On Top of the World – Ever Wondered What It’s Like to Climb Everest?
Ever wondered what it’s like to climb Everest? Well with Sheffield expedition organisers Jagged Globe you can get half way up. Here, John Green brings us an account of his recent trip to Base Camp.
“It might be the greatest place we’ve ever had lunch. On Friday 28th April 2017 I sat with my son Louis in the mess tent for the Ghurka team at Everest Base Camp. Looking out over the Khumbu glacier and the icefall behind. Finally, after the best part of two weeks we had reached our goal – Everest Base Camp. After the pain of two flights and a transfer through Delhi airport , The Summit Hotel was a welcome relief. An afternoon to gather our thoughts and a good night’s sleep in readiness for an early start and the chaos of Kathmandu airport again.
Our trek to ECB started, as does everyone’s, with the flight to Lukla airport. Often described as exhilarating, the landing at the mountain village airstrip is certainly a white-knuckle ride. From there onwards there are no vehicles, no cars or bikes. All the baggage and goods required higher up the valley are carried by yaks, humans or donkeys. Lukla is the gateway to another world; a land of bygone times where village communities live and farm together. From Lukla we walked to a small village called Monjo, our first overnight stop. For many of our fellow trekkers this was their first experience of a Nepalese teahouse, clean but basic. A room with two wooden framed beds and a shared toilet at the end of the hall. This would be the standard accommodation for the next two weeks or more.
“From Monjo we walked up the steep ridge to the Sherpa Capital of Namche Bazaar at 3,400m. Crossing several iconic suspension bridges as we wound our way up higher and higher. Namche is the most amazing place, sat in a glacial bowl, clinging to the mountain side, the town almost defies gravity. The brightly coloured buildings shine in the bright high-altitude sunlight. This would be our base for three nights as we started the process of acclimatisation. From here we got our first glimpse of Everest; early in the morning we walked to the Tenzing memorial and saw in the distance the distinctive shape of the world’s highest mountain, with the Khumbu valley stretched out before us. From here we could see our route up the valley and the path ahead of us. Namche was our last taste of real luxury, we ate cake in the local bakeries, looked around the shops and drank hot chocolate.
The days passed quickly as we fell into our gentle routine, up early for breakfast; bags packed then on the trail by 8am. The weather was kind to us, most mornings being warm and sunny, with the afternoon becoming cooler as the cloud filled the valley. We would arrive at our evening lodge in the late afternoon, have tea, then an early dinner and bed. We passed through Debouche and Dingbouche, staying two nights here, again to aid acclimatisation. All the time we were surrounded by breathtaking scenery, to our right the massive Ama Dablam and ahead of us Island Peak. We walked from here to Pheriche where we attended a seminar on high altitude acclimatisation. The hospital here is staffed by volunteers from around the globe, who give up their time to man this remote medical centre during the climbing and trekking season. As well as treating those of us mad enough to trek to (or climb) Everest they care for local people, Sherpas and porters. In fact, over 75% of those treated at this centre are from Nepal. The dedication and sacrifice that these doctors make is humbling.
“For here we pushed higher into the mountains and further up the Khumbu valley. Staying at Lobuje, then finally arriving a Gorak Shep; our final stop before Everest Base Camp. At 5,220m Gorak Shep is remote and more than a little uncomfortable. Only now did we start to appreciate the comforts offered by some of the lodges lower down! However, we were still fed and watered (despite there being no running water here) and the food was good and hot (an achievement itself at over 17,000 feet!) and our rooms were comfortable. There is not much more to ask for.
“On the morning of Friday 28th April we left Gorak Shep at 8am and headed towards Base Camp, moving slowly as we followed the Khumbu glacier moraine. Almost exactly three hours later I was hugging Louis as we celebrated with our fellow trekkers. We had reached Everest Base Camp. We paused for photos at the cairn at the edge of the camp, then walked through countless yellow and orange tents towards our venue for lunch. A tented city at over 5,500m high; base camp is an amazing and inspiring place. So keen are we to stand on top of Everest that hundreds of people decide to live here every year! The individual camps boast mess tents, with dining tables and TVs. Bookcases and board-games are commonplace and we enjoyed some of the best toilets on the whole trip.
“After lunch, as the temperature started to drop, we thanked our hosts and retraced our steps to our lodge at Gorak Shep, excited, tired and thrilled to have reached our goal.
The following morning, at 3:45am, myself, Louis, our trip leader Mungo and Tenzing left the lodge to climb Kala Pattar, a mountain that stands above base camp and offers brilliant views of Everest and the Khumbu icefall. We walked in the dark and cold, our head torches picking-out the path to the summit, while across the valley we could see the head torches of climbers and Sherpas as they made their way through the icefall, a far more dangerous endeavour than ours. We reached the top in time to watch the sunrise from behind Everest. I have never been so proud of Louis, having walked for two solid weeks (the last days consistently above 4,000m) he stood on top of his first Himalayan mountain, watching the sun rise from behind the world’s highest peak. This was our real achievement. With tears in our eyes, we hugged each other and watched the spectacular sunrise. This will remain my overwhelming memory of the trek, the feeling that you only get when standing on top of a mountain, knowing that you can climb no higher, having worked so hard to get to the top.
The trek is wonderful, made more special by the people we were with. There is no way we would have been able to accomplish anything without this caring, helpful and talented team. I hope that one day we can return and walk in these awe-inspiring mountains again.”
Jagged Globe are based in Neepsend, right next to The Foundry Climbing Centre and offer a huge array of mountaineering expeditions, climbing courses, adventurous skiing and high-altitude treks. These range from trekking up Kilimanjaro and summiting Mt Everest to classic climbs in Ecuador, Mera Peak in Nepal while one of the highlights of the ski trips is skiing the famous Valley Blanche in Chamonix Mont Blanc.