This post is kind of a journal of exactly how each day on the trail went. Hopefully this will give other trekkers an idea of what to expect for their upcoming adventure. If you’re looking for general information, or more of a concise overview of the trek, see our What to Expect on the Everest Base Camp Trek where we outline costs, itinerary and how to train. We also have a full packing list here: Everest Base Camp Trek Packing List.
Our trek with Mosaic Adventure began with a meeting at the Hotel Moonlight in Thamel, the hot tourist area of Kathmandu. Madhav, who we had been conversing with over email, met with us, introduced us to our guide Rudra and our seven others trekking companions, and detailed everything we would need to know about our upcoming trek. He also brought along waterproof duffel bags and sleeping bags so that we could pack our bags that evening. We spent the afternoon on a city tour of the top sites in Kathmandu where we learned a lot about the history and culture of the Kathmandu valley. The evening was spent last-minute packing and making sure our bags were under the 15kg weight limit (there’s a scale in the hotel lobby).
Trek Day 1: Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla 2840m
Before Rudra picked us up, we checked our other luggage into the hotel storage room. Once at the airport, he handled our check-in and we were headed out on a bus to the runway in no time at all. However, that’s when the weather took a turn for the worse, and flights to Lukla were postponed. After a few hours in the waiting room (thankfully there is an excellent espresso shop and free wifi), Rudra started talking to us about the possibility of needing to hire a helicopter. He knew that once the flights were officially cancelled for the day, there would be a mad rush to charter helicopters and he didn’t want us to be last in line. I should mention that Rudra has been guiding groups for 18 years, so you can and should absolutely trust his judgement in all areas.
As a group, we went back and forth on the idea because we didn’t want to spend any extra money. But Rudra said that sometimes when the weather turns bad, there won’t be flights for days on end. After a few more hours, the flights were officially cancelled, and just as he predicted, the helicopter seats jumped from $250pp to $550pp. We started to gather our luggage to head back into Kathmandu, hoping that flights would resume the next day, but we knew our chances were still slim, as flights scheduled for the next day would be given priority over ours. By this time it was nearly 4pm, and Rudra was able to make a deal with the helicopter for $300 per person since it was nearing the end of the day. We were all sick that our trip was suddenly costing us an extra $300 that we weren’t counting on—but at least our trek would stay on schedule.
Our gorgeous flight was about 40 minutes long, and we all stared out the windows in silent wonder at the surrounding hills. We were supposed to trek from Lukla to Phakding as soon as we arrived, but we stepped into the tea house for dinner and it suddenly got dark. We would have to stay the night in Lukla and make up the mileage the next day.
Trek Day 2: Lukla to Namche Bazaar 3440m
Hours of walking: 10
To make up for our late flight the first day, we walked the entire 10 hours to Namche Bazaar in one day, starting around 7am and arriving around 5pm. It was rough having such a long first day with no warm-up, but our energy was high, and the thrill of finally breathing that Himalayan air can probably be credited for getting us through what would end up being our longest day on the trail.
This stretch of the trail goes through dozens of small towns with many tea houses and restaurants along the way until we reached the entrance to Sagarmatha National Park. This first day is also when we saw the most Tibetan Mani Stones, carved in raised relief and painted black and white. Stupa and chortens, mani stones and walls should always be passed on the left (keeping them to your right). This also goes for circumambulation: always walk clockwise!
It was in the last three hours after lunch (which was all uphill), after everyone had passed me, and my right hip flexor was stinging with every step, that I first thought, “I may not make it to Base Camp”. The pain was so bad, and the embarrassment hit me so hard of being the slow, out of shape, huffing and puffing American, that I was almost in tears. Rudra kept an eye on me since I was obviously struggling. During the last hour, he apparently called our porters who had long ago passed us and were already in Namche Bazaar, to walk back to meet us and carry our daypacks. I declined the help, of course, because I’m too proud, but I thought that was such a testament to the care we received from everyone on the Mosaic team.
Namche Bazaar was such a sight for sore legs! I breathed a deep sigh of relief until I saw how incredibly vertical the large town was. I said, “oh Rudra, don’t tell me our hotel is at the top” and he quickly replied, “no, it’s right here!” pointing just to our left, at the bottom of the hill. Thank God! This would be our home for two nights while we acclimated to the new 3400 meter altitude.
Trek Day 3: Namche Bazaar to 3962m
Hours of walking: 4
Acclimatization includes more than rest— you need to keep your body and lungs moving. So on this day we took a short but challenging trek up to the Everest View Lodge. At the top of Namche town is a park where we got our first view of Mount Everest. From the park, the path to the lodge was straight up winding, rock hewn stairs. Taking breaks on this staircase was made nicer by the sudden appearance of scores of wildflowers of so many varieties, including Himalayan Edelweiss, a cousin of the famous Alpine flower! Each flower I passed made me smile my way through the ache in my hip.
At our destination, we ordered a pot of ginger lemon honey tea, by then a definite favorite among our whole group. Perfect for warming you up and soothing the beginnings of a sore throat you start to feel after breathing in that cold air all day. By 12:30 we had made it back to Zambala House, had lunch, and ventured into town for a bit of shopping. We were surprised to see a North Face store, a Sherpa store, an Irish pub, and so much more. First on our list were the woolen socks we had read about that were toe-savers during the freezing tea house nights. A second knee brace for me. Some slip on sandals for Shane to wear with his socks around the tea houses, tiger balm, and toilet paper.
By dinnertime, Shane and I were both feeling sick and between the two of us were showing all the beginning signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) aka altitude sickness: no appetite, diarrhea, and headache in the back of your head. Rudra was already asking everyone twice a day if they had any symptoms, so he was on high alert for us and we were on high alert for each other throughout the night. Apparently it’s better to show symptoms at the lowest altitudes, because it gives you a chance to recover. He said if you get sick toward the top, the harsh conditions make it nearly impossible for you to recover on your own and you usually have to be sent back down on a horse or via helicopter.
Trek Day 4: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche 3860m
Hours of walking: 5
The path this day was mostly downhill until lunch, after which it was a steep ascent for about 2 hours. Someone in our group had brought trekking poles, but she didn’t want to use them because, like me, she likes to have her hands free. So she let me borrow them and I quickly became a believer! The ascents were made much easier with the aid of the trekking poles and I started to think I might actually be able to finish this trek. We reached Tengboche around 2:30pm and could barely see Everest peak through a break in the clouds. They had said this would be the best view we would have until Base Camp so everyone was disappointed that the view was obscured for the rest of the day.
Tengboche is home to a beautiful monastery, where we were allowed to enter only at designated times. After two monks prayed aloud for about 10 minutes, we were allowed to circumambulate the room and take in the details of the completely painted interior. No photos were allowed inside. People were leaving gifts at the altar, including cash, boxes of crackers and toothpaste.
Back at the hotel, we ordered espressos (yes thank you God, all the espresso I ordered in Nepal was excellent) and the Everest Link Wifi, which is a password you buy and you can connect to it at every tea house on the trek. It wasn’t available at the guest house we stayed at in Namche, but it was at every other tea house from there on out, though some had worse connection than others. We paid $20USD for the password.
This night, I woke up to use the bathroom and returning to bed, happened to look out the window to see Mount Everest right there out our bedroom window, illuminated brightly by the moonlight. Since there was fog all day, I had no idea how close we were to it! I woke up Shane so he could get a photo, and he managed to quickly snap one, which is good because five minutes later the fog had returned! We were so fortunate to witness that moment.
Trek Day 5: Tengboche to Dingboche 4360m
Hours of walking: 5
I was energized by our midnight view of Mount Everest, and the fact that Rudra said this would be the easiest day. We were sad to leave the monastery without getting any great photos, as the clouds were still thick when we left. There was a hard climb but then it leveled out to a unique landscape that reminded us of our Salkantay Pass trek in Peru, with big moss covered rocks and lots of fog. Half expected to see little chinchillas hopping around! We were above the tree line now which made breathing a little harder.
Rudra had promised we could do laundry at Dingboche, since we would be here two nights and there would be time for clothes to air dry. We thought he meant, we could pay to have our laundry washed here. What he actually meant was, there’s a clothesline here if you want to wash your own clothes! So as soon as we arrived, that was the first thing on our agenda. It was cold and the sun was barely shining, so we knew in order to have a chance of dry clothes, we needed to allow all the drying time possible. There was a patio with buckets of water and a clothesline. Soap you needed to bring yourself, and I was glad I had grabbed the bar of hotel soap in Kathmandu, because that’s what we used for our clothes. We got dry, and headed down to the dining room where the fire was going, ordered a thermos of hot water as we had brought our own tea bags, and played cards. Cards and games are definitely a fun way to pass the time together in the tea houses. Our friends brought a card game called “Saboteur” and we played it almost every night. It was a great one to bring because you can play with 4-10 people. We also took hot showers here for 500 rupees each.
Trek Day 6: Dingboche to 4800m
Hours of walking: 4
We weren’t going far today, we were staying right in Dingboche and just climbing up and back down to acclimatize. We were at 4300 meters and climbed up to 4800, to reach the same level of the next place we would be staying the night. The path up was just outside our hotel, so straight up we went until we reached a fantastic stupa with lots of prayer flags hanging and the absolute best view of Lhotse and Makalu, the fourth and fifth highest peaks in the world. The mountains in the distance, the stupa and the prayer flags made this the best spot for “selfies” the whole trek, and we spent some time there so everyone could get that perfect shot.
We ventured a bit further to 4800 meters, just enough for acclimatization. Back at the tea house it was so early in the day and we felt the best we had in a long time, so Shane and I took the camera and walked around town for fun, though it’s mostly just tea houses in the town and grazing yaks on the edges.
Yaks are used alongside donkeys to transport goods up and down the mountains. They wear bells so you don’t have to worry about any of them sneaking up on you. But when they pass you on the trail, be sure you’re in a safe place, like, on the interior side of the mountain, not on the edge! Men also port goods on these trails, carrying the huge loads on their backs with a strap across their foreheads. Some of them are very young, some very old. Some are wearing sandals, most cheap tennis shoes with no tread. Their loads range from baskets of fresh produce to appliances. We even saw a guy carrying 12’ 4x4s. And you can be sure they will pass you on the trail. In some spots, they have “Sherpa shortcuts” which diverge off the main trail in an extremely steep shortcut. These guys have very very difficult jobs, so make room for them on the trail to let them pass!
Trek Day 7: Dingboche to Lobuche 4940m
Hours of walking: 5
The day started out well, with an incredibly beautiful landscape that reminded us all of Scotland or New Zealand, with lots of meadows and little stone cottages. There was a memorial cemetery for those who have died climbing in the area.
We arrived early in the day and were supposed to do a short hike around the area, but it started raining and then snowing as soon as we got to our tea house, so we ended up staying indoors. So far all the tea houses had been comparable, but the higher you get up the mountain, they get dirtier and colder. They simply don’t have the resources that high up to provide nice accommodations. These signs were posted at the counter which were meant to be serious but were kind of funny, saying basically, “You’re at 4800 meters, please consider that when making your complaints”. Another sign listing symptoms to watch out for did strike a serious tone with me, and as I started reading it, I heard another girl in the dining room crying, as her guide explained that a helicopter was on its way to take her to a hospital.
Since we didn’t go on the hike, and the rooms were freezing, everyone hung out in the dining room for the rest of the evening. Shane and I went to the coffee shop in front of our tea house, because they had espresso!
Trek day 8: Lobuche to Gorak Shep 5170m, Everest Base Camp 5300m, back to Gorak Shep
Hours of walking: 8
The big day, Everest Base Camp! We had all gone to bed early to try to get some good rest, but in vain. No one slept well and everyone had crazy dreams (the espresso probably didn’t help). We got off to a rough start with a light dusting of snow and ice on the ground. We started out very early, before the sun came out from behind the mountains, so the first 45 minutes were very cold, and I wished I had brought better gloves (I only had lightweight fingerless gloves).
The walk to Gorak Shep was very rocky, and mostly what I remember is how crowded it was. All the groups had left Lobuche at the same time, and there were a few areas of rock scrambling where we really had to go single file, so there were quite a few “traffic jams” especially when groups were coming from the opposite direction as well. We arrived at Gorak Shep in time for lunch, and hurried to get our lunch in before it was time to head right back out.
The trek after lunch was so much harder than anything we had done so far. Much of it was rock hopping over enormous boulders with rivers flowing underneath us. Once we reached the Khumbu Glacier, we walked along a narrow ridge, then downhill across a steep and dangerous landslide, which Rudra said was from the 2015 earthquake.
There were a handful of bright yellow tents at base camp, which may have belonged to a small research team, as Rudra said it’s not the season for climbing. I asked if any of them were actually on Everest right now. “The Sherpas are on Everest! They have to go first, to prepare the rope and ladders and haul the gear.” It’s amazing that they do all of that before any climbers set foot on the mountain. Because it is situated on the glacier, base camp is always moving. Rudra pointed to a spot in another direction where he said base camp was located last season. “We have to build a new mound every once in a while” he said. The mound being the spot where everyone takes photos. It is draped in prayer flags, country flags, and a large rock on which someone had scribbled “Everest Base Camp 2018”. Shane scraped the dirt with his foot to reveal solid ice underneath us.
Since all the groups arrived at roughly the same time, we all stood in line to get our photos on the mound. Then we wandered around a bit, taking photos while we waited for other members of our group to finish their photos. It was already late in the day, and I was starting to get worried about getting back before nightfall. I’d say we spent no longer than 20 minutes at base camp.
The trek back to Gorak Shep was one of the hardest legs for me. I had gotten used to taking my sweet time going up inclines, stopping every three steps to catch my breath. But as we crossed the landslide again, this time going up, the guides and porters would’t let us stop, because it was too dangerous a place to be. The rest of the day was a blur. I kept thinking, I should take a photo of these crazy boulders we’re crossing, but I really couldn’t stop because there was literally nowhere to stop out of the way for a little break. Everyone was behind you, and you were all on the same narrow path climbing over boulders, just trying to make sure you didn’t stick your foot in a crevice.
The last kilometer or so was flat, thank God, and we took it slow, taking photos there of the “Way to Everest BC” sign. It was also here that I saw a Himalayan Pika hopping around the rocks, moving too fast for me to get a photo. Back at the tea house, I think we all had dinner in silence, just kind of staring straight ahead like zombies. By this time, everyone in our group was sick and disoriented. The fact that our entire tea house was slanted probably didn’t help either. It’s a wonder our plates didn’t slide right down the table (but our water bottles did). We were all in such a state that I could barely process that I had completed what I set out to do. I had made it to Everest Base Camp.
Trek Day 9: Gorak Shep to Pheriche
Hours of walking: 7
Out of nine members of our group, only two woke up at 4am to hike Kala Patthar. It’s supposed to be the absolute best view of Mount Everest you can get from anywhere on the ground. Rudra had said Kala Patthar is definitely the hardest part of the entire trek, so I knew it would have been impossible for me, and I would need the extra rest for the long day ahead. They made it back from Kala Patthar around 7am, in time for breakfast, and from there we headed out from Gorek Shep on our 8 hour journey down to Pheriche. All I really remember from this day is that we were so happy to finally be descending.
Trek Day 10: Pheriche to Namche Bazaar
Hours of walking: 7
We followed much of the same path that we had come up, so we weren’t as awed by the newness of everything as we had been before, but it was still nice to hike in the beautiful landscape, and since we were descending below the tree line this day, we all started immediately feeling so much better. We took a break at Tengboche again, where the monastery was, and were rewarded with a fantastic view of Everest with no fog. It really was the best view our group had the entire trip (except for Shane and I, who had seen it perfectly clear in the middle of the night the first time we were in Tengboche on the way up).
It’s hard to believe that we made it all the way to Namche Bazaar this day. It took us so long to get up the mountain, and coming down was so fast. Of course, the descending days were longer than the ascending days, because they were so much easier. But don’t be deceived—just because we were descending the mountains did not mean we were always going downhill. The entire trek was basically going downhill to a river, crossing a long suspension bridge, and then climbing up again, over and over.
Trek Day 11: Namche Bazaar to Lukla
Hours of walking: 7
Our last trekking day, and I was feeling great because I slept so good at this low altitude. We would follow the exact same path as we had taken our first day. It was still very hard, as my knee was in a lot of pain, but the uphills seemed much easier for me now that the altitude was lower and my body wasn’t so sore as it was on the way up. We rejoiced at Lukla, but were so tired we couldn’t even have a beer together. We all decided to celebrate once we got back to Kathmandu.
Back to Kathmandu
The Tenzing-Hillary Airport at Lukla kind of runs on a first come first serve basis. So we woke up at 4:45am to be among the first at the airport, to have better chances of flying to Kathmandu before the fog came in. Rudra said that on his last trek, they were unable to fly out and got stuck in Lukla for 8 days. When we saw the first plane come in, everyone in the terminal started clapping. And after that the planes started coming in and going out one right after another, trying to move as many people in and out as possible before the weather took a turn. So it wasn’t long before they were calling us to board, pushing us out onto the runway yelling, “Go go go, hurry!” We quickly boarded the tiny plane, and all started our videos to record our take off from the most dangerous airport in the world. We had already seen the planes landing and taking off, so we knew that we would go down the downhill runway, and then we would glide right off the cliff that is the end of the runway. And it definitely felt like a rollercoaster!