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In the Shadow of Mt. Everest

Veteran trekker and Juniper Junkie Smita Aggarwal has trekked extensively in the Khumbu region and has been to both Gokyo Lakes and Everest Base Camp. The Khumbu region is one of her favourite trekking regions. In the photo log titled “ In the Shadow of Everest “, she has shared 15 of her most memorable moments of the time spent in the Khumbu. Credit for Images - Maninder Kohli.

Landing at Lukla : You fly into the Khumbu region, landing at Lukla, which has been named one of the most dangerous airports in the world. A gut-wrenching descent and landing get the adrenaline flowing for the excitement of the days to come. If you think the landing was scary, wait till you experience the take off. Jumping off a cliff, anyone?

Namche Bazaar : A charming village, which is the heart of the Sherpa community in Nepal. Spend a couple of days wandering about it’s quaint lanes, while acclimatising to the rigours of high altitude. With Irish bars, bakeries, pool tables and shopping for adventure gear and souvenirs, one always wants to extend one’s stay here.

Everest View Hotel : A short climb up from Namche brings you to this 5 star hotel, popular with big spenders and celebrities. Spend a day in the sun, with glorious views of Everest and Ama Dablam.

People of the Khumbu : It is fascinating to interact with the Sherpa people, to see how strong they are, and how they have adapted to some of harshest conditions in the world. They are warm and friendly, and go out of their way to make your stay comfortable. In fact, many a mountaineer would not have made it, were it not for the support of the Sherpas. The mountain sides are dotted with Mani stones, Prayer flags, Stupas and Monasteries, giving you a deep insight into Buddhism. More than a religion for the Sherpas, it is a way of life, and a philosophy.

Ama Dablam : Arguably one of the prettiest mountains in the Himalayas, you see different facets of this beauty as you move along the trail. Standing a little apart from the others, Ama Dablam is instantly recognisable.

Thyangboche Monastery : The Thyangboche Monastery, at a height of 3,867 metres, is the largest gompha in the Khumbu region. Built over 100 years ago, it is customary for mountaineers to visit the monastery to light butter lamps and seek the Buddha’s blessings before attempting to summit Sagarmatha as Mount Everest is known in Nepal. Tenzing Norgay had even joined the monastery as a monk, before he changed his mind and left the order.

Tea Houses of the Khumbu : At the end of a long hike, the most wonderful thing is to sit in a tea house, sipping black tea, meeting trekkers from all over the world. Hearing their stories is a wonderful feeling of camaraderie, as people from such different backgrounds come together with one aim in mind, to explore the Khumbu. The tea house offers you a hot meal, often a hot shower, and most importantly, refuge for your tired limbs.

Cho Oyu and Gokyo Lakes : A little away from the crowds of EBC, stands Cho Oyu, towering over the Gokyo Lakes. I personally enjoyed this trek more, as there are less people on the trail, so one gets to enjoy the serenity and peace of the mountains. The lakes are among the highest in the world, and it’s a pleasure to come upon the sparkling blue and green emerald waters, as above the tree line the conditions can be almost desert like.

Renjo La : I think that the view from the Renjo La has to qualify as one of the grandest views I have ever seen. In one single image, you can see several giants of the Solukhumbu, including Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Makalu

Memorials : At the top of Dughla Pass, near Lobuche, you come across the memorial for climbers who lost their lives while attempting to climb Everest. It’s quite overwhelming to see the Stupas dedicated to lost dreams and adventures, and I couldn’t control my tears while reading some of the dedications. Some known names like Scott Fischer and Rob Hall, some less known, with the inscription “May he have accomplished his dreams” saying it all.

Kala Pather and Mt. Pumori : When you are at Gorakhshep, it is worth making the effort to get up at the crack of dawn, and make the hike up to Kala Pathar. From here you get a magnificent view of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. For most of us, this is the closest we can get to Everest. Kala Pathar is actually a summit on the ridge to Pumori. It was from a high point on Pumori that Shipton, Murray and Hillary first saw what was to become the route up to the first successful summit of Everest, by Tenzing and Hillary .

Everest Base Camp : When you reach the EBC, you get a sense of walking on hallowed ground. The people who have stood here before you…. Tenzing and Hillary, Tilman and Shipton, Messner and Nims Dai, to name just a few…. It gives you goosebumps, knowing that you are breathing the same air as those mountain legends once did. This little village is established every year, full of climbers, Sherpas, support staff and visitors, all with one aim, to be a part of the effort of getting a climber to the top.

Khumbu Ice Fall : The Khumbu Icefall, adjacent to the EBC ranges from 5200 meters (17,060ft) to 5800 meters (29029ft). It is situated at the lower end of the Western Cwm, at the start of the Khumbu Glacier. This glacier moves with such speed that large crevasses open up with little warning and large ice towers called seracs (some of which are the size of a small house) have been known to collapse suddenly. This is one of the deadliest parts of the ascent of the mountain.

Indian Flag at Everest Base Camp : While the EBC is truly a mini representation of the world, with climbers from all over the planet, for me, as an Indian, the sight of the Indian Tricolor flag was an emotional moment. I felt so much pride at the thought of our country being represented so well, in the years following the first ascent by an Indian team, led by Capt MS Kohli, in 1965.

Mount Everest : That heartstopping moment, when you see Sagarmatha, also known as Chomolungma or Mount Everest…The highest mountain in the world, at 8,848.86 m (29,031.7 ft, for those of us who may never be able to climb it, it is still a moment of profound joy, just to stand in it’s presence.

Smita Aggarwal

Juniper Junkie

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