Fast forward fourteen years the city of Kathmandu hadn’t changed in the slightest; taxis, motos, hotel minibuses and rickshaws all vying for the same potholed real estate. Drivers with eyes in the back of their heads weaving in and out of pedestrians, pedestrians dodging vehicles as they took their chances crossing the street – the chaos was astounding! I had arrived into Tribhuvan International Airport from Atlanta at 2am on March 30th, the three additional days prior to the CTSS official expedition start date of April 1st allowing plenty of time for possible delayed baggage and sightseeing. The city had recently experienced a significant earthquake and who knows how it had changed since my last visit.

Qatar airlines had provided me with almost 8 hours of sleep so I felt no real desire to spend more time horizontal; unfortunately finding the entire International Guesthouse front desk asleep on the hotel lobby couches it was obvious that I wouldn’t be getting the WiFi password or an early breakfast anytime soon! Four more hours of sleep wasn’t going to hurt. Sitting at breakfast trying to work out who was a trekker and who might be heading up the worlds highest peak occupied my time for a while.

Whilst I loved Kathmandu I had come to Nepal for one reason, to achieve the final one thousand or so feet of Everest, a five hour round trip that eluded myself and Green Gibbon partners back in 2005. This time I had come alone which made meeting back up with Mike Hamill after 14 years and his CTSS team of climbers highly anticipated. Fourteen long years ago Mike was a young guide working for International Mountain Guides, and although a newbie to Everest still a very accomplished climber whom it was obvious would soon stand on top of the world. He was now the more than competent boss and owner of Climbing the Seven Summits with six ascents under his belt. Under his logistics and with many months of preparation I was optimistic for success this time around.

Myself, Richard, Peter and little Tendi taking the helicopter from Kathmandu to the start of the EBC trek in Lukla

After five nights in the smog and polluted capital city I was extremely antsy about reaching Lukla and breathing in fresh mountain air. Initial plans had changed slightly as Kathmandu airport had decided to upgrade their domestic runway causing hit and miss airplane departures to the jumping off point for Everest. With trekkers, Everest, and Lhotse climbers CTSS had a big team, a team that would potentially be split apart if we waited around for winged aircraft – the decision was made to take helicopters in the 45 minutes to Lukla. Whilst not overly happy about the additional $400 expense it was the right call. Weather conditions were okay with the pilot having just enough visibility to buzz over the surrounding hillsides and make a perfect landing at the infamously dangerous Lukla airport perched at the head of the Khumbu.

My last memory of Lukla was jumping out of a window at a local lodge after Team Green Gibbon were locked into a room following a heavy night of drinking. Hamill was none too happy about our escapade which almost caused us to miss the flight back to Kathmandu! Maybe, just maybe I’ve matured a bit since then and those mischievous antics are a thing of the past. More than likely is the fact that the Brit and Aussie I’ve been hanging out with this time around could well turn out to be a worse combo!

The agenda from Lukla would see us heading up the Khumbu Valley spending nights at Phakding, Namche, Debouche, Pheriche, before an ascent of Lobuche Peak, finally arriving at the multinational city at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall known as Everest Basecamp. This should take around 2 weeks and provide the basis of the acclimatization necessary to tackle the mountain proper. First off we had to make it to Phakding, a small Sherpa town sitting 900 ft lower and 5.7 miles from Lukla. This short hike falls in nicely with our climb high sleep low strategy.

Already getting to spend time with a couple of the boys; Richard from the north of England and Peter from Brisbane, it was now time to at least learn the names of other team members. By the time basecamp arrives the entire team should be a close knit family.

Porter loads laid out waiting

Sagarmatha National Park entry

Overlooking the large town of Namche


Snot, helicopters, scenery and food were the highlights of the CTSS camp en route to Everest. Almost 2 weeks under our belts and we were still a couple of days away from the luxury of EBC, a completely different schedule from 2005. Tagging 20,075 ft Lobuche Peak would allow us one less rotation through the Khumbu icefall, potentially the sketchiest section of the entire climb to the top of the world. As usual the views from this intermediate camp were spectacular, the sunny blue skies making the mountains pop. Good weather always seems to reduce the shitty altitude induced symptoms we were all going to suffer from in one way or another!

My Pheriche room mate had remained behind and potentially saved me from picking up more than just a snotty nose and fuzzy head. Moving into private tented accommodation was a blessing and would hopefully keep us in a healthy isolation. CTSS and their Nepalese logistics partner TAG Nepal were already proving to be by far the best outfit around with each team having private insulated dining tents and forever smiling staff. The only excuse not to soon be standing on the summits of Lobuche and Everest was sickness; we were spoilt rotten in every possible way. Bring on EBC.

Loads of well over 100lbs carried by porters
or loads of well over 100lbs carried by yak

A load carry up to Lobuche high camp would see us get in another 1500 ft of elevation gain whilst adding to the all important acclimatization schedule. The summit from this new camp looked comfortably doable – we will see. The final slope will provide an insight into what Everest’s steep Lhotse face will involve, that is for those yet to experience it. Everest memories have been flooding back as if it was yesterday.

We are located on the trekking route from Pheriche to Gorak Shep and with that comes an almost constant train of yaks and porters, almost all destined for the now heavily populated EBC. Yak supplies on the ground are supplemented by the heavy artillery of helicopters when flying conditions allow – with our current blue skies this must be the busiest chopper route on the planet.

Whilst daytime temps kept us happy as soon as the sun was replaced by the moon things changed to the colder side. I had been whining at Hamill since arriving in Lukla for the team insulated jackets we had been promised – they eventually caught up with us at Lobuche base camp and transformed us from a bunch of multi-coloured misfits into an intrepid team capable of anything. The blue Rab “Climbing the Seven Summits Everest Team” emblazoned jackets were going to be bragging rights for years to come!

Home of the memorial chortens
Lobuche warmup peak dead centre
Pangboche, home to many climbing Sherpa

Everest Basecamp Trek
Lukla to Phakdingloss: 1,391 ft, altitude: 8,561 ft, hiking time: 3:41
Phakding to Namchegain: 3,622 ft, altitude: 11,286 ft, hiking time: 7:36
Namche to Debochegain: 2,736 ft, altitude: 12,687 ft, hiking time: 5:14
Deboche to Pherichegain: 2,257 ft, altitude: 14,337 ft, hiking time: 4:31
Pheriche to Lobuche BCgain: 1,860 ft, altitude: 16,207 ft, hiking time: 3:27
Lobuche BC to Everest BCgain: 2,080 ft, altitude: 17,594 ft, hiking time: 6:28

SIM Card & Coverage
Carrier: Ncell, Usage: 3GB data (required passport photocopy)
Cost: $5

Arrival/ Departure: Kathmandu -> Lukla, Carrier: Simrik Air
Cost: $400 pp

April 3rd – May 23rd 2019


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