When we decided to come to Nepal, there was one thing that I knew I needed to do this time around – make it to Everest Base Camp. I didn’t need to climb the mountain (I am actually pretty scared of heights, and I’m kind of a wimp in the cold so all in all, the summit wasn’t that appealing). I just wanted to stand at the bottom of Everest and marvel at its grandeur.
The typical way to get to Everest Base Camp is to take a small plane from Kathmandu to the trailhead at Lukla. From here you are deep enough in the Khumbu moutain range to make it to Base Camp in about 6 days. Deciding that this sounded just a little too easy, I persuaded my group that it would be much more interesting to begin the hike 7 days down trail in the hill town of Jiri. We could take a bus to Jiri and do the whole trip overland, on the same route taken by Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition in 1953 and the Swiss the year before them. To me, this sounded romantic.
What I did know about this option is that it would take us through some of the less developed country side, allow us to stay in simple tea houses (where the walls were just thin sheets of wood, the toilets were squatters, and there was minimal electricity and running water), and expose us to a taste of the more traditional Nepal. On this stretch of the hike, young kids would still greet us with a hand clasped “namaste” before giggling and running off. The Buddhist Mani stones would be intermixed with Hindu temples. We would get to know everyone else on the trail (there were 12 of us total). It was a chance to feel like we had done something unique, something that the typical tourist here does not choose to do.
What I didn’t realize when I proposed this option is that it entails going over a number of 3000-3600m (10,000-12,000ft) passes and several river crossings at altitudes between 1100-2000m (3500-6500ft). We were climbing 1000m (3300ft) in an afternoon just to come back down in the morning. Add to this that two hours into the trek from Jiri, the sole fell off of both of my boots, meaning that I had no option but to do this whole stretch of the trek in my sandals, three of our group were hiking in spanking new boots, and one of the girls had a sprained ankle.
By the time we made it to Lukla the “hills” had kicked our butts.
All the better we’d find out. It was only up-hill from there.