EBC (Everest Base Camp) Trek!

Truly an adventure.  8 days up. 3 days down.  Kathmandu > Lukla > Phakding > Namche Bazar > Deboche > Dingboche > Loboche > Gorak Shep > EBC > Kala Patthar > Pangboche > Namche Bazar > Lukla > Kathmandu!

Things to remember for next time:

  • Take the Diamox/Acetazolamide (altitude sickness medication) starting at Namche Bazar
  • Bring plenty of toilet paper ($5/roll at the top)
  • Bring hot sauce for food (menu is the same at every place)


If you’ve been to a dusty, noisy, congested Southeast Asian city, you’ve been to Kathmandu.  There are heaps of prayer flags, sacred Hindu sights, and the great Buddha eyes, those eyes…

Buddha Eyes

The best reason to go to Kathmandu is to get to the trekking region!  Shall we?

Day 1 – Kathmandu to Lukla to Phakding

Flying from Kathmandu to Lukla is a trip in itself.  It was… a little scary.  The runway is sloped uphill to slow the planes while landing, and it helps them speed up on takeoff.

When I got out of the plane, I immediately noticed the sky-scraping mountains.

View from Lukla

From Lukla (9,383′) we hiked to Phakding (8,562′).  I’ll track the elevation because it will quickly become more impressive!  The hike to Phakding was along a river, in a valley, across suspension bridges, and adorned with prayer flags.

Trekking to Phakding

I immediately noticed the incredible height of the mountains above me.  In my past hiking experiences in Colorado, the peaks were never that much taller than you.  You start maybe at 8,000′ or 10,000′ and hike to 13,000′ or 14,000′.  In the Everest region, peaks you can see are miles above your head.  At my highest point, 18.037′, I could see the top of Everest, but it was still 11,000′ above my head!

Day 2 – Phakding to Namche Bazar

The first day I thought, this isn’t that hard.  Well, we actually LOST elevation the first day.  Day 2 was the first “real” hiking day.  Phakding, 8,562′, to Namche Bazar, 11,286′.  It was a little more difficult, but again, nothing crazy.

Trekking to Namche Bazar

The last part of the hike was over the top suspension bridge in the background of the above picture.  The hike brought us to the last big city int he Everest region, Namche Bazar, ATM included!

Above Namche Bazar

We were eating some tasty food, below is a bowl of sherpa stew with milk tea and rice.  The other staple was Dal Bhat, kind of a vegetable curry.  We aggressively ate them in the beginning, but 7 days later… it because very, very, very repetitive (hence the hot sauce recommendation).

Sherpa Stew

Day 3 – Acclimatization Day in Namche Bazar

First views of Everest!

On the acclimatization day, we hiked from Namche Bazar to the Everest View Hotel for our first view of Everest and a cup of coffee.

After our cup of coffee we hiked back down to Namche Bazar, relaxed, explored the curio shops, and prepared for the next day.

Day 4 – Namche Bazar to Deboche

Snow awaited us when we woke up!  Then off to Deboche (12,168′).

Namche Bazar

There were many Yak-if (Yak traffic) jams on the trails.  You just had to wait it out!  And also stand up the mountain from the the yaks because you wouldn’t want them pushing you off the trail, tumbling down the mountain, as they passed.


Day 5 – Deboche to Dingboche

A beautiful hiking day!  Also the highest elevation I’d been in my life and the first day of altitude sickness…  We hiked from Deboche (12,168′) to Dingboche (14,469′).

A view of Ama Dablam

Keeping out the dust

Arrival at Dingboche

The tallest peak in the continental United States is Mt. Whitney, 14,505′.  I’ve hiked above 13,000′ with no problems.  But hiking at altitude and sleeping at altitude depletes your body and by hiking to 14,469′, I began to encounter headaches, mild dizziness, and shortness of breath at night.  Not fun!  Despite these issues, we chose only to take the altitude medication “in case we really needed it.”

Day 6 – Acclimatization Day at Dingboche

In the morning, we did a short hike about a 1,000′ higher than where we stayed.  The views were spectacular as usual.

Day Hike View from Dingboche

When we got back from the hike, we were generally feeling terrible with headaches and sleepiness.  But it seemed like everyone around us was having the time of their lives!  It didn’t make sense, was everyone else in better shape than us?  Trained harder?  Something else?  We asked around, “are you on Diamox?”  The overwhelming answer was, YES!  We figured that was why everyone else looked happier than us, so we popped the pills.

Day 7 – Dingboche to Loboche

The next few days kept breaking my personal record for highest altitude ascended.  We were off to Loboche (16,104′)!

Baby Yak!

Just another great view


The above picture is one of my favorite.  It was at our “hotel” in Loboche.  According to the chart, we were around 55% oxygen compared to sea level.  I can’t say we were feeling great, but the effects of altitude seemed to be stuck at just mild headaches.  Was the Diamox helping?  I assume so.  We did see someone collapse on the side of the trail and there was an almost endless flow of helicopter traffic from the mountain trails back to Lukla, so at least we weren’t that bad!

Day 8 – Loboche to Gorak Shep to EBC! 

The morning was spent hiking to Gorak Shep (16,859′), we had lunch (more Dal Bat – real tired of it at this point), and then to EBC (17,846′)!

We kept wondering, where is Everest?  Where is Everest?  Well, you actually can’t see Everest that much on this trek, we did catch a glimpse on the way to EBC, but it was generally cloudy that day and didn’t get a good view.

Almost there!

EBC “summit” with our guide!


Day 9 – EBC to Kala Patthar to Pangboche

The hardest day by far.  We woke up at 5a.m. to hike to the highest point of our trip, Kala Patthar (18.037′), and the best views of Everest!

Everest is the black triangular peak to the left of the highest peak in the picture

Everest is directly above my finger

Once we reached Kala Patthar, we hiked back to Gorak Shep for breakfast, and then hiked a looooooooong 10 miles down to Pangboche (13,074′).  Exhausting!

Day 10 – Pangboche to Namche Bazar

At this point, we were just on the dusty road home, hoping that the water for the shower was hot in Namche Bazar (it had been a while).

Trekking back to Namche Bazar

Day 11 – Namche Bazar to Lukla

What took us 8 days to get up, only took us 3 days to get down.  Our pace was fast, only hindered by the occasional donkey in the way.

Day 12 – Lukla to Kathmandu

Everyone we met, our guide, our porter, the other trekkers were incredibly nice, everyone was there for the same reason – to enjoy this beautiful earth!  EBC trek was not a vacation, it was an incredible adventure!

Flight back to Kathmandu

Hmong pe-po

My favorite experience in Vietnam was visiting the Hmong people in Sapa.  Their life and world is so unique and so different than my own it’s almost unbelievable that our two worlds exist on the same planet.  In the below pic, we are standing among some of the grown women of the village, i.e., they are short:

They live in Northern Vietnam, next to China, and over the centuries, they’ve built spectacular terraces to grow rice and feed the surrounding villages.

I asked our guide (woman to the right of me in the above picture with the green head scarf) how they grow and harvest the crops.  She said there are multiple rice harvests per year. The villagers walk the roaming buffalo across the terraces to perform the function of plowing.  They plant the rice, divert the river to keep water flowing into their patties, and everyone helps.  She said it’s hard work.  She lives in a village with minimal electricity and running water, when she says something is hard work, it must be incredibly hard.

I asked her what is the furthest place she’s traveled to, fully expecting an answer of no further than Hanoi (closest big city) or China, which is about 20 miles away.  Her response shocked me.  She said she’s never been out of the valley we were in!  The furthest place she ever walks, is to the hotel where she picked us up, on foot, to trek us down to her village. Ten miles max.  Such a different world than my own.  I literally took planes, trains and automobiles, in that order, and traveled thousands of miles to stand in a valley that she’s never left.  I wonder what she thinks of the tourists visiting her village, taking pictures and leaving.  I wonder if she realizes her world is so different than the rest.  I wonder what she thinks when she sees a commercial on TV of cities, buildings, or air planes.  Things that she has never seen in person and may never see in her lifetime.  I can’t think of anything comparable to my own life.  Of all the places I’ve lived, no one’s visited to take pictures of my daily life.  Everyone knows how I live.  I can’t think of something I’ve seen on TV that I’ve not seen in real life.  The moon?  Other countries?  I’ve never seen the moon up close, but I believe people have been there and come back.  I haven’t been to all the countries in the world, but I understand geography and the distances between these places.  She has never seen a city, where billions of people on this planet live.  I wanted to speak with her more, but the language barrier became too great.  Maybe the outside world is not her concern.  She married at 17, has a child, is now 20 years old and has another baby on the way.  She’s worried about feeding her family, she probably doesn’t care that cities and planes exist.  How is that going to help her in her daily life?

I just love this picture.

Side note: Many Asian speakers have a really hard time pronouncing the letter “L”, so the word people, comes out like pe-po, temple, comes out like tem-po, etc.  The Hmong pe-po were awesome to meet.


This is what I love about travel.

My brother and I were in the sleepy port town of Sokcho, South Korea, and we heard loud voices coming from this building:

Naturally we wanted to see what the commotion was about, and as we approached, we saw booth after booth of women selling live sea creatures.

We noted the sight and continued on our way.  As we walked around, we noticed that people seemed to be carrying baskets of food to the top floor of this building.  Intriguing.  As usual, we followed the crowd to the top floor and we found hundreds of people eating soup and fresh seafood.  We figured, people mush be buying the sea creatures below, bringing them up here, and eating!  Only if. Only if we could do that, how cool.  We discussed it, there seemed to be too many hurdles.  Figuring out what to eat, negotiating a price, somehow cleaning the fish (that was a big one), conveying to the people on the top floor of the building we wanted to eat what we brought, it seemed daunting.  We did one more loop around the building, trying to figure out how we might pull this off… there was no obvious solution to us.  It just seemed to complicated.  As we were walking away, a woman yelled out. “Hello!  Hello!”  We turned around, “You eat?”  she asked.  This woman became our savior.

“How much?”  The first question in most travel situations.  The woman grabbed a basket and dunked her hand into the tanks.  She pulled out four live shrimp, two squid, and about four other fish I can’t begin to describe.

“Twenty.”  She said.  “Twenty thousand?”  I wrote on my hand, a two followed by four zeros. She nodded yes… quick converstion calculation… about $18.  Deal!  We asked, “How do we cut?”  We mimed cutting the fish, she understood.  She beckoned us to the back of the store, revealing her worker bees.

These women cut and clean sea creatures all day (I keep saying sea creatures, because fish is just too limiting).  Perfect!  The woman handed us a menu, we looked at it… ok, ok.  These must be the topping/side dishes.  Perfect!  We’ll take it.  We motioned to her… “Can you take us upstairs?”  We pointed up.  She nodded.  Of course she’ll help these tall helpless white giants.  So, the worker bees cleaned the creatures, placing the parts onto a nice basket, the woman handed us our sides and she led us upstairs.  We sat down at a table, a waitress brought us water, but we noticed that other tables had soup and rice, we want that too.  We ordered by pointing (the norm).  Everyone nodded, ok, ok.  Things are working out.  We stared at the basket of fish parts (picture below).  The picture is tough to see, but in the left basket, the there are white fish parts and dark squid parts.  We ate the shrimp before I took the picture. Oops!  The right basket are the garnishes.

The next dilemma ..  I tried to ask, “Do we eat raw?  Or wait for soup?”  I couldn’t get this question across via mime.  At this point we were testing the woman’s patience.  She sighed and motioned for us to eat.  I picked up a shrimp, head and all, hmmmm.  The woman grabbed the shrimp from me, broke off the head and handed the body, legs, tail and all, back to me.  She motioned to eat.  I ate it.  It was crunchy.  She did the same for my brother.  OK.  Raw it is!  We smiled, nodded, gave her a thumbs up, and she nodded walked away.  We dug in!  The fish head soup came, we alternated eating the fish raw and dipping it in boiling water.  What a great meal.

After eating all the “good parts” that we bought downstairs, I ventured to eat the fish heads in the soup.  The fish heads were not bad.  It’s just that they had 1 trillion little bones inside and were about 20% skin:

Like I said, not bad, just exhausting to eat!  No wonder Asians are so skinny.  It’s exhausting to eat.  We finished up the soup, drank the broth and nodded.  That was really good and it worked out perfectly.  We got up, paid and left.  These are the experiences I love.

Then we got hamburgers, we were still hungry!



thousand-yard stare

The thousand-yard stare is defined as a “limp, unfocused gaze of a battle-weary warrior”.  A term coined after the soldiers returned home from the Pacific battles in WWII with this type of gaze (a characteristic of PTSD).  I’m going to use the term to also describe the look westerners develop after being in Southeast Asia for enough time.  It’s the ability to stare straight ahead through the midst of crowded streets and markets, absorbing everything around you, but not making direct contact with a single person.  Direct eye contact with certain people can lead to endless hassling to buy the nearest street hawker’s trinket, men grabbing your arms to try to lead you to their shops to buy cheap suits or girls, or the endless children that beg you for money.  If you give a child a dollar, you will feed him for a day.  If you give a child a dollar, he will ALSO scream to his friends and you will be surrounded little palms hoping that your generosity has not been extinguished.  The thousand-yard stare allows you to avoid the pitfalls of eye contact and continue on your way.

filipino girl

I was talking to this Filipino girl at a bar…

She’s 28 years old, she lives with her family, and there are 20 people in her house. She dropped out of college to make money for her family, but wants to go back. Her English is fantastic.  She takes a bus 2 hours each way to work in Manila. I didn’t catch the name of her hometown, but this commute is obviously worth it for her.  She told me the average person makes 10,000 Philippine pesos a month, about $230.  I had already spent more than that in the last few days in Manila.  She asked if I made more money than $230/month, and she raised her hand a little, indicating a higher amount. I raised my hand to the ceiling. She’s never been outside the Philippians. I asked her if there was one place in the world she wanted to go, where would it be.  She said Rome to see the Basilica and the Pope.  The Philippians are a very Catholic nation.  She asked me where I would go and I said Nepal and Tibet to see the center of Buddhism. She was a very happy person. The last thing I told her before I left was that I hope she makes it to Rome one day.

We live in very different worlds.