Everest Base Camp
For those of you who like to leave your travel planning to the last minute, the good news is that autumn is a great time to visit Nepal. September is the end of the rainy season and you can expect clear mornings to enjoy those views, as well as enjoy the benefits of warmer temperatures. We still have a few places left on our September departures...
Exodus's intrepid traveller Anna Cietak recently trekked to Everest Base Camp and wondered if the trip would inspire her to come back and try for the summit next time, as she explains...
On a mountain where there are over 200 bodies yet to be retrieved, where people die attempting to set foot on her summit each year, my jaw dropped when I was offered the opportunity to join a trek to Everest. Before setting out I wondered whether the awe of standing at the foot of the highest mountain in the world would one day inspire me to reach the summit?
Our first sight of Mt. Everest was just above the Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar. We struck out from our cosy teahouse where we'd been acclimatising for two days at 3800m, up a steep path past one of the highest airstrips in the world. Our pace was quickening as we suspected Everest was about to appear over the ridge. We all stood silent, emotional, dumbstruck, happy, privileged. In front of us we had unrestricted views of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Lhotse Shar and Peak 38, a display of some of the most formidable, masterful mountains on Earth. It would then be another five days trekking before we would get to Base Camp.
The excitement had well and truly kicked in by this stage. For many in my group, seeing Everest and reaching Base Camp was a long-time ambition. Our interest was sustained along the way through seeing and appreciating the 'Sir Edmund Hillary effect'. The trust fund he established in 1960, and the help he has given for the communities throughout the Himalayas, especially in the Everest regions, is outstanding. He is a saint to the local Sherpa people. We visited one of 30 schools which have been built by the Trust and I met some of the children being sponsored through their education by Exodus clients.
Surprisingly, most days of the trek are leisurely ambles with only a few moderate climbs, which are essential to help with acclimatisation. Most people get nothing worse than a mild headache. We use teahouses (lodges) on this trek and we appreciated the varied menu, warmth and comfort. We pitied those people camping outside the teahouse (all campsites on this trail are now in the villages) as they looked enviously at us warming our hands and feet by the stove.
On the day we reached Everest Base Camp, 26th March 2009, we had been trekking for seven hours already. It had been an early start at 5am but worth it - dawn over the mountains was simply unforgettable. Walking on up through Gorak Shep, we met several teams whose stories excited and unnerved us, but drove us on upward. On that day, our first view of Base Camp appeared to us very, very small and distant. We approached up the west side of the Khumbu moraine, skirting along the edge of a slippery, snowy path, negotiating yak trains and opposing groups, the tell-tale yellow tents in the distance which mark the site, shining out from the mountain wilderness like gems. There's no tacky sign nor actual view of Everest from Basecamp but those who reach it understand the significance of the location and have time to soak up their own personal sense of achievement and pay their respects to the 2,700 plus people who have had the courage, bravery, composure and determination to reach the top and also over 200 or so who didn't return.
It was here I looked up and contemplated whether I will ever push myself further, something that so many people must do upon reaching this point. This incredible mountain deserves the utmost respect. It takes huge amounts of determination and fitness to seek the summit and even then Everest can beat you back, as with our very own Valerie Parkinson. For me, staring at the daunting, popping Khumbu Ice Fall I decided that Base Camp is far as I want to go. The 13 days of trekking, guided by our Nepalese team, with more than 60 years experience between them, was an incredible journey, the views spectacular and I feel proud enough simply to have laid my eyes on the summit and made its legendary Base Camp!
If you would like to speak to Anna about Nepal then please call her on 0845 863 9600.