1st November: My arrival in Kathmandu
I arrived in Kathmandu yesterday off the Qatar Airways flight from Doha which was delayed as there was nowhere for our A330 to park. After circling for 30 minutes we were approved to land but on our final approach were forced to “go around” (a very steep climb when a landing is aborted!) as another aircraft had broken down on the runway.
Eventually landing I passed through formalities easily with my visa from the UK – there was a very long queue for those buying a visa on arrival.
Qatar Airways have been voted “Best Airline of the Year” and offer excellent service on board but flights involve a middle of the night transfer in Doha on outward flights. They operate the B787 Dreamliner on many flights, including those from Cardiff – this is my favourite aircraft to fly on.
Kamal Bhandari of Himalaya Hikes was there to meet me and we were soon in the Hotel Tibet and I was checked in. Passing through immigration with a visa issued in London was quick and effortless although queues of two hours can be experienced. I think that, based on my experience, it’s always best to get a visa in London.
A long afternoon siesta helped me recover from the flights out here and I enjoyed dinner in the hotel restaurant with a spicy papodum (very spicy) and a chicken thali.
I then settled down and enjoyed 8 hrs of quality sleep.
2nd November: High Altitude First Aid Training for Kamal’s staff
This morning after an enjoyable breakfast I ran a REC certificated 3hr High Altitude First Aid workshop for 6 sherpa Guides.
My afternoon was spent relaxing and sorting out my kit with a visit to the nearby Liberty Money Changer. I should add that I enjoyed an Everest Beer whilst watching South Africa beat England quite convincingly.
During the evening Kamal invited me out to dinner to meet his family which was enjoyable. Some work related discussion in respect of luggage and flights to Lukla, all hopefully now resolved and the group advised.
3rd November: At leisure in Kathmandu
I’m staying at the Hotel Tibet which I’ve used many times on previous trips to Kathmandu.
“Enjoy charming and spacious accommodations at the Hotel Tibet. Choose from 53 stylish Deluxe Rooms decorated in soothing colors. Enjoy charming and spacious accommodations at the Hotel Tibet. “
With preparations for the trek well in hand thanks to me having a sound working relationship with Kamal Bhandari (Himalaya Hikes), today is a leisurely day for me. I’ve made visits to the three great temples of Kathmandu: Swayambunath, Pashupatinath and Bodnath on a long warm and dusty morning with traffic everywhere.
After returning to the Hotel Tibet it was time for lunch (Chicken in the Basket) in the hotel restaurant for a chat with Kamal. We met again at 5pm for me to meet our Trek Doctor, Dr Sudip KC, who seems very nice and I’m looking forward to having him on the trek.
I dined at the Ghar-e-Kebab Restaurant in the Annapurna Hotel for an amazing dinner. It’s one of my favourite restaurants in the world and I always dine here at least once whenever I’m in Kathmandu.
4th November: Client arrivals
A long day ahead meeting group participants on four different flights.
I completed a review of medical care arrangements for the forthcoming trek and the Risk Management Plan confirms the following arrangements:
- The Expedition Leader is Alan Ward (International Mountain Leader) with extensive high altitude trekking experience and a Mountain First Aid Instructor.
- The Expedition Guide is Kamal Bhandari of Himalaya Hikes who has led over 100 successful Everest Base Camp Treks.
- The Expedition Doctor is Dr. Sudip KC who has worked on high altitude climbing expeditions in Nepal.
- Dr Sudip KC will monitor everyone’s Oxygen Levels and Pulse, twice daily and record the results. Appropriate medical treatment will be provided as required and a written record maintained.
- A Portable Altitude Chamber is included in the group equipment.
- Oxygen is included in the group equipment.
- A comprehensive Medical Kit, appropriate for high altitude travel, is included in the group equipment.
- A REC certificated High Altitude First Aid training workshop has been provided to a number of group participants in the UK and for Kamal Bhandari and a number of his staff in Kathmandu.
- A BS8848:2014 compliant Management Plan is in place for the forthcoming trek to Everest Base Camp.
THOUGHTS FROM SIMON CHAPLIN:
“Many years ago (too far really) I was introduced to the world of Hillwalking and then onto climbing Mountains of the UK.
I was very lucky to move to Wales where I met my good friend Alan and to carry on learning under his guidance travelling to great places in Scotland, The Lake District and Wales.
My love has never faltered being lucky enough to live just outside the Brecon Beacons.
As with any avid outdoor person there is always some objective or place that they would love to visit and I have always wanted to go to Everest Base Camp.
This has always been a dream however in November 2018 Alan was taking me through a Navigation training weekend where he dropped the bombshell “Do you want to come with me to EBC?” and not only did I jump at the chance he said “How about Kyle?”
A few checks later and we were on board and its amazing how quickly the last year has gone.
Training has taken place, lots of shopping trips and planning of what to take and this last weekend has seen us put it all together into our bags ready to go.
In the next half an hour our journey will begin with travelling to Birmingham Airport before flying to Doha in Qatar and then onward to Kathmandu.
We’ll be gone for three weeks in total walking with like minded people, some for personal reasons like us and some for charities that have their hearts but with one common theme of travelling together as a group.”
At the close of the day I was feeling tired after four trips to the airport but pleased the group was starting to take shape here in Kathmandu.
5th November: Flight arrivals in Kathmandu
After a good nights sleep I left for the airport around 10am to meet the rest of the group off the Qatar Airways flight and the two Assistant Leaders, Craig Francis and Mark Demmery, arriving in on Turkish Airlines.
By about midday, all group participants were at the Hotel Tibet and checked in to their rooms.
I stayed around the hotel for the rest of the day to provide advice to the group and answer questions.
The Pre-trek briefing was held at 7 pm when Kamal also welcomed Dr Sudip KC to the group. Unfortunately many of the group couldn’t hear Kamal or Sudip and left the meeting with apprehensions about the following day. Kamal issued tee-shirts and kitbags to the group.
Dinner was a Chinese Buffet which I thought was awful and overpriced and I passed on my thoughts to the Front Desk Manager.
After dinner, I circulated amongst the group to try to relieve any apprehensions about our trip to Ramechhap and the poor briefing we’d all attended earlier.
6th November: Kathmandu to Ramechhap
Up at around 0600 for a day that might be challenging for our 6hr drive and overnight stay in Raamechhap when we simply should be flying from here to Lukla tomorrow morning. The Ministry of Tourism need to resolve this issue.
We were all ready by 0930 in eager anticipation of our two micro busses arriving however one arrived without a roof rack so we were in trouble. Eventually Kamal arranged for our second vehicle to be replaced with a much larger vehicle and this eventually arrived.
We left the Tibet Hotel at 1115 for our journey to Ramechhap. Traffic was heavy leaving Kathmandu past the airport and our eastward journey went without problems and we arrived at Ramechhap centre by about 1800. The hotel was very basic to say the least but we were all allocated en-suite rooms and dinner was served later.
7th November: Ramechhap to Lukla( 2,850m) and on to Phakding (2,640m)
It was an early wake up call at 0530 for the 0600 transfer in our two vehicles to Ramechhap Airport for our Tara Air flight to Lukla. We were supposed to be on Summit Air and I never really found out why we were flying on Tara Air. After an efficient check in process we passed through security. I was on the first flight with most of the group but the second flight was right behind us.
Our ancient DHC-6 Twin Otter climbed up out of the valley and it wasn’t long before we were in Lukla and reunited with the second flight passengers at the Eco Paradise Lodge where we enjoyed breakfast, filled water bottles and sorted our kit before it was whisked away by the crew.
Our first day of trekking from Lukla was to Phakding along an undulating trail with lunch at Thado Koshi, the lowest point on the entire trek. The weather was kind to us, overcast and not too hot.
We arrived in Phakding around 1630 and were soon settled into the Bright Star Lodge where we were all in en-suite rooms and some even had hot water. The lodge had a brand new dining room which was very comfortable and had lots of space around the log burner stove.
Our first trek dinner was excellent and some of the best food I’ve ever experienced. Kamal gave us a briefing for the following day and Dr Sudip KC and I monitored everyone’s O2 and Pulse which we’d record every morning and evening throughout the trek. Dr Sudip KC consulted with a few of the group whose O2/Pulse readings were slightly above normal readings.
8th November: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
0600 wake up was followed by 0700 breakfast which was very good and we were on the way northwards alongside the Dudh Kosi river.
Our lunch stop was at Jorsale where the chips were amazing and Kamal said the potatoes in the Khumbu area where we’re trekking, are the best in Nepal
After lunch, the long climb up to Namche Bazaar began and the group spread out but stopped often which is the only way to reach Namche Bazaar. We crossed the new bridge as the older one is no longer in use.
The Camp ‘d Base Lodge provided us with satisfactory rooms which were en-suite and had showers with hot water. I thought the dining room was a bit over crowded and noisy and didn’t allow for an effective briefing due to the excess background noise from other groups.
9th November: Namche Bazaar to Khumjung (3,790m) and on to Kangjuma (3,600m)
I tend to get out of bed before the 0600 requirement and find a cup of tea to help me wake up. Breakfast was pancakes and omelette which seemed to be enjoyed by everyone. There isn’t much talk during meal times which usually indicates that people are enjoying the food.
Once again we were leaving our accommodation before our 0800 target and we climbed up out of Namche Bazaar past the Gompa before turning right and climbing up to the Syangboche Airstrip, high above Namche Bazaar.
We crossed the airstrip and climbed up to the Everest View Hotel (3,880m) but Kamal had asked the group not to purchase drinks here as local group leaders aren’t treated very well there. We had time to look around before we continued down to Kumjung to look at the school which was built by the Edmund Hillary Foundation.
From Kumjung a 30 minute descent brought us to the Ama Damlam Lodge in Kyangjuma where the terrace provides a great viewing platform towards Ama Damlan (6,812m) and Thamserku (6,608m). The rooms are nicely appointed with en-suite bathrooms but no hot water. Hot showers are available for Rps400. WiFi is available for Rps2,000 for a 10Gb card which should work higher up the trail towards Everest Base Camp and is offered by Everest Link (Extreme Internet) which was adequate for simple WiFi tasks but generally poor in respect of uploading images.
10th November: Kyangjuma to Pangboche (4,000m)
Breakfast was good and we left just before our target time of 0800. The owner gave Kamal and I some cookies for the day which was a pleasant gesture. I liked her lodge and the views from the terrace are fantastic and it’s worth stopping here for a rest and drink if not overnighting.
The descent down to the river was easy enough and after crossing the suspension bridge the long climb up to the Thyngboche then began and the group began to spread out. At one stage those in front were waiting for the ones at the back to catch up. This wasn’t ideal and I spoke with Kamal to ensure this situation wasn’t repeated.
I reached the monastery at about midday where Kamal suggested we continue down to Debouche for lunch with the intention to look around the monastery on the way back.
Lunch at Debouche was Tibetan Bread and Chips which was enjoyed by all.
It was about a 2.5 hour walk up to Pangboche and our Everest Summit Lodge for two nights. The rooms were very nicely appointed and with en-suite bathrooms where the shower could be activated for Rps400. The Everest Link Wifi seems to have a mind of its own and regularly needs to be reconnected – it consistently fails to upload/send images.
After dinner, Kamal’s evening briefing informed us of the planned acclimatisation for the following day and this resulted in an amount of discussion.
11th November: Acclimatisation day from Pangboche to Ama Dablam Base Camp (4,700m)
Up before the 0600 call after a reasonable sleep to find the weather is fine and clear for our acclimatisation walk which Kamal has planned for the group. Personally, I think the planned route is too far for some of the group although the “Climb High – Sleep Low” concept is important to aid the acclimatisation process.
The Everest Link WiFi remains poor at all lodges with phones continually having to be reconnected.
Unfortunately one client was very briefly left behind but I’d realised this already and left Basu there. The group waited 100m round the corner whilst looking at water driven prayer wheels. It took 2hrs to reach the viewpoint at 4,400m which is higher than our destination of Dingboche tomorrow.
At the viewpoint I thought it best to accompany one client back down to Pangboche where we arrived at around midday. Soon after two other clients arrived back. The main group returned from Ama Dablam Base Camp at around 1530 with some clearly being quite exhausted.
Dinner was fried rice, fried momo and fried potatoes which didn’t appeal to me much as they were not cooked thoroughly. Tinned peaches were enjoyable for dessert before most of the group went off to their rooms.
12th November: Pangboche to Dingboche (4,350m)
I’m definitely not getting enough sleep so will ask Dr Sudip If I can take a Boots sleeping tablet tonight. Generally speaking, sleeping tablets shouldn’t be used at high altitude because they can depress respiration.
Kamal was unhappy with our Phakding lodge for various reasons and vowed never to use it again.
Pangboche to Dingboche was only a morning walk and we lunched on arrival at our Bright Star Lodge. This lodge wasn’t in the Everest Link WiFi system but the private WiFi there was quite satisfactory. The lodge was at the top of Dingboche so it would make our start easier for the following day.
During the afternoon we made a short video demonstrating how the PAC should be used, based on an idea by Avilash Bista, an Indian Mountain Guide from White Magic Mountaineering – this new video was made with his approval.
The Climbing Guide for the Island Peak group popped in later on to meet the 6 clients and to review their equipment and brief the group.
Whilst monitoring the group that evening we were stunned to see one person record a pulse of 200 beats per minute! On further investigation it seemed she’d just used her inhaler which can accelerate pulse readings!
13th November: Dingboche to Lobouche (4,940m)
From the lodge, we climbed up to a chorten to begin the long walk up the north side of the valley to Thukla, our destination for lunch. It’s always a pleasant walk until having to cross the river just before Thukla where the path has been continually washed away making the last part of the walk to our Yak Lodge somewhat tiresome.
After lunch a 1.5hr walk saw us climb to the ridge above where there are dozens of memorials to climbers who have lost their lives in the area. Prayer flags also adorn the area.
We reached Lobouche after 1.5hrs and Kamal had allocated our rooms. This turned out to be the worst lodge experience on this trek: Mother Earth Lodge – probably best to avoid!
14th November: Lobouche to Gorak Shep (5,170m)
The lodge at Lobouche was fairly grim in respect of toilets for everyone to use as lodges with en-suite rooms were far behind us now. After breakfast we set off for the 4hr walk to Gorak Shep.
Dr Sudip is always busy treating the group and he is a pleasure to have along. Morning and evening monitoring of O2 and pulse continues and records kept.
It was a long 4hrs to Gorak Shep, particularly crossing the boulder field as we neared Gorak Shep. Kamal had gone ahead so room allocations were quickly completed and we sat down to lunch.
A group set off after lunch for Kalar Patar whilst the others relaxed around our Himalaya Lodge which is quite pleasant. The toilets seem good, unlike at last night’s Mother Earth Lodge. Dinner was satisfactory that evening.
15th November: Everest Base Camp (5,365m)
After a good night’s sleep (after one Diamox tablet taken the night before), I was down in the dining room looking for a mug of tea to warm me up. At high altitude, a good night’s sleep includes frequent trips to the loo for pee relief! I think our trekking crew are the best I’ve ever worked with and it’s nice to have Kamal with us, he no longer comes on treks but is here because we have known each other for many years.
We left Gorak Shep at the normal departure time from lodges of 0800hrs for the 3hr walk to Everest Base Camp. Jane and I were slightly behind the others but we were all soon celebrating the 100% success of the group in reaching this celebrated location. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction that everyone had reached our objective.
EBC THOUGHTS FROM JANE WOOD:
“A picture paints a thousand words. 30 years of dreaming about walking into Everest Base Camp, following in the footsteps of my heroes, became a reality. My emotional outburst reflected the immensity of the moment.“
“I could never have achieved my dream but for the tremendous support and encouragement from Alan (who walked with me every step of the way), our amazing guides and great friends.”
“The whole trip was mentally, physically and emotionally draining. I wept seeing the beautiful mountains of Makalu, Cho Oyo and Pumori. I wept seeing the memorial stones of Scott Fischer and Rob Hall from the 1996 Everest tragedy that I’d read so much about. I wept seeing the Khumba Icefall but those last steps walking into Everest Base Camp brought years of dreams and emotions to a head.”
“Nothing worthwhile comes easy. The physical and mental effort required for day upon day of hard trekking at altitude, operated in military precision, finally realise a dream for the whole group.”
16th November: Gorak Shep to Pheriche (4,280m)
A return crossing over the boulder field to Lobouche was hard going to Lobouche with slight delays where the path was narrow for groups to pass. Kamal had arranged tea for us in Lobouche which was appreciated.
From Lobouche we continued down to the memorials and I took more photographs whilst we rested before continuing down to Thukla for lunch.
After lunch it took a couple of hours to descend to Pheriche and the Himalayan Hotel, one of the best managed lodges in the area. The dining room is particularly well appointed and the food of a high standard.
Dinner was very good and Craig, Mark and I enjoyed a couple of beers together before their departure for Island Peak tomorrow.
17th November: Pheriche to Kyangjuma (3,600m)
This was the morning our Island Peak Group leave us and I was sad to see them go, particularly with my good friends Craig and Mark. The group of six had made all their own private arrangements for this extension and opted to leave the main group here at Pheriche.
The majority of the group continued out of Pheriche and crossed the river before heading south through Somare, Phakding and Debouche before climbing up to Tengboche for lunch at the Bakery where the most amazing pizza followed generous bowls of tomato soup.
Leaving Tengboche Monastery behind, we descended to the suspension bridge at Fungidtango. Then, the long climb up to the Ama Dablan Lodge at Kyangjuma began and I arrived there at around 1700hrs. I was surprised to be advised that three of the group were missing but they were soon found, having taken a wrong turning up to Kumjung.
Dinner was excellent – yak steak and chips! My Room 103 was within range of the WiFi in the dining room which was very convenient.
18th November: Kyangjuma to Phakding (2,640m)
The owner of the lodge made me a fresh pot of coffee when he saw me and this was really good and much appreciated.
The descent towards Lukla continues today after an enjoyable night in one of the better lodges we’d experienced on the trip: the Ama Dablam Lodge.
The contouring path to Namche Bazaar was a pleasure to walk along with frequent photographic opportunities of the views of Everest and Ama Dablam behind us.
On arrival in Namche Bazaar, the group were given an hour to themselves to wander around this fascinating town or simply to enjoy the delights of the Everest Bakery, the oldest such bakery in town. My coffee and chocolate brownie were simply heavenly.
The descent to the new bridge across the Dudh Kosi was long but we were soon across the river and into Jorsale for lunch at the Buddha Lodge we’d used on the upward journey. The soup followed by chips were enjoyed by all, apparently the Khumbu potatoes are claimed to be the best in Nepal.
Continuing southwards, we left the National Park and the last of us were into Phakding and the Sunrise Lodge by about 1600hrs.
There was an element of surprise just before dinner when a Japanese trekker collapsed suddenly but Dr Sudip was on the case immediately with great professionalism. The diagnosis was blood sugar related, compounded by the individual failing to take his medication, preferring to drink several beers whilst sat around the log burner. Dr Sudip and I were thanked profusely by the Japanese group.
Our Tipping Committee completed collecting the tips and with advice from Kamal, allocated appropriately for all of our crew. Kamal and Dr Sudip were not included as professional personnel. Jane offered to arrange a small collection for Dr Sudip as he had provided such an excellent service to everyone in the group. There had been an issue with the tips as long ago, I’d thought these were included but that wasn’t the case. Tipping is such a sensitive issue and having wrongly advised the group they’d been included, it was difficult to explain that the tips hadn’t been included. I made up a shortfall in the total amount suggested by Kamal as it appeared some of the group hadn’t contributed for the group kitty and also for the tip Jane was arranging for Dr. Sudip.
19th November: Phakding to Lukla (2,850m)
I wished Jasmine a happy 35th birthday.
Generally the group all slept well at the lower altitude of Phakding and we set off after breakfast for the 4hr walk to the Paradise Lodge in Lukla. The group were eagerly anticipating the afternoon off in Lukla with it’s numerous bars, coffee shops and a wide range of other shops to buy from.
A combined party for Jasmine and the end of a successful trek was a pleasant way to spend the evening.
20th November: Lukla to Kathmandu
I was in the Dining Room for a mug of tea soon after 0600 and the others gradulally filtered in for breakfast at 0700. With no incoming flights we were advised that early morning mist in Ramechhap was preventing flight operations.
Our Tara Air Dornier 228 finally took off at 1130 and we were soon on the ground at Ramechhap waiting for some of our group and luggage to arrive on a second aircraft.
Our bus set off from Ramechhap 1230 but the bus broke down after about an hour due to radiator problems and overheating which took almost two hours to repair. We arrived back at the Hotel Tibet in Kathmandu at around 1930.
It was too late for our planned Nepalii Dinner and Cultural Show so Kamal advised he’d take the group out for lunch the following day to the K2 Restuarant in Thamel.
I dined close by at the Italian Restaurant (Piano – Piano) in the almost adjacent Nomad Hotel which I can highly recommend.
21st November: At leisure in Kathmandu
A morning city tour had been included in the itinerary so most of the group set off at 0930 for this whilst others set off independently. The city tour was to Bodnath and Pashupatinath with the final drop off point being for lunch in Thamel.
Kamal hosted lunch at K-Too Restaurant in lieu of the missed event last night due to a late arrival at the Hotel Tibet following our 8hr bus journey. After lunch, the group either remained in Thamel or walked back to the Hotel Tibet with me.
For myself, I spent the afternoon updating this diary.
8 of the group left the Hotel Tibet just after 1700 for their overnight flights with Qatar Airways back to Cardiff, via Doha.
For some of us, dinner was supposed to have been at my favourite Ghar-e-Kebab in the Annapurna Hotel but as Jane was ill (K-Too Restaurant??) we cancelled for the Ghar-e-Kebab. Mags, Paul and I went round to the excellent Piano-Piano where Paul kindly bought us dinner which was much appreciated. Gianantonio who runs the Piano-Piano Bistro runs an excellent restaurant and nothing is too much trouble for him and his team. He is more than happy to provide dishes that have been modified to give diners exactly what they’d like. Undoubtedly, this must be one of the best restaurants in Kathmandu now and I can highly recommend it.
Back at the Hotel Tibet we met some of the others on the bar terrace for late drinks. I brought my Talsiker down and we shared that until it was time for bed. We said farewell to Konrad and Katarzyna due to their early departure the following morning.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM MAGS DAVIES:
“At the age of 59 I think I had a very late mid life crisis, decided I’d walk up Snowdon ( a mountain I’d walk every summer as a child) and Ben Nevis before my 60th Birthday-both ticked off. Then whilst on a NNAS Silver course with Alan, the voice came “hey do you fancy coming to EBC with me next year, you can share a room with Jane”.
Well after 24 hours consideration, I was in.
14 months of training and still not convinced I’d make it, we were off.
It was a hard slog at times particularly when I constantly had an upset stomach which left me feeling slightly fatigued, but through it all Alan was just “Mr Motivator” but without the Lycra (for those of you who are old enough to remember him) ensuring I got to the next stage. On the day we got to base camp, words can’t express the sense of euphoria experienced not just for oneself but for everyone within the group, 100% of the group achieved their goal, absolutely amazing.
I can’t thank Alan enough for this unforgettable experience.“
22nd November: Departure from Kathmandu
Konrad and Katarzyna had left at 0515 for the airport and their Nepal Airlines flight to Delhi and an onward flight with Air India to LHR. They were travelling on separate flight tickets with the two airlines which is something I wouldn’t do but I hope the transit in Delhi works for them.
My morning was spent trying to update this diary with the frustratingly erratic WiFi here in the Hotel Tibet.
Lunch was with an old friend, Tulsi Gwyali of Nepal Sanctuary Expeditions with whom I’ve worked three or four times.
Back at the Hotel Tibet I showered and changed into fresh clothes ready for our 1630 departure to the airport. Later on I was on the Qatar Airways flight to Doha and then on to Birmingham.
ISLAND PEAK (6,189m)
Island Peak (6,189m) by Mark Demmery – ML
“After the 100% success rate at EBC the day before and a lovely evening sharing a beer with Alan and the rest of the group in Pheriche, it was time to leave the main group and start out on our own journey.
Our group of six: Rob, Paul, Roger and Becca from the Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team and Craig and I left Pheriche at the usual time of 8am and with Sudip and Khem as trekking guides we enjoyed the four hour walk up to Chukkung at 4,730m. Here we met Tashi Sherpa, 10 time Everest summiteer, our climbing Sherpa for Island Peak. He checked our kit and those that needed to hired boots etc for the ascent in three days time. We spent the rest of the day hydrating.
During the evening Roger told the group he had decided he would be staying at Chhukung. He had been fighting a chest infection for nearly two weeks and the higher we got the worse it got. His was the worst case within the group but Craig and Rob were also struggling with the same infection. It was a blow to the group but the right decision made at the right time for Roger.
The next morning we left Roger and Khem and for four hours made our way up to Island Peak Base Camp at 5,080m. The temperature dropped as we ascended and once at base camp we donned all our warm kit including altitude boots and spent most of the time in the mess tent drinking hot tea and juice and enjoying the company of other climbers from Russia, Luxumbourg and Belgium.
The next day was an acclimatization day so after a shortish walk we spent some time with Tashi and his brother Dawa practicing ascending and descending the fixed ropes we would use on the ascent the next day. It was now that Rob decided he wasn’t going to go any further. His chest had got worse up at this high altitude, he had got very cold and didn’t feel he would be able to complete the ascent. We were gutted to lose Rob as well but he soon left with Sudip to return to Chukkung. For the rest of us it was time to prepare for tomorrow so a meal, lots of fluids and bed ready for the midnight alarm and a quick breakfast before starting our climb.
The day started early, very cold and very dark. With head torches on Tashi led us, Craig, Paul, Becca and I on the long ascent from base camp straight to the top as high camp wasn’t an option for us.
The first four hours were on terrain similar to that found around the Tryfan area of Ogwen valley, grade 1 scrambling. We then came to crampon point and after fitting our crampons and harness we moved onto hard snow over ground with big drops and crevasses all around us. Using the Sherpa hand wrap on the fixed lines on some of the more exciting ground we made our way onto the steeper top snow fields. Here we clipped our ascenders onto the fixed line and on ground at around 45 to 50 degrees we slowly made our way over the 6,000m mark up through the crux and onto the top with screaming muscles and bursting lungs. We spent a few minutes on the summit at 6,189m above sea level enjoying the most spectacular views of Nuptse, Lhotse and Ama Dablam before fitting our figure of 8 descenders and abseiling back down to the lower snow field.
We spent a few minutes on the summit at 6,189m above sea level enjoying the most spectacular views of Nuptse, Lhotse and Ama Dablam before fitting our figure of 8 descenders and abseiling back down to the lower snow field.
We spent the next two hours descending getting ever more tired until at last we were back at base camp 11 hours after leaving it. Exhausted we packed our kit, had a quick lunch and after hugs and goodbyes with Tashi, Dawa and the staff and fellow climbers we walked down to Chukkung where after the most exhausting day I have ever had on a mountain we were greeted by Roger and Rob and enjoyed a beer and some very much needed sleep.
It was a fantastic adventure shared with a great group of people and a memory I will cherish forever.“
- This 2019 Bigfoot EBC trek was fully compliant with the requirements of BS8848:2014 for adventure travel outside of the UK. Bigfoot Services Limited provides BS8848:2014 training workshops during our Off Site Safety Management training courses which are certificated by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS).
- Useful organisations in Nepal include: Kathmandu Environmental Education Programme (KEEP) and the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG).
- Flights to Kathmandu: I chose to fly Qatar Airways because I’m a member of the One World Alliance. If I wasn’t however, I’d most certainly be flying Turkish Airlines. With an 8hr flight time from Istanbul to Kathmandu it offers the greatest opportunity to sleep during the flight. It should be noted that Craig and Mark on their return flight were late landing into Istanbul which resulted in Craig missing his London flight. He was on the next flight into LHR but his back didn’t arrive until the next day.
- Bigfoot Services Limited offers the 16hr REC (L5) Travel & Expedition First Aid Course and the 4hr REC certificated High Altitude First Aid Workshop.
- Pre-trek/expedition training courses are available from Bigfoot Services Limited and are usually a 16hr course held over a weekend in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
- Suggested reading: Trekking in the Everest Region by Jamie McGuiness (ISBN 1 873756 60 7).
- My next trek will be to RaRa Lake along part of the Great Himalayan Trail – October 2020.