This is Day 2 of my Everest Base Camp Trek Adventure. For the complete series click here.
Our first night on the mountain was cold. The morning air was frigid and I dreaded taking off my sleeping cloths to change into the day’s hiking clothes. The “hot shower,” which was located in a corrugated metal shed outside, was out of the question as I knew my hair wouldn’t dry for hours in the cold. I decided to make do with face wipes and extra deodorant and hope that the larger town of Namche would have better facilitates.
I woke up in the morning and, as I brushed my teeth outside in the freezing cold, I thought “Oh my god, I am just going to be miserable every day for the next two weeks.”
It wasn’t a pleasant morning.
Today we would hike from Padking to Namche Bazaar and reach an altitude of 3,440 meters.
After a breakfast of rice pudding, we set off early – around 7 am. Our guide had told us that he believed the hike we would do today would be the hardest day of the trek. I wasn’t excited by the sudden increase in intensity (after all yesterday had been a cake walk) but I was glad to at least get the “hardest part” over while we still had energy and at lower altitudes.
When I first started our Everest Trek, I assumed the first half of the trip – the “going up section”- would constitute a slow steady trudge uphill until we finally reached the top. Then the second half – “the going down section” – would be a steady downhill hike.
Boy, was I wrong.
The Everest Base Camp Trek is actually comprised of a series of ridges which you must cross as you make your way to base camp. On any given day, you may climb up a total of 800 vertical meters, and climb down a total of 500 vertical meters. Leaving you with a total gain of just 300 meters – but hardly a day of flat hiking.
Like most of our hiking todays, today started with a series of smaller uphill climbs followed by a series of downhill climbs. After about four hours, we had covered some distance, but hadn’t gained really any altitude. Instead, the last two hours of the hike would be spent walking up a steep hill which would “quickly” bring us up the remaining 400 vertical meters to reach our second night stay at Namche Bazaar.
Before we tackled our first massive hill, we had to check in at several “TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System” stations along the way. At each station, we were required to show our trekking permit which had been purchased by our trekking tour operator, Simrik Real Nepal, beforehand. The office would log our arrival and we could proceed onwards up the mountain. This system, in addition to raising money for the trail preservation, helps to protect hikers as it allows the trail officials to keep track of who is where on the mountain.
A sobering reminder of the importance of these check-ins was posted at each station. Earlier this year, on April 24, a British hiker named Zisimos Souflas had gone missing on his way to Everest Base Camp. He was on his own, and had checked in along the path to Namche Bazar before disappearing. We later found out that another hiker, Debbie Maveau was found murdered after she went missing from her trekking trip.
As we trudged up our first major hill, I started to doubt that I would ever make it to Everest Base Camp. At this point it seemed unlikely that I would even make it to Namche. My legs ached, my lungs burned and I was starving. As I gasped for breathe, I wondered if I was starting to feel the effects of the thin oxygen or if I really was just terribly out of shape.
Depressingly, I had to conclude it was the latter.
After the first hour, we took a break in a clearing with some other hikers. News had trickled down the mountain that another trekker, a 29 year old Cambodian Man had died of altitude sickness in Namche Bazaar the night before.
I was shocked. Namche was our first stop. Our place to acclimatize. People weren’t supposed to die of altitude sickness there.
What had I gotten myself into?
Our spirits were lightened significantly when we caught site of a group of Canadian tourists steadfastly hiking up the giant hill and streaming a massive Canadian flag behind them. After friendly greetings, we learned of their plan to carry three home brought Canadian Pilsner’s to the Everest Base Camp. From there, they would shot gun the beers and proudly plant the Canadian flag.
Laughingly we said goodbye as we head up to Namche.
“See ya, Canada!”
To which they responded we an enthusiastic “Amurica!”