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[RD] The Everest Basecamp Trek

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by warpus, May 18, 2020.

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  1. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    It was just four of us hiking together - the three amigos and our fearless guide. Our porter was usually hiking well ahead of us, so he we almost never saw him on the trail. He did join us for the acclimatization days though; if one person fell behind a bit (like me), the guide could stay behind with the slowpoke and the porter could stay with the rest of the group and look after them. There was nothing for the porter to carry from A to B on these days, and most porters want to eventually become guides, so I suspect this is like a job shadowing sort of experience for them.

    We came across two types of groups of people hiking together, for the most part. There were the large groups, made up of 10-15+ people, all hiking together. This is the situation I wanted to avoid, which is why I booked everything myself instead of going with a package deal from a travel operator. This way we paid less and got a far more personal experience. Our guide could do a much better job looking after each one of us, since there were only three of us. I feel like we established a bond with our guide that might not have been possible with a larger group.

    The other kind of group we ran into on the trail were smaller groups, like ours.. usually a bit larger though, let's say 4-5 friends hiking together. Most of these groups did not opt to hire their own guide or porter, at least based on the people we talked to. But sometimes you just don't ask questions like that, so it's tough to say. Overall I would say most people go with a larger group. It's just so much easier to sign on to a website, pay, and let the company figure everything out, aside from your flight in and out of the country.

    So yeah, it was just the four of us walking together for the two weeks! It made it feel like our own little expedition, which added to the experience. We (i.e. the three amigos) also had the power to alter the itinerary at any time. This was our expedition. If we felt like it we could have extended our hike and added a second alpine crossing (which we considered). We could have turned around at any time or taken an alternate route. Our guide was being paid to lead us for 2 weeks time, but our destination was up to us. We didn't end up altering the route at all, but when you're with a large group the company calls the shots. When you hire your own guide, you do.

    If you're wondering what would have happened if we needed to extend our hike by let's say 2-3 days (or even longer).. Our guide would have called the airport (at the trailhead in Lukla) and rescheduled our flights for us. We would have figured out the payment for the extra days after the fact as well. The more common alternation to the hiking itinerary is to make them shorter, in which case you do not get any of your money back for the days you didn't end up hiking on.

    This way we also had some options in the case of one of us coming down with a significant enough set of high altitude sickness symptoms. When that happens you are supposed to descend right away. If you're in a larger group, then you are on a schedule. If you have to descend, your trip is over, as your group will continue on without you. But if you hire your own guide like we did, you call the shots, so your whole group could then spend an extra day waiting it out with you at lower altitudes, potentially resuming the hike a day or two behind schedule. We gave ourselves enough days at the end to add on to our itinerary as needed, in case something like this ended up happening.

    I don't mean to knock hiking with a larger group at all, as I had a brilliant experience doing that in Peru back in 2012. However, for this particular hike, with so many other people you come across on the trail.. IMO hiking with a small group makes a huge difference. It made it feel less like a packaged trip and more like an adventure
     
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  2. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Retired Moderator Supporter

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    I agree having a personal guide for you and or your group is much better than joining a larger group. I'm thinking through that same process for a trip to East Africa.
     
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  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 7 - Dingboche to Lobuche
    And the emergen-C emergency

    This day's first 30 minutes or so were exactly the same as the acclimatization climb from the previous day.. except we were now carrying a lot more than just daypacks with the bare minimum.

    After this point the trails diverged and instead of continuing on to the summit we continued down another trail. In the following photo you are looking almost directly south, about 20 minutes after the trails diverged. The people you can see in the distance on the left are hiking towards Dingboche, which is just behind that hill. The village down below on the right is Pheriche.

    To see a 3D interactive view of this day's route, click here. You will be able to look around and better understand the context of what I'm attempting to describe. The route took us a bit closer to this edge than on the map, so that we could get that look down at Pheriche.

    Based on the timestamps on the photos it seems that this day took us about 4 and a half hours (including lunch and all breaks)



    Something a bit unfortunate happened to me close to this spot. I am not really sure how much of it I can describe here.. but I've written this story out previously on reddit, so I will link you to those posts instead.

    I will give you a bit of an introduction, so you know what you're getting yourself into before you click the links and read the story.

    As you know I filled up one of my 1L water bottles with a water and emergen-C mixture every morning, while the other water bottle was filled with pure water (plus a water purification tablet in each). Emergen-C is a sort of powdery vitamin C supplement that you mix with water and drink. Clinical studies have shown that a vitamin C supplement can improve mild altitude sickness.. Although there seem to exist studies that conclude otherwise, vitamin C is usually recommended as something to bring with you for this hike.

    Fresh water tastes much better when you're thirsty (than this mix, even though it was orange flavoured), so at some point I complained about the taste. On this particular morning my friends suggested that I mix the packet of Emergen-C with a small amount of water, drink the whole thing in one go, and then fill up both my water bottles with fresh water. This seemed like a great idea, so that's what I did.

    However, at the time I did not know that Vitamin C is a laxative.

    Story writeup 1
    Story writeup 2

    These stories are factually true in every details that's described.. although I did not take any photos for obvious reasons.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2020
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  4. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Views from the Trail

    This was taken maybe a half an hour after the last photo I posted. Once again you get to see the power of the Sherpa porters in action. We are at about 4,500m here. If I had tried to carry a heavy backpack like that I would not have gotten very far..



    In this shot you are looking back at the way we came from. Yep, these porters were passing us!

    On this stretch of the trail it was nice to occasionally look back to see the magnificent Ama Dablam watching over us. That's the mountain you see in the distance a bit to the left, towering over everything else.

    edit: I just noticed! That's our guide there sneaking in on the right
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Leaving Ama Dablam Behind

    In this shot you can see my hiking buddy Steve looking back at the direction we had hiked from. The settlement you see is Dughla, where we probably had lunch. At this point we were climbing up the moraine of the Khumbu glacier, which is the glacier running all the way to basecamp.

    [editor's note: The above paragraph has been updated, as I've since figured out that it was wrong on a couple points. It's been fixed and it is now factual]

    Dominating the sky a bit to the left is Ama Dablam. It had been looking over us over the last couple days, but it would not be long until it was fully out of view.

     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  6. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Retired Moderator Supporter

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    That yellow pack has the outline of Taiwan on it. Chinese hikers on their way home?
     
  7. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yes, probably, unless it was a backpacker from another country who just happened to buy a waterproof cover like that while backpacking through Taiwan or something. Looking at the map of the area, these hikers are heading to Dunghla for lunch, on their way back from having visited basecamp.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Everest Memorial

    We had been climbing up the Khumbu Glacier morraine, which takes about an hour. This is the glacier that runs all the way to basecamp, where it turns into the Khumbu icefall.. This icefall is the most dangerous part of the route to the summit of Mt. Everest.

    When you are finally at the top of the moraine, you reach the Everest Memorial. There are many memorials and prayer flags here honouring those who have died attempting to climb Mt. Everest.



    The trail would now be even more rocky and even more sandy.. with a lot less vegetation around.
     
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  9. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Chumbu and Pumori

    This photo was taken from the Everest Memorial, facing in the direction in which we were hiking. Up ahead you can see Chumbu (6,859m) and Pumori (7,161m). Chumbu has never been climbed before.

     
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  10. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Retired Moderator Supporter

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    I was looking for more info on Chumbu and came across this panoramic view. Chumbu appears to be just out of the shot on the left, but you can see Pumori and Ama Dablam.


    Mera Peak NNO.jpg
     
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  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Oh nice! That was taken from Mera Peak, which stands at 6,476m. It's crazy how much higher Everest is than some of these nearby peaks. At this point we were already at 5,000m, and it just didn't make sense in my head that some of these snowy peaks were not that much higher in elevation than we were. Still over a kilometre higher than us, but they almost seem within reach if you just look at the numbers! And then there's Everest summit, which at this point was still almost 4km higher up than we were.

    It's possible I messed up some of these mountain names along the way by the way, as it's not easy to try to identify them. They can all look quite different depending on your vantage point, so looking up photos does not always help. I've been looking at 3D maps, where I can move around to try to find the spot from where the photo was taken. In this case I'm about 75% sure that I got it right, as no other peaks really make sense. I doubt I made any mistakes before this either, but just so you know
     
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  12. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Your maps and photos have been excellent!
     
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  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Hiking Alongside the Khumbu Glacier

    For the remainder of this day we would be walking right beside the fabled Khumbu glacier, which is the world's highest in altitude. You don't really get to see any of the glacier here, but it's just to the right. What you are looking at is the glacier moraine, which is essentially an accumulation of glacial debris that has formed over millions of years. The glacier is slowly flowing downhill and moving rock and dirt along with it.. As this debris moves downhill and gets deposited along the way, the moraine end up becoming slightly more elevated than the surrounding terrain.

    The glacier runs all the way to Everest Basecamp, which is where it turns into the Khumbu icefall. All of this is essentially straight ahead, although we would not be walking all the way to Basecamp this day. Our final destination for the day would be Lobuche, which is sort of nestled in between two glaciers.

    Up ahead you can see Pumori (7,161m), Lingtren (7,161m), and Khumbutse (6,636m)



    At these altitudes it feels more like you're walking on another planet. The terrain is very sparse in vegetation and it gets rockier and sandier the further you go. This makes hiking tougher and more annoying, adding to our fatigue with every single step. It wasn't that bad yet, but it was a sign of things to come..

    edit: I found a good aerial shot of the area. It will help explain where exactly we are in relation to Mt. Everest



    We are right at the end of the Khumbu Glacier, in the bottom-left corner of the image, hiking alongside it heading north.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
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  14. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Arrival in Lobuche



    This day's hike was a bit shorter and took us about 4 and a half hours from start to finish. This meant that we arrived at the tiny settlement of Lobuche (4,940m) at a reasonable hour and would have time to go on a short walk to a nearby lookout point after checking into our rooms. There was a somewhat demanding climb earlier on in the day (right after the Everest Memorial), but we arrived with enough energy to consider exploring a bit more after getting settled.
     
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  15. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Those page 1 links are awesome! Expect them to be copied.
     
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  16. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    Looks like the foundations of all those buildings are cut stone. I'm assuming they just shaped local stone. But did you notice if it was mortared or just dry laid?
     
  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    You know, it probably depends. Traditional building methods use mud and clay as mortar, but cement is definitely used as well. It has to be flown into Lukla and carried to the building site on yak caravans though, and that's expensive, so it probably depends on the builder. I bet the further from Lukla, the more likely that a structure did not use cement.

    The teahouses get so cold at night that at times you feel like you might as well just be sleeping outside. The walls protect you from the wind and rain, but not much else. Some of the ones we stayed at closer to Lukla seemed to follow stricter building standards and codes.. but the further we walked, the more these teahouses just seemed like hastily assembled structures. The common areas at the teahouses were popular because in the evenings that was the only warm part of the entire building. That room was always heated with a central stove, and that's where most of the hikers spent the evenings, huddled in that room keeping warm. There were always Sherpas sitting right by the stove keeping warm, whereas hikers usually sat further away at the tables and what not. If you went to your room to take a nap, you would be coooold, until you climbed into your sleeping bag that is..

    We saw a bunch of new construction in the village of Gokyo, which you will see a bit later. From what we could see most of these new construction sites were done by companies that would use cement. i.e. they seemed to be buildings with multiple stories probably targeted at hikers willing to spend more (than just the $3-$5 that a teahouse will charge you to sleep there). In contrast some of the teahouses were constructed by locals trying to make a life for themselves, so many of those were likely built using more traditional methods.
     
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  18. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Lookout Point near Lobuche

    After getting settled in our rooms we went for a short hike up to a nearby lookout point. From here we would almost be able to see Everest Base Camp.



    You are looking in the direction we would be hiking in the next day. In the distance you can see the Khumbu icefall; it's the white line at the end of the Khumbu glacier, which is on the right. Everest Base Camp lies just at the edge of the icefall, although at this time of year there would be no tents there.. and I believe it's slightly out of view as well
     
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  19. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Retired Moderator Supporter

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    So Everest is towards the left shrouded by clouds?
     
  20. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Mt. Everest is to the right and out of view. To best explain where exactly it is, let me post this map again:

    Spoiler :

    The photo in question was taken from a point just below where it says "Khumbu Glacier", almost right in between the glacier coming in from the left (Lobuche Glacier) and Khumbu Glacier. Edit: where the red dot is

    That white line you see in the distance in that photo is the very edge of the Khumbu icefall (marked in the aerial shot). To get to the summit of Mt. Everest you'd hike there (i.e. Basecamp) and then basically do a sharp 90 degree turn to the right and climb the Khumbu icefall.

    You can't see Mt. Everest from here because Nuptse (7,861m) is in the way. You can't see Everest from basecamp either actually, as Lhotse (8,516m) is in the way on that side. That's the main reason why people climb Kala Patthar the day after visiting Basecamp. You get beautiful views of Mt. Everest from the summit; it's basically the highlight of the classic version of the hike.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
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