Today is EVEREST BASE CAMP DAY!!!
All of our worries, gone. All of our ailments, forgotten. Well, not really, but we are excited! Tibo didn’t sleep very well because of intense heartburn, and my cramps are not letting up, but the toughest thing about last night was how cold it was. I don’t think I’ve ever been that cold in my life. We realized this when we woke up and it was around -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit), and the water we had poured into our Camelbaks the night before was frozen solid.
We got up at 6:30 am for breakfast but neither of us was really hungry. Knowing that our bodies needed the food to make it through the day, we forced ourselves to have muesli with hot milk and (half a bowl of) porridge. We packed up our things as best we could given our frozen hands, and headed to Gorak Shep which would be the first stop of the day!
We literally put on as many layers as we could (1. T-shirt, 2. Long-sleeved thermal shirt, 3. Sweater, 4. Fleece, 5. Jacket) to protect us from the glacial winds at these higher altitudes, but luckily it wasn’t as windy as the day prior.
The trail goes up the same way we headed the previous afternoon, past the Italian Pyramid, and up and across the Changri Shar Glacier’s terminal moraine to reach Gorak Shep. We focused on keeping a steady pace and it paid off – we arrived in just under 2 hours and 30 minutes!
Gorak Shep was used as the Base Camp for the 1952 Swiss Everest expedition, but all expeditions since then have used what we, today, know as Everest Base Camp, at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall.
We warm ourselves up in the teahouse and have a very early lunch at 10:30 am (an instant noodle soup for me and a mushroom soup for Tibo) as well as a whole pack of digestive cookies to rehydrate and fuel our bodies. It’s never too early to have lunch, is it?
We then head across a sandy area, which is actually a frozen lakebed covered with sand, until we reach the sign showing us the way to Everest Base Camp! What a motivating thing to see after all these days! The trail then turns into a never-ending view of rocks and ice that we have to climb; up, down and back up again… “Thankfully” it mostly goes uphill so it doesn’t feel like a complete waste of energy. We find ourselves literally walking on the glacier, what a surreal feeling.
From atop a hill, we can see, still farther way than we’d like, rocks and prayer flags identifying Base Camp! During the month of November, there are no Everest summit expeditions, so Base Camp is deserted and barren. Most Everest expeditions take place during the months of April and May, so if you want to see mountaineers and fanatics before their ascension attempts, this is when you should come.
A little bit more effort, zigzagging downwards towards Base Camp and we’ve made it together!! We had to take a mandatory picture in front of the EBC 2016 sign.
I got quite emotional as the EBC trek had been the #1 item on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, and the thought of summiting Mount Everest one day is beginning to make its way into my mind.
While we were still there I asked Tibo if he thought we would be back one day – to Base Camp again or to actually attempt to summit Everest – and very romantically, he just replied with a very dry “no”. Hahahaha.
After exploring the area, we come to the same conclusion that the Base Camp is a harsh place, very cold and with no real flat surfaces to set up a tent. There are rocks everywhere! If you venture towards the Icefall, you can hear the shifting ice creaking under you. Not a very welcoming place to call home for more than 60 days!
At 1:30 pm we decide we’ve taken in the surroundings enough and turn around to head back whence we came. We feel exhausted and a bit guilty for having chosen to spend our holidays in pain, but then we realize how lucky we are to have made it here. The trek back is just as hard as the trek to Base Camp, with our throats and lungs burning besides our (very) rapidly beating hearts.
Bhim then asked a question that Tibo will never forget: “Kala Pattar now?” Tibo just turned to him and said “no way, no way, no way”. It would be a minimum 2-hour trek which is just unimaginable given our current condition. Bhim decided to go while we were changing into more comfortable clothes and warming up over a cup of tea. He was back down within an hour, a true mountain goat, haha. He showed us his pictures and videos, which were absolutely stunning to say the least. Golden summits surrounded by a sky of shifting tints of blue.
At these teahouses, you basically pre-order your dinner for a set time so the kitchen can stay organized. We ordered our dinner for 6:00 pm: steamed momo and macaroni with tomato sauce and cheese. After such a long day, our appetite is back! We devoured the food while talking with Bhim about the following day’s plan.
After hours of debating and just wanting to be lazy by skipping Kala Pattar, we eventually came to an agreement that we would give Kala Pattar a try in the morning. 5:30 am departure… Already feeling tired thinking of such an early wake up call, we headed to bed shortly after dinner. Luckily Tibo was given some antacids by a fellow trekker, which should help him sleep through the night.
Everest Base Camp: conquered!!!
Day 9: will we make it to the summit of Kala Pattar?