Hiking the Himalayas: Day 1
Once we survived the flight into Lukla,
the trail was a cakewalk!
So begins the first of several installments cataloging Dain and my trek through the Nepalese Himalayas from Lukla at 9,000 feet to Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet. Throughout the journey, we didn't take our laptops and were barely on our phones so Dain took careful notes in a journal that we kept up each day. Sadly, we are being really choosy about what stays and goes in our somehow overstuffed backpacks so I'm transcribing everything that happened for safe keeping on the blog. Enjoy!
On the third page after our packing list and advice from friends, Dain kept a recommended schedule for our days hiking. Dain was in charge of most of the prep work and planning that went into the EBC trek and he did a fantastic job! He took his role very seriously and kept us happy and safe.
- Lukla > Phakding: 3 hours
- Phakding > Namche Bazar: 5.5 hours
- Rest day and side hikes
- Namche > Tengboche: 3.5 hours
- Rest Day
- Tengboche > Dingboche/Pheriche: 3.5 hours
- Rest Day
- Dingboche/Pheriche > Dughla: 2 hours
- Dughla > Loboche: 2 hours
- Loboche > Gorak Shep: 2.5 hours
- Gorak Shep > EBC: 2 hours
EBC > Kala Pattar: 4 hours
- Gorak Shep > Loboche: 2 hours
- Loboche > Dingboche/Pheriche: 3 hours
- Dingboche/Pheriche > Tengboche: 2.5 hours
- Tengboche > Namche: 4.5 hours
- Namche > Lukla: 6 hours
Dain gathered most of his notes and advice from a Lonely Planet guide he downloaded, which we discovered had pretty conservative estimates for trekking time and rest days. Looking back, sixteen days is almost a half week too much for this trek! You'll find out from reading the next few posts about EBC that we barely stuck to this schedule at all, and why that's okay.
Armed with Camelbaks and trekking poles, we arrived at the domestic terminal of Kathmandu airport ready to go. Our previous experience in the international terminal had been pretty legitimate, but I guess anything goes in domestic. The security check was me walking through a broken metal detector (I know this because I left my phone in my pocket) and the doors leading to the planes were wide open. Literally open, because a monkey wandered into the seating area and started deftly picking his was through discarded juice boxes in the trash.
When it came time to board, we walked out onto the tarmac to our little Tara Air regional jet that only sat around twelve people. I'd never been on a plane so small but surprisingly there was room for a flight attendant and in-flight service included caramel candies and cotton balls to stuff in your ears in case the propeller noise got to you.
It's been said that the flights coming and going from Lukla are among the most dangerous in the world. Reasons for Lukla's infamous reputation are the fact that flying small planes is inherently more dangerous, the flight takes you closely through lots of mountains, and the runway at Lukla is short, slanted, and ends off a literal cliff. With the odds stacked against you, you'd think that safety and alertness would be a top concern. Yet mid-flight, what do we see? The pilot, our shepherd on this nefarious journey, reading the Himalayan Post. You can't make this stuff up, people.
In reality, we weren't scared at all on the flight. Your mind pays no attention to that weak worried voice in the back of your head when you're soaring through lush green valleys and quickly approaching the white-crested mountains of the Himalayas. You barely even notice as you land with a soft thud into a nook on the cliff.
From there, grab your bag laying there on the tarmac and walk straight into the town of Lukla, a medium-sized village marked by the knock-off Starbucks and Burger King. Dain and I planned to take it easy with a short 3-hour hike to Phakding but the combination of excitement-fueled adrenaline, well rested legs, and a mostly downhill trail led us into Sagarmatha National Park in Monjo and to the Friendship Lodge in Jorsale to rest for the night. Our first teahouse had everything we could ask for: cozy beds, a river view, a western toilet, and a hearty dal bhat. In all, it was a 14 km day over a little less than five hours of hiking.
We trekked alongside the Dudh Koshi River and its gushing and roaring provided the soundtrack to our day. Tinkling bells from around the necks of yaks, cows, and donkeys passing us along the trail toting packages up the mountain added to the melody. Everything that became routine parts of the trail were seen with fresh, engaged eyes. The dharma wheels turning clockwise for good luck, the boulders carved with Buddhist prayers, the stupas and prayer flags found on even the most impossibly high and inaccessible mountain steeps. Despite the weather reports calling for constant rain, our hike was sunny and breezy as we crossed over a few swaying suspension bridges.