Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Everest Base Camp via Gokyo and Chola Pass...

The amazing postcard views....
Prior warning to everyone before we start this is going to be a long one! Here's a breakdown of our trip with Advanced Adventures to Everest Base Camp via Chola Pass... 

On our first day with the company we were met from our current hotel that we had been staying at by our trekking guide Sudip and transferred to our new hotel which the company uses which happened to be where Marie was already staying, we dropped our bags off and then the three of us went to Advanced Adventures HQ where we met Keshav the managing director and had a briefing of what we would be doing each day of the trek and we were given the opportunity to ask any questions on the whole we didn't really ask much as Keshav and Sudip were both really informative, Marie was quite nervous as she was facing quite a few of her fears during the trek so this helped reassure her. Once we had finished at the office the rest of the day was free for us before we met back up in the evening to go out for dinner. Sudip had informed us that if you were over 15kg at the airport (this is either one bag or main and hand luggage ) you will be charged so me and Paul spent the afternoon reevaluating our previous packing to ensure that we were under to avoid charges. 

For dinner we were taken to a local restaurant where we sampled local cuisine whilst listening to local music and watching ethnic dancing. We enjoyed the evening and me and Paul admitted it wouldn't of been something we would of probably done on our own.    
Friends reunited... 
The next morning we spent sightseeing around Kathmandu as we had already been in Nepal for a couple of weeks already we had already visited most of the places on the list but it was a good chance for Marie to get up to date as she had only arrived a couple days ago. Included on the trip was Durbar Square, Swoyambhunath Stupa , Boudhanath Stupa temple we again got to see lots of wild monkeys (starting to become a running theme). The rest of the day was spent relaxing and catching an early night as it was an early wake up the next morning to catch our flight to Lukla.   
The garden of dreams, Kathmandu.
Day three Is the day where the fun really began our alarm was set for 4:00 am and we left the hotel at 4:50am to travel to the airport where we were booked on the first flight out to Lukla at six thirty am. A couple things to note there are no set rules for this flights the airport was suppose to open at five thirty, it opened quarter on hour late for no apparent reason. Once the door was open it was like free fall everyman for themselves with everyone trying to push in which is quite frustrating but seems to be the norm and totally except able so had to bite my tongue ha! When we got our bags weighed I was 14.7kg and Paul was roughly the same between his bag and the camera so we both managed to scrape under which we were happy about , Marie wasn't so lucky and got charged just over five hundred Rupees I think she was about 6kg over. The plane was a very similar size to what me and Paul skydived out of a few months ago, everyone got a window seat which was pretty cool. It's a thirty five minute flight from Kathmandu (4428ft) to Lukla (9184ft) which also is one of the worlds most dangerous airports with the end of the runway there is a mountain so there is no room for error. We arrived safe and sound and here is where we met Chrisna , Marie personal porter. Me and Paul had agreed from day one that we were to carry our own gear from start to finish and we were going to do it without taking any altitude tablets. We had breakfast in Lukla before starting our trek to Phakding (8659ft) where we would be staying overnight. This was a pretty short day to break us in gently the terrain was quite rolling so nothing to strenuous , this was our first encounters of many of Prayer rocks which you always walk to the left of for respect to the locals and their beliefs. We got to Phakding for lunch and afterwards we walked up to a local monarchy before heading back down to the village to sleep.  
Just a 'normal' view from our plane
Going into land, that is the full runway!!! 
Day four saw us hike to Namche (11283ft) which is known as the gateway of the Himalayas and the biggest village of the whole trip. After breakfast we followed the trail down to our first suspension bridge of the day (bad news for both Marie and Paul who aren't keen on them, but they both handled them like pros) and then we followed the trail uphill to where we entered Sagarmath National Park after here we had to then go back down to the river and cross another suspension bridge before following the trail back up to cross the high Hilary Bridge , the original (old) bridge is below and unused now as it has become unsafe. The trail then keeps on climbing all the way up to Namache Bazzar, on this portion of the climb on a clear day you are able to see Everest and the surrounding Peaks but unfortunately for us it was overcast so became our first failed attempt of viewing Mt. Everest. When we arrived at Namache we were greeted with no power they were having work done and it had over ran so the whole of the town was still in darkness. This became our first proper use of our head torches and the last place we will have a shower in our room until we visit here on the way down.    
World Famous Hilary Bridge..
Views had just started to come through!
Day five saw us stay at Namache to acclimatise. After breakfast we walked up to the abandoned airport where Hilary's wife and child were killed and subsequently the closure of the airport before visiting the highest hotel in the world Everest View Hotel which is Japanese based . With the weather still bring overcast we got a little glimpse of Mt. Lhotse but it became our second failed attempt of viewing Mt. Everest. The rest of the day we were left to our own devises so me and Paul took this as an opportunity to go for a run as we had never been this high before . Today also was Marie's (and my Mums) Birthday so we went to for a celebratory drink at the local pub and Sudip made Marie a chocolate Birthday Cake which we all tucked into for pudding after tea.   
Gem making her way up a long climb...
Paul enjoying a little rest after reaching the top first.
Day six saw us trek to Dole (13,385ft) to path is a gradual up and down to start with before the path splits into two the Trekkers doing just base camp continue on where as we were going via Gokyo lakes and the Chola Pass so we via to the left. We walked down to Phortse Thanga where we had our lunch before walking up to Dole. Today became our third failed attempt at viewing Mt. Everest and during the latter stages of hike for the day it began to rain and later on that evening became torrential . We all arrived in good spirits for Marie to turn unwell in the evening luckily for her there was some doctors staying at the same tea house so she got all medicined up before we called it an early night.
Perfectly timed shot by Paul..!
The next morning we woke up and Marie was still feeling unwell so Sudip decided that we would stay on in Dole for the morning to let her rest and reevaluate the situation later on. During this time I started with an upset stomach so I decided to go and try and sleep it off and Paul feeling great decided to go for a run, he ran up to 14000ft which is a new high for him and really enjoyed his run up in the mountains. Around midday Marie came down and even tho she hadn't been ill that morning she hadn't been able to eat anything and was feeling very weak and asked Sudip to call in for a helicopter evacuation as she felt she could no longer continue on. Me and Paul were sad that Marie had chosen to leave but respected her wishes. Due to Marie decision we had to stay in Dole that night and the helicopter would come collect her early the next morning so we made the most of our last evening together.   
Just stunning views in every direction around Dole..!
The next morning we set our alarm extra early at quarter to five in the morning to help Marie pack up her bags as the helicopter was due to pick up at six am due to a fatal accident emergency in the mountains down the valley the helicopter was delayed at did not arrive until eight am, we also lost Christna has he left with Marie in the helicopter to Kathmandu hospital. I was feeling a bit weak from the day before so Paul being a gentleman took most of the weight out of my pack for our hike up to Machharmo (14435ft) he had roughly 25kg and I had around 5kg. As fate would have it Paul started to feel unwell during the walk , I had my fingers crossed it was going to be a twenty four hour scenario like mine had seemed to have been, luckily it wasn't a long walk so we could get to the the guesthouse and Paul could try and rest. Unfortunately Paul got a lot worse and during the night he had fifteen toilet visit as well as being violently sick on six different occasions we also learnt that he is allergic to Imodium.   
Climbing upwards..
Very rugged peaks in Nepal!
Every where we looked :-)
This next morning Paul was still unwell. The clouds came in very early this morning. We stayed longer in Machharmo to give Paul some extra time to rest and with being so ill during the night he had no sleep. Due to the reaction to Imodium Paul was given Becto 500 to take which was an antibiotic for the stomach. Paul was determined to hike to Gokyo (15744ft) as planned and wasn't going to let this stop him, so I took as much weight in my pack as I could to help him. It was only a three hour hike but the hardest day for Paul out of the whole trip due to how ill he was. As we all know how strong headed Paul is he was super strong and managed to hike up and across the first and second lake to the third lake which Gokyo is situated. Again being violently sick several times along the way.. But he wasn't giving up! I'm a hundred per cent certain that most wouldn't of been able to of completed the day with how he was and would of had to been evacuated something which Sudip agreed with. Once we got to Gokyo Paul managed to sleep a little, he was still unwell during the rest of the day and evening but the rate of toilet and sickness stops were going down, small victories.    
Waking up to this view was priceless!
A rare little local bird!
The next day we had a rest and acclimatisation day around Gokyo. Paul was still unwell but fighting through, so we went for a seven kilometres hike. The original plan was to walk out to the fifth lake where there is a viewing point for Mt. Everest on a clear day but when we got to the fourth lake the weather turned so we decided to turn back. This made it the fourth failed attempt of a view , we had everything crossed that we would get to see it during the duration of the trip. During the hike we got up to the height of 16108ft , so every day me and Paul were achieving new heights :). Once back Paul went to rest and Sudip re routed our trip from originally scheduled to compensate for our missed day from when Marie was ill and not to miss out we had to change where we would be staying from here on out as due to extra day in Dole we were a day behind. This again showed us how professional 'Advance Adventures' are as a company, having experienced guides to do all this on route no problem.  
Amazing peaks everywhere.
Exploring around Gokyo Lakes...
Day eleven saw us get up at ten past four and out of the guesthouse by four thirty am to hike to the top of Gokyo Ridge (17660ft) for sunrise which is suppose to offer the best views of the Himalayan mountains and ultimately Mt. Everest so we had everything crossed. The start of our hike up was in head torches for obvious reasons but we only really needed them for the first half hour or so, before it became light enough to see the terrain without assistance. Our wishes were answered we finally got to see Mt.Everest which gave us a huge lift. We spent over an hour at the top taking so many pictures and taking in the breathtaking views. We hiked back down to have breakfast before we left for Thaknak (15649ft). To get to Thaknak requires you to walk across the active Ngozumpa Glacier. Nepal glaciers are a lot more rocky than European ones and the loose rocks made for some negotiations with my ankles but we got there.    
Finally MT EVEREST - south side
Sunrise on Mt Everest!
Summit of Gokyo Ridge...
Making our way across the glacier..
Day twelve was my most challenging day of the trip, we hiked to Lobuche (16210ft) via Chola Pass (17596ft). This saw us leave at six am and would see us hiking for ten hours including lunch at Dzungla. I needed to be helped over the pass as it was very technical so my ankles were having a field day ( for anyone that doesn't know I have hyper flexible joints) and my hands were really feeling the cold even with three gloves on! Got to love poor circulation! The top of the pass saw us at the highest we would reach with our packs on for the whole trip. We started off in sunshine and it later turned to hail/snow luckily it wasn't to heavy. Paul was still feeling unwell so we ended up giving each other morale support to get through the day knowing that the next day was a pack free day and importantly the day we would reach Everest Base Camp helped too.    
Making our way up...
Chola Pass Summit!!!
Paul making his way..
Stunning views down the valley///
Day thirteen was the day we had been working towards and something we had been dreaming about for along time. Lobuche is part of the Khumbu Highway basically the main and post popular route to base camp so there was lots of crowds something that we had avoided up until this point, thankfully. We set off at a fast pass as we wanted to pass and ultimately get ahead of all the big tour groups that ahead of us so we got to Base Camp before the crowds. We followed the ridge of the Khumbu Glacier and got to view Mt. Everest again this time the North side of the peak . We then had to walk onto the Glacier where Base Camp is situated at the end of the valley. We achieved our goal and reached Everest Base Camp (17593ft) before the crowds and it was time to celebrate! Whilst we were there we saw a Korean Expedition attempting Mt. Lhotse which was pretty cool. We were treated to blue skies until it turned cloudy on our return.We stopped for lunch at Gorekshep before heading back down to Lobuche to rest, we were both feeling abit fragile today probably a mixture of altitude and the effort from the day before.
Making our way to the end of the valley.
A step closer to the dream!! 
Mt Everest North Side... 
MADE IT..! Everest Base Camp :-) 
Crossing glacier to get to EBC.
The next morning we set off at eight am with the vision to get to Pangboche which Sudip predicted would take us six hours, so a half descent day. We were feeling quite strong descending and we were smashing the time that Sudip had given to us. Sudip had been informing us both that for the last couple days no flights had been going from Lukla which was a bit of a concern. So with this is mind we decided to push on to Namche which were technically suppose to arrive the following day . This would ultimately get us in to Lukla a day early and hopefully increase our chances of getting a flight back to Kathmandu. Today became the biggest day of our trip we covered twenty seven kilometres with a moving time of seven hours two minutes which we are quite proud of! When we got to Namche they had got there power back which meant we had a lovely hot shower the first since leaving Kathmandu. No one would quite believe where we had originated from that morning but you know us we like to be a bit different.   
Stunning peaks everywhere...
Just breathtaking....
The next morning saw the last day hiking as all there was left to do was head down to Lukla and then it was fingers crossed for a flight. The morning was fairly sunny and we kept a good pace up from the previous day I think we all had the bit between our teeth now. It was nice recognising the route from on the way up , I think this helped the time go by. We stopped in Phakding for lunch where we had stayed at the start of our trek before pushing on to Lukla. The weather turned on us and the heavens opened it was quite refreshing and luckily when it started to get heavy we saw the archway that symbolised Lukla. Me and Paul got one and each other hands and ran up the steps and it was high fives all round when we got to the top (and a kiss for me and Paul) we had done it, wahoo! We spent the afternoon relaxing and we informed we had managed to be booked on flights for the next day so the gamble had paid off.   
Gateway to heaven!!
Cool waterfalls along the trails..
We woke up the next morning to have an early breakfast before heading to the airport we were the second flight of the day. During the trek we had noticed that Paul had lost a fair bit of weight due to being so ill me and Sudip had guessed at least a stone. When we got back to Lukla tho we had heard that Marie was out of hospital and actually back in Banff but she had lost ten pounds, so this made me think Paul had to be over a stone loss. When we got to the airport we jumped on the scales to find out the truth, the results were in Paul had lost a staggering one stone eight pounds! Yikes lots of puddings for him. Due to hiking and carrying my pack I had lost half a stone too. The flights went without no problems the journey wasn't as smooth as on the way out tho luckily me and Paul aren't nervous flyers. We got back to Kathmandu and it was a lot less crowded there was a big festival going on and they were all down in the valleys it was like a different place! Me and Paul booked our flights out to Singapore and then met up with Keshav for feedback session before Sudip joined us for a farewell meal.   
Lukla Airport and runway.. (No room for error)
So there you have it it was a trip full of highs and lows and something we both will never forget. A huge thanks to Keshav and Sudip from Advance Adventures for the most amazing trip and making it totally stress free for us. - http://www.advadventures.com  

Here's to fulfilling your dreams 

Thanks for reading Gem & Paul x

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