Day 1: Arrival Day
We arrived in Kathmandu after approximately 28 hours of travelling and crossing 10 time zones. We were greeted at the airport by a driver for the company and taken to our 4 star hotel named the Apsara Boutique Hotel. The hotel offered climate controlled rooms with modern bathrooms, free wi-fi, and continental breakfast. Just outside the main doors is a courtyard with a restaurant offering lunch and dinner options. We met with the company liason Chet who welcomed and greeted us and sat down to chat about plans and Nepal customs on tipping, etc.
Day 2: Kathmandu City Tour and Welcome Dinner
Our group of 6 was picked up by a van driver and city guide. We were taken to 3 sites in Kathmandu: Monkey Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, and a Cremation site. Each site offered insight into the Hindu and Buddhist religious sites and a window into the tolerance or harmony found between these two beliefs. The city guide was a wealth of information on Nepalese customs and was proud to show off his city to us.
That evening were taken for a 'Welcome Dinner' with our trekking guide. This included Nepali dancing and band playing, as well as a typical Nepali dinner. A great way to start the trip!
Day 3: Fly to Lukla (2810m) , Walk to Phakding (2610m)
Up early to head to the airport, we were able to leave items for storage at the hotel for free. Ensuring our bags (daypack plus duffel) were no more than 15kg, we arrived to the airport and head through security and checked in our bags. Headed to Lukla on Sita Air, on a Dornier 14 seater plane. Temperatures were around 20C, we trekked from Lukla mainly downhill to Phakding. Encountering porters and mules for first time, we had our first glimpses of life in the Khumbu. Our first tea house 'Hotel Beer Garden' offered 2 single beds in a room (wood bed frame with a foam mattress 6-8") with an attached bathroom.
Breakfast generally was at 7am most mornings, and we had to be packed up beforehand. Covering rolling terrain along the Dudh Kosi river, we crossed 5 suspension bridges before the big climb into Namche. Along the way, we entered Sagamartha Park, and our guide had to stop to get our trekking permits checked. The last suspension bridge is 350ft above the river. After crossing this last bridge, a steep 300m climb ensues, followed by more gradual climbing leading into Namche. This village, the heart of the Khumbu, offers more services and has electricity. Temperatures were between 15-20C. We dropped off supplies to a local boys monestary that we had brought from Canada.
Day 5: Namche 'Rest Day' (3440m to 3880m to 3440m)
After breakfast at 7am, we hiked up the village and onto a lookout point. Here, there is a great view of Everest, Ama Dablam and Lhotse. There is also a monument to Tenzing Norgay and a Museum on the region. All worth checking out. One of our group members had to make a hospital visit as he'd been bit by a tick. Ticks are in the Khumbu but aren't normally a concern. Still, he was put on a preventative dose of antibiotics to prevent lyme disease.
Afterwards, we hiked up to 3880m to the Everest View Hotel where we enjoyed a cup of tea in the clouds. We descended back down to the village after spotting our first yak. The Saturday market was on, something the locals visit every week for supplies. After returning to 'The Nest' (our tea house), we enjoyed our last hot shower for 11 days and then wandered through town looking at the shops and bakeries. Our group also made a decision on what direction to take the our loop in. Our guide was able to book accommodation and deal with all the last-minute logistics with ease.
Day 6: Namche (3440m) to Tengboche (3867m)
Leaving Namche, there is a flat wide trail along the hillside for most of the morning's trek. We witnessed a porter who had been hit by falling rocks and had to be evacuated along this section so be careful as you progress through this portion of the trail. We descended 600m to the river and ate lunch here before climbing 700m on switchbacks up to Tengboche. We got to Tengboche, and stayed at the Hotel Himalayan. Our rooms here, and for the rest of the trek, had 2 single beds but this time had shared bathrooms (normally squat toilets). We arrived in time to hear the monks call for prayer at the Tengboche Monestry (around 4pm) and we able to go witness their prayer session. Temperatures on the Tengboche ridge were single digits, and rooms were cold and damp.
Nightly rituals of getting up multiple times to pee have begun. We aimed to drink 4-5L of water a day, and have begun taking Diamox. We started our trek today descending back down to the river through a rhodendron forest. We crossed a bridge over the river and climbed up to the village of Pangboche. The views here of Ama Dablam, and Lhotse are constant all day. The constant buzz of helicopters begins to be regular noise throughout this corridor. After eating lunch in Somare we crossed the river again and climbed up a gradual hill to Dingboche. We stayed at the 'Family Hotel' and started bundling up acclimating to both the alititude and the colder temperatures. This tea house runs on solar power, as do most teahouses at this altitude and higher. Charging items and lights are now at a premium. We found out that the Kongma-la Pass had too much snow to trek, so we decided to head straight to Everest base camp.
Day 8: Dingboche 'Rest Day' hike up to 5050m
Started an acclimitization hike out the back door of the tea house which rose steeply to a stupa at 4500m. Took a rest here at checked out the mountain vistas we could see that included: Lhotse, Lhotse Shar, Peak 38, Island Peak, Manaslu, Ama Dablam, Tamserku, Cholatse, and Lobuche.
We strolled up to 4600m and took another break. Moved again up to 4700m, 4800m, 4900m, and finally 5050m! Needed to keep a slow pace and be able to talk in order to feel okay. This is a tough hike for acclimitization and we took many breaks. We descended quickly down the steep terrain and returned to our teahouse for lunch after hiking for 5 hours. Spent the afternoon resting and playing cards. Our bodies started to feel like our muscles were atrophying.
Day 9: Dingboche (4440m) to Lobuche (4910)
Breakfast at 7am again, heading up a steep uphill to 4500m. Traversed a flat trail to Dughla (Thukla) at 4620m for lunch. At this point our pace was that of a slow evening stroll. Our hearts pounded and our lungs begged for more oxygen. After lunch we climbed up to 4850m, where we entered a memorial area for fallen Everest climbers. Take some time to check out the monuments. From here, the flat trail passes the basecamp for Lobuche peak and ends at the Lobuche village. We stayed at the Mother Earth tea house, and wanted to take a nap upon arrival but that was not the case. We had to hike up 30 mins to the top off a glacial moraine to over 5000m to help acclimitize and check out the Khumbu glacier. At this altitude, our brains were beginning to get foggy and our digestive systems seemed to revolt. Need to rest as much as possible. Temperatures here were down to 2 degrees overnight.
Woke up early today and was on the trail by 7am. The long line of hundreds of trekkers was overwhelming. We were bundled up with more layers and mitts heading to Gorek Shep. The trail here starts off flat and then rolls up and down 4 times over glacial till. Arrived at Gorek Shep at 10:30am, and got our bags into our rooms. After eating lunch, we left at noon to basecamp. Taking 2.5 hours to get there and 1.5 to return, we hiked over some rolling terrain up onto a ridge and then down onto the glacier. Some of our group members had some AMS symptoms: insomnia, nausea, vomiting, headache, disorientation, and cough. Heading to basecamp, you are surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains: Pumori, Nuptse, and Everest. This day, as with everyday of our trek, was sunny with blue skies. We took the mandatory photos at basecamp, drank in the views, and turned around and returned to Gorek Shep. At these altitudes, our pace is as slow as a crawl, and we are having to push our bodies to do anything. We stayed at the Yeti Hotel.
Day 11: Kala Pattar (5545m) to Dzongla (4830m)
Woke up at 4:45am to be ready for our 5am departure for our hike up Kala Pattar. We started in the dark, but soon after the sun rose and our headlamps were no longer needed. Out of our group of 6, only 3 made it to the top. One thing that most people underestimate about trekking is that you move so slowly so you have to wear more layers. It sounds ludicrous to wear a big down puffy jacket at -2C, but when you walk like a 90 year old you need it. After a late 8:30am breakfast, we returned to Lobuche for lunch, and then continued on a stunning trail to Dzongla in the afternoon, arriving at 4:30pm. We stayed at the Green Valley tea house which had a fantastic food.
Today, instead of getting up at 5am to do the Cho-La pass, took an unscheduled rest day. And this time I mean a REAL rest day. Our group members for the most part had picked up a cold virus, and that combined with the effects of altitude was draining our energies. It was amazing how good 4830m felt after being at 5180m at Gorek Shep. Our guide accepted our group decision and planned accordingly. Thankfully the rest day was warm and sunny and we were able to sit outside and read. The food at this teahouse was also very good, so that was a bonus for staying an extra night. Thankfully the rest day helped store some much needed energy for our 12 hour Day 13.
Day 13: Dzongla (4830m) via Chola Pass (5420m) to Gokyo (4800m)
The alarm went off at 4AM and we were eating breakfast by 4:30 and on the trail by 5AM. For 3.5 hours, we ascended both rock, snow and ice to reach the 5420m Cho-la pass. This ascent was my favourite hiking section of the entire trip and I'm grateful we were able to summon the strength to do it. Descending the steep loose rock on the other side, we ascended 100m before a long valley descent down to Thangnak. We stopped for lunch there 6.5 hours after we started. At this our colds were draining us we were all coughing and blowing incessantly-there was never complete silence as someone was always coughing. We wolfed down some much needed calories and then headed out for the final 2 hour hike across a glacier to Gokyo. We stayed at the Gokyo Resort at 4800m.
Day 14: Gokyo Rest Day (4800m) and Gokyo Ri (5360m)
Today our group was suffering. Our colds had sunk into our chests and we were all exhausted. Only one of our group members was healthy enough to attempt Gokyo Ri. He went up to the summit with our assistant guide. 4 of our group members walked around town for the rest day where as the 6th member stayed in bed. We all had naps, and visited the very yummy Gokyo Bakery. The beauty of the Gokyo lakes is outstanding. A beautiful setting indeed. Our group made a decision that instead of going over our planned Renjo-la pass back to Namche, we would head directly south via Dole back to Namche. Again our guide was flexible and accommodating with our change of plans.
Today our 'Coughing Canadians' group descended down a beautiful valley to Dole. We passed by Gokyo lakes 1 and 2, and passed through a few villages before our final destination. At first our group was disappointed that we didn't go up the Renjo-la pass, but we quickly reversed our thoughts with this spectacular valley. In Dole, we stayed at the Lakeside tea house. Temperatures dropped below zero overnight and we woke up being able to see our breath in our rooms.
Day 16: Dole (4200m) to Namche (3440m)
Today our group's energy was low. Although the trail today started off descending, we had a 1.5 hour hike up before lunch. The ups at this altitude should be easy for us at this point, but because we all had terrible cold viruses, it was difficult. At the top of the climb, we all coughed for 10 minutes straight. Luckily the trail for the rest of the day was mainly downhill. We returned to 'The Nest' at Namche and enjoyed a hot shower.
Day 17: Namche (3440m) to Phakding (2610m)
Re-tracing our steps down from Namche, we crossed the 5 suspension bridges and struggled with the slight undulations upward along the trail because of our cold viruses. We had forgotten how busy this corridor is: many porters, mule trains, and trekkers coming and going. Sharing the narrow trails is always challenging with the constant traffic.
An easy 3 hour hike up to Lukla, we were in a state of melancholy that our trip was coming to an end. Re-tracing your steps back to our starting point arrived for lunchtime in our tea house 'The Nest at Lukla'. We spent the afternoon shopping in Lukla and preparing tips for our trekking staff. The porters and assistant guide stay in Lukla to begin another trek and do not return to Kathmandu with the group. The only exception is the head guide. We celebrated that evening and said our goodbyes.
Day 19: Lukla to Kathmandu
Mornings in Lukla are a buzz of air traffic activity. Helicopters and planes are arriving and departing every 5 minutes. At the airport, we found a weigh scale and decided to weigh ourselves. Most group members lost between 2-5kg of weight, mainly muscle atrophy. We waited in the Lukla airport for about an hour, and then as soon as our plan arrived jumped on it quickly. The turnaround time for flights is about 8 minutes. The 25min return flight was easy and we returned to our Apsara Boutique Hotel to enjoy lunch and a long hot shower. That evening, we had a 'Farewell Dinner' paid for by our trekking company. Our company liason joined us for dinner as well as our head guide and we debriefed our trip, giving him all positive feedback despite being sick and exhausted.
Day 20: Kathmandu
We spent the day today shopping in Thamel and enjoying the Diwali festival. One thing to look up before you go to Nepal that could add to your trip are the different festivals. We enjoyed this cultural celebration that included street dancing, mandalas, marigold flower garlands, and parades. Shopping in Thamel can require full attention as cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians all use the same narrow lanes. Masks or buffs can be an asset to those people sensitive to air pollution, or to those who have lung disease or lung viruses. Shops include jewelry, scarves and blankets, knock-off and real outdoor gear, t-shirt and cultural clothing, a supermarket, and cultural souvenirs.
Day 21: Fly home
Our company provided transport to the airport for our departure. After 21 days, I am very please with my choice of trekking company. They met or exceeded every expectation I had, and I would highly recommend them to anyone. Great job Nepal Vision Treks!
Looking back, despite some bad luck with illness, we got what we wanted out of our adventure: to plant our eyes on some of the tallest mountains in the world, test our physical capabilities at altitude, and to immerse ourselves in a new culture. Nepal is an amazing country to visit- the Nepali people are genuinely friendly, the scenery is stunning, and culture is amazing. A bucketlist dream fulfilled, and one that I am very grateful for.
A video on our trip is coming soon!
Check out my blog on Tips for Travelling in Nepal