Madness guide Mara Larson gives us the final update from Everest Base Camp Trek.
It’s just a week past Thanksgiving now, and finally the gear is washed, the sleeping bags are airing, and the Khumbu cough is in the distant past — for all but me, Knute, and Mike, anyway.
Happy team acclimatizing above Dingboche. Justin Bruckel photo
How time flies post-Himalaya. And how easily we manage to forget pungent bathroom smells at 17,000 feet and the early morning deep-freeze. Our descent from Everest and the Khumbu was a celebration on many levels. For Jean, Anna, Mike, John, and Lisa, it was a bucket list success. For Jason, mainly the relief of escaping from his ever-present buff. For Josh, Justin, and Ken, it was likely a descent fueled with new ambitions and directions. Our reunion’s planned for Argentina in a year’s time. For Ricardo, the relief of unfinished business, finally achieved. And for Bernie, a glimmer of what the future holds. As for me, Knute, and Michael, we’re still reminded of it with our dust-filled Khumbu coughs we all welcomed back with us, taking back just a bit more of Nepal than we planned.
The Dudh Kosi river along our last day’s walk. Justin Bruckel photo
We left our last update high above 17,000 feet, climbing Kala Pattar and arriving to our final destination of Everest Base Camp. The descent was no less memorable. A swift exit from Gorak Shep had us swigging coffee and hightailing it down 13 miles to the relative comforts of Pheriche, 3000 feet lower. Hot showers, beer and wine, and a toasty tea house with a fire so warm we had to retreat to cooler corners. Simple pleasures like clean pillows and puffy comforters sealed the evening. In the morning, it was a heli-farewell to John and Lisa. For the rest of us, next was an escape from the beaten Khumbu path with one final adventure into the remote Gokyo Valley. The walk was memorable, but the night spent tucked away with our Sherpa team and no other contact with the outside world will probably be one of my all-time highlights of the trip. Mani and Tenzing finally showed their competitive chops, taking on Justin, Josh, and Ken in rowdy ‘boardgames’. The time together there, and over a relaxed few days down in Namche, meant a good unwind and slow metamorphosis back to the real world.
Stone shelter along the path. Justin Bruckel photo
Our last Himalayan day, Josh crushed us with the pacing into Lukla. The pack of us playing chase were regularly asked if we were part of the Everest Marathon also racing down towards the Lukla finish line that day. It was fun feeling fresh legs after so many long punishing days up high.
A farewell dinner in Lukla with all the Sherpa and kitchen staff ended with the local team disappearing with a few bottles of rum and the rest of us crashing out, dreaming of clean showers and warm air down in Kathmandu the following day. The rest of the return to civilization was quite a blur to be honest. Waves of exhaustion, euphoria, and maybe even the first twinges of nostalgia for a really wonderful and shockingly strong team sharing this adventure together.
One last Namaste from all of us!
~ Mountain Madness Guide Mara Larson