MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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April 19, 2013

Nepal's Everest Base Camp Trek - Trip 1

Check out the Everest Base Camp updates from guide Deana Zabaldo and trekker Krista Means. First trek of the season complete and a success! 

Light snow in Tengboche. Deana Zabaldo photo

Day 4, we walked out of Tengboche Monastery after the monks finished chanting prayers to find snow starting to swirl around us. Finished with our hiking for the day, we retreated to the warm comfort of our lodge, complete with iron stove and yak dung fire inside. In the morning, the world was soft white with a thin coat of snow--just enough for a little magic and not so much that it was any trouble. The yaks were utterly at home as we geared up for our day. Weather is generally sunny and clear this time of year, but it's Himalayan weather: unpredictable.

Lama Geshe blessing. Kay Anquillano photo

Day 5 took us to Upper Pangboche to meet with Lama Geshe, which always brightens my heart. The trekkers were so moved by his blessing and his warmth that they were crying. This 80+ year old Tibetan lama chants over us, instructs us in mantras, blesses our prayer flags before we hang them, and blesses us for a safe journey. It's always a wonderful experience!

After Lama Geshe had instructed me to write about (and teach others) the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum last year, I thought I was doing quite well to have our trekking group chant it for him this visit. He nodded in approval, "Ohh, yaaa," and then rattled off a bunch of Tibetan to my stand-in translator explaining that I now needed to learn this new mantra he was writing down for me! Tet ya ta, om munye munye maha munye ye soha is the mantra of Shakyamuni Buddha, a mantra chanted for peace.

Afterwards we visited the oldest monastery in the area before making our way to Dingboche, the highest village in the region. After that, it's just summer grazing pastures for the locals and small outposts of trekking lodges for us!


Stringing prayer flags. Deana Zabaldo photo 

Day 6, the sun returns, and it elicits easy smiles despite the heavy breathing on our acclimatization hike. We string prayer flags over Dingboche and climb to 15,800 feet just for the views (and the oxygen adjustment).

Dingboche. Deana Zabaldo photo

Day 7 pushes us higher to Lobuche, where the mountains abound and surround and stagger the imagination. We're high in the Himalayas, and the jagged young peaks have ripped up the earth all around us. This is where agriculture ceases, no more villages or permanent settlements--just yaks grazing in the summer on the high fields.



Hiking towards Lobuche. Deana Zabaldo photo


Day 8 the world turns to a moonscape. We cross the Tsang-ri glacier up and down and up and down over the rocks into Gorak Shep (place of the dead crow). Aptly named, there's not much to sustain life up here. It's an extreme world of rock and ice--and trekking teahouses, solar powered mobile communications, snickers bars, and a stream of yaks and porters supplying the Everest Expeditions at Base Camp. We humans are pretty amazing at traversing the earth.

Yaks on the way to Everest base camp. Deana Zabaldo photo

The best weather of our trip hits with perfect timing. We scale Kala Pattar, breathing heavily and wondering how the climbers can possibly go 10,000 feet higher to the Everest summit! Avalanches slide down nearby mountainsides in the warming sun, and the 360-degree mountain views are spectacular--not only for the looming black peak of Everest!

Atop Kala Pattar with Everest  behind. Deana Zabaldo photo

Looking out at mountains. Deana Zabaldo photo

Day 9 brings us to the apex of our journey: Everest Base Camp. Yellow, blue, and green tents spotting the monochromatic glacier, just steps from the infamous Khumbu Icefall. We get a tour from Dave Hahn of an expedition setup and communications tent. We check out the Everest ER medical tent and meet the volunteer doctors who will spend the season treating everything from Khumbu cough to frostbite to GI distress to cerebral edema. Most amazing though is simply living on the glacier, spending the night in tents on the ice, listening to the crack and pop of the glacier beneath us, avalanches in the night, and the Sherpas singing and laughing in a kitchen nearby.



Everest base camp 2. Deana Zabaldo photo


Days 10 & 11 see us losing altitude rapidly. What took us 5 days to ascend takes us 2 to descend. It's a relief to be down below 14,000 feet, where our lungs suddenly feel FULL with air, where trees grow, villages dot the landscape, our bodies feel better, and the earth is less barren. The high glacial landscape is truly stunning, but I don't want to live for two months on the ice like the climbers do. Everyone is pleased to come down to showers, beer, internet, and the blooming rhododendrons.

Days 12 & 13 are long hiking days back to the short airstrip of Lukla. Before we fly out to Kathmandu, we celebrate all together 16 staff (not including our yak crossbreeds), 11 clients, and me. Our whole team made it to Base Camp and back--and we couldn't have done it without our amazing Nepali staff. I think we have some of the best staff on the mountain, from our cook to our Sherpas to our kitchen servers delivering morning tea. We share a traditional Nepali meal, tips & gifts, and singing and dancing--spirits run high with a sense of success! (And we're all wiped out from the hike and the dancing!)


Back in Kathmandu, the once medieval city now offers us every amenity: soft beds, hot showers, pizza & salads, shopping, drinking… We roam and relax and enjoy some wine and a delicious meal before everyone flies home! Over 17 days in Nepal, it feels like a small lifetime has passed--but in the blink of an eye. Dreams fulfilled! The intensity and depth of the experience often takes a few months to absorb. Hard though it can be at times, it's an incredible experience---one that we carry within us for a lifetime!

~ MM Guide Deana Zabaldo


 

EBC Updates From Trekker Krista Means

Woke up this morning in Dingboche ready to head out to Lobuche. First part of the hike was a moderate incline that turned into a beautiful expanse of rolling tundra. We long ago passed the tree line so the landscape is pretty barren. After two hours of that we came to Thukla -a small outpost in the middle of nowhere. From there we headed straight up to Lobuche Pass. At the top is where the memorial for Scott Fischer (Climber and Mountain Madness Founder) is along with lots of other climbers who have lost their lives. I can only imagine how sobering that must be for the Everest climbers passing through on their way to base camp. The rest of the trek to Lobuche was a small, gradual incline and a pretty pleasant walk.

Amazingly the lodge was warmer than expected and packed with climbers and trekkers. We've been on the same schedule as some Everest climbers who are trekking in. They were in our lodge tonight and I started talking to a couple of the guys who are from Seattle. Turns out one of them is best friends with a guy who went to the same high school as I, just a year ahead of me. The other guy lives in Enumclaw, not far from our cabin. Small, small world.

The rest of the night included a shower (a religious experience!!), a partial game of Phase 10 with two of the Sherpa's, dinner and a 7:30 bedtime.


We had a 5:30am wake up call and were on the trail by 7:15. We are climbing to Gorak Shep where we will have a quick snack and then a two hour uphill slog to the top of Kala Patthar (18,500 feet - the peak for this trip) for the best views we'll have of Everest. Then back down to Gorak Shep for the night. Tomorrow we will head to EBC for our final night before we begin our descent.

Climbed Kala Patthar earlier today. It was easily one of the hardest climbs on the trip. Luckily the weather held and when we finally arrived to the top the views were beautiful beyond words. We had the best view of Everest we've had or will have (you can't see Everest from base camp). Now that's a hike with a view! We came back down after a ton of pictures were taken by our group, had lunch and I went to lay down until dinner. The Sherpa's feed us SO much delicious food, almost too much. They are so hard working and a kinder, gentler group of people I have never met. Some of the meals we've had so far on this trip are veggie pizza (amazing!), apple pie, spring rolls, veggie kabobs, dal bhat Chicken Curry, amazing soups....all made by a staff of 7 or so from a tent outside. The head chef, Dambar, is a true artist. He trained at Everest base camp under some of the head cooks up there and it shows. The biggest tip we can pay these guys will never be enough.

Tomorrow we head to EBC finally!!! One night there and we begin our trek back to Kathmandu


We got up early in Gorak Shep. I had woken in the middle of the night with a monster of a headache and it was no better upon my morning waking. Deana had said this might happen. It seems I had found my altitude limit. I had no appetite for breakfast and felt miserably nauseous. All signs of mild altitude sickness. I got my gear together and met the group outside after breakfast. The weather was beautiful -a bluebird day, as all the days before had at least begun as well. The hike to the entrance to base camp is approximately 3 hours of up and down in gravel, on the Khumbu glacier. It was sunny, but cold and windy and my headache was making the trip anything but fun. But once we reached the 'Everest Base Camp' rock, emotion overcame me. For more than 13 years I have wanted to come to EBC and here I was. It was a surreal moment that I will never forget. My only regret is that my husband wasn't there to share it with me. 

We spent the next 30 minutes - at least - taking every combination of pictures. This is what we came for right?! When we were done we headed off to our camp which unbelievably was another hour walk within camp. It's that big!

Despite a cracking altitude headache while I was there, Everest Base Camp was still everything I had hoped. Sleeping in tents on the edge of the Khumbu Icefall was an amazing experience. Listening to the sounds/and seeing avalanches all around us was awesome. Hearing the glacier pop at nighttime....wow. The temperature in our tent last night got to 12 degrees and outside it was 8 degrees. It made that midnight bathroom run a challenge! But I slept warmly and well despite the cold.


We have a few more nights in sleeping bags before our final flight back to Kathmandu. Everyone is ready to get home at this point and I'm no exception. I miss my family, my friends, my life, but it's been an amazing experience!! Namaste.