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Everest Base Camp Trek: Living At Base Camp

Lying in a tent in Ever­est Base Camp, you can hear the ever-mov­ing glac­i­er beneath you crack and pop. Minor avalanch­es fall with a rum­ble and a rush on the sur­round­ing moun­tains, their plumes of snow invis­i­ble in the dark­ness. These are the sounds of night at the edge of the Khum­bu Ice­fall. By ear­ly morn­ing, the moun­tains have a blue-black glow. The half moon is sharply lumi­nous over­head, but the stars have been extin­guished. Men stir. Stoves are pumped, primed, and begin their whoosh and whir to heat morn­ing tea. Anoth­er day of set­ting camps, sup­port­ing climbers, and reach­ing for the sum­mit begins. 

After a night on the glac­i­er, I won­dered what it would be like to spend TWO MONTHS liv­ing at Base Camp. So I asked Pemba.…

Pem­ba Gyal­je, at home on the glacier

The first few days liv­ing at Base Camp is not too bad, but when we are stay­ing a long time, you feel kind of bor­ing. You want to see more grass­land and more green. A long time stay­ing on the glac­i­er is not a good feel­ing. Always we are greedy to see plants and vegetation. 

Ear­ly on, both climbers and sup­port staff are busy to get every­thing set up. Sher­pas are doing a lot of climb­ing to push up all sup­plies from base camp to high­er on the moun­tain. For­eign­ers are doing less climb­ing – just for acclima­ti­za­tion. After Camp 4 (high camp) is com­plete­ly set up and every­one has good acclima­ti­za­tion, then we are just wait­ing and wait­ing for good weath­er – always wait­ing for a good weath­er window. 

Peo­ple play cards and games and make jokes to pass the time if there is bad weath­er for three or four days. That’s all – there is no extra fun. Now the major­i­ty of peo­ple come down to Gorak Shep, Lobuche, or Pheriche if there is a fore­cast of one week bad weath­er. They want to see veg­e­ta­tion, have a good show­er, and relax.

Water is a big prob­lem here because there is only run­ning water (melt­ed ice) dur­ing the day. Morn­ing and evening there is no run­ning water from the Ice­fall, so peo­ple use glacial lake water for drink­ing and show­er­ing. Glac­i­er water has strong mic­ah con­tent. The first two weeks is dif­fi­cult to adjust to the water’s min­er­al con­tent. It smells dif­fer­ent and makes an uncom­fort­able stomach.

Some peo­ple are very sat­is­fied stay­ing a long time on the glac­i­er because there is clean rock, ice, and snow. Some­time we orga­nize ice climb­ing for 2 – 3 hours in a day and refresh every­one’s skills. If there is a lot of fresh snow, there are many fun things like ice climb­ing, play­ing with snow­balls, build­ing a snow­man, and even tak­ing a snow bath if it’s a sun­ny day.

For me there is no frus­tra­tion or bore­dom even if I stay two months because I have spent so many years on the glac­i­er. Now I feel com­fort­able just like stay­ing low­er down. I have ful­ly adjust­ed to the glac­i­er envi­ron­ment, and I feel very easy.

EBC is an inter­na­tion­al base camp with so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple from dif­fer­ent coun­tries. It’s good to see peo­ple and inter­act with them. It’s quite impor­tant for climbers and trekkers because they can learn so much about climb­ing, cul­ture, and pol­i­tics all across the world.”

Towards Pheriche

Descend­ing in one day what took us three to climb, we re-cross 3 small bridges, 2 large glac­i­ers, and 1 rock­slide until we are skip­ping over stones on the broad and windy plain of Pheriche. At 14,000 ft., breath­ing comes eas­i­ly now, appetites have returned, and sleep is sol­id. Back in a hab­it­able, if not quite hos­pitable, landscape.

Pang­boche Vil­lage and Monastery

Pang­boche is home to a 600-year-old monastery (the first in the Khum­bu Val­ley). Built around a rock where a famous lama once med­i­tat­ed, the dim inte­ri­or is filled with old stat­ues, crum­bling relics, wrath­ful deities behind locked doors, and the exag­ger­at­ed faces of carved masks used in rit­u­al sum­mer dances.

Monastery inte­ri­or. Blan­dine Fay­olle photo

Men from this vil­lage, as from all in the area, are leav­ing their homes and fam­i­lies for the start of climb­ing sea­son. It’s not sur­pris­ing that we find three old lamas con­duct­ing a short cer­e­mo­ny for pro­tec­tion in this dan­ger­ous work. No one starts a jour­ney or under­takes a risky ven­ture in Nepal with­out a bless­ing first. Near­ly every Sher­pa going high on the moun­tain will pay for a cer­e­mo­ny at their home monastery in addi­tion to the bless­ing the lamas will con­duct for each and every group at base camp.

Pang­boche lama

Pre­vi­ous EBC Blog