Everest Base Camp Trek, Khumbu Valley & The High Passes: Part 1

Where to start. I suppose the beginning. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. Nepal, a gem in southern Asia. The Himalayas, the pinnacle of high altitude mountaineering. A trip to the other side of the world, traveling in to the unknown. Emotion, pure exhilaration before, during and after.

Among other questions, I have been asked over and over, “How did this trip come about?” In June 2014, Corey was emailing back and forth with one of our most committed clients about possibilities for our next climb. We have done Mt. Washington in the winter. We have done a weekend of New Hampshire ice climbing. We have spent a week climbing on the west coast. Let’s go big. We discussed the potential of Denali in Alaska. We mentioned the volcanos of Ecuador. Perhaps Kilimanjaro, Machu Pichu, Aconcogua?

Let’s go big…let’s climb in Nepal!

If you like to climb then you want to go to Nepal. We discussed the commitment this would entail and we all agreed it was the trip for us! So it was settled – let’s go big in Nepal.

So we scrambled to organize a climbing trip to Nepal. The climbing seasons there are spring and fall – we had 4 months to put together a trip. We contacted a friend in Nepal who co-owns a local guide outfit for some advice. The Nepalese Mountaineering Association control permitting in Nepal and to climb there you must purchase a climbing permit. The catch, you must hire one of their certified guide services to do so. And so the partnership was born. We teamed up with our friends’ company to organize a climbing itinerary for October. We realized that it would be difficult to find others who would be interested in joining us this year since it was a large time commitment – almost a month – and a large amount of money to spend without planning for it but we didn’t care. We were going big in Nepal. If nothing else, this was an awesome learning experience for future trips!

Once the dates were set and the place tickets were purchased, we did some light advertising and marketing and spread the word to those who we thought would be interested in joining us. A few weeks before we were to fly to Nepal – we landed another client, Chelsea! We were a team of 5 [Corey, Brett, Chelsea, Hannah and John] and we were going big in Nepal. Now, Chelsea and Hannah have never climbed, nor did they particularly care to this time around. So we put together an alternate itinerary for them to trek in Nepal while Corey, John and myself climbed. Our goal was to climb 2 6000m peaks, Nirekha and Island Peak, as well as the high passes and Everest Base Camp. A rather ambitious itinerary for 21 days but we figured we might as well see as much as we can!

Come August, the plan changed. John emailed us with some unfortunate news. He would have to back out because of a very lucrative work commitment that popped up. And so there were 4 of us heading to Nepal!

On October 6, 2014, Corey, Hannah and departed from Boston, MA for Nepal. We had a lay over in Dubai for 24 hours, just enough time to get some shut eye, hire a cab and tour the city! Time travel is real. Or so it feels like it when you visit Dubai. We were in the future, the real world Jetsons. The architecture is stunning. The development that is happening is overwhelming. The world’s tallest building is there…it’s huge. Tall enough to sky dive off of. They have indoor everything…skiing, surfing, golf. It’s as “first world” as it gets. The first world city that all other first world cities wish they could be. It is beautiful, clean, and loaded with money! A short stay but holy hell it was awesome. Next time, I am going dune surfing with the jeep safari. But for now, we were off to Nepal!

We landed in Kathmandu after dark and our Trekking guide was waiting for us at the airport. It was dark and it was a whirlwind at the airport that night so we put our heads down and focused on getting to the hotel. It was quite clear that we weren’t in Dubai anymore but awesome none-the-less. We were in Nepal!

We took a cab to Hotel Horizon in Thamel, the “tourist” section of Kathmandu. Tourist or not, it was convenient location with souvenir shops, grocery stores, restaurants and a million “trekking gear” stores selling “knock off” equipment at discounted prices. According to our itinerary we were to spend 2 days in Kathmandu touring the city and visiting ancient squares, hindu and buddhist temples and getting a taste of the nepalese culture. In Kathmandu, you can actually taste it. A dense smog pollutes the air from overpopulation, lack of sanitation services and the on-going battle to upgrade the infrastructure. In the past 10 years, the population in Kathmandu has increased from 1 million people to over 5 million. With this much growth the roads are too small, the houses are limited and the roads are overly congested – the city is bursting at the seams. The influx of people is from Tibetan refuges, folks from the countryside looking for work, and immigrants from India in search of a better life – an opportunity to capitalize on the tourist population flocking to Nepal to climb and trek.

The Nepalese culture is amazing. I intend to write a blog post specifically on this topic so we will keep it at that for now. It’s inspiring and saddening all at the same time…amazing.

We did the tourist thing in Kathmandu and after a few days we were ready for our trek! On the Everest Base Camp Trek in the Khumbu region of Nepal you fly from Kathmandu to a small mountain village, Lukla, where you begin your trek. The flight is approximately 45 minutes on a 15-17 seat plane. With clear skies and visibility, the view of the himalayas out the plane window is breath taking. Below, lies acres and acres of tiered farmland covering the hillsides, rivers, waterfalls, green woodland and tiny, remote villages dispersed throughout.

Lukla is home to the world’s most dangerous airport. The runway is literally slanted. Since it was cut into the side of a mountain it is only a few hundred meters long. It starts at the edge of a cliff and ends at the beginning of another. It is uphill on the landing and downhill to take off. Flying there would be terrifying if you weren’t so excited for the what is in store for the next few weeks!

Stay tuned for part two of the journey. How the plan got flipped turned upside down and the awesomeness that was to follow!

In the interim, please check out our photo album on Facebook!