After looking at the Kuluar website and descriptions of routes, I hesitated between the Norwegian trek and the trek to Everest. On the advice of my friends and my gut feeling I chose Everest, most likely because Nepal is farther from us (the farther from home, the more interesting the adventure), or maybe because the phrase “I was near Everest” sounds more grandiose. Of the tracks, we wanted to test ourselves a little for the first time and chose “Base Camp across the Gokyo Lakes”, it is marked “high” level, but without special equipment. The defining moment was getting tickets to Kathmandu, I started looking for tickets six months in advance, choosing the best transfer/price ratio. Among the airlines the best deals came from Etihad and AirArabia. I ended up flying with AirArabia with an 8 hour layover in Sharjah. On the domestic flight Kathmandu-Lukla the tickets for the whole group were taken by the organizer and guide Taras Pozdny. Tickets bought, no way back, I left the packing and preparations for a month just before the flight.
Since I wasn’t sure if I would continue camping, for the first time I decided to partially borrow camping gear from my comrades. My 70-liter backpack totaled 14 kg. The heaviest things in it were boots and a sleeping bag. I gathered according to the list on the trekking preparation website, it was very helpful in determining how much stuff I needed. I had no idea about the temperature on the trail and didn’t take enough warm clothes. I bought fleece pants and warm woolen socks in Namche Bazaar in Kathmandu so I could sleep in them. Many hiking stuff, pants, socks, trekking poles, gloves can be bought in Kathmandu at sufficiently low prices, the main thing is to leave room in the backpack for the things to be added.
AirArabia brought me to the airport in Kathmandu exactly one day, and I was helped by the guidebook on visa application, saved in my phone from Kuluar website. Everything was easy and simple, and at the airport exit I was met by Oksana Danilyuk, the sister of guide Taras Late. After checking in and getting acquainted we walked to the Swayambhunath Stupa, fed the monkeys, and enjoyed the first views that we could see, a panorama of Kathmandu. It was pretty cool – you can get to know the city and the people a little bit before you hike. In the evening Nepalis paraded through the streets with songs and drums, we were in the Diwali period. In the evening at the cafe Black Olives we got acquainted with the group, there were only 6 of us. We took the morning flight to Lukla.
The evening warmth cheated the weather a bit and I dressed too lightly in the morning, the flight was very early and when we arrived at Lukla (2,860m) I was pretty well frozen. The small propeller plane for 12 people gives its allure of adventure, I personally enjoyed flying dangerously close to the Himalayan mountains and rolling hills. It’s best to land on the left side, that way you manage to see the entire mountain range from up in the air, the mountain wall looked pretty impregnable.
Upon arrival, we had lunch immediately and met the local guide and porters. The first day was a hike and we had to descend 250 meters into the village of Phading. The walk itself was not too difficult with some ups and downs, but on the way we saw the first peak – Kusum Kanguru (6,367 m), met our first suspension bridge and drums of prayer that we saw on the way. At Phading’s after lunch, I hiked further up the trail to the river and a small, lonely cabin on the shore. After that we made a leisurely radial hike up 80-100 meters to the monastery, where we accidentally went to Puja, performed by young monks aged 13-15. You can enter freely, as long as you take off your shoes and sit quietly and watch the ritual. Puja was quite funny – little monks read ancient texts rather lazily, imitating the adults, but for them it is just like a lesson at school – one reads a text, another beats a drum and falls asleep a little, two chatting, whispering and laughing, some falling asleep, wrapped in large robes, the guys in the corner behind the musical pipes, waiting for them to enter. The atmosphere of meditation, though, persists and is quite fun and interesting to watch.
The night for me was very cold, the sleeping bag was at a comfort temperature of +10, which was clearly not enough for this very comfort; there was no blanket in our room, and we did not ask, not thinking that it would be needed. At night I froze, in the morning I got up with a sore throat and throughout the day I drank tea with ginger, which is everywhere here and literally the next day it was gone. In the afternoon it got warmer again and the walking became more pleasant, we moved towards Namche Bazaar. The first long hike. The way itself at first was quite pleasant and not difficult, we saw a couple of small but beautiful waterfalls. At this point we entered Sagramatha National Park using our permits prepared by the couloir organizers. The steep climb started before the big Hillary suspension bridge, after which we had a short break and then a continuous climb up all the way to Namche Bazaar (3,440m). It was exhausting but not very difficult, at a gentle pace it was easy to climb, but the Sherpas easily outrunning you in slippers and with a load of 60 kilos was a bit demotivating and motivating at the same time. On the way we made a halt, from where we saw Everest for the first time, it seemed to be very far.
After overcoming the ascent from the Hillary Bridge, the view of Namche Bazaar, the capital of the region, opens up. Having reached the settlement, we still had strength, but wanted to go to the loggia and rest. After a snack, the energy was replenished and fatigue was not felt, we set off on a radial hike. When we reached the top of the hill, up to the monument to Tenzing’s Norgay, we were obscured by clouds, but in the gaps we could see the tops of the mountain ranges. In the evening we watched World Inside Out about Nepal, and Namche Bazaar in particular, sitting in the same café where they baked a cake for the Sherpa kids. At night, the noisy Diwali celebrations continued in Namche.
This day was all about acclimatization and was one of my favorite days of the hike. The walk was from Namche Bazaar to the Everest View Hotel, then to the memorial to Hillary’s wife and daughter who died in a plane crash, through the village of Khumjung. Since it was a radial hike we didn’t have to carry our gear and the hike itself was not grueling, but rather pleasant, although it was up to 4,000m. Along the way we could see some night frost on the ground in the shade of trees, but it quickly melted in the sun. But the views were indescribable – beautiful panoramas from Everest View Hotel, the gorge we walked through from Lukla, and the 360-degree view from the memorial ridge were breathtaking. It was also where we first saw the already fall edelweiss. The main advantage – besides the necessary acclimatization – on the way we could leisurely look at everything that was in front of us.
In the morning, after a still warm overnight stay with a hot shower, we set off toward Dole (4,200 m). It is worth noting the Tenzing Norgei Sherpa Stupa, erected in honor of the 50th anniversary of the conquest of Everest, through which the trail goes. It is located on the trail in front of Everest, not to mention that the stupa itself is also very beautiful itself. At this point we deviate from the route of the main trek to the EBC toward Gokyo Lakes. The first part of the trail was very pleasant and easy, with no elevation changes. But then started quite a long and a little torturous hike, gaining altitude we immediately lost it on the trail, which went down quite sharply. It was a bit offensive to lose all these hard-won meters, especially because the descent was never ending. We took a break in the village in the lowlands, where we had some tea and started walking up a gentler slope to the Dole, meeting some very beautiful freezing waterfalls.
For the hike we went to the local stupa on a small ridge near the village, here the ascent was not very big, but after a long hike, or maybe from the altitude, was a little tiring. At the Stupa we were caught by a cloud, in this valley we were further enveloped by clouds in the evenings, but it usually passed by nightfall. Pretty interesting how the clouds floated over the ridge you’re standing on, directly a few meters away small flakes float by. But on the descent, the sunset along with the clouds created an amazing picture of the mountains. From the neighboring loggias all the trekkers came out to admire Kantega (6,782 m) and Thamserku (6,623 m). Here for the first time I had a headache, but it quickly passed after a short rest on the descent. Here we saw the beauty of the night mountain stars. There was almost no light because the whole village is powered by solar panels, so we were able to see all the stars possible to the naked eye, as it seemed to me. The Milky Way was especially beautiful.
The hike to Machermo (4,470 m) was very easy and pleasant, the trail was horizontal and very easy. Once in the village, we decided to wash with water from a barrel heated during the day. The sun was shining warm enough to have time to wash and not to get cold, but the trekkers sitting nearby in down jackets and hats looked at us very incomprehensible and confused.There we went to a lecture on mountain sickness from volunteers of IPPG (International Porter Protection Groups). In any case it was interesting to listen to for those who already have experience in mountain hiking and for beginners, at least because of the story about the organization. We made a radial outing to a nearby ridge that was quickly covered by clouds and we had to wander among them as they came over the ridge. Out of the fog came yaks, which began to closely follow our movements as we approached 🙂
In the morning we set out for the village of Gokyo. The trail was nice, with a slight upward slope all the time. We started to take pictures at the first Gokyo lake “Longponga”, though it is the smallest, but it seemed to me the most pleasant of the three. Mostly transparent, with blue-green water, it is surrounded by a real garden of rocks and all the passing by trackers add their “turrets” to the general architectural landscape :D. By the second “Taujun” and the third lake “Dudh Pokhari” stone “monuments” became less, evidently the strength and enthusiasm of the passers-by decreased as we climbed. Immediately behind the hill we came to the second lake, which is larger, with turquoise water, quite cold, but its color beckoned for a swim. Near the third lake is located the village of Gokyo itself under the top of Gokyo Ri (5,483 meters), and it’s really a beautiful place for a village. During the day there is a beautiful view of the lake and on a moonless night the Milky Way is reflected in the water of the lake.
The radial exit was on a nearby hill, separating the village from the melting Ngozumpa glacier. It looks like a pile of rocks, you can constantly hear rockslides from the melting ice underneath. In some places there is indeed ice, we will see it when we cross the glacier in a couple of days.
The next day we made one trip to the fourth “Thonak Cho” and the fifth “Ngozumpa Cho” lakes. The hike itself was grueling, it seemed to me. Although there were no strong up and down hikes, the trail was very rocky for the first part of the trip and it was strenuous to walk on. The lakes themselves were not as impressive as the first ones, their colors were more faded and they stood surrounded by gray stones, but the fifth lake offered one of the best views of Everest. When we reached the fifth lake (it’s very small) we had time to take a nap in the sun, take a picture and go back slowly. The way back is always faster, and we quickly made it to the village.
Today is our first ascent. Early in the morning we woke up to climb Gokyo Ri (5483 m). It was still dark when we went out, the sunrise caught us halfway up. For me the ascent was only the last 50 meters, but otherwise it was easy and only took two or three hours. The view from the summit is gorgeous, overlooking the Ngozumpa Glacier and the first three lakes of Gokyo. We spent about half an hour on the summit and had a surprisingly quick descent. After having breakfast and some water from the mountain stream that flowed into the lake we headed up to Dragnak (4700 m). We had to cross to the other side of the glacier which turned out to be more difficult than it looked. Physically it was not difficult, the ascents and descents were not too big, but there was no trail everywhere, we had to walk carefully over the rocks. The view was quite Martian, when you go down and the stone mounds cover the nearby mountains, you can feel like you are on another planet. Sometimes we came across small lakes inside the glacier, some beautiful, some gray and inconspicuous. It took us longer than we thought, but in the end we came to the straight path to Dragnak, on which we reached the village in 30 minutes. This day we didn’t go to the radial, we rested before the upcoming pass tomorrow.
Here we approached the pass, the last obstacle before the EBC. When we came out it was pretty cold, gloves helped a lot. We walked uphill from Dragnak’s to the pass all the time, it was easy to walk, sometimes bypassing the ice and watching the river, which, making its way between the frozen parts, ran briskly downhill. Along the way we came across many grouse, as far as we were able to recognize these birds (chicken momo in the local dialect). When we came to the hill, we had a view of Cho La Pass. Cho La Pass (5,420m) seemed impregnable to us. We spent a lot of time trying to explain to each other what we should be climbing and it seemed to me that everybody stuck to his or her own ideas about the ascent of that pass. After packing up a bit, we headed closer, but for me, to be honest, the closer we got, the less clear it was on how to climb. In the end the ascent was very interesting and unusual, sometimes helping ourselves with our hands, sometimes climbing on rocks, but we all successfully made it to the top. We walked for a long time, there were both loose rocks and hard rocks at a high angle, but not slippery. The funniest thing was to diverge on the narrow trail with those going down, because it often seemed like a stalemate situation)) We stayed at the top of the pass for about 40 minutes, taking pictures, and were impressed with our success. It was also where we got snow for the first time, a little at the top and mostly after it. We had to go down a lot, all the way to the village of Dzongla. At first the way down the snow was very slippery, we had to fall a couple of times, then we walked on the snowy mountainside on a narrow trail, sometimes it was really narrow and we followed the trail. This time I was running after the porter and whether it was the exertion or the altitude, I got a really bad headache midway, so I walked the rest of the way to the village rather slowly, but the village was farther than we could see it from the hill. The rest of the day was unloading.
I do not remember this day very much, it was the usual crossing from Dzongla to Lobuche. What was memorable was the strong desire to take a shower in Lobuche. We did not want to spend money on hot water, it was a little expensive and it would not be enough to have a good shower. It was decided to wash in a mountain stream that flowed quite close by. When I got out in my flip-flops to the river there was already one member of the Russian-speaking group accompanying us. When we began to wash, not only the foreigners in the lodges, but also the local Sherpas looked at us with great surprise and interest. To be honest, the water is very cold and scalding at first, but it is possible to wash your feet and body, though during the process you lose a little bit of sensitivity in the extremities. My head was more difficult to wash, but I managed to dip it in the river, the shampoo even rinsed off well. We spent the rest of the evening in the loggia over hot ginger tea, tea with lemon, and hot chocolate. P.S. No one got sick that day.
We go out to “Gorakshep” (Gorak Shep – dead crow), the highest of the villages where we had to spend the night. The hike was easy and fun, though because we went back to the classic trail, we walked among a whole stream of trekkers who were now walking with us to see Base Camp. Before the village itself we had to go down and up a few times on the rocks, but it wasn’t difficult. We had a full house for lunch, and there was a full house in the lodge, so we headed for Base Camp. We had about 1.5-2 hours to get there by rocky hills very similar to the Ngozumpa glacier obstacles, the same Martian Moon landscape, but with a breathtaking view of Nuptse (7,861 m). There were no tents in BC, it was out of season. But we managed to get down to the Khumbu Glacier, and it was very impressive. It was the first time I had seen the glacier and I was impressed by the ice standing everywhere and the rocks on the ice pedestals that had not had time to melt under their shadows. Everything around was made of ice, even the pebbles underfoot, all standing on it. A couple of times the ice cracked and a rock fell off the pedestal, or a piece of ice chiped off the ice floe. On the way back we took some pictures at the Base Camp sign, hung up the Kuluar flag and returned to the village. We had to lie down early, leaving at 4-5 am for Kala Patthar (5,643 m)
The ascent to Kala Patthar was very early, almost at night. In the dark it turned out to be easier to walk, you just walk and do not think how much further to go, where you are going, without a flashlight you see nothing but stars, with a flashlight you can see three meters around yourself. It was cold, but very starry, and when it started to get light, we saw a falling meteor with a pronounced tail, they are called Bolids. Very similar to a comet, only faster and closer. We did not have time to film it, it exploded into small pieces that quickly extinguished. On the way up we took a lot of pictures of the valley, of ourselves and of Everest, with a sense of accomplishment. We did not stay long at the summit, the peak was too spicy and hard to reach, so many people crowded around. We decided to go down, have breakfast and go back. On the way down we met a guy with cerebral palsy who bravely climbed the peak, not without help of course, but this feat, I think, impressed all of us. After consulting with a local guide, Taras decided to go to Pangboche (3,985 m), it’s a little further than the original plan Pheriche (4,371 m), but there is finally a local guide said normal electricity, not solar panels, charging from which is very difficult and expensive. The way back for third was the same as yesterday, only after Lobuche we turned left into the valley and dropping about 600-700 meters, we were on a straight path to Pheriche. There we went to see the monument to those who died on Everest, with the names of all those who died in the ascent. After lunch, we went on to Pangboche, where a cheesecake and coffee were waiting for us and to recharge all our gadgets.
The way back to Namche Bazaar was through Tengboche Monastery (3,867 m). The monastery is very beautiful and distinctive, its location is even too good, with a view of Kantega and Thamserku, which we saw before. It stands on the edge of the slope and the view opens up to many other peaks, and nothing obstructs the view. We were lucky enough to arrive, at this point the Puja was taking place there. This time, everything was serious, adults and elderly monks were reading ancient texts seriously and knowledgeably, tourists are not paying attention, you can just go and sit on the edge, watching the process. Having stayed in meditation for about 20 minutes, we moved on, mercilessly dropping altitude. The main thought that crossed my mind was, “It’s a good thing this is the way we’re going back. Except for my torn shoe and some yak jam on the trail that delayed a bunch of people in front of Namche Bazaar (a common thing at the entrance to the capital) nothing critical happened on the way. In the evening everyone finally showered in hot water flowing from the tap, drank coffee and beer, ate another cheesecake and was almost completely relaxed.
This was the final crossing, we reached Lukla, where we stayed for the night. In the evening we wanted to go to a cafe, but by coincidence we ended up at a local porterhouse where we spent a lot of time eating fried fish and chicken with a local drink called Tongba. Tongba is a local alcoholic drink, 7-8 degrees strong, made from fermented millet. The millet is poured into a cup and poured with hot water, after drinking the first portion the water is refilled, so you can brew Tongba up to several times.
This day was the last day in the Khumbu area, early in the morning we woke up to the roar of airplanes taking off. Leaving Lukla airport back to Kathmandu we didn’t end our journey, we decided to go to Chitwan for 2 days, where we really hoped to make up for the lack of heat. In Kathmandu we quickly dumped our clothes in the hotel, gave some to a local laundromat and headed out in the mini bus to Chitwan. On the way, though, we stopped at Everest Steak House, where we were gladly treated to a special pound steak, we had to put on the pounds we had lost. The whole trip took about 5 hours of jolting along the road and by evening we were there at the hotel.
Chitwan was two spa days for us after a hard crossing. In the morning we went canoeing on the morning river. There were most of the birds, but there were a fair number of crocodiles swimming around us, hiding in the water with only their eyes sticking out above the surface.
After we docked, a 3 hour walk through the jungle awaited us, we wandered for a long time hoping to see rhinos, but all we saw were deer, butterflies, tiger tracks and elephants. Overall the walk itself was very pleasant and interesting, even without the animals it was very nice to wander around. We returned to the elephant farm, where we had a great time with the little elephants, who ran out of the cage to the tourists. They were happily eating grass from our hands, though sometimes shy or afraid of running away.
In the evening of the same day we went for a ride on an elephant. We sat 4 people per elephant, not counting the mahout. The local wildlife does not react if you’re on the elephant, even when we talked and shouted, the deer just slightly raised their heads, but did not run away. At one point, the herders started shouting back and forth, and we quickly ran somewhere on our brisk elephant. It turned out they had spotted the rhinos, and we all ran to see them. They were also grazing peacefully on the lawn next to deer, monkeys in a tree, and a family of boars walking nearby.
After dinner, another event awaited us – a local folk dance performance. It’s interesting to see at least once, but the Audience Award went to the Peacock Dance.
This morning we went on a bird-watching walk, it was like walking through the jungle. We listened to a lot of birds, but since I’m not a big expert on them, I enjoyed the walk more. After breakfast we headed for Kathmandu, as we were seeing two of our comrades off home in the evening. I still had half of the day tomorrow, and since AirArabia had postponed the flight by a day, I had the whole day. I spent it on another visit to Swayambhunath to feed the monkeys, the most sad part was the encounter with the monkey which had no front legs, moved on its hind legs like a human and grabbed the cookies with its mouth only. In the evening we went to buy souvenirs for friends and relatives. From Kathmandu you can bring a million different useful and useless little things. The singing bowls were the best of all for me but it is better to buy them in Swayambhunath because you can find craftsmen there who make them and the prices are much lower than in Thamel, the tourist shop. Among other things – hats, Nepalese pants, mandalas, etc. can safely take in Thamel’e, the main thing to haggle the right price, it is often half or even three times lower than the original. And finally, in the morning before the flight I went up to the roof of the hotel and took some pictures of morning Kathmandu.
Due to the flight transfer, our layover increased by 10 hours. But there is an AirArabia counter in Sharjah, where you should go in such cases, the company provides lunch-dinner-breakfast and overnight in a hotel.
For me, this has been the main adventure I’ve had so far, hopefully not the last with Couloir. Personally, I saw things I had never seen before, and it made a huge impression on me. Mountains, glaciers, Nepalese culture, monasteries, jungles, elephants and rhinos, and even a bolide drop we managed to see during that one trip. All in all, it was even a small test of myself against the uncomfortable conditions of the mountains. When I was going on the hike I was afraid to take extra stuff with me and cut everything off to the max, so the quality of my photos leaves a lot to be desired, they were all taken on my phone. It was quite possible to take a normal camera, it does not disturb and does not weigh you down, but you really want to capture what you see and where you were “for the grandchildren”.