Everest base camp trek during the winter season
Everest Base Camp trek during the winter
Everest Base Camp trek during the Christmas and New Year Holidays.
Stephanie contacted us a couple of months before about the interest to do the trek to Everest base camp with her friend Jessica. Stephanie and Jessica did the Mardi Himal trek with us in December 2015 with four other friends from Singapore. They confirmed the dates after their vacation got approved at work.
They arrived in Kathmandu on the night of the 18th of December. We met for breakfast, and they were helped in the hiring of sleeping bags and do some shopping for trekking gear on the 19th. We parted ways after they were briefed of their departure time from the hotel to the domestic airport to catch Lukla’s flight.
Flight to Lukla and trek to Monjo
We met at the hotel restaurant for a quick breakfast before heading for the domestic airport. We went through the usual formalities of checking in through the security gate, checking in with the airlines with yet another security check, and waited for the flight to be announced. The flight was delayed by just over an hour, which is usual in Kathmandu due to the foggy weather in the morning and air traffic congestion. When our flight was finally announced, we boarded the bus, boarded the aircraft, and took off for Lukla. We arrived in Lukla 25 minutes after takeoff, and it was a smooth flight with clear weather. Upon landing at Lukla, we were met by our support crew, who claimed our luggage and met us at the lodge we stay in at the end of our Everest region treks. Jess and Steph had hot tea while we sorted out the packs for the porter, etcetera.
Once the porter’s load was organized, Jessica and Stephanie were given a briefing on how to stay safe while on the trail, especially how to avoid being pushed down the path by pack animals and icy parts of the trail. We decided to go to Monjo, which is two hours further than the usual stopping place at Phakding, for a couple of reasons.
- We had arrived with plenty of time, and hiking will keep us occupied and warm.
- People from the tropical countries at sea level have more difficulties in the cold and altitude, making them slower trekkers than people from Europe, North America, and other countries with four seasons.
We stopped for lunch at Phakding at our staff Sundar’s sister’s eatery for Dal Bhat – a Nepali staple which consists of lentil soup, some vegetables, spicy pickles, and either chicken or mutton curry. Our team proceeded towards our final destination of Monjo after lunch. There were some trekkers on their way back, along with mules that had taken supplies to the lodges that were restocking for the coming spring season.
We reached Monjo around 4.30 pm. The lodge owners had to be phoned as they had gone to the next village of Jorsalle to plant potatoes. We went to our rooms and sorted our gear before coming down to the woodstove’s warmth in the dining room. The ladies were briefed on the next day’s program after dinner, and all of us retired just after 9 pm.
Trek to Namche Bazaar.
We were woken up with a hot cup of ayurvedic drinks. This drink consists of ingredients that help energize trekkers; it is also anti-inflammatory and eliminates cancerous cells.
The team started our trek at 9 am, stopping at the Sagarmatha (Nepali name for Everest) national park entrance point to register our trekkers. It is a short 3-hour trek to Namche Bazaar from Monjo, with the final two hours a steep uphill climb. There were some icy bits on the trail where streams flowed. The Singaporeans go their first glimpse of Everest halfway through the trek. Namche was reached in time for lunch.
We agreed to meet at 2.45 pm to wander around town before going to our rooms, have hot showers. While walking around Namche Bazaar, we noticed that most of the shops were shut as the owners had left for ‘warmer’ Kathmandu. We went into the Liquid bar to watch Sherpa the movie. The weather had gotten foggy when we came out. We returned to the lodge to have our dinner; as usual, the ladies were briefed on the following day’s program. The plan was to take them to Khumjung village (this is where Sir Edmund Hillary built the first school) for lunch and proceed to Laushasha, similar to Namche. This was once again to help the Singaporeans cover some ground to make the next shorter.
Namche to Laushasha
It was a glorious morning with beautiful blue skies and mountain views all around. We sorted our things in the rooms upon arrival at our stop for the night and gathered at the dining room to congregate around the wooden stove. We had several rounds of hot drinks, dinner and went to bed early again.
Pangboche 3980 m
We started our trek after breakfast with a downhill hike for half an hour to Phungkitanga, checked in with the national park rangers before starting our uphill climb to Tengboche Monastery. Once we started walking uphill for a few minutes, we took off our layers and hiked in T-shirts. We arrived in Tengboche two hours later for lunch. We walked around the vicinity took lots of photos of Mount Tawache, Nuptse, Everest, Lhotse, Kangtega, and Thamserku. We had a leisurely ninety-minute hike after lunch to Pangboche.
We started to head to our final destination at around 2 pm and reached Pangboche at 3.30 pm. I took a hot shower (the last one for the next five days as we would be at a higher altitude and colder) before the sun went over the hill and while it was still warm. The ladies went to bed at 8.30 pm, and we retired at the usual 9 pm.
Amadablam Base Camp 4580 m
We headed out for Amadablam base camp for an acclimatization hike after breakfast. We first had to walk down to the Dudh Koshi river, followed by a mixture of steep and some flattish terrain before reaching ABC. It was yet another beautiful morning with 360 degrees of mountains, including Everest 8849 m and Lhotse 8501m. We took several photos, ate our packed lunch at base camp before heading back to Pangboche. Once again, we had an early night after dinner.
Dingboche 4320 m
We left Pangboche after breakfast as usual and soon arrived at some icy parts on the trail. The ladies were guided through safer parts, even if it meant scrambling off the path on slopes, etcetera, as we firmly believe in safety and prevention rather than cure. We arrived close to the settlement of Shomare, where it was pretty icy due to frozen streams. We were guiding our trekkers away from the icy bits when we met an Indian lady who slipped and broke her wrist.
It also happened to be where both phone networks were absent, so their guide had to leave her and her husband for a few minutes until he could get a signal to call for a helicopter to evacuate her. The injured lady had to walk at least 30 minutes before a flat enough area for a chopper to land.
We arrived at Dingboche in time for lunch, went for another acclimatization hike to 4500 m, did some shopping, and stopped at a new Cafe 4410. This new building was abuzz with other trekkers. There were even some in Christmas hats; yes, it was Christmas day. This new cafe was surprisingly warm with its insulated walls and double glazed windows.
The heater had been lit in the dining room when we returned to our lodge. We all gathered around it for warmth. There was an American couple with whom we had flown to Lukla on the same flight, a retired Canadian doctor, and an English lady, but she had gone to bed early. Our Singaporeans had yet another meal prepared by our trekking chef, Sundar. We use superfood as ingredients and provide specially prepared meals strategically to help our clients get better nutrition to recover from a tiring day of hiking; thus, it has helped them acclimatize to high altitude.
Lobuche 4980 m
The hike to Lobuche from Dingboche begins with a short steep climb to the Stupa. One gets the views of Mount Tawache, Cholatse, Lobuche, Nuptse, the tip of Everest, Lhotse, Choplu, Island Peak, Makalu, and Amadablam from this point. From this point, the trek is a gentle climb before the short descend to a landslide area where we need to cross the Khumbu river on a wooden bridge (more like old doors) and continue on the landslide area. There is a short ascent to reach Thugla 4620 m. There are parts of the trail that was covered in ice.
We had lunch at Thugla and climbed for one hour on a steep hill until we reached the place where there are numerous memorials for those who perished on Everest. The hike from this point is a more gentle climb to Lobuche. We did the usual things, such as sorting out our stuff in the room before gathering at the dining room’s heater for the evening.
Our team discussed our trekkers’ condition; they were doing fine, but going to both Everest Base camp and Kalapathar would wipe them out completely. I sat down with Stephanie and Jessica and explained this to them. They informed me that it was more critical for them to reach Everest base camp than Kalapathar, 200 meters higher with much better views the next day.
Everest Base Camp 5356 m
We had a slightly earlier start to this day as it would be much longer and tiring. The hike begins with a flattish hike for about 45 minutes, followed by a short steep climb above 5000 meters. We walk along a lateral moraine for about ninety minutes before a quick descent to Gorakshep 5180 m.
We had an early/quick lunch, lightened our backpacks, and headed out for Everest Base Camp. It was quite windy, and there were either heading back from or heading to EBC at 1 pm. We advised our trekkers to walk briskly down a hill where it is exposed, and the winds could dislodge some stones when we got close to EBC. We reached the base camp, where other trekkers took turns to take photos with the Everest Base camp sign. It was such a lovely day to be there with such unobstructed views. It would have been perfect if there was no wind.
We returned to Gorakshep after taking photos. We were quite surprised to see some people struggling towards EBC past 3 pm. We reached Gorakshep just before 5 pm. It was a long day, but we had two more long days ahead of us; it made us glad that our trekkers did the sensible thing by choosing not to go up Kalapathar the next morning before heading down. We were going to save at least 3 hours by opting out of Kalapathar.
We heard that it snowed in the valleys below the altitude of 4000 m, and a couple of helicopters had to turn back because of bad weather. Later that evening, we heard that the temperature at EBC was – 18 and Kalapathar -22 at 5 pm when the sun got over the hill.
Back to Pangboche.
We retraced our steps back to Thugla, where we had lunch on the way up. We stopped there for lunch once again. We were appalled to hear that the guide had brought his client via a shortcut by jumping on rocks to cross the Khumbu river to save a few minutes by avoiding the wooden bridge. Some of the stones had thick ice on them. His client slipped on a rock, broke his hand, and was evacuated by helicopter the previous day.
We took a slightly different route back to Pangboche – via the Pheriche and Khumbu valley. This valley is usually very windy, with quite strong constant wind. We were quite fortunate that the wind was not as active on this day. However, we were hiking at temperatures that were between -10 to -12.
We had to negotiate the icy patches just past Shomare village. We were fortunate that the sun had melted quite a lot of ice during the day, making it easier for us to get through. We reached Pangboche by 4.30 pm, but we felt lazy for a shower as it was still pretty cold. We celebrated that evening with some Vietnamese Pho and spicy pork in Gochujang (spicy Korean paste) sauce for returning safely after reaching our goal of EBC.
Namche Bazaar 3441 m
We retraced our steps to Namche Bazaar with a stop for lunch. We saw some blood pheasants on the trail. The ladies went shopping for down trouser – an investment for their future winter trips.
We retraced our steps down the steep hill, negotiating the icy bits; they were more difficult in the morning as the sun’s rays had not reached it. We had a short climb to get out of the National park, and all of a sudden, we all had hunger pangs. It must be because we had lost much altitude, and our appetite sprung back. We decided to stop for an early lunch at Monjo. We headed straight back to Phakding.
We stay in the lodge owned by a Sherpa who carried the IMAX camera in 1996, which shot the Everest IMAX documentary. We sat down to watch that movie before dinner, chatted with the owner before bedtime.
This was a day with just 3 hours trek with a small uphill climb to Lukla. We aimed to have lunch at Lukla, which we did, enjoy a fantastic hot shower. We went back to town for some coffee, shopping before returning to our lodge for dinner. We retired early as we had to be at the airport by 7 am the next morning.
Back to Kathmandu
We had an early breakfast while our big bags were taken to the airport to be checked in. We went to the airport, and a couple of hours delayed our flight. We had to sit inside our aircraft for 30 minutes at Lukla airport’s tarmac due to Kathmandu’s air traffic. We finally landed in Kathmandu with a further 20 minutes delay in the air. We reached Thamel in time to check in and go out for lunch. We parted ways with a meeting set up for the day after their departure.
Back home to Singapore.
We met for lunch, did some window shopping, and parted ways as their transportation had been arranged with the hotel to take them to the airport later that night for their homeward journey.
Usually, during the winter, the trekking trails are empty, but with the Christmas and New Year holidays, more people choose to go trekking to avoid spending this period back home. The trekking routes get a slight surge in trekkers during this period.
The ‘busiest’ lodge was at Gorakshep, where there were about 20 other trekkers and their support crew. We had the whole guest house to ourselves at Monjo, Laushasha, and Phakding.
Using superfood has really proven to be very helpful in providing better nourishment to trekkers. In the past, we have had South East Asian trekkers who did finish high altitude treks but were utterly exhausted. In the past three years since we introduced the Wellness factor to our trekking vacations, our clients have tremendously helped our clients. However, superfood needs to be taken with caution as it detoxifies; if you use the wrong superfood or provide too much, the detoxification might appear like diarrhoea. Once again, our Wellness trekking adventure has proven to be a success.