwards that I had stayed longer.

Tomorrow though is effectively here already. At 5.30am we will head to the airport to fly to Lukla. I have been dreading this flight for some time to the world’s shortest runway, banked at 15 degrees. Then shortly after arriving at Sir Edmund Hillary airport, (which sadly and ironically claimed the lives of his wife and son in a crash landing there) we will start walking right away, towards Everest. I will at last be on the path of giants, the same path that Edmund Hillary himself took in fact. The trip is now on, well and truly.

In just over a week’s time, I will stand directly underneath the tallest natural phenomena on the planet, Mount Everest. And if that doesn’t get you out of bed by 5am in the morning, then nothing ever will. See you in the mountains 🙂

Himalayas Day One

So day one trip to India and then Nepal is fairly uneventful to start with except for a bit of a momentary panic at Heathrow. Having packed and unpacked (and weighed and re-weighed) my main holdall fairly religiously I knew that I was at around 22kg. I also knew that my weight allowance was 20kg, but I have my rucksack with me as my carry on, and so I am braced to have to take a few things out at check in if I get a strict check in clerk.

This lot has to see me through 22 days somehow...

As my bag goes onto the scales however it is 24.4kg! Whoops – that must have been the extra few pairs of underwear and T-shirts I threw in at the last moment 🙂 Anyway I needn’t have worried, and it doesn’t even trigger the slightest flicker. Most people around me travelling to India seem to have three or four suitcases each. I don’t see too many rucksacks or walking boots in evidence, so there aren’t a whole load of people going my way it seems.

So my first time on what is almost Indian soil, except it isn’t, as I will not be leaving the airport, is a shock, in actually a great way. I had expected Delhi to be all, you know, third world. My only real thing to base that on was flying to places like Sri Lanka and The Maldives. Neither of those places would you wish to spend any longer than the bare minimum in the airport. Then there is Africa – when I went to Kililmanjaro it was definitely a case of ‘welcome to Africa’ when I first got to Nairobi Airport. The place is filthy and horrible at best. Delhi airport however was actually pristine.

Inside Delhi Airport - what a pleasant surprise it was.

My flight on Jet Airways from Heathrow was actually great – I had not heard good reviews on them, but the service was friendly, the plane was clean and modern, my food was very nice, and they didn’t charge me for three gin and tonics and a couple of glasses of wine, so they get top marks from me.

When you do land in Delhi, the very first thing you notice is the smog. I have no idea how many quadrillions of people live in Delhi, but you cannot even see from the airport terminal to the runway. It is also hot, unsurprisingly, but the airport is very nicely airconditioned.

I arrive and find my way through the International Transfer lounge, and expect a tin hut. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I find the plushest terminal I have almost ever seen. I find shops by Boss, Gucci and Tiffany. I see the most beautiful and clean architecture. The floor is polished so beautifully you could eat your dinner off it. There are almost no indications that you are not in say Copenhagen. I do see a few signs, like the odd presence of a ‘Self Medication’ room. I decide to pass that one by, and instead hook up to free Internet access and plentiful (British three pin!) plug sockets to charge my various Apple devices.

I then board another Jet Airways flight, this time to Nepal. The flight is reasonably short and uneventful, other than sitting next to a guy from Wisconsin with a very dubious looking haircut, and a diplomatic passport, whom I decide is some sort of air Marshall type, unlikely as that sounds over in these parts!

I think we're now a long way from Kansas.....

Landing in Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, I am met by Ngima, who is to be our guide for the whole trek. He is Nepalese, and a really nice guy. I also immediately meet six of the other seven people in the group. They are Stefan from Manchester, Tony from Hull, Ben and Bruce from Norwich, and Dave and Mo from Hampshire somewhere. All seem great. The remaining guest is on a different flight and will arrive later – he is Rob from Surrey, and he is to be my roommate/tentmate for the entire trip. Most people apparently have oodles more mountaineering experience than me with the exception of Ben, who like me has only done Kilimanjaro before.

Journeying through the streets of Khatmandu to our hotel, the Royal Singi, is a real eye opener. It is almost like being back in Arusha, Africa, all over again. The place is filthy, with ridiculous traffic congestion and air pollution, a thousand horns blaring a once, and the streets lined variously with beggars, street sellers, cattle and dogs. Every vehicle stops for nothing, it is a complete free for all at all times.

The Royal Singi Hotel is not bad at all, and better than I was expecting. We have a quick briefing with Ngima, and then after surrendering passports and filling in various forms, he tells us he will take us out for dinner into Thamel, the busiest part of town. We head to a place called Kilroys, a restaurant run by a British guy and the food is a very eclectic mix of British and Nepali. They have Dhal Bhat on the menu, and whilst I feel like I should be eating something local, I’m told that I may well be eating that every day on the mountain, so I opt for a Balti Chicken instead, which is great, if really spicy. It is washed down by my first Everest Beer, which is just what the doctor ordered.

My one and only beer for some time methinks......

An early night ensues, as having spent the previous night flying to India, no-one has been to bed for effectively two days. Sleep therefore comes ridiculously easily, and I look forward to seeing some of Kathmandu the following day. It is great to be here, although I am feeling a bit uneasy about the trip itself, as all of a sudden I am here, and it cannot get more real than this, and yet it is all so different and unknown all of a sudden. Tomorrow morning we will also get kitted out with our climbing equipment, and that is certainly something to sharpen the focus entirely.

It’s here, it is finally here

I almost cannot believe that I am writing this post. Tomorrow I will set off on the adventure of my life, to Everest Base Camp, and to (hopefully) the summit of one of the world’s great trekking peaks, Island Peak.

Island Peak, Himalayas, 6.189m

Since I decided to do this trip I have always felt incredibly nervous about it. So why do it, you may ask? Well there are several reasons why it is happening, and so let me explain.

Firstly I needed since doing Kilimanjaro to push myself higher and harder, and this has both of those elements.

Secondly I have a love affair with Everest, the whole notion of it, and have become a junkie to books, films, websites about it. I claim to have so far scratched only the surface of it, but I had to go there and see it, it has become a pilgrimage in that respect.

Thirdly, it is because of so many people saying that Everest Base Camp is so, well, uninteresting, that I had to do something else to combine it with. I am told that EBC is dirty, that you can’t see Everest itself from there (or not the summit anyway), that it is ugly and featureless. I care about none of those things of course – for me just being there will be the greatest thrill imaginable.

Fourth, it is about reaching a peak. If you have followed my blog previously you will know that whilst I don’t spend a lot of time on mountains, my greatest emotions seem to come out when attaining a summit. It can be a small ridge in the Lake District, or a massive climb with fixed ropes and ice axes like this one, but the attainment and the achievement is always the same, and something that I can scarcely put into words.

This trip actually is the product of a number of things, most particularly a conversation between me and a friend Paul, of “Darina and Paul” fame from Kilimanjaro (see previous blogs again, or let me know, I can send you links if you ask me nicely :)). So after we had been skiing earlier this year, Paul said that he’d like to go to Annapurna. I did too, but I felt that I couldn’t go to the Himalayas without at least seeing Everest, it just wouldn’t have been right for me. Paul then said that he wouldn’t like to just go to Base Camp without climbing a mountain, and I agreed, it would be frustrating. So we agreed to not do the trip basically, although then I decided that I just had to go and do it. Paul is now doing the New York Marathon, and will be off there soon (whilst I am away in fact) to do just that. So to Paul (and Darina, and Jason, and Ryan, and everyone else who is doing it) – I wish you the very very best of luck.

This trip for me is harder by a long chalk than anything that I have ever done. I will spend over a week at altitudes over 5.5km up in the air. I will be climbing an ice ridge which totally freaks me out.

I am so excited about it that I don’t know if I will sleep tonight at all.

There will be no more blog posts from me until I return from my trip, as I do not have the means to get them up here live as far as I know. I will do a daily diary however, and will describe to the fullest the things I experience, and this will be posted when I am back.

I am going on the same path as that followed by all of the great Everest expeditions themselves, from Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay, to Reinhold Messner and Ed Viesturs, and all of the mountaineering greats. I will move from the Dudh Kosi Valley to the Khumbu, passing through evocatively named places liked Namche Bazaar, until I reach the mighty Kumbu Icefall, which is the glacier coming down from Everest herself.

When I (hopefully) reach my destination of Island Peak, I will from the summit at around 20,400 feet be amidst (and be staring at) three of the highest five peaks on earth.

The words ‘bring it on’ seem sorely and hopelessly inadequate. I hope I am up to it……may I say wish me luck?

Kit List for Everest Base Camp

So I have just four days to go, and four sleeps to go, until I embark on the greatest adventure of my life. I thought that Kilimanjaro was (and it was) massive, but this is simply bigger by miles. Kilimanjaro was a 7 day trek, and it took me to 19,340 feet. It was the best adventure I have ever had, and may stay that way, as I have no idea how this one will yet turn out. This trip is 22 days, takes me into the heart of the world’s highest mountain range, involves ice climbing with technical equipment, and takes me up to 20,305 feet. And to boot I get to stand in front of Mount Everest, the mother of them all.

If I told you that I was just a little bit excited at the moment, then that would be the ‘mother’ of all understatements. I have been like a cat on a hot tin roof all day today. I cannot keep still, my heart is racing, I have probably burned about 5,000 calories in nervous energy – who needs the gym! I started to lay out my kit too, and buying the last few items that I will need. More on those later, but for now I thought I’d put down here the kit that I am taking. If anyone out there wishes to comment on the appropriateness or otherwise of what I have here, then I’d be very grateful. I still have no idea how I am actually going to get it all in and under the weight limit, but for now I am still assembling, so I will get to think about what I take away later.

So here’s what I have so far:

Everest base camp kit

So we have here:

Clothing

3 base layer T shirts

2 sets of thermal underwear

1 pair lightweight trekking trousers

1 pair fleece lined trekking trousers

4 pairs of socks

2 marino wool tops

2 light fleeces

Outerlayers

1 Goretex rainjacket

1 Goretex overtrousers

1 (very toasty) Rab Neutrino Plus down jacket

1 Rab Generator Alpine jacket

1 midweight Polartec Fleece

1 woolly hat, 1 cap, 1 scarf, and one buff

1 balaclava (looks like a gimp mask, hope I don’t get to have to wear it :O)

3 pairs of gloves (inner fleece, outer shell, and goretex padded)

Walking boots (my trusty Meindl Burma Pros from Kilimanjaro, best bit of kit I have ever bought)

Trainers/approach shoes for camp

Electronics

Powermonkey charger

Suunto altimeter watch

Sony HX9V camera (bought today, hope it’s good!), plus extra batteries

iPad (I hope to keep my blog written up whilst away, charging it isn’t going to be easy though)

Spare mobile phone (Nokia C3 – hoping to be able to charge my iPhone en route so this is a back up really)

Headtorch plus spare batteries.

Other gear

Rab Summit 700 sleeping bag

Thermarest

Glacier glasses plus spare sunglasses

Camelback with insulated hose

Drinking bottles x 2

Gaiters

Rucksack (Deuter Guide 35+)

Toiletries etc

Toilet roll (may need to take 10 of these :))

Sunscreen (factor 30+)

Chapstick

Paracetamol

Immodium

Compeed

Various sticking plasters

70 pairs of contact lenses 🙂

Anti bacterial gel

Baby Wipes (my only means of washing as far as I am aware)

Travel towel

NO Diamox (I understand that I can buy it in Kathmandu, and buy it I will)

Other bits and bobs

Book (Bear Grylls’ “Facing Up”)

About 20 Clif Bars, about 10 Clif Shot Blocks, and 10 Zipvit Energy Gels (these may all be casualties, they weigh collectively 2.5kg :))

Water purification tablets (x 100 or so)

Compression sacks and bin liners

Travel Insurance documents

And that’s about it. Sounds like a lot, but this is only the stuff for Everest Base Camp. I also have to have harness, ice axe, helmet, figure of eight, Slings, jumar, plastic boots, hand warmers etc etc. for Island Peak. The above also includes no ‘normal’ clothes – no underwear, T shirts, jumpers, or anything else for that matter. There won’t be room of course, as the above list I have to get down to just 12kg! That is going to be a nightmare, but it will be apparently weighed at the hotel in Kathmandhu, and I have to do it somehow.

So as I said earlier – any and all comments welcome. The bag (that would be the small Exodus one in the foreground) will be packed and unpacked a few times in the next few days, and the air will be very blue indeed inside my house……I shall let you know how it is all going tomorrow.