Everest Base Camp Trek Day 1
Lukla – Phakding
Hiking 7.8 km Ascent: 305 m Descent: 464 m Max Elevation: 2866 m
Leaving Kathmandu with weather worries
We woke up at 6:00 am to a warm and beautiful day. The city was still sleeping, but Bella and I had to get ready for our trek to Everest Base Camp. We were a bit afraid that it’ll be super cold in Lukla. Last time we checked the weather forecast it was minus 25-degree Celsius in Namche Bazaar, so we dressed up pretty warm.
On the way to the airport, we were continually checking the sky. During our stay in Kathmandu, the locals told us, that it was impossible to land in Lukla during the last couple of days. In general, the only way to land “safely” is by visual flight, so if the Khumbu region is covered in clouds, it’s just not possible to even try. Limited visibility or high winds can force you to stay in Kathmandu or Lukla for a couple of days.
The sunrise was marvelous, and the whole city was tinted in red, warm colors and most importantly no clouds at all.
At the Domestic Terminal of the Tribhuvan International Airport
After arriving at the domestic airport, we quickly got our boarding passes and were ready to go. There is a 10 kg maximum baggage allowance (+5 kg carry on), which we did exceed, but nobody seemed to care.
After an hour of waiting in the terminal, it was time for the boarding procedure. The airplane was tiny; it just had room for 14 people. So tiny we were basically sitting in the cockpit.
The stewardess gave us some sweets and cotton candy.
Why cotton candy? Why not! After putting it in my mouth, I quickly realized that it was just cotton instead. Waaaa, what an awkward texture and unpleasant tooth squeaking – and no earplugs for the rest of the 35 minutes flight… Yay me!
Flying to Lukla
I was sitting on the left side of the plane. During the flight, I could see the silhouette of the Himalayas passing by. Wowza, I still can’t believe that ten out of the fourteen 8.000 meter peaks are all in this region of the world and I am actually looking at the top of the world.
After flying for half an hour, we started the landing procedure. If you are scared of turbulence, this might be a big challenge for you. At some point, I had the feeling that the plane was flying sideways. I have still no idea how the two pilots managed to land safely in Lukla, no wonder that the airport was rated the most dangerous airport in the world for the past 20 years.
The runway is 527 m long and is built with an 11.7% gradient, so planes can break faster and gain more speed when starting. We are happy that we survived.
Hiring a guide or porter for the EBC Trek
There were a lot of guides and porters waiting for us in front of the airport, asking if we need help or a guide towards Mount Everest Base Camp.
We discussed this matter a lot before the trip. We had done a bunch of overnight hikes before and are used to hiking independently. We enjoy the freedom that comes along with it, taking breaks whenever we want to, walking further than planned or stopping earlier because we feel like it.
It is important for us to carry our bags and do it all – on our own. It is recommended to do the trek with a guide or porter, in the process you are supporting their families, children’s education, pushing the local economy and so on. And in the end, that was the only conflict we were facing. We have not made it easy for ourselves but decided against it – hoping to be still able to support people on the way.
At the airport, we rearranged a few things in our backpacks, took out our poles and were ready to go. Immediately we noticed the difference in temperature between Kathmandu and the mountains. We headed off with pure excitement, not knowing what to expect from the upcoming days.
The first steps of the trail were tough; we could already feel the altitude. Before this point we never walked that high, we didn’t train before this adventure, so we carried a few extra pounds on ourselves.
The trek on our first day started at 2.795 meters above sea level and led us down to Phakding (2.610 m) a small village which lies in the Dudh Kosi river valley.
Yak speed is the best speed
There were a lot of donkeys and dzos (hybrids between the yak and domestic cattle) on the trail carrying everything you could imagine. The sound of the bells would stay with us for the entire trek. Every time I hear a bell now, I am back on the trek towards the Everest Base Camp. The landscape unraveling in front of us at each turn of the trail was breathtaking.
In the “lower” altitude most of the weight is carried by donkey and dzos. Yaks don’t like the warmer temperatures of the valley.
Dzos or yows are hybrids between the yak and domestic cattle. They have shorter hair than yaks. These calm and friendly animals would escort us towards Phaking and even further. We learned pretty quickly that dzo speed or yak speed (later) is the perfect speed to not be out of breath immediately.
The scenery of the trek was amazing. It was a great feeling to breathe the cold and fresh air of the Himalayas finally.
Our first Himalaya tea
After crossing the Mudslide Bridge, it was time for our first tea stop, one of many more to come. From the teahouse, we had a beautiful view over the winding path in front of us. We both were feeling great, and the warm and super sweet milk tea was doing the rest.
We found a lot of mani stones dividing the trail. They are inscribed with mantras and can be found everywhere on the trek. According to Buddhist doctrine, you should pass them from their left side for good luck.
After spinning our first prayer wheels, we both had the feeling, that we were finally on the trek and it is not just an idea anymore.
Every time a donkey or dzo herd was passing by, we took a welcome break to catch some air.
We reached Phakding around 3 pm. Our lodge was built shortly after the earthquakes. We chose the deluxe room with an attached bathroom. The water was freezing anyways… Still, the guesthouse was fantastic, we paid 1.000 rupees (8,90 €) of a room with a shower and free electricity to recharge our batteries.
Sherpa Guide Lodge in Phakding
After two plates of MoMos – which were amazing – we took a quick “power” nap. We woke up 2 hours later and took a walk around town and had some Sherpa noodles in a small restaurant but we both were still so tired that we went back to our guest house and got ready for the night.
There was a small sewing room in the middle of the village where Bella bought some yarn to fix her new trekking trousers which already had a hole. Everybody was smiling at us. I guess it is not common to sell yarn to trekkers.
What a great day! We both were not sure if you should be more stunned by the landscape or pure happiness and helpfulness of the Nepalese people.