EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK – Lukla-Phakding – DAY 1 (5/5 – 5/6)

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek (+Gokyo Ri) – Trekking over 130 km (80 miles) in 15 days with an elevation difference of 2,514 meters (8,248 feet) in the first eight days.

Welcome to our 15 day circuit trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal. We hope you enjoy traveling with us and are inspired to take your own trip. This trip was part of our seven month journey around the world which began in Flores, Guatemala. See a summary of the destinations we traveled to over our seven months here: link.

EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK – DAY 1

After spending a couple days renting trekking equipment and relaxing in Kathmandu we began our journey.

Nepal is home to eight of the fourteen highest peaks in the world and seeing Mt. Everest in person had been at the top of Kurt’s bucket list and had been my #1 dream for some time. Well, summiting Everest was always #1, but due to the exorbitant amount of money it costs to summit Everest and the possibility of death we passed on summiting and opted for the amazing trek to Everest Base Camp (“EBC”). For reference, the altitude at base camp is 5,364 meters/17,598 feet and the altitude at the summit of Everest is 8,848 m/29,032. A huge difference!

While the altitude is much lower, the trip to EBC will still be physically demanding and will test you. Know your body, make sure to acclimatize, and follow the motto “slow and steady”. Altitude sickness can affect anybody, and we certainly had our issues with acclimatization and we are a fit couple.

EBC is more than just a trek, it is a life journey and an epic one at that.

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Kathmandu to Lukla > Flying Into One Of The World’s Most Dangerous Airports

30 minute flight (if no delays)

Check out our helicopter ride into one of the world’s most dangerous airports

Nestled between the foothills of the Himalayas, at 2,850m/ 9,350 feet above sea level is a short 1,700 foot uphill landing strip. A short runway, exposed terrain causing windy conditions, inclement weather, cloud coverage between the mountains, and high altitude/low pressure are all daily hazards pilots encounter while flying to Tenzing Hillary Airport, more commonly known as Lukla Airport. This was the start of our and many Everest trekkers journey. We were both excited and nervous about the trip as often times flights get canceled due to the hazards. We arrived early for our flight with other eager travelers only to slowly see delay after delay of our flight to Lukla. After hours of waiting, we got the bad news “All flights into Lukla were canceled for the day……”

Luckily, Kurt had read up on the matter and knew that often times helicopters would be allowed to make the trip when flights were canceled. However, these are generally filled with people that had prearranged tours which we did not. After the notice of cancelation, Kurt quickly began walking around and asking everyone at the airport if they were organizing a helicopter ride and if they had any openings for us. Several said “no”, some had them arranged by their tour guide and said they “didn’t have any openings” or said “they would let us know” before sneaking out the back. Luckily, after harassing several other travelers we came across Andre. Andre is an experienced trekker (including Everest Base Camp several times) and tour operator from India who was guiding several friends to EBC and was in the process of organizing a heli with exactly two spots open.

You can see our happiness when we got our ride organized into Lukla

Thank you so much Andre. You saved the day! Not only did we get to ride in a small helicopter group but it even ended up being cheaper than flying via plane (which we got reimbursed). Andre and his group ended up being great friends, we even still talk to Andre to this day. Their group told us their plans for hiking and Andre ended up being instrumental in us deciding the route we wanted to take. We originally were only going to do the classic EBC trek which takes you from Lukla to EBC and back down mostly the same path to EBC. But after our talks with Andre we decided we had to take the circuit route that takes the same classic path to EBC but returns via the Cho La Pass and through the Gokyo Valley to get back to Lukla. Thank goodness we had a lot of extra cushion days because this route added a few more days to our trip. But it was so worth it! If you have the time, please add this route.

Ready for the heli ride
View from the helicopter ride
View from the helicopter ride
View from the helicopter ride
The 1,729 foot uphill landing strip at Lukla Airport. At the end of the runway is a wall with houses on top and at the other end of the runway is a steep drop into the valley below. We were praying to stick the landing somewhere in between.
WE MADE IT SAFELY!

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The Town of Lukla

It was neat walking around Lukla, because we didn’t know what to expect at the start of the trip. We enjoyed walking through the street, seeing the shops, restaurants, and inns. But our favorite was all of the cute dogs we saw and some of the most adorable kids.

Shopping around town in Lukla
Meet some of Lukla’s cutest locals
The most adorable Nepalese girl
A memorial for Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepalese woman to climb the summit of Mount Everest. May she rest in peace. This memorial is the start of the EBC path.

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Day 1: Lukla to Phakding

Trip Duration: 3 hours

Elevation at Lukla: 2,860 meters (9,383 feet)

Elevation at Phakding: 2,650 meters (8,694 feet)

Elevation Loss: 250 meters (820 feet)

Distance: 9 km (5.6 miles)

The hike from Lukla to Phakding will take about 3 hours of walking (plus a break for lunch) covering 9km/5.6 miles reaching an elevation of 2,650m/ 8,694 feet. We did not hire a sherpa (at this point) as we decided to carry our own packs. Here are several photos of our day 1 trek:

Spinning the prayer wheels
Our trekking companion we picked up in Lukla
Local sherpas carrying heavy loads, a common sight
Stop by this wonderful Sherpa Kitchen for some warm soup
Passing mani stones: large and small stones engraved with a short piece of writing in Tibetan
Sherpa carrying a load significantly wider than them
We are now at an elevation of 2625 meters (8,612 feet)

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Where to Stay in the Himalayas

Every night along our trek we slept in a teahouse. What is a teahouse you might ask? Here is what to expect from most teahouses along the trek.

  • A single room with a bed(s).
  • Low cost, minimalist accommodation. We paid roughly $3-$5 USD per night. It is generally expected that you will eat at your accommodation and prices generally increase as you get further along the trek and higher in altitude.
  • Dinner and breakfast is not included. Cost can range from $2 to $10 USD per meal with prices generally increasing as you get further along the trek.
  • The ones we stayed at all shared a communal bathroom (in which you have to bring your own toilet paper and hand soap).
  • They do not have electric or gas powered heaters, but rather there is a large yak poo burning stove in the communal area to heat the room. Yes, you read that correctly, a yak poo burning stove”. You must bring your own sleeping bag as the communal stove heat won’t reach your room and the comforters provided will not keep you warm. Sometimes there is no burning stove at all.
  • The communal area is a great place to unwind after your day hike and converse with other travelers and your guides.
  • A shower is extra $$, and may not be too warm/hot
  • The higher up you go the worse the toilets get, as in the toilet is a hole in the ground and you “flush” with a bucket of water.

We stayed at the Green Village Guest House in Phakding.

Our first tea house
The view in the morning made us that much more excited for the road ahead.
Our room at the Tea House

After a long day, we were ready for our sleep. 8 p.m. was the usual lights out, considering you had to be up very early. But very much looking forward to starting back up the next morning.

3 Comments

    1. Thanks so much! It is the most incredible experience of our lives. We are talking about when we can do again already. 🤩It’s like a whole other planet really. Unbelievably stunning.

      Like

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