It's that time of year again when trekkers and climbers make their pilgrimage to Mt. Everest. Whether you're going to Base Camp or vying to climb the pinnacle of the world; the long walk to Base Camp is one of the most exciting and adventurous hikes on the planet. If you're taking the Nepalese route you'll be starting on the outskirts of the small town of Lukla (getting in and out of Lukla is an adventure in itself as the airport is one of the most deadly in the world). The trail is one of the most celebrated and scenic paths anywhere on the planet and has been travelled by the most historic and famous climbers.
If you're going to climb to Mt. Everest Base Camp plan to spend between 10 to 12 days to get there from Lukla (and 4 to 5 days down). If you go too fast you won't acclimate to the elevation so you'll want to take it slow and easy (otherwise you'll get sick). Another reason not to chase up the mountain is that this is a trip that should be enjoyed at your leisure. The Himalayas are breath-taking and trek is magical. You won't see a McDonalds, a Wal-Mart, a car or even a motorcycle on the entire journey. You won't be on your sell phone either. If you're lucky, you might get internet reception at one of the lodges on the way to the top. But this is a trip to enjoy the beauty and bounty of nature (and she supplies it in excess) and not the high-sped conveniences of the 21st Century.
The views on the trail are awe-inspiring. Whether you look up at the vast mountain tops or down on the bubbling river below - it's stupendous. The immensity of the Himalayas is hard to absorb and it's nearly impossible to fit the expansive grandeur into a camera frame. It really is overwhelming. Beyond the mesmerizing landscapes, the regular yak parades up and down the mountain are entertaining, if not somewhat dangerous. After you crossed one of the long, open swinging bridges you'll think you're qualified for Hollywood stunt work (yes, it's scary and a bit tricky). Walking on rocky exposed paths can be trying to your nerves so bring boots you have confidence in.
The villages you'll visit on the way up are quaint and relaxing. The food is typically good, but nothing fancy. Popcorn, potatoes, eggs and yak meat are regular staples at meals. A can of Pringles potato chips (as odd as this may sound) is a common treat on the way up, and a chocolate candy bar is a real delicacy. The accommodations are basic to crude. Don't expect thick mattresses (or a mattress at all) and the rooms can get very cold at night (only the main common rooms are heated with yak dung). The public toilets are typically shared by the residents of the lodge and consist of a hole in the floor with a bucket of water to wash the waste down. It can get very… smelly.
One of the most exciting towns on the way to Base Camp is Namche Bazaar. This bowl-shaped market city is colorful and lively. It’s a good place to pick up last minute supplies and grab a piece of pastry and strong black coffee. Whatever you do don't miss the World's Highest Pool Bar and Restaurant (also Namche Bazaar's oldest) Café Danphe. It’s the coolest place ever with signed tee-shirts from climbers on the ceiling and walls celebrating expeditions from around the world. The bar plays western music, too, so don't be surprised to hear Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles or Guns and Roses blaring from the doors. It’s a good place to grab a stiff drink before heading up the mountain, too.
Once you're passed the tree-line the world becomes gray and still. Here, no plants grow, animals roam or birds fly. It's just rocks - small and huge. It’s a rather curious place and probably one of the closest environments to the moon. It's just rather desolate. Just before your reach Base Camp you'll pass the memorial area to the climbers who have died on the mountain. This is quite sobering and moving.
However, once you reach the rock that is carved with the words, "Mt. Everest Base Camp" there is lots of celebrating - and there should be. Even if you don't climb to the top of Mt. Everest getting to 17,598 feet is a big accomplishment. And it's one of the closet places to heaven on the planet. Further, it’s a grand and unforgettable adventure. Go, Adventure Woman, go!
If you go, pack well and train even better. For more information check out http://www.s2mountaineering.com - ask for Jeff Reynolds. And tell him Adventure Woman sent you.