The trail to Everest Base Camp – Phakding to Namche Bazaar
It’s 06.00 am when the alarm of my phone goes off. Time to get up and hike! Today is a big day on Everest Base Camp Trek as we’re going to climb more than 800 meters to an altitude of 3.440 meters. Our final destination for the day will be Namche Bazaar, the biggest town in the Kumbu Valley. Here, we will settle down for two days in order to familiarize our bodies with the altitude. We leave straight after breakfast and the three of us are among the first ones on the track. We cross the Khumbu River various times across swing bridges and Jangbu promises us that before the final climb to Namche Bazaar, we will cross the swing bridge that appeared in ‘Everest’. Of course we went to see the movie when we were home so we can’t wait to see it for ourselves.
It’s an easy uphill hike for the first part of the day. Although I’m out of breath most of the time, the trail itself is easy. Some rocks, some steps, some gravel. Yaks and their shepherds pass us and slowly the Khumbu Valley awakes. The sun starts to rise above the mountains and we gradually walk up through the forest filled with rhododendrons and magnolias. Every now and then there’s a view of the snowcapped mountains. They are not nearly as high as Everest, but impressive nonetheless. We officially enter Sagarmatha National Park (Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Everest) and grab lunch in the town of Jorsalle. The sun is shining down on us as we sit outside and see others passing by. A French couple joins our table and tells us that they are hiking to Gokyo only, as they heard it’s actually more beautiful than Everest Base Camp. I teach our porter how a selfie stick works and after knocking down lunch, we head onto Namche Bazaar. From here, it’s a 600 meter climb and it will be tough and steep.
But before we’re starting our climb, we reach the Khumbu River. This is the river coming down from the infamous Khumbu Glacier, which streams down the face of Everest. The water is incredibly blue and I stand still to look at it for some minutes. I always have crazy thoughts like ‘what would happen if I’d jump in?’ or ‘how deep would it be, could I touch the bottom with my feet?’ I put aside my mind and start the climb up to the bridge featured in Everest. It’s a special one because it’s a double one: the lower one is the old one and not in use anymore, the upper one is the one we are going to use to hike across the Khumbu River. Along the way I’ve spoken to people who were terrified of crossing bridges like these because they are high and unstable. There’s a fierce wind and when reaching the middle of the bridge, I have to hold onto the railing to stay on my feet. I take a moment to look down and am once again amazed! The river is now all the way down below me. ‘What would happen if I’d jump from here?’ On the bridge, we can see the first major snowcapped mountain of the trek, called Tabuche. It looks promising and makes me ache to see more mountains like this. Yeah baby, this is what I came here for!
Immediately after crossing this bridge, we start our final ascent to Namche Bazaar. It’s said to take about 2 hours and the hardest part of today’s hike. I’ll be honest: it’s hard. And steep. There’s a never-ending lot of switchbacks and I’m out of breath all the time. Not comfortably out of breath like I was during the past couple of days, but completely out of breath, the uncomfortable way. Martijn seems to have no trouble at all and is running ahead of me, I make Jangu wait for me all the time. Sometimes other hikers pass me, sometimes I pass them. I feel like I’m incredibly slow and my insecurity kicks inn. ‘If this is just the start, how bad will it get?’ and ‘Will I be strong enough?’ are questions I keep asking myself over and over.
All of a sudden, there’s a gathering of people on a small platform. It turns out the be Everest View Point, this is the first place on the trek where you can see Mount Everest. It’s cloudy when I get there but all of a sudden there’s a clearing and I can see the mighty mountain, just for a second, very far away. As quickly as the clouds cleared, they re-appear and Mount Everest is gone. I didn’t even have the chance to take a picture! After having some water and a few Dextro Energy candies, it’s time to move on. Not long after, we reach Namche Bazaar. The clouds are covering most of the mountains and the city looks a bit eerie. Our guesthouse is on the other side of town and within 15 minutes we reach our place for the upcoming two nights. I’m relieved we made it within the given 6 hours, although I felt like it took much longer. Today was a hard day, I’m not used to being out of breath continuously. My body doesn’t really like this change in altitude and I get a massive headache during the evening. Jangbu suggests I start taking Diamox from tomorrow on to avoid altitude sickness, I have the whole night to think about that. I’m not a fan of taking meds if it’s not necessary but maybe it’s not a bad idea after all…
And so ends our second day on the Everest Base Camp Trek. Each Monday I’m sharing one day on the trek, in words and in pictures. Last week: arriving in Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the world. Next week: our first real views of Mount Everest from The Everest View Hotel!
Want to read more stories about Nepal? You may like these blogs as well:
– Nepal: a head filled with emotions
– Everest Base Camp Trek: the movie!
– Our favorite places to eat in Kathmandu
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Thanks for sharing!
Beautiful photos! Looks like a great trip. I would love to do this hike one day.
Vicki | MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld
What an epic climb – and that was only to base camp! The suspension bridges are incredible and the photos you took really capture the landscape. I hope you can avoid the altitude sickness for the rest of your trip.
Haha, not even to Base Camp yet, just the 2nd day of the trek!
Sounds epic … your photos as always are stunning. I can’t wait to read more. It’s funny how you can be on the most strenous hike and it’s physically exhausting, but just for those 15 seconds when the clouds lift and you can see the mountain nothing else in the world matters.
Definitely not a bad idea taking meds for the altitude … I should have done that on Kilimanjaro but I didn’t – was dry wreaching the whole summit day, wasn’t good!!
Thanks Meg! Are you still planning on hiking to EBC?
It’s on my todo list to hike to Everest base camp. Such a stunning location.
Next year I’m heading to Kilimanjaro first and then I’ll think about this one. The swing bridges make me a bit nervous. But undoubtedly a spectacular hike and location.
Will keep reading!
Oh cool! We had a lady hiking with us and she did Kilimanjaro too, before heading out to EBC. The swingbridges are worse than they look, they are actually quite a bit of fun, just don’t look down 😉
I am so happy you decided to share a post for every day of your EBC trek! Your pictures are stunning as always. I have to admit the bridge scares me a little, I have a fear of heights (not terrified but I don’t particularly like them) and with the strong wind… Anyway, looking forward to the next day:-)
Glad to hear that Lotte! You better be prepared, they have quite a few of them in the NZ treks, too, and they are less stable than in Nepal for sure!
Such stunning pictures and detailed description. I felt like I was on the trek. I can feel how it’d have been. My husband is heading there in two day’s time. Your post excited me so much that I am hopping over to your post of Lukla now.
Thanks Nisha! Good luck to your husband, is he hiking to Everest Base Camp, too? I’m sure he will love it!
Beautiful photos of a beautiful part of the world. I hope to visit and do this trek one day, although it sounds very challenging. I can’t imagine feeling out of breath for so long. I would take the medicine in a heartbeat…but that’s just me. I hope the rest of your trek with get easier on your body. Enjoy!
I am trying to get back into hiking. I spent a lot of my childhood holidays in Austria. But didn’t do any hiking since then. Recently we went up to Snowdon. And I want to get back in shape. This hike sounds awesome. But I’m not quite there yet. Bit of a challenge. maybe one day.Great photos!
You are so brave to hike some parts of the everest! I read it is really challenging. That bridge looked reaaaally scary by the way but the nature looks stunning!
It was quite stable but I can totally see why people won’t be happy about crossing it!
Trisha Velarmino - P.S. I'm On My Way
Now this is something that is missing in my things to do!
I hope you’ll get the chance to do this one day!
Nepal is always on my to-do list! have always love the country. Very beautiful photos!