Trekking the Himalayas
Our Marketing Manager, Emma, travelled to Nepal and joined our Classic Everest Trek back in September. Read her account below, or feel free to give her a call or send her an email to discuss the trek to see if this is something for you!
The Everest region of Nepal offers a landscape with an inspiring history. The Sherpas have been living off the land and roaming its mountainous paths for generations, but today a mix of adventurer seekers, nature lovers and keen walkers alike come to climb the winding paths to victory.
At 2,800 metres Lukla is the gateway for most expeditions. On tour with Aurora Expeditions, our group leaves Kathmandu in the early hours to enjoy a sunrise breakfast over the Khumbu Valley before making the first and relatively easy walk to our first Yeti Mountain Lodge in Phakding.
Along the way these gorgeous lodges greet us at the end of each day with all the creature comforts of home; a cosy bed, warm shower and meals that could be served up at a top-notch restaurant. We are greeted with warm towels and lemon tea, as we kick off our hiking shoes in lieu for comfy ‘crocs’ and enjoy some downtime before our nightly feast.
It doesn’t take us long to get into the routine of the mountain life. ‘Bed tea’ is served as our wakeup call each morning and we enjoy a hearty cooked breakfast (the creamy porridge is the group favourite) before we begin our daily climb. Life’s good in the mountains, well when you don’t have to carry a tin roof or kitchen sink on your back – literally!
From Phakding, we climb to Monjo close to the entry of the Sagarmatha National Park. We skip the local monastery as the monk has gone walkabout; apparently it happens quite a lot we’re told. So our guide, Tashi Tenzing, takes us to the National Park entry where he talks us though a 3D model of the regions peaks.
Tenzing knows a lot about the Himalayas. If his name rings a bell, it’s probably because he is the grandson of Tenzing Norgay, the first man to summit Mt Everest at 8848 metres with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Tashi has climbed Everest three times himself, not to mention a lengthy list of other peaks around the world. We’re lucky to have someone with such amazing skills and knowledge showing us his own backyard.
Mid-trek we arrive in Namche Bazaar, the main village for supplies for those trekking to Everest Basecamp. Serious trekkers stop here to stack up on supplies and replace broken equipment. As we make the final climb to our lodge locals proffer prey beads, yak bells and other trinkets. We pass the local Irish pub (possibly the world’s highest at 3455 metres), and fall on beds after the day’s exhausting climb.
It’s not until we’re watching sunrise over Mt Everest the following morning that our efforts are deemed worthy. At the 50th Anniversary stupa, built by Tashi Tenzing in honour of his grandfather and all the Sherpas of Everest, we enjoy warm tea as we sit in awe of the world’s highest mountain.
Our trek is deemed an ‘easy’ pace, which assists with our acclimatisation. Fellow trekkers overtake us on their way to Everest Base Camp, or ‘EBC’ in trekker lingo. For us a ‘rest day’ in Namche is welcoming and we spend our time visiting local Sherpa houses and the monastery. Tashi shares the tall tales of Everest and we become to understand, slowly, the lure of reaching her peak.
This year the world celebrated the 60th anniversary since the very first summit of Everest. Tashi celebrates his grandfather’s achievements by taking groups like us to the humble beginnings of Sherpa Norgay Tenzing. This is a very special part of the trek as we take the slip road off the ‘Everest highway’ and head for Tenzing’s childhood village, Thame.
A peaceful climb through rhododendron forests and small villages, we walk clockwise around Stupas to mark our respects to Buddha and spin prey wheels to bring us good kharma. Along the trail we meet Tenzing’s relatives, who serve us lemon tea and a bowl of tasty hot noodle soup.
We meet the raging Bhote Koshi River as we ascend into Thame, a maze of stone-walled fields and traditional Sherpa houses. We follow Tashi as he cuts through the fields knocking holes in the walls for us to pass. “Come on” he says, “they’ll rebuild them when the yaks come”. We look at each other and shrug, “they’ve got to get the yaks in the field somehow” someone says. I make note of the lack of gates in the fences and carry on.
Frome Thame we can see the entry route through to Tibet via the Nangpa La pass, and our second rest day means a morning walk up to overlook the valley, where in the 15th Century the Sherpas of Tibet came to settle in Nepal. We continue up the mountain ridge to the Thame Monastery, cherishing the spectacular views of Thame and the locals farming in the potato fields below.
Potatoes are the staple food of the mountains, and the ones grown in Thame are considered the best in the region. We indulge in potato soup, potato pancakes and croquets, and of course, hot potato chips – some of the best chips we have ever tasted.
Most evenings we enjoy a drink around the fire, and enjoy a lively and captivating discussion as Tashi tells us his stories of Everest, his family and the practice of Buddhism. Dinner is served and most of us retreat for sleep. In Thame however, we are treated to a special cultural show by the local mothers. Their slow movements and Sherpa sounds are almost hypnotic, but soon a handful of us are linking arms with the mothers and learning the tapping and shuffling of their traditional moves, before someone changes the iPod and they get a taste of our Western style.
Our last day of trekking is a hard one. We climb and ascend about one kilometre in total. We move slowly as we rock-hop across rivers, cross log bridges over gushing streams and pass through gorgeous bamboo and rhododendron forests. We pull ourselves up steep crevasses and use the last of our might to reach Kongde at 4,250 metres.
For me this is the highest I go. A couple of the group attempt the 500 metre climb to Farak Ri peak, but it seems I made the right decision to stay in bed since the imposing cloud meant the amazing view is a white wash. A stroll to a local waterfall doesn’t last long as the burning log fire, freshly brewed tea and tempting treats soon draw us back to the lodge. It’s here where we have time to simply sit in the sublime gratification of the achievements we have made in the last eight days.
Just when we think it’s over, we’re crouching on a helipad as our chopper comes to take us down the mountain – that’s right, no more walking from here! We take an exhilarating flight through the mountains, over the Gokyo lakes, striking mountain passes, over Everest Base camp, passing the Khumbu Glacier and then back towards the valley of Lukla.
We end our trekking experience with a flight back to Kathmandu. We watch out of the tiny window of our small plane as these amazing 8000 metre peaks disappear from view. The mountains are like another place in time, where the energy is pulsating and anything seems possible. It pushes us to 4,250 metres, and it’s probably this same force that draws so many to attempt the dangerous feat of reaching the 8848 metre peak. Hmm, maybe next time...