Into the thin air, I was struggling hard for a breath of air. I’ve not climbed above 5300m before and with only 50% oxygen in the air, was struggling even more walking across the ridge. I sat down on a boulder to rest, grasp more air and stop my heart pounding high. This morning, for the first time, oxygen saturation level in my blood dipped below 80 and the altitude began to take toll on me. But no way could I give it up. I was so close of my dream destination, Everest Base Camp! I climbed up this much and was only an hour walk away from it. “Come on Anupam, you can do it!” yelled my guide. I stood up again, mumbled under my breath “Slowly Slowly, Bistar Bistar”, the Nepalese Mantra I learned from my guide for climbing high altitudes. The sense of following the footsteps of many legendary Mountaineers who conquered Everest was boosting my morale and finally I reached the head of downward trail to the Base Camp. I could clearly see from there, the Base camp, Khumbu Ice fall and the Mt Everest. It was then a few minutes’ walking down to the base where rocks were piled up and covered with colourful prayer flags announcing the destination, Everest Base Camp at 5364m!
Simply because a trekker not steps on Mt Everest, does not make the trek to the Everest Base Camp a cake walk in the Himalayas. It was so tough and challenging that at times I questioned my decision to come here. But there were also times when I looked at the serenities that were unbelievably astounding and so unlike of the mountainous terrain I trekked before. The higher I climbed on this trail, more was the magnificence and I nodded at every such place, yes, I made a correct decision! Now that I made it to the Base Camp, it became one of the proudest moments in my life.
I climbed down back to Gorakshep, the last resting and eating place before the Base Camp. It was not over yet as I had to climb the final peak Kala Patthar, 5643m, for the sunset on Everest. By now everyone in the team including my companion, porter and guide were tired, exhausted and affected by the altitude. We all developed an irritating headache and had only an hour for lunch, rehydrate and rest to face the killer climb of Kala Patthar. After a quick lunch we popped in Paracetamol for headache and waited.
Our journey to Everest Base Camp began nine days before with an enthralling 30 minutes mountain flight to Lukla from the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. For many people including me it was the smallest plane that we’ve ever travelled on and an exciting start to the journey. Our journey from Lukla to the most popular day one destination Phakding was along the Dudh Koshi river and took about two and half hours at a slow and steady pace of walking. The journey of day two from Phakding started very easy with a gentle hike to the village Monjo. As we left the village Monjo, we arrived at Sagarmatha National Park entrance. Here, one needs to pay requisite fees for trekking further. There onwards, we used suspension bridges several times to cross the Dudh Koshi river. After the village Jorssale, the trek got surprisingly difficult and challenging as we had to hike for a tiring two and half hours steep ascents. The only respite was that Mt Everest could be viewed clearly from Topdanda top. It was our first sight of Mt Everest. In the afternoon, we reached the most bustling and happening town in the Khumbu region, Namche Bazaar, which lies at 3440m. We spent two nights here. During our stay at Namche, we hiked to a relatively higher elevation for our body to adjust with lower oxygen of higher altitudes. After Namche, we arrived at the famous halt, Tengboche, which is renowned for Tengboche Monastery that holds prayer on every morning and evening. Before climbing Mt. Everest, most of the climbers visit this monastery to seek blessing for their success.
Each day as we climbed more we gained more elevation combating with less oxygen. The beautiful mountain villages Pangboche, Dingboche we left behind and arrived at Lobuche at 4950m last afternoon. That evening, I prayed to the mountain God for one more day of good health to accomplish the mission. The mountain God perhaps was pleased and today I made it to the Base Camp. But it was not over yet. It would be the most breathtaking experience if I could make it to Kala Patthar for sunset on Everest. Today, the sun was shining brightly in the clear blue sky, a perfect weather for the sunset. The headache was not relieved completely yet. It won’t go unless I climbed down to a lower altitude. But before that, I had a mission to accomplish.
The climb to Kala Patthar was though not long but relentless. At every few minutes, I had to stop to catch my precious breath. My lungs were working harder to compensate the lower oxygen. Every time I started moving, my heart was pounding high. I pushed myself, mentally and physically, and just when I thought I reached the top, there was more to climb! It was simple for me. Keep moving, Slowly Slowly, Bistar Bistar! Just one step at a time!
After a hike of two hours, I finally reached the summit of Kala Patthar. Everest, now mostly visible and it was the time for sunset. The show began with lights of setting sun only on the tallest peaks, Nuptse and Everest. Slowly the colour of lights changed from golden yellow to orange and it was Mt Everest, the tallest peak of the world that held the last ray! A breathtaking view that I will remember for my whole life! My dream came true. It was then the time to descend quickly losing all the elevations I gained for last few days. The pleasure of returning home was not like this ever before.
Sunset views on Mount Everest