Everest Base Camp – getting under the skin of the trek

Expedition: Private: Everest Base Camp

Rolfe Oostra

A trek to Everest Base Camp never fails to disappoint. Sure, the critics will grumble about too many people and the exploitation of locals and the trek being covered in rubbish but you can be sure that it is these very same folk who have never been here themselves, and that they would be very pleasantly surprised if they did.

The trek to the base camp of the world’s mightiest mountain starts with a flight straight from the pages of Biggles. It bounces over airy passes and lands on a postage stamp sized airstrip to emerge in the Sherpa village of Lukla. Being transported from the bad craziness of Kathmandu to this tranquil mountain landscape is like experiencing a time warp.

After a huge calorie-packed breakfast we set off in the direction of Mount Everest, slowly immersing ourselves into the Sherpa way of living and quietly experiencing the unexpected pleasures of this magical valley as they unfold before us. We follow this ancient trade route through traditional mountain villages, lush farmland and colourful Rhododendron forest, gradually climbing higher to meet yak teams festooned in bells and red tassels. We are constantly stepping aside to let sturdy Sherpa carrying enormous loads pass us on the trail that at times seems literally to be hanging above gaping canyons. All the while we get up close and very personal with the mightiest mountains on the planet: dominating our imagination at first are the impressive 6,000m peaks featuring strange names like Kussum Kanguru and Thamserku; then these begin to be dwarfed by mightier peaks such as Ama Dablam and Kantega before finally the mightiest of them all, Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse glistening with glaciers and throwing avalanches left right and centre begin to hold your attention for what seems a long time.

Of course the outstanding trekking, submersion into the Sherpa culture and basking in the jaw-dropping splendour of the surrounding peaks is one thing and enough to leave a smile on your face for quite some time. However, to add that little extra to this lifetime trek you need to physically throw yourself at the lesser- known opportunities and experiences that await those who dare. As Biggles would ascertain – if you don’t try you won’t fly.

Climb to the hidden monastery above Phadink and play football with the young Monks that live there. Climb the 5,100m summit above Dingboche on your rest and acclimatisation day and stand in awe as unbeatable views of the mighty Ama Dablam and a distant Makalu, the 5th highest mountain in the world, stretch out before you. Pop into the house of the famous Sherpa icefall doctor and six times Everest summiteer to drink copious amounts of Chang, progressively getting more fluent in Sherpa language as you do so. Climb onto the rim of the Khumbu moraine to watch the sun set over this vast glacier and listen to it moan and grumble. Enter the Khumbu ice-fall just below Base Camp and get lost amongst huge glistening ice towers. And best of all climb Khala Patthar for the sunset (or sunrise) one of the greatest shows on Earth. Don’t hold back, let 2015 be the year you remember with the widest smile of all and throw yourself at this mighty experience!

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