This is day 4 of my Everest Base Camp Trek – for the complete series click here. After our day of acclimatization in Namche, it was time to hike to the next village of Tengboche (3,867 m). The previous night had been freezing – for the first time we had to break out the sleeping bags in order to stay warm in bed.
But, we felt refreshed after our day of rest and we were confident that the hardest hiking day was behind us.
As it turns out – that was not the case.
Our guide was always a bit vague about the distance and difficulty we would face each day. Part of me suspects this was a purposefully tactic to keep us motivated.
Today would turn out to be the most physically challenging day of the entire hike. Deceptively it started off pretty easy – a nice steady hike along the mountainside with great views of Everest. Then, a few hours after leaving Namche, the path suddenly declines about 300 vertical meters. As a hiker, this is depressing for two reasons: 1) you know that your ultimate goal is to go UP so any time spent going down is just going to add to the time you will eventually need to spend going back up and 2) since the way back “down” Everest is exactly the same as the way “up,” you know that any downhills now will just be brutal up hills on the way back.
After a long downhill, we were now over 600 m below Tengboche – and all 600 m had to be covered in one extremely horrible hill. As we started the hill I asked some hikers coming down how long it would take.
“Oh…two, two and half hours..”
I immediately regretted asking.
And so we trudged. And trudged. And trudged some more. By this time I had developed a method for tackling these big hills. Head down, small, slow steps and trying not to think about the hill. It still didn’t help much.
After an hour of walking up hill I was exhausted. The temperature couldn’t have been much above freezing, but I was wearing nothing but a t-shirt and thin pants. Even though with the porter and the guide we were a group of 5, everyone walks at their own pace. Marten, at 6’5 and in much better shape than us, walked far ahead and stopped at lookouts to wait for us to arrive. The porter, with his heavy load walked slowly but steadily and would fall behind before passing us as we rested. Our guide, Segar, alternated between taking the lead and hanging behind to chat with the porter. Shannon and I just kept trudging – silently cursing the day we decided to sign up for this trek.
Despite my earlier regrets, I continued to ask passing hikers how much further up the hill went. In most cases I was greeted with grimaces, head shakes and even “you don’t want to know.”
But then, as soon as it seemed the hike will never end, the hill crested and the Tengboche Monastery came into view. And Tengboche is a lovely little town – a few tea houses, the Monastery and a stunning view of Everest. The landscape is dotted by the occasional Stuppa and populated by the local monks. It was by far one of my favorite places we stayed.
Later on, it became even more special. After the sun had gone down and most trekkers had long since gone to bed or huddled by the yak dung fires, we snuck outside into the freezing silent night. Huddled in massive down jackets, we were stunned by how beautiful the scene had become. The full moon and bright stars illuminated the snowy peaks of Everest and the neighboring mountains.
It was a moment that would come to sum up my Everest Hike. For every miserable, soul crushing day, for every sleepless, freezing night, for every time I wanted to turn back for a warm bed and a day of rest – we came across these amazing moments that we knew were only possible through this long and sometimes painful trek.