Everest Base Camp

Nepal part 3 | Salliri to EBC | Day 150

A beautiful gloom frozen in icy silence. Eerie ambient light illuminates our path to Everest Basecamp. Crunching of frozen earth echoes with every step as we trudge through a shark’s mouth of deeply gashed ice, approaching the ground where the bravest souls start incredible expeditions.

Everest Basecamp initially seemed like a superlative hike, bragging rights of sorts, something to do just to say you had. Turns out the hike is nothing short of amazing. Basecamp submerges you in those gorgeous massive snowcapped mountains you can only find in the Himalaya. We felt a certain sense of unfulfillment after completing Annapurna Circuit and knew there was more to be seen in Nepal. After surveying a few Sherpa guides for their favorite trek, we opted to follow their advice give our bikes a rest and give Basecamp a chance. We had to move fast to fit in a sixteen day trek and started just two days after our arrival back in Kathmandu from Annapurna Circuit. Perhaps we should have rested…but it’s Everest! We just could not let Nepal go without seeing the highest point on our Earth. 

We took a short flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, the world’s most dangerous airport. A 98 foot long airstrip with imminent death at either end: smashed into the mountain face if you don't stick the landing, or straight off a cliff if you don't make take off. Grabbing the first seat, only second to the pilots, my stomach jumped as we dropped in altitude gliding amongst the mountains. “We’re not flying too low, the mountains are just really high” I tell myself. I take comfort in what I assume would at least be a quick death. Hitting turbulence in our tiny 15 seater tin can, I try to relax like the pilot who’s nonchalantly steering with one hand. No worries here, these guys are world class pilots hitting this dash of a runway at lest twenty times a day. I white-knuckled my way through the entire landing.

Sherpas are cut straight from the very rock they come from, tough and unwavering. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the incredible strength and perseverance these people have. Life in the mountains is rough. Sherpas descend from Tibet and continue to practice Tibetan Buddhism. They believe in numerous deities and demons of the mountains. Each mountain clan worships a certain mountain peak as their protective deity. Sagarmatha, Chomolungma, “Mother of the World,”  Everest, whatever you want to call her, she certainly has an enchanting presence.

"Sherpas are cut straight from the very rock they come from, tough and unwavering."

Huffing and puffing with my fifteen pound pack heading to our first stop, Phakding, a Nepali porter with a hundred and fifty pound pack skips past me… in flip-flops. There are no roads going to Basecamp. Everything, I mean EVERYTHING, takes the eight day trip up by donkey, yak, or man. Over 10,000 trekkers came through here last month and all the supplies needed to host such masses, everyone’s $8 bottles of beers and $5 snickers, have to be relayed by hand up the entire mountain.    

On our rest/acclimatization day in Namche Bazaar we hike up to Everest View Hotel, a beautiful minimalist Japanese designed hotel with views of Everest right out their back door. This hotel pumps fresh oxygen into pressurized rooms so guests could fly straight to 14,000 feet without experiencing altitude problems. Ridiculous what people will pay to not experience. Our first glimpse of the Holy Mother, she is just a small triangle on the horizon; but there she is, Mt. Everest! The highest place on our planet! I am way more excited to see Everest than I imagined.

Days are short and milage is limited by altitude gain. Rule of thumb suggests you not sleep above 1,500 feet higher than the previous night and keeps everyone around the same pace. We quickly assembled a crew of amazing people and stick together for pretty much the entirety of the trip up. Each night we gather in the only heated room by a wood-burning stove, the large communal eating room, and chat while drinking copious amounts of tea. 

Stu and Raj we previously met on the Annapurna Circuit and started the trek to Basecamp together. They were an awesome team. As a political advisor from Arizona, Stu was a great friend to have while grappling with the asshole of a President just elected. He was a wealth of information from presidents to how to build your own wood cabin. 



We make it to Tengboche, a picturesque Himalayan village perched up on a hill shadowed by Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam. The centerpiece of the village is a beautiful Tibetan monastery. We spent the afternoon outside sunning and making small talk with an elderly monk who didn't speak much English. Eventually, he led us inside and placed us in front row seats to a ceremony where grains and other harvest items were fed to a large smoking fire while a small group of monks chanted and played instruments for hours. Entranced, we stayed until the sun started to slip below the mountains. 

"Tengboche, a picturesque Himalayan village perched up on a hill shadowed by Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam."



Dan, a master of lifestyles, spends his winters teaching snowboarding in Vail and summers fly fishing in Alaska. And he is working on his own line of tie dye yoga pants. After his trek to Basecamp, Dan headed to Indonesia for some surf. This dude has it figured out.



"18,519 foot Kala Patthar is possibly the highest I will be in my entire life."

Arriving early in the afternoon at Dingboche, a village at a mere 14,500 feet, we all start to feel a little loopy, seriously dumb, and knew the altitude was kicking in. Eric and I popped Diamox, used to help with altitude, as it has served us well before. Altitude ain’t nothing to mess with, by the end of the trek we personally knew two people, including a guide, to be choppered out due to altitude sickness. At $6,000 for a helicopter trip, you might want to be extra attentive to your body and proceed with caution. 

Its not often you meet two groups of extraordinary adventurers in one trek:

Christine, Scott and Maria. They are on the most heroic of long distance treks. The ultimate. Five months of long days and cold nights trekking across Nepal on the Great Himalayan High trail. I have never met anyone who has even attempted this trip, and honestly, only a handful of people have. Scott and Christine, brother and sister, will try to complete the entire trail self supported with only a guide. They might be the first people to do this route without a porter. They were already one month into their trek, and we were both mesmerized by their stories. We get their email updates, and they are still on their way! Here’s to the end!



Brigitte and Ivo have been cycling around the world for three years. Little by little they have slimmed down their gear to a minimalist bikepacking set up. Just as we were about to hop on the bus to Kathmandu we had to pull them over and talk. One of their favorite places to cycle is Eastern Tibet and they gave us a few ideas on how to spend our time in China. They are still going with no end in sight! Check out their blog: globoride.ch




18,519 foot Kala Patthar is possibly the highest I will be in my entire life. To reach Kala Patthar is a slow, steep, scree riddled climb, but well worth the effort.  Late afternoon has great views of Everest and Lhotse. Elated by the 360' view, you hardly notice the lack of oxygen and ferocious wind trying to blow you off the mountain. The once tiny triangle off on the horizon had grown to a gargantuan mountain. Emotions were high. I still find it hard to put into words the overwhelming sense I felt perched on that high cliff still dwarfed by so many towering peaks surrounding us. The Holy Mother went into a blaze of sunset glory, oranges, pinks, and reds danced along the ridges plunging us into debilitating cold. We were down that thing in less than half the time it took to get up and running straight for our sleeping bags. 


4:00 AM alarm, dressed in literally every piece of clothing I have, we begin our trek to the very spot where great adventurers start, Everest Basecamp. The valley has an unearthly glow, the air is piercingly cold, and haunting silence follows us as we enter into the cove of monumental mountains. Memorials lined the trail as we came up, serving as reminder for all those lost to the undiscerning Holy Mother. I think back to Tenzing and Hillary in the 50’s and what crazed badasses they must have been. Only the inconceivably brave and questionably sane would want to continue beyond this point. The energy is intense even at this altitude, and it is hard to imagine what an expedition of that magnitude would be like. We were the first ones to Basecamp that morning. Momentarily pulling off our gloves, we snapped as many photos as we could before freezing temperatures forced our fingers back in.

"Haunting silence follows us as we enter into the cove of monumental mountains."

Given no altitude constraints, we see how far we can make it down that same day. What took three days to ascend we cover in eleven hours of trekking. Collapsing just before sunset with jelly legs, we treat ourselves to something to eat other than dal and rice. Thanksgiving came and went while we were in serious nowhere Nepal hiking our asses three days out from the main EBC trail to the highway in Salleri to catch a jeep, no turkey this year. Wrapping our mangled and bruised feet with duct tape, I think again, “maybe we should have rested after Annapurna Circuit…” We’ve both come down with colds and something resembling mild frost bite or stress induced eczema, the skin on our hands and feet are peeling like crazy. And we are still facing a 5,000 foot climb over a couple  mile span. Exhausted, I focus on the goal: $6 steak and a hot shower- it was going on seven days without.  Kathmandu is only 170 miles from Salleri, our exit point for this trek, but it would take roughly eleven hours to cover due to the utter shit roads. At 5:00 AM we jam eleven people and a rooster into a jeep meant for seven and the battle for shoulder room ensues. 

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