Humbled at Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Trekking to Everest Base Camp showed me how minuscule I am in this universe of tiny rivulets stemming from a leaking glacier and turning into raging rivers. The Himalayas humbled me. I don’t need to be a raging river; creeping along at glacier pace is just fine.
Trekking the Mount Everest Base Camp Trail takes some grit, but that is only because of the altitude. The trek is not a difficult one; the ascent is not dramatic; in fact, it is pastoral. I made the trek with four people in 12 days. I could have done it alone. There are so many people trekking on the EBC – especially women – that there is a built-in support system. There is also no way to get lost unless you decide to bushwhack, which is entirely unlikely.
As most adventurers will tell you, it’s not the destination that awes you; it’s the journey. The sheer act of walking from dawn to dusk among other trekkers, yaks, and porters filled my depleted soul with fresh thin air, solitude, and peace.
I miss my crunching footsteps, the compost pile toilets, the yaks, and the tatty prayer flags flying at a 90-degree angle from a suspension bridge. Most of all I miss myself
We had clear days and foggy days, which allowed us to see Mount Everest a grand total of two times, which didn’t matter one bit. When I look through my photos, I am hard pressed to determine which peak is Mount Everest anyway. When I passed through Tengboche on the way up, I could see about 20 feet in front of me. On the way down, I saw the most beautiful views of Everest on the whole trek. Since the EBC trail is an out and back trek, I got to experience everything twice.
The fog was prevalent throughout the trip. Clouds crawled up mountainsides alongside us and shrouded the memorial graveyard for the climbers who lost their lives on the mountain. The fog added to the intrigue of the trip. I could feel the mountains watching, and knew that they would reveal themselves on their own terms.
The Everest Base Camp Trail starts at the Lukla Airport on a rugged stone path that passes through the village, which has a ‘Starbucks’ (but don’t let that deceive you). The path turns into a wooded one surrounded by peaks as high as 5,000 meters. For most of the trek, I could see my path winding through the river valley in front of me or crawling over the crest of the next mountain.
Suspension bridges wide and sturdy enough to support a team of yaks carrying their burdens to the teahouses along the way swayed over deep and narrow canyons. The sound and power of the river below made me understand why people believe in river gods. While I bounced over the rivers to the swing of each suspension bridge, I always stopped midway to feel, smell and hear the pounding celestial force below.
The Himalayas humbled me. I don’t need to be a raging river; creeping along at glacier pace is just fine.
On either side of the trail, rockslides spilled from mountain peaks. The path that the Khumbu glacier has carved was with me most of the time. The sheer muscle of the glacier made me feel like a small speck on this planet. The glacier has been creeping along for tens of thousands of years, dragging everything in its path along with it to create the formations that I passed by each day. These seemingly static formations inch along at the high altitude gait that I had taken on at 4,000 meters.
If anything is going to challenge you on the Mount Everest Base Camp trek, it is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). AMS is something you must know about before you leave. Four out of the six people in my group got AMS –two were evacuated by helicopter. You can do everything to prevent AMS (drink garlic soup, take pills, be in shape, avoid alcohol), but there is no guarantee that you won’t get it. I am not a drinker; I drank gallons of garlic soup, and I am in outstanding shape, but I still had AMS for two days.
Humbled at Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Our leader followed a typical regimen for acclimatization, one that would fit most hikers. For some reason, this regimen did not work for me and three others on the hike. My advice is to take as much time as you can in each village to rest and acclimatize for at least a day, preferably two. Taking your time is not a guarantee against AMS; but as Cavafy says in his poem Ithaka, don’t hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years. . .
As the the last of my weathered skin peels off of my hands, I feel lonely. I miss my crunching footsteps, the compost pile toilets, the yaks, and the tatty prayer flags flying at a 90-degree angle from a suspension bridge. Most of all I miss myself – the girl on the mountain top breathing in the thin air and marveling at the universe.
Humbled at Everest Base Camp, Nepal photo by Pixabay.