I Hiked To Everest Basecamp
On the 2nd of April 2023, I made it to Everest Base camp. It was probably one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done. I endured altitude sickness, sleep deprivation, and freezing temperatures and it was one the most amazing things I’ve ever done.
Lots of people have made it to base camp before, but this is how it went for me.
Day 1 - Arrival at Lukla (1800m)
We onboarded a tiny and shaky plane from Kathmandu a flew for about an hour to arrive at Lukla.
Stepping off the plane we witnessed the towering mountains all around us. I have no other word to describe the scale of these mountains but, humbling.
The team and I had to wait for a little bit for our luggage before we could begin. The plane was not big enough to store everybody’s backpacks so they were coming in the next plane in.
We passed the time by having by having some hot chocolates and once our luggage finally arrived we promptly started our first leg of the hike.
Our first 8km hike took us from Lukla to Phakding. We crossed our first couple of suspension bridges and already felt very high in the mountains.
We arrived at our first teahouse, the Sherpa Guide Lodge, where we would spend one night.
The team arriving at Lukla.
The Sherpa Guide Lodge.
Day 2 - Hike to Namche Bazaar (3200m)
Our Sherpas at the time didn’t tell us, but this would be one of the hardest treks of the trip.
Blissfully unaware, today we would ascend over 1000m. The route started easy and the weather was perfect for hiking. We enjoyed the stunning mountainous scenery around us as we continued to follow the beaten trail that followed the Kosi River upstream. We eventually reached the entry of the Sagarmatha National Park entry. The home of Mount Everest!
Entrance to Sagarmatha National Park.
The second half of the hike we had to push through a trail that turned steep and treacherous in places but the reward was arriving at the largest settlement along the course, Namche Bazaar. Here we would spend two days acclimatising to the new altitude at 3200m.
Enroute to Namche.
Day 3 - Namche Acclimatisation
A slightly more relaxed day after yesterday’s big hike. We got up early for a gentle walk near our tea house to be greeted by a stunning sunrise and we got our first glimpse of Mount Everest!
Mount Everest peaking out in the background.
In the second half of the day, we had a short trek to a tiny settlement and had a lesson about how to use oxygen masks (we didn’t need them!). After our open-air lecture, we trekked back to our tea house and had the rest of the afternoon off to explore the centre of Namche where cafes and interesting shops were plenty.
Me and the team enjoying some beverages in the Namche town square.
Day 4 - Namche Acclimatisation part 2
Overnight snow fell. It’s amazing how the scenery changes so dramatically after a dusting of snow. Over breakfast, the team and I were giddy as if Christmas had come early.
The view from outside our tea house
For our second acclimatisation day, we explored the areas in the vicinity of Namche Bazar some more. We went for a light trek to the nearby settlements of Khunde and Khumjung where we had the opportunity to go into the local hospital and school. It gave us a real sense of what living in the mountains is like.
Khunde village overlooking Ama Dablam
Prayer wheels greeted us at every location
Day 5 - Tengboche (3700m)
It was time to move on from Namche. It would be a fairly long hike to our next location, Tengboche. Before arriving we had the opportunity to visit what must be one of the highest-situated monasteries in the world. Here we had the opportunity to visit monks whilst they were praying and chanting with instruments. A truly amazing thing to witness.
Outside the Tengboche Gompa monastery (we were not allowed to take photos inside)
Day 6 - Dingbouche (4400m)
We were on the move again and it would be another long hike from Tengbouche to the settlement of Dingbouche where the environment started to get much harsher. We would reach an altitude of over 4400m. At this elevation, it was noticeably barren and cold now. The lack of greenery around me got to me a little bit and physically things were starting to get tough for me at this stage.
Barren lands at over 4200m. Shrubs and trees can’t grow at this altitude.
The route would take us through a cemetery of climbers and sherpas whose fate had been taken from climbing Mount Everest. We had a moment of reflection to think about all the hikers and sherpas that come before us here.
Views from the hiker’s cemetery
When we reached Tengbouche, we were surprised to find an endearing little cafe called Cafe 4410. They were serving high-quality coffees in a cosy environment and there was even a tiny little cinema! We had the chance to relax here for an hour, but as the evening drew in, the wind and snow started to pick up so we had to run back to our accommodation through a little whiteout. The teahouse was noticeably cold, so to keep warm we all had to huddle around a burner fueled by Yak manure! (yes really). It didn’t smell as bad as you might imagined.
“Huddled around a yak shit fire” - Nick Cragg
Day 7 - Dingbouche Acclimatisation
We spent one day at Dingbouche to acclimatise to this altitude and it was well-needed. Most of the team were quite tired at this stage so we just had a gentle hike around the local area.
Afterwards, our sherpas gave us a demo of a life-saving contraption known as a portable altitude chamber (PAC). This is used to treat high-altitude illnesses such as AMS, HAPE and HACE by increasing the pressure in the chamber using a foot pump.
Pumping up the PAC.
We spent the rest of the day resting up back at Cafe 4410 and we watched the documentary Sherpa. The downtime felt well-earned as tomorrow would be a big day.
The best cafe you find at this altitude. Caffe 4410.
Day 8 - Loboche (4900m)
We headed to Loboche today. Snow had fallen again but the team was noticeably quieter in the morning. Altitude sickness had hit most of us including myself. The recommendation to knock back a couple of paracetamols for the headache was no longer helping out much. Nonetheless, we booted up and began an icy trek!
The trek was a combination of beaming hot sun to bitterly cold cross winds, but one thing that was a constant was the stunning white mountains surrounding us.
We reached our teahouse before dusk. It was noticeably busier than all the other places we stayed at. It made sense as there were fewer accommodation options to stay the higher you get. At this altitude, this tea house would be the penultimate location for many before reaching base camp.
The altitude sickness for me had been lingering throughout the trek, grating away at my energy levels. I tried to get an early night and make myself comfortable, however, at this this altitude taking your clothes off to wipe down is very difficult. You just want to stay in your clothes and not move. At this stage, I had mastered the dance of stripping down and jumping into my sleeping bag as quickly as possible.
I tried to get some sleep knowing tomorrow was the day.
The view enroute to Tengbouche.
Day 9 - Final push to Everest Basecamp (5300m)
I slept horribly. The small part of my face that was exposed in my sleeping bag was so dry and chapped. My headache was somehow even worse and felt like I had hit my head against a wall.
Somehow, we were going to reach Everest base camp today.
Over breakfast, it turned out I was not the only one who had a poor night’s sleep. One member of the team had struggled to catch their breath overnight and made a tough decision to drop out and make their way down to help recover. we were all devasted.
We had to push on though. The plan was to reach another tea house at Gorak Shep by noon, have a small break then do the final push to the Everest basecamp. Halfway through the route to Gorak Shep, another team member had to pull out. The altitude sickness was too overwhelming. It was just 4 out of the original 6 team members left now.
As planned, we reached Gorak Shep by noon, exhausted. I was not feeling good at this stage and contemplated whether I had the energy to go on. But somehow, I gritted my teeth and pushed through the final leg.
Step by step, we eventually made it. I was standing at Everest base camp!
It felt surreal. Different emotions came flooding through. Relief, excitement and happiness I was also sad that our other team members were not here.
The team at the famous Everest Basecamp rock.
Proud and tired. Mount Everest poking out in between.
And as quickly as we arrived, it was time to head back to Gorak Shek.
We had accomplished what we set out to do. I couldn’t quite believe it and I’m still not sure if it has truly quite sunk in.
Day 10 - Descend to Pangboche (3900m)
Naturally, we were all tired from yesterday, but we were ready to leave.
Today we unexpectedly did our longest hike but it was mostly downhill. We would descend a whopping 18 km taking us past Loboche and Dingboche.
Taking a break during the descent.
We reunited with our team members who didn’t make it to the Everest base camp at a tea house at Pangbouche. Even though were only apart for one day It felt like a big reunion. It was like the band was back together and it was an amazing feeling. Descending over 1000m made all of us feel so much better from the altitude sickness. Spirits were high over dinner as we shared our stories of what happened.
Day 11 / 12- Back to Namche (3400m)
It was interesting revisiting sites on the way back down and with every meter we descended we felt more rejuvenated and stronger. It would take us two days to reach Namche again and we were all excited. It felt like we were back in the capital city.
We felt like regulars walking around Namche this time around. The feeling was different, with less apprehension of what was to come. We could properly relax this time round.
Looking back at where we had descended from.
Day 13 - Back at Phakding (2600m)
On the penultimate day of the hike, we exited Sagarmatha National Park and arrived back at the first tea house we stayed in and arguably the best one, the Sherpa Guide Lodge. Hot showers, much higher quality food and beer! Sweet, sweet beer.
A pint of Khumbu Kolsh.
Day 14 - The End (1800m)
The last leg of the descent and we were back to where it all began, Lukkla. This time around we had the opportunity to explore the the local shops and cafes.
Over dinner, the Sherpas who had guided us throughout the trip gave us a little ceremony to celebrate what we had accomplished over the last 14 days. We had our chance to thank them for their service and we reflected on what an amazing trip this had been.
We had done it!
Celebrations at our last tea house.
The whole route mapped
Of course, I had to make my own visualisation with all this GPS data I had collected. So here’s my own interactive map of the entire route broken down into the daily legs.
( live version )
The company that I worked for at the time. They donated 2500 pounds towards the charity Phase World Wide and let me take the time off to go on this trip.
The charity that organised the trip. They focus on improving the lives in Nepal through initiatives around health, education and working livelihoods.
We had the opportunity to visit their office in Kathmandu before we started the expedition.
Lunch at the PHASE Kathmandu office.
- Nick Cragg (far left)
- Dawn Limbu (second left)
- Bethan Hall (third left)
- Sam Robinson (third right)
- Me (seond right)
- Ryan (Ryan Gledhill)