Cardiff based International Mountain Leader Alan Ward was in Lockdown as many people were this year. He wrote several features for The Cardiff Times Online during this period. Having heard about his trek to Everest Base Camp last November, we asked him to recount his experiences of this trek with a group from South Wales.
Everest Base Camp, for many, is the ultimate trekking destination and I’ve led this trek several times during my many visits to Nepal. A group from South Wales reached Everest Base Camp with me in November last year and this is their story.
After the long flight from Cardiff to Kathmandu via Doha, I was at the airport to meet them and take them to the Tibet Hotel to rest for a couple of days before our onward domestic flight to Lukla. The trip was locally arranged by my friend Kamal Bhandari of Himalaya Hikes.
Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is a fascinating city with lots to see and the highlights include the three great temples of Boudhanath, Swayambhunath and Pashupatinath whilst the narrow streets of Thamel provide endless opportunities for shopping.
During 2019, domestic flights to Lukla were from an airport to the east of Kathmandu. This inconvenience required a six-hour road journey and an overnight stay and was as a result of repairs to Kathmandu’s domestic airport terminal.
This was the largest group I’d taken to Nepal so I was assisted by two Mountain Leaders (Craig Francis and Mark Demmery) and, along with Kamal and his excellent trekking crew we were fortunate to have Dr KC Sudip with us. I’ve worked with expedition doctors in the past but KC Sudip was by far the most professional of these and a real pleasure to work with.
On arrival into Lukla, from several aircraft, we all met at the Paradise lodge & Restaurant for breakfast and for final trekking preparations to be completed.
Our itinerary to Everest Base Camp was 19 days in total and our accommodation was in good quality lodges, a far cry from my first visits to Nepal when trek accommodation was in tents with very basic facilities. Kamal had arranged good lodges throughout our trek with an equally high standard of catering. At higher altitudes, as we neared Gorak Shep, the highest settlement in the Khumbu, the standard of lodge bedrooms was slightly less.
Most of the group already knew each other as I’d arranged pre-trek training events in the Brecon Beacons National Park. This is always worth doing as it meant a more bonded group right from the start. Safety and welfare is an important part of group management, particularly at higher altitudes. Every morning and evening, monitoring of oxygen intake and pulse was recorded so that Dr KC Sudip and I could ensure everyone was acclimatizing to the higher altitudes.
Days 4 + 5: The trek followed the Dudh Kosi river valley route with an ascent up to the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar (3446m).
Day 6: From Namche Bazaar (3446m), we traversed along a high path from where we had our first good view of Everest.
Day 7: We then headed towards Thyangboche Monastery (3867m) located on top of a mountain ridge.
Day 9: We descended to the Imja Khola river and continued to the villages of Pangboche (4000m) and Dingboche (4350m). At Dingboche I demonstrated how the Portable Altitude Chamber should be used.
Days 10 + 11: Beyond Dingboche (4350m), the trek continued to Lobuche (4930m) and on to Gorak Shep (5160m), our highest overnight accommodation. From Gorak Shep some of the group climbed Kala Pattar (5623m) for even more spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, including Everest’s south west face.
Day 12: Today we reached Everest Base Camp (5300m) at the foot of the Khumbu ice fall and I was pleased that everyone reached here as often, not everyone reaches here. This was a terrific achievement by everyone with special thanks to Dr KC Sudip for providing medical support when it was required.
Day 13: Reaching Pheriche (4240m), we visited the Everest Memorial and enjoyed an excellent overnight stay at the Himalayan Hotel. It was our last night with four of the group who would leave us the next morning for Island Peak (6189m).
Days 14 - 16: The return trek to Lukla was on the same trails we’d used to get to Gorak Shep and, in theory, were downhill. However, there are always uphill sections round every corner and this is known as “Nepali Flat”. Highlights of these days were Yak Steak and Chips in our lodge at Kyangjuma, Coffee and Cake at the Danish Bakery in Namche Bazaar and the general satisfaction that we were almost at the end of such a memorable trek.
Back in Lukla there was a farewell dinner party and I organized a raffle of clothing and equipment for our trekking crew. After dinner, tips were given to the trekking crew as a financial reward for taking such good care of us.
Day 17: Flights to Raamachap were followed by the 6hour drive back to the Tibet Hotel in Kathmandu for two nights before the onward international flights home.
Questions can be sent to Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org who can arrange this trip, or similar for those wishing to trek in this area.
Following on from retirement, more time will be available for hill and mountain walking on a personal basis with friends.