'On top of the world' describes both my feelings and my location on this trip. The trek to Everest Base Camp was awesome.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Seeing Everest so clearly and close up against a background of clear blue sky was incredible and the prayer flags streaming out from rocky anchorages just enhance the scene and emphasise the vastness of the mountains. Reaching both Base Camp and climbing Kala Pathar felt like real physical achievements but were surprisingly emotional experiences too and it felt a real privilege to be there.
All along the trek was beautiful and ever changing scenery; small farmsteads, white stupas, the crystal clear river, blossoming trees and rhododendrons, tiny gentian flowers, barren rocky areas, woodland with dappled sunlight and weather from hot sun to a blizzard. It was a really humbling experience to see local Nepalese stoically carrying enormous heavy loads up and down the trail of anything from gas cylinders, yak dung (for fuel), food and building materials.
Tengboche was a stunning location with excellent views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam and other 6000m+ peaks in every direction as well as the impressive monastery, stupa and local life all centred around a small grassy area.
As Exodus really promote the idea that trips should benefit the local community it was great to see their parabolic solar cookers in daily use at so many lodges.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa was an excellent leader every step of the way; from finding us so efficiently in the throngs at Kathmandu airport, to guiding us along the mountain paths to Base Camp and back and finally organising a celebratory meal at the end of the trip. He had an air of quiet confidence which made us all feel safe and his care and concern for our welfare was evident throughout and small extra touches such as carrying someone's rucksack when they felt unwell were much appreciated. The other guides; Pemba, Phurba, Nawang and Dorje (yak handler) worked well as a team led by Lhakpa and all of them were extremely helpful and friendly. After a full day walking they would all help out in the teahouse kitchen so that we got our meals quickly and everyday they ensured a hot drink on arrival and brought us tea in bed in the mornings. Lhakpa had excellent knowledge of the history of climbing on Everest, local customs, religion and nature and seemed to know almost everyone in the Khumbu Valley. He took us to his family home to meet his father who was on the 1953 Everest Expedition; to a small monastery where we received prayer scarves, to his old school and to meet his friend Appa Sherpa, a 20 times Everest Summiteer - all these extras really added to our understanding and enjoyment of life in Nepal.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Make sure you have the correct kit as your comfort, safety and enjoyment of the trip depend on it. The kit list provided in fairly good but you also need windproof overmittens. These were not on the kit list but were essential, fortunately our guide told us this and we could buy them in Kathmandu or Namche. Warm trousers or thermals/leggings under other trousers and quality tops to use in a layering system are important - this is stated in the kit list but I feel could be emphasised more. It is possible, but not that easy to wash a few small items on trek. I hired the Exodus sleeping bag and it was very good quality and I was never cold at night.
Heed the advice of the guide and sherpas as they really know what they are talking about eg walk slowly, drink enough, have a good appetite, don't stroke the yaks.
Drink lots of tea! This is the Sherpa method and it works. Having 3-4 cups of tea in the morning and lots of tea in the evening in the lodge helps to keep you well hydrated. Get together with 1 or 2 other travellers and order the pots of tea between you.
You do need to be fit enough to enjoy this trek. You don't necessarily need to do lots of hill walking to prepare if you are fit from other activities or sports. Many of my group, including me, were distance runners and I found this good preparation. Amazingly all the group were of very similar levels of walking ability/speed which made for a really good trek. The guides explained that this is not always the case but the numbers of Sherpa guides can allow the group to spread out a bit and still be well supported.
You should take extra snacks eg cereal bars, chocolate, dried fruit as most people need these, medication such as strong headache and stomach upset pills, toilet paper, wetwipes, anti-bacterial handgel, water purification tablets, torch and book / game for evenings. A metal water bottle is useful as you can have it filled with hot water in the evening to warm your sleeping bag and then drink it the next day.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
This was my first trip with Exodus, although I have done several group walking holidays before, and I would definitely recommend the company.
I travelled on my own and was quite surprised to find that there was only one other individual traveveller in the group of 15, however this was not an issue at all as everyone was very friendly and all meals were taken as a group on one large table.
Although acute mountain sickness is rare, most people have some affects from the altitude (headache, feeling sick, poor sleep, lose of appetite, coughs) and many had a stomach upset at some point. Fortunately I was not ill but did lose my appetite and lost weight quite drastically. Whilst none of these things are ideal the guide was well equipped to deal with it all and could supply appropriate medication including Diamox. You cannot really prepare for altitude and relatively minor illness is a small price to pay for visiting such a fantastic location.
Exodus recommend not buying bottled mineral water for environmental reasons but most lodges are very keen to sell it to you. You do need to ask if you want tap water which you can then treat with tablets as there is not always an obvious place to get it from.
Having reached Base Camp, I thought it might seem as though the holiday was over and we were just walking back down, but by taking a bit of a different route and staying at different lodges, the guides ensured this was not the case.