The earthquake which took place in May was a great tragedy. It experienced seriously many inhabitants, and undermined an economy of the country that has been already very poor. The effects of this experience will still cause suffering in many dimensions for a long time.
A condition of trekking trails, especially the most popular ones – in the Everest and Annapurna region, has really interested us during the last months. We have known media relations, from the Nepalese tourist organisations, official government communicates, and finally from local people. A majority of these sources has confirmed that routes to the base under Everest and in the Annapurna region are secure. As we have had a chance to check it up personally, we feel obliged to share our knowledge on it with You :) First, we discuss the surroundings of Everest. We realised trekking a few weeks ago. We started on 26th October and finished it on 9th November.
Lukla is, of course, a gate to our trekking. We had to reach it by plane since there is no other option. That is it exists, but much more complicated and for those who have much more time. So, we fly from Kathmandu at the break of dawn, one of the first morning flights of the Goma Air airline (it is important that it is a young carrier which has at its disposal younger machines). The weather is very good, we relish with beautiful views outside a window (please, remember to select seats on the left side) and there is a small amount of turbulences. After about 40 min we have landed without any problems, but strongly excited in Lukla.
Here, Sange, our porter, joins us. We eat breakfast, repack our backpacks and we are about to start our trekking adventure. We have set out towards Phakding (2610m).
The first impressions. A course of life in Solokhumbu is normal. On the route there are no trances from an earthquake. A road to Phakding is quite straight and it is rather a descent. We manage with the route without any problems.
A route to the Sherpa capital - Namche Bazaar - awaits us on the next day. On our route we have met a few travellers whom we saw on the previous day. Here, we also have not determined any problems linked to the earthquake. Certainly, it has happened that passing houses of the inhabitants we have noticed cracks in the walls or even destroyed parts of the buildings, but it has not been a mass phenomenon. A part of the damages has been repaired. A road to Namche has been nearly all the time ascending so it has been a little bit harder, but we have ben brave. The difficulties connected with the ascend have been compensated by very beautiful weather which will accompany us during the entire trekking.
We are in Namche, the most civilised locality on the whole trekking route. Here there is an Irish Pub (average ;)), cafes serving real Lavazzą and a chance to purchase trekking equipment, if You have forgotten something while making purchases in Kathmandu. There is also an interesting Gompa, a possibility to see a local market and gaining more interesting experiences.
In Namche You already breathe slightly different. Apparently it is normally, but while jog for a while we start to wheeze slightly;) We are at 3440 m . We are happy that we stay here for one day for acclimation, the more that we have a shower in our room what is a kind of luxury. Physically Namche seems to be untouched by the May tragedy, but it is economically weak. The owners of hotels and guesthouses explain us that most of rooms is empty and they have lost about 70% their guests. It seems to us that the French and German are at least frightened by the potential effects of the earthquake since we meet the most often these nations along our route. The acclimation is a cool stuff.
On the next day we will Wander at nearly 4 000m according to a rule – wander higher, sleep lower. We still have very beautiful weather, we meet a lot of travellers and each of them asked if he/she feels safe and secure (we have done such a little research) ensures us that in 100%! Asked if he/she feels any consequences of the earthquake – indicates a lack of them! Only the travellers who have revisited Nepal indicate a lower traffic on the routes.
O.K. we set out higher. Dole at 4038m is a target spot of our trekking. First, we set off towards the Gokyo Lakes so the least popular route to the base under Everest. This day we will be accompanied by snowfalls, the only time during the entire trekking. It is more colder so we walk slower. We drink a lot and concentrate on not to be tired too much what helps in the acclimation. We do not experience any problems associated with the earthquake on the trail, its effects are unnoticeable. We reach Dole, sleep in the hostel which owner has stated that he has climbed Mt. Everest with Wojtek Kukuczka (we have not verified this).
On the next day awaits us a route to Machermo, 4410m. The route is rather easy, as on every other day once ascending, once descending, but a challenge consists in the altitude which for a part of us is a real burden. The views are really beautiful. We reach Machermo early, after about 4-hour trekking. After a rest and a short acclimation (a short descending trekking) we visit Machermo & Gokyo Porter Shelters and Rescue Posts, where we participate in a lesson on the acclimation. This centre is located only 10 min of marching from our hostel. We have gained interesting experiences, particularly, that a part of us suffers from light symptoms of altitude sickness ;)
On the next day we set off for Gokyo, a locality situated at 4700-4800 m . A route is very beautiful and easy. Certainly, we move only a little bit quicker than a tortoise, but it is wonderfully. The lakes are fantastic, a view from the top really very beautiful so we want to stay here for a longer time.
Gokyo Ri at sunrise? There is sure that it requires a wake up at circa 4 a.m. and more than a 2-hour approach to the peak. But what cannot be done for the fantastic views? Gokyo Ri is of 5357 m, a descent is strenuous and quite exhausting due to the altitude, but technically easy.
After a hot tea at the summit and a breakfast eaten in the hostel, some rest and relax. We decide to descent on the next day to regenerate our organisms.
We set out for Phortse. We go along a route which is not so popular among travellers. Apart from the first hour, when we descent from Gokyo, all the day long we do not meet any tourist! Today, we feel how very distant from a civilisation we are. A good experience. We stay for a lunch in the only one opened hostel which we pass by. Even a landlady is surprised that we have come ;) We eat rara soup – something as a king of a broth with a Chinese soup (the only option besides potatoes) and we set out for the further trip to Phortse (3810m),that allows us to recover our strengths.
On the next day we set off for Dingboche at 4410m. On our way we visit a monastery in Pangboche, the oldest in the whole Solokhumbu. A Puja is just being performed in the monastery. Not daring to interrupt in the ceremony, we do not inspect alleged traces which confirm a presence of the yeti in this region. We continue our trip. A route to Dingboche is not difficult although it, of course, is rather ascending so we have time to admire a beauty of surrounding mountains (first and foremost, when we are wheezed). There are beautiful views al around the trail, certainly as the majority, we are fans of the outstanding Ama Dablam. On our way, we do not determine any obstacles which are consequences of the earthquake.
On the next day, a route to Lobuche (4910m). It is also easy technically, but an altitude is a burden. A one-hour relatively steep descent beginning from Thukla is particularly exhausting. In this section we pass by many other travellers, including already acquaintances, whom we have met before in other localities. A landscape changes, it begins to be slightly glacially. Tired, but we reach Lobuche. We have moderate appetites, but we mobilise ourselves, and on the next day we set off for our destination – the base under Everest.
We wake up at 5 a.m. and set off for Gorakshep. A locality is situated at 5140m, in which we will eat our breakfast, before we set off for the base. Optionally, You can sleep in Gorakshep (instead of Lobuche), although a small number of tourists chooses this option. We have also amicably decided that we want to sleep at the lower altitude. It has been a good choice, the more that our organisms has already felt significant tiredness resulting from increasing altitude. A descend towards Gorakshep is also technically easy, but tiresome. Despite a fact that an altitude difference between Lobuche and Gorakshep is not great, a real difference to overcome is much more greater. The route has been so tedious that we reach our breakfast worn out. A ginger tea with lemon juice has worked as usually so we have been regenerated a little bit. A target within a reach of our sight is motivating so we will manage.
We set out for the base. We feel an altitude, but it is not bad. We are one of the firsts who pave the way. A weather is beautiful, glacial moraines and a panoramic view of the peaks which surround us make an outstanding impression. We see an avalanche which is just being descended from Lhotse, showing power and an awe of high mountains. Just a few whiles and we reach our destination! In the base under Everest where there are no tents of the climbers, from where Everest is almost invisible, but in which is felt a spirit of the great expeditions. The blue Khumbu icefall makes an impression. It is hard to understand how the Sherpas restored it after the earthquake. We feel a great satisfaction.
It is high time to come back. A section to Gorakshep we overcame barely in one hour, we hurry downwards like chamois. It is probably because of reaching our destination we are so full of extra energy. After the next tea in Gorakshep we come back Lobuche, which we also reach in the record pace. We are surprised by ourselves ;) We eat our lunch, pack our backpacks and set off further downwards. We want to reach Pheriche (4240m). on the same day. We relax in the hotel since we are tired. The second best after this in Namche Bazaar. The next day is still a little challenge. We have decided to reach Namche Bazaar, so we are awaited by nearly 7-8 hours of trekking. On our way we visit the largest monastery in the neighbourhood, Tengboche (3860m). A route is not particularly difficult and despite a fact that we go downwards there are a few ascends (e.g., just before Tengboche). On our way, we call at the Nepalese home in order to purchase roti (something like our doughnuts-do You know?) and we wander further. Our road is totally secure. On our way we meet a road worker, i.e. a person who has decided to involve in building a trail in the vicinity of Namche Bazaar of his own free will. Due to the efforts of this man, for decades, metre after metre a trail has been built and amended here. All of this is possible thanks to the collected subventions so we, of course, give some rupees to the great wooden box which this man carries on his back. A relax in Namche, on the next day we come back to Phakding, in order to come back to the gate on the following day. To the gate from which we have started our trekking, we are in Lukla. The uncertainty if we could really departure from there is the only one worry until we fly… and not due to weather since it is good. There have been blockades along the India border, there have been withhold, inter alia, fuel supplies, etc. for a few weeks. A problem has become so serious that it is not sure if our carrier will realise a flight on the next day… (not only ours …). The fate has been on our side :) We came back to Katmandu, we fly with the first flight from Lukla. We are very happy and fully satisfied with our mountain adventure. The memories from Solokhumbu will remain with us for a long time. While taking a full responsibility we can confirm that the trail to the base under Everest is completely safe and secure and the consequences of the earthquake, although noticeable in some places, have no impact on the security of the travellers.
Please feel invited here, if You look for a similar adventure :)
And, finally we - the organisers somewhere in the vicinity of Gokyo :)
P.S. Moreover, I kindly explain that always where I have mentioned some tiredness, a burden of ascending, problems associated with an altitude I have always had in mind us, the European part of the expedition team ;) The above mentioned issues have not been related at all to the Nepalese part of the crew who is constituted only by the Sherpas ;)