Starting your day above 5000m, embraced by surrounding white frosted peaks glowing in the sun, has something unique about it. The sun shines in a special way, the snowy mountain tops seem to merge with the sky, the thin air has a particular feel, an ever-present silence fills the vast spaces, occasionally breached by meditation inspiring yak bell sounds, the mind feels emptied of thoughts, and eternity seems tangible as time apparently stands still. A feeling of plentitude floods the entire being, leaving no room for wants or needs, and making obvious why the locals consider these high places the home of the gods.
amazingly beautiful skyline
Leaving Lobuche village, Pumori peak (7161m) covered in glowing white snow was soaring in the distance, as a landmark for our midday destination. Although distances seem close, above 5000m appearances are deceiving, as the thin air committed us to a slow trekking pace, mindful in each steps and each breath, which allowed us plenty of time to take in the breathtaking (both ad litteram and figuratively 😉 ) surroundings. Although we were closing in on Mount Everest, it was no longer visible from the valley, lying hidden behind Nuptse’s shoulder, and in order to see it we would have to climb to a higher position, but that was planned for another day.
the beginning of our trail from Lobuche to Gorak Shep
Leading higher up the valley, the trail climbs barely perceivable on a narrow gap between the moraine and the mountain walls, until reaching the steep slopes of Khumbu Glacier. Zigzagging up the slope with a steady pace, we ended up on a small plateau adorned with a stone “Chorten”, offering grand views of the ground-up rock, gravel and ice plowed Khumbu Glacier. From here onward we climbed and descended a series of short but steep boulder slopes, crossing the terminal moraine of Shangri Shar Glacier. Occasionally we would meet heavy loaded yaks heading with expedition gear for Everest base camp, and trekkers joyfully returning after successfully conquering Kala Patthar (5545m) and having seen Mt.Everest.
enjoying a rest on top of Khumbu Glacier moraine’s slopes
view over Khumbu Glacier moraine
yaks traveling with expedition equipment to Everest BC
By midday, the trail brought us to Gorak Shep, a temporary settlement nestled on the banks of a vanished lake covered in sand, located at the foot of Kala Patthar’s looming giant dune, with Pumori (7161m) soaring sky-scraping behind it. At 5164m, Gorak Shep is the final stop to Everest Base Camp, its name literally meaning “dead raves”, due to its complete lack of any vegetation – only dry sand, rock and gravel shaping the landscape. Gorak Shep was the original Everest base camp, before it was moved closer to the mountains, at the bottom of Khumbu Ice Fall. Here we stopped for a warm lunch, and soon, after leaving our backpacks at the lodge, we proceeded lightweight towards our expedition’s terminal point: Everest base camp.
trekking towards Gorak Shep
getting our first sight of Gorak Shep, with Pumori on the left and Nuptse on the right
the sandy lakebed from Gorak Shep with Kala Patthar and Pumori soaring behind
The trail to base camp starts on the lunar-looking sandy lakebed, and climbs gently onto a rocky ridge bordering Khumbu Glacier, dotted with memorials to climbers and Sherpas who have perished on Everest – since 1921, 250 peoples have died on Everest. Trekking on this ridge we could scrutinize the plowed shapes of Khumbu Glacier: a medley of grey rocks, white ice blocks, green glacial lakes and dark ice carved caverns. Seldom trekkers and slow-moving yak caravans were the only signs of life in that harsh environment. The thin air and high altitude made our advance sluggish and tedious. Approaching base camp, strong chilling winds and low charcoal grey clouds were unwelcoming and deterring us from lingering. Over an ever-changing path, the trail descended off the ridge and entered Khumbu Glacier, climbing up and down among boulders and ice and leading to a “Chorten” clothed in prayer flags, marking the entrance to Everest Base Camp. Laying at 5364m, this is the South base camp, serving as the starting point for the southeast ridge ascent on Mount Everest. The camp is a village of brightly colored tens and prayer flags wedged between rocks and ice seracs at the mouth of Khumbu Ice Fall, an enormous tongue of ice that marches down the slopes of Everest at a rate of up to a meter per day.
heading for Everest Basecamp, with Nuptse soaring in front of us
trekking on Khumbu Glacier moraine
Mount Everest, soaring to 8848m, is the highest mountain o Earth, growing and moving northeast at a rate of 6cm a year, as the Indian subcontinent is driven underneath Eurasia. The Indians initially christen this high mountain as “Peak XV”, later renaming it to “Everest” after Sir George Everest, the survey general of India in 1865. The Tibetan Sherpas call it “Chomolungma” after the female goddess Chomo Miyo Langsangma, meaning ” the mistress of the mighty snow”, the yellow goddess of goodness riding on a tiger, one of the “Five Sisters of Long Life” who reside on the five highest peaks of Himalaya between Tibet and Nepal. In 1956 the mountain received the invented Nepali name “Sagarmatha”, meaning “head of the sky”.
From Base Camp onward, courageous mountaineers ascend through the notoriously dangerous Khumbu Ice Fall, climb the icy, steep Lhotse Face and eventually overcome the treacherous Hillary’ Step, before claiming Everest’ summit. Our goal for this expedition was only reaching the base camp, leaving the summit for a future time 😉
we made it!
Grey clouds rolling down the peaks and harsh cold winds convinced us to hurry our steps back to shelter in Gorak Shep, leaving Everest base camp till our next return. Low clouds closed the sky, hiding the surrounding peaks from sight. Back in the warmth and comfort of the cozy dining room, we enjoyed dinner and dozed to sleep by the warm stove.
Trekking about 12km in 16442 steps, ascending 450m and descending 200m in relief above 5000m had taken its toll on our batteries 🙂 Meanwhile, light snow began to fall, slowly covering everything in a white blanket.
We turned in earlier than usual, since tomorrow we planned a very early start to climb Kala Patthar, the highest point reached in this expedition, and get a close-up view of Mount Everest. But with the thick clouds outside… we were seriously wondering if we were going to see anything…
For more pictures, check our EBC day 8 photo album 🙂