January 15, 2018
Story and Photography by Bob Conklin
Part 4. Adventure-Filled Finish
Congratulations. You’re almost there. Welcome to the conclusion of this four-part series. Adventure of a Lifetime, Part 1. [Read More] described my pre-trip research and preparations. Starting Place Surprise, Part 2. [Read More] covered our Everest Base Camp trek from our weather-revised starting point of Phapla, Nepal to Namche Bazaar. Onward and Upward, Part 3. [Read More] described our trek up to the base camp. In this, the fourth part, we learn first-hand about the importance of oxygen, experience the best vista of the trek, are “thrilled” by a unique runway and flying home fantasize about a trek from Nepal to the U.S.
Below the article, you’ll find photographs taken during this segment of my trek, links to other articles in the series, and a video of a 2016 trek to the Mt. Everest Base Camp.
A Headlamp and Oxygen Help
I would tell you my roommate woke me up at midnight, but I don’t think I was really sleeping anyway. He was feeling dizzy and sick and asked that I go find help. It was peak season and the Gorak Shep teahouse was filled to capacity that night. While trekkers slept in their beds, the Sherpa guides from multiple trekking groups were strewn about the dining room, sleeping on benches, floors, and even tables. I felt a little bad walking around with my headlamp while they were all trying to sleep, but no one stirred and I found the Sherpas from our group. They returned with me, talked to my roommate for a minute and then gave him oxygen. In about 15 minutes, my roommate said he felt completely normal again. It’s a amazing what a little oxygen will do.
Travel Insurance a Good Idea
What I didn’t know at the time was that several of our guides had just gone to sleep when I went to wake them up at midnight. Earlier in the night, another trekker was having some health issues that were unrelated to the altitude, but it was felt that, to be safe, she should receive medical attention. A helicopter was arranged and she was off to Lukla where she quickly recovered. She hung out in Lukla and waited to meet back up with us on the descent. When our group was reunited with her four days later, she was certainly better rested than the rest of us! Sherpa Mountain Adventures had helped us all line up affordable travel insurance for the trek and so the helicopter ride (which she said was amazing) was no cost to her.
Highlight of Trip
I learned about her helicopter evacuation when I woke up at 5 a.m. for the hike up Kala Patthar. Members of our group assembled and moved out into the dark and cold. The plan was to hike to the summit of Kala Patthar for a great view of Everest at sunrise, then return to Gorak Shep for breakfast at 9 a.m. before heading back down the trail toward home. We crossed a dry lakebed and up we went. It was slow going in the thin air, but we just kept putting one foot in front of the other. As the sky started to lighten, the stars were replaced by views of the Himalaya. The sun was rising directly behind the 25,800ft Mt. Nuptse and so while the landscape lit up around us, we remained in shadow. Now, you could also see the South Col, a flat bench on the right shoulder of Mt. Everest were climbers typically establish their high camp before going for the summit. The views, including those of 29,000ft Mt. Everest, were the highlight of the trip. It was still very cold on Kala Patthar, but we stayed for a while before giving up our spot at the top. As we left, more trekkers were arriving from below.
“It was party time.”
After breakfast, we retraced our route down the Khumbu valley and in four days arrived in Lukla. Along the way, we continued to have great experiences, including attending a ceremony in the beautiful Tengboche Monastery featuring drums, horns, chanting, incense, tea and even free cookies! After arriving in Lukla, we checked into a teahouse run by a family member of our trekking company’s owner. It was party time. That night, we had a celebration that began with thanking our new Sherpa friends and ended with drinking and dancing the night away. It was fun as control of the music playlist passed back and forth between the American trekkers and the Sherpas.
New Slant on Flying
Our group was excited about the next day. We weren’t able to fly into Lukla Airport at the start of our trek, but we were very much looking forward to flying out of it. Now we could see its small hillside runway for ourselves. Planes landing land on an uphill-sloping runway. Planes departing head downhill, ideally taking flight before the runway ends, the mountain falls away and the earth becomes sky. Thankfully, the day dawned clear and we were off into the wild blue yonder. After a successful takeoff followed by a successful landing in Kathmandu, it was back to the hotel for a much-anticipated hot shower. There had been hot showers in Lukla, but at that point, most of our group had decided we could wait another day. We had become very good at being grubby.
Bucket List Minus One
After a good night’s sleep, Sherpa Mountain Adventures took our clean team out for the day in Kathmandu. We visited several famous buddhist temples and stupas, did some souvenir shopping and had a few more meals together including a fun dinner out, again featuring a few beers. My favorite was Everest Beer, brewed right there in Kathmandu. The next day it was off to the airport for the long trip home. Once again, though, I was thankful for air travel. During my trek, I was reminded how a 10-minute flight could be equivalent to a 3-day walk. How long would it take me to get from the US to Nepal (and back) without an airplane? Let’s just say, that would be a whole other level of adventure. For now, I’m happy to sit and relax as the world slides by below me. Numerous in-flight movies later, I’m back home with some stories and one less thing on my bucket list. I encourage anyone with an interest in Nepal and Mt. Everest to pay them a visit. With New Year’s resolutions perhaps still being formed, it’s not too late to plan a trip for 2018!
End of Part 4 of 4
Related Video, Website & Articles
2016 Trek Video by Sherpa Mountain Adventures Video
Sherpa Mountain Adventures Website
Everest Base Camp Trek: A Photo Journal, Part 1. (Adventure of a Lifetime) Article
Everest Base Camp Trek: A Photo Journal, Part 2. (Starting Point Surprise) Article
Everest Base Camp Trek: A Photo Journal, Part 3. (Onward and Upward) Article
Everest Base Camp Trek: A Photo Journal, Part 4. (Adventure-Filled Finish) Article
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