This is day 1 of my Everest Base Camp Trek. For the complete series – click here.
I woke up this morning with a lot of trepidation. Today, we would climb Everest. It sounded crazy even in my head. What was I doing? I’m really in horrible shape – I have no business doing any kind of multiple day, high alittude trek. I really have no business doing anything that can be classified as a trek. I was way over my head.
In many ways, the feeling right before the trek began was way worse than the trek itself. It was a bit like jumping into a cold pool. You spend so much time dreading it – its much better once you hop in and get on with it.
We had delayed long enough – if we were going to make the climb, we had to leave today. So I found myself standing in in the tiny Katmandu airport at 7 am, holding brand new hiking poles which I had no idea how to use. I was already cold and we hadn’t even left yet. Our first step was to take the thirty minute flight to the small mountain town of Lukla where we would begin our trek.
It didn’t help that the plane was delayed by two hours – apparently the norm when it comes to these short flights to Lukla. By the time I boarded the tiny 12-seater plane, I was so sick of waiting that the dread had passed. I was just ready to go.
(Tip: Sit on the left side of the plane flying into the Lukla for the best views of the mountains.)
The flight the Lukla, into the Tenzing-Hillary Airport, is apparently known for being treacherous and its not uncommon for the planes to crash. The airport itself consists of just one short runway cut into the side of a sheer cliff. The little planes must take off and land with scary precision to avoid either colliding into the mountain or falling off the end of the cliff.
As it turns onut, just a few weeks before our departure, on Sept 28, a flight into the tiny airport crashed killing all 19 passengers aboard – most of whom were on the way to their own Base Camp Trek. Since 2008 alone, there have been three fatal plane crashes at this one airport – killing a total of 48 people. Luckily, as our plane took off that morning, I wasn’t aware of these scary statistics. I wouldn’t find out until we had already safely arrive in Lukla.
Within an hour of arriving in Lukla, we had hired a porter, eaten a quick lunch and gotten on the trail. It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I thought it would be – essentially you just start walking.
Luckily the first day is easy. The first hour is actually downhill. Then the rest is more or less flat with some occasional uphills. The real challenge is getting used to the unique perils of the Everest Trek: Yaks and Suspension Bridges.
The Yaks are ubiquitous and hugely obnoxious. They hold a certain charm when you first start. Meandering slowly down the trail, bells ringing, as they trudge their huge loads from town to town. But, you are essentially sharing a narrow trail, often bordering a steep drop, with a huge multi-hundred-bound beast with horns. I soon was so tired of avoiding the yaks – stopping to press yourself against a wall every ten minutes as a 15 yak train goes by is exhausting.
Then there are the bridges. Whoever, designed (or more than likely didn’t) this trail must be a masochist – for unknown reasons it darts back and forth across the same river on multiple occasions in the first couple of miles. At each crossing, you are forced to cross a perilous bridge of hanging mesh wire. It’s bad enough if you are alone or sharing the bridge with a few other hikers.
God help you if you have to share it with a Yak train. Their huge bodies sway the bridge as you clutch the sides for balance. As the bridge sways there bells ring continuously.
BONG. BONG. BONG.
Your lucky if they are going the same direction as you – on more than one occasion we were foreced to turn back and hurry to the begining of the bridge as yaks began heading toward us going the opposite direction.
Everest Rule #1: Never play chicken with a Yak Train on a Suspension Bridge.
We reached our first overnight after a few hours. Due to plane delay, we didn’t reach Phadking until almost 4 pm.
Phadking was a small town, with a few odd bars and many, many more teahouses (guest houses that provide accommodation and food for trekkers.) The bars, had a certain strange charm to them especially our favorite “Reggae Bar”
The first day had been easy. I began, for the first time to feel confident that I would make it to Base Camp. We decided to celebrate our first day, by having our last beer of the trip. We knew that at the hire altitudes we wouldn’t be able to drink since it would increase our risk of altitude sickness.
It was already obvious how much the prices had risen even in the first couple of miles. Since all goods must be brought up either by proter or yak – the price of everything goes up with the altitude.
Already, water was 100 RS, up from 50 RS at the base. Hot showers were 250 RS. Beer was 300 RS. Charging a camera battery was 150 RS/ hr. We knew that the prices would only go up as we climbed, so we decided to stock up on a few key items:
I was starting to regret my decision to start the hike with only 2000RS in my pocket. At least there was the promise of an ATM at our next overnight stop, Namche Bazar.
A trip to Everest Base Camp with a stop in Katmandu can take almost three weeks. If you are planning a similar trip, you may be interested in letting out or renting your home or cottage IE.