Varun Gunaseelan visited the Everest Base Camp - Nepal with Juniper in April 2019. In this article, Varun shares about his long but exciting trek up to the EBC.
Starting from the comfort of our rooms in Lobuche at a staggering 4900m above sea level, we knew we are leaving behind the last semblance of civilization – comfortable tea houses and a lovely café that seemed to belong more in the European alps than at 4900m in a desolate third world country.
A 6 am start meant we were all suited in colorful down jackets only to be forced to strip down to a few layers as the sun hit us before we set off. The initial climb was gradual and we trudged our way up the wide pathways adorned with stunted mesophytes, adjacent to the rim of the Khumbu glacier. This progressed into a treacherous undulating moraine walk for the last hour and the first glimpse of EBC had our excitement levels soaring. Nuptse was the dominant peak here and the icefalls hanging off the peak were spectacular. The sun was fierce and the winds pierced, so by the time we reached GorakShep, several of us had unbearable headaches.
Engaging conversations with an Italian group made some of us forget our headaches in the lodge and after a quick soup and popcorn stop we started off for EBC. The path seemed never-ending but another 3 hour trudge fueled by maltodextrin laden energy bars and gels got us to the Khumbu glacier and into the section marked for EBC trekkers – the Mecca of trekking.
Exhausted and hungry we followed our ever-smiling guide Bindra into the EBC Climber’s section. An Indian flag at the first camp proved to be our false summit – it gave us tremendous hope that the Blackcat expedition tent would be close by but we couldn’t have been more wrong. We walked and walked and walked oblivious to the beauty of the icefall and glacial formations that contained the eastern side of the camp. After an hour of searching the tent city of base camp – we finally stumbled upon Brig. Ashok Abbey’s impressive “blackcat” expedition tent.
The army veteran, a mountaineering expert with detailed knowledge about every piece of rock on Mt. Everest laid out the most lavish feast for our team and we went all out eating. However, we learned that several others had turned back from the EBC trekkers point and decided to return quickly to meet them. Clouds were rolling in so we needed to get back before bad weather got to us. We started walking back and reached GorakShep between 4 and 6 pm.
A long and difficult day but well worth the effort to stand at the base of Earth’s Highest Point. The next day, the group disbanded and amongst emotional hugs and goodbyes, went separate ways. The culmination of the journey embodied what Everest must always remain – a true challenge that tests people, their physical fitness and the teamwork necessary to the success of any mission.