So many parts were inspirational for many different reasons, however I think for me the most clarifying moment was atop Kala Patthar: The vista, the company, the sense of achievement and laying a small amount of my dear brother's ashes up there was all pretty poignant.
Thangyboche and our first proper view of Everest and her equally majestic neighbours was astounding. Properly awesome in every way. After the pretty tough climb up a stunning valley the small, unassuming, monastic village takes your breath away and is somehow amazingly spiritual, even if you're not particularly. Slightly randomly there's also a bakery there that produces delicious cake!
The hustle and bustle of Kathmandu by contrast to the serenity and sheer phenomenal beauty of the Himalayas was a magical part of the trip. In fact, it all is - the sights, sounds, tastes, scents and visual feasts from every part of the trip are quite simply UH-MAZING!
I read every review on here twice, with a pen and paper to hand and jotted things down. I didn't necessarily heed every single point mentioned but several were blinders:
Make one of your water bottles a metal one, I'm not feint hearted but it was pretty damned amazing to use it as a hot water bottle for my sleeping bag.
A buff/scarf really does help with the dusty trails. You will breathe in a fair amount and you will develop a bit of cough. Every single member of our team did, also most developed colds. However, up the steepest trails I simply couldn't breathe well enough through it and just sucked up the dust. Lungs are self-cleansing so you'll be fine.
There are hot showers, as mentioned in some reviews, but they are about as far removed from any concept of a shower as is possible (you WILL need flipflops and a sense of humour). You will probably use them occasionally but don't fret about it. Wet wipes and a good hat works wonders.
A slightly delicate lady tip: panty liners. (You will thank me later)
You can charge batteries, for a small cost, but it's still a bit of a faff to remember to take your charger to the front desk and also to retrieve it so bring two or more.
My trip was November and I brought far too many t-shirts. Long sleeved merino wool (very thin, 150gsm, works for me) is the way forward. I wore my two to death (and they STILL didn't honk!), even with that I didn't often wear a t-shirt over the top, just a zip up fleece and two different weights of down jacket.
Poles. I am a reformed pole snigger-er in every way. I'd never used them before this trip and can only thank the gods that I took some. The paths are pretty rough, steep, rocky and roughly stepped. My poles were invaluable both in ascending and descending, saving both my neck (from falling down) and taking a fair amount of pressure off my dodgy knees. I have decent upper body strength and luckily got straight into it without any effects from the change of hiking style.
Diamox. An interesting topic that was discussed a fair amount. Just under half of our team took it and remained on it. Most of the rest of us had it with us but didn't take it, some of us didn't even bring it. No-one who wasn't already on it started taking it. Aside from one poor person suffering acute AMS who didn't summit (but luckly only had to retreat one lodge down) we non-diamox-ers all made EBC and, bar one who was knackered, Kala Patthar. Exdous' tour is designed to maximise acclimatisation and for most of us it did. It wasn't without effect though, we all knew we were at altitude, but we all coped. Drinking is as important as the trip notes and reviews say.
Lip balm is an essential.
The lodges are comfortable and provide astonishingly good food with such limited facilities and resources. But they are cold, well the bedrooms and toilets are. I personally didn't find it a problem, and it makes you realise how cushy our lives are. It also makes the hot shower and warm room back at the hotel in Kathmandu pretty spectacular!
Don't fanny about reading these reviews, just get a deposit paid and get on a trip. You won't regret it. For those concerned about the Lukla flights after that awful accident a few weeks ago don't fret. They were great fun and added to the adventure, even a confirmed flying phobic team member managed them.
I can't leave this review without mentioning our Yaks. Daisy, Daisy, Daisy and Myrtle were the slient lynch pins to our team. They carried our bags for us without complaint and always delivered them to our next accommodation before us. Their limpid eyes and lovely faces chewing the cud were a joy to behold at the end of a hard day's trek; I loved them from the start and started feeding them extra treats every day and they started to look out for me. Joe, the Yak-man, despite a slight language barrier was lovely, permitting me to feed, pet and fret about his beasts without a murmer once he realised that I was animal-savvy enough to be well aware that the socking great horns could do some damage, especially when Myrtle decided he (yep, they were all male I later discovered, it's all that hair...) didn't like peanut cookies. They were a delight, worked hard and I was very sad to leave them behind.