People often say, “It’s all downhill form here!” That is not quite the case, but the trail down to Lukla was challenging, beautiful, and calming.
In Memoriam (Day 13)
Today was the start of the big descent down the main Everest trail. We now had the opportunity to see the trail everyone else typically goes up, but in the downward direction. One downside to this trail was there were so many more people to avoid on thin passes through the mountains. While on the trail, we passed by several memorial sites dedicated to fallen climbers on Everest and the surrounding peaks. What I found particularly beautiful about this area was not only did it honor the fallen, it was in a location surrounded by incredible mountains. This spot, looking down the Khumbu valley, was definitely one of my favorite scenic locations of the whole trek. As we continued down the mountain, we came to a flat area heading towards Ama Dablam. The clouds started to roll in leaving the top of the mountain revealed and the bottom covered in clouds. It was a magical view. Dingboche, the town we were staying at that night, is located at the bottom of Ama Dablam and the views were stunning. That evening we were greeted with an incredible sunset full of pinks and oranges.
The Way Down (Days 14-15)
This day was overcast and allowed for people to just keep hiking without stopping for photos too often. This was not a difficult hike, but it still took about 6 hours to complete. This day was one of the only days when we caught a glimpse of mountain goats way up on the hills. They did not come near us, but they were high on the mountain looking on us below. That night we slept in Debuche.
The next morning we started the day with a steep incline up to Tengboche where the Tengboche Monastery sat atop a mountain. It was covered in colorful art and sculptures. Unfortunately, it was closed and we were unable to visit. Since we were at the top of a mountain, we had a perfect view back to Everest in the distance. One last stunning view of the tallest peak in the world. We made out way down below the tree line and noticed the temperature began to rise. We passed through Namche Bazaar and had a chance to stop in for a café mocha and an apple pie before moving on down the trail. We crossed over the many cable bridges again, including Hilary Bridge, and made our way out of Sagarmatha National Park. That night we stayed in a small town called Monjo, which was where our lead porter, Ram, was from. We got to meet his family and you could see how happy he was to visit with them.
This was a sad day for me. The feeling of leaving the Himalayas was becoming real and I started to feel the loss of not having this in my daily life. On one hand I was excited to get back to Kathmandu, take a shower, and be in warmer temperatures, but on the other, I was leaving such natural beauty without a plan to come back yet.
Celebration (Day 16)
We knew this day would be tough since the whole last part of the trail into Lukla was a steep uphill. It was a beautiful day full of sunshine and warm weather. We hiked down through the trees with sunlight dancing between the branches. We stopped for lunch at the same place we stopped at on the first day of the trek. We ate, drank tea, and then kept making our way down the valley. Then began the brutal uphill. The last hour of the trek was basically rocky, upward steps. One foot after the other. Calming my breath and trying to keep my heart rate down. I tried not to look ahead too far to not feel overwhelmed. This would have been a good day for headphones and good tunes. It was a total relief when we arrived at the gate to Lukla. We had done it! We had trekked through the Himalayas and made it back safely.
That evening we all gathered in the Buddha lounge next to the Lukla airport to celebrate. We drank Himalayan Red Sherpa beer, we celebrated and thanked our sherpa team, and ate a delicious dinner of Dal Bhat. Our Sherpa team surprised us with a cake that we shared with them as well. That was our last night in the mountains.
Back to civilization (Day 17)
We woke up early, went to the airport and caught one of the first flights out. Before the flight left, we witnessed several flights aborting landings because of overcrowding. It was quite a sight to see an airplane quickly bank off into the mountains to avoid landing on a runway with another plane on it. Calling the Tenzing-Hillary airport exciting would be an understatement. The take off was unlike any takeoff I have ever experienced. The plane taxied out to the runway. You could not see down the runway. The plane started up the props to get them to full speed, then released the break. The plane went barreling down the mountain at incredible speeds and just before the end of the runway took off between the mountain ranges on either side of the valley. We all sat in silence, watching the mountains disappear and the thickness of the smog increase in the distance.
Sitting there in reflection, I was absorbing that the trek had come to an end. A bittersweet moment, but I was also ready to go back to civilization (and to take a shower!).
Goodbye Himalayas. I will be back again soon.