After the challenges and accomplishment that was Cho La Pass, I had a sense of calm to continue on along the trail.
A New Goal Formed (Day 11)
After the incredible challenge of yesterday, today was a total breeze. It was a 3.5 hour hike, with minimal incline, and incredible views. As we came down the valley, we had a stunning view of the Cho La glacial lake below. The bright blue color contrasting the dark rock mountains so nice. As we made our way around the grassy hills, a perfect view of Ama Dablam was revealed. We stopped in a grassy area, the sun was shining and warm, and we just soaked in the beauty around us. We sat there in awe. This is when I fell in love with Ama Dablam.
Earlier in the week, our guide told us a story about a friend of his who was a few days ahead of us on the trail. He was doing the same hikes we were in preparation to lead a group up Ama Dablam. He was set up at Ama Dablam base camp getting ready to ascend over the next few days. An interesting thing I learned was although incredibly technical and challenging, Ama Dablam is usually summited in one day. This gave me a new goal. I knew it would take years of fitness and technical skills training, but it gave me something new to build toward. One of my good friends on the trek and I decided that we would shoot for 2023. That would give us time to train, save money, and evaluate our readiness (mentally, physically, and technically) before 100% committing to it.
We continued down the trail, reconnecting with the main Everest trail, and to our destination for the evening in Lobuche. We checked in, huddled in the main room, and saw they had pizza on the menu. This was rare so far from any major towns, so we all decided to go for this little treat. I ordered a Margarita pizza and I’m pretty sure everyone else ordered a pizza during that meal. When we first arrived in Lobuche, we saw a sticker saying the “World’s Highest Bakery” was in town. After lunch, some of us went on a quest to find the bakery. We found it, sat down, ordered a hot drink (cafe mocha for me), and a fruit tart. We sat there and enjoyed the local tunes playing on the speakers above. That was a cool moment.
Everest Base Camp (Day 12)
We knew when the day started that it would be, at a minimum, a 9 hour hike. We got on the trail early and made our way alongside the Khumbu glacier to the town of Gorak Shep. This stretch of trail was quite cold and challenging as we crossed hill after hill of rock and ice. At this point in the trek we have been on the trail at high elevation for 12 days and our bodies were starting to let us know. When we arrived in Gorak Shep, we stopped for some noodle soup, tea, and to check in before we made our way to Everest Base Camp. After lunch we started to make our way over more rocks and ice until we saw the Everest Base Camp yellow sign. At first we were confused thinking, “Is this it? Where do people camp here?” It turns out this sign was merely the sturdiest place to put a sign on a glacier. We still had another hour before the base camp area. In order to get there, we had to cross the Khumbu glacier. Everyone was super quiet on this portion, quickly taking each step at a time. I generally found myself at the back of the group and today was no exception. I arrived and the people ahead had already thrown down their bags and were taking pictures of the Khumbu icefall with Everest in the background.
We made it! We were standing at Everest Base Camp 17,600 feet above sea level. We laughed and hugged each other. When I saw my close friends, we embraced and started to cry. It’s not that Everest Base Camp was the most significant part of this trek, but it was a journey we never thought we would be on. The four of us friends had started a tradition a few years back in the Grand Canyon to drink celebratory shots of Jack Daniels Honey. One of my friends remembered to bring airplane bottles with them that day. They also brought a bag full of trail bacon to munch on. We weren’t sure if it was good, but in the moment it looked as good as any beef jerky and we all ate some. Thankfully none of us got sick. We have now added a new tradition of trail bacon to future expeditions. After a half-hour of celebration, we made our way back to Gorak Shep. It was a calming hike back as everyone felt accomplished, proud, and happy to be there.
Now that we made it to Everest base Camp, we just needed to make our way back down the “hill.”