16
Sep

LA LA Land

By: muttler

griffith observatory

 

Hello everyone! Yep, Kate and I are in LA!

Now I haven’t been to LA proper in something like 20 years. I have been through LAX a bazillion times, but after my first trip never really felt compelled to spend anymore time. Well, this time I decided to when Kate and I decided to do a relatively quick jaunt to LA, I thought it would be good to dip my toe back in. I *really* wanted to visit Griffith Observatory, so why not spend a few days chillin’?

 

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Kate and I arrived midday on the Friday after a fairly non-eventful flight and then headed to our digs in Santa Monica. It is hard to know exactly where to base yourself in LA, but Santa Monica was one area I remember liking when I visited, so decided that was the place. Plus, who could resist a gorgeous art deco hotel on the water? The arvo was spent wandering about, only keeping ourselves busy until we finally collapsed from the travel.

Next morning, we started our heading out in to LA day. We didn’t have heaps planned, but did have a few things on the hit list. Into an Uber we jumped and headed toward Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. I remember last time it felt impossible to get around, and I have no idea how we would have done today without being able to call an Uber at basically any corner.

 

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It was breakfast time, and where else would you visit than a dedicated egg eatery called “Eggslut”? Yep, that is it’s name. And basically everything on the limited menu had eggs. But hey, it sounded OK to me. I smashed down an egg brioche with bacon, caramelised onion, sriracha and it was delicious! No wonder quite a queue had formed by the time we left.

 

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From there is was to our first main destination, the Shag Store. Those of you who know us know that we have A LOT of work by Josh Agle (aka Shag) in our house. So of course we had to visit the store! It was so great to see a bunch of his works framed up gorgeously. We didn’t over indulge, but of course we picked up a thing or two to bring home.

 

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Back into an uber, and up the road to a bit of a mecca for someone like me, the world famous Amoeba Music store. I had visited the one in San Francisco many years ago, but had never visited the Hollywood version, so with Kate egging me on, she watched as I indulged in a bunch of records. Nothing that wouldn’t have been too difficult to get at home somehow, but a whole lot more convenient (and a bit cheaper) to buy them there. And of course I had to visit the King Gizzard section of the store!

 

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We were close to Hollywood Boulevard, so thought we may as well wander up that way. This is the part of LA I remembered, and remembered being very underwhelmed. In some respects it was still the case. However it was fun to just wander along the sidewalk, checking out the stars of those A through Z grade celebrities that we found. I will let you rate the stars above as you see fit.

 

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After a bit of a rest and lat lunch, it was off up into the hills. Yes! The Griffith Observatory! I had wanted to visit for quite a while, so it was great to finally visit. It was our up close of the classic (and pretty underwhelming) Hollywood sign too. But you know. When in LA…

 

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Sitting up in the Hollywood Hills the gorgeous old building overlooks sprawling LA. It is quite an incredible city when you see it like that. It is just so… big and flat. Quite remarkable that there are only a small of handful of pockets that could have anything resembling high rise buildings. That’s what makes it so unique.

 

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So off it was to explore. The observatory itself is not huge. It actually doesn’t take too long to visit all the exhibits and things. But that building is beautiful and views are great. Best was to just be on the room, looking out over the valley.

 

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But a visit wouldn’t be complete without catching a show in the planetarium. I have such fond memories of the old Melbourne planetarium, and this also had the added bonus of being truly iconic. So we got in and laid back and enjoyed the (fairly standard) show about the planets and stars. It was OK, but I will never grow tired of seeing that projection in a space like that.

 

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As we emerged the sun had just gone down, so the view had transformed from sunny and hazy to glowing orange and glowing street lights. LA looked even bigger like this.

 

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We soaked up the view and then decided it was time to head back to Santa Monica. After battling a bit of traffic we got in, dumped our goodies, and headed straight to the bar for a nightcap. I got the bartender to whip me up a gin cocktail (with lemon, honey and mint) and it was mmmmm. Hit the spot after a nice long day in the sunshine. A brief bit of a walk outside and it was time for bed.

24
Feb

Everest Base Camp Adventures (Summary Post with Links)

By: muttler

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Namaste! Here it is, my epic adventure to Everest Base Camp. Be amazed at the beauty of the Himalayas and stories of me eating my weight in momos 🙂

Day One: The First of Many Momos (Melbourne to Kathmandu)

Day Two: Exploring Kathmandu

Day Three: It Begins! (Kathmandu to Phakding 2660m)

Day Four: How Bazaar (Phakding 2600m to Namche Bazaar 3440m)

Day Five: Hanging Out In Namche (Acclimatisation in Namche Bazaar 3440m)

Day Six: Om Mani Padme Hum (Namche Bazaar 3440m to Tengboche 3880m)

Day Seven: Above The Treeline (Tengboche 3880m to Dingboche 4350m)

Day Eight: The Air Gets Thin (Acclimatisation in Dingboche 4350m)

Day Nine: Getting Closer (Dingboche 4350m to Lobuche 4930m)

Day Ten: Base Camp! (Lobuche 4930m to Gorakshep 5180m with a trip to Everest Base Camp 5364m)

Day Eleven: Conquring Kala Patthar (Gorakshep 5180m to Pheriche 4200m with a visit to Kala Patthar 5600m)

Day Twelve: Snow Day (Pheriche 4200m to Kenjuma 3570m)

Day Thirteen: Football Training (Kenjuma 3570m to Chumoa 2750m)

Day Fourteen: Back to Lukla (Chumoa 2750m to Lukla 2830m)

Day Fifteen: Anti-Climax (Stranded in Lukla 2830m)

Day Sixteen: Random Sax (Lukla 2830m to Kathmandu)

Day Seventeen: Farewell Nepal

 

24
Feb

Farewell Nepal (Coming Down)

By: muttler

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29/01/2018 – Kathmandu to Melbourne

And that’s it! That is my Nepal and Everest adventure. My trip home all went to plan… out of Kathmandu on time, a stop over in Bangkok airport, and then back in Melbourne, all without issue.

It was such an amazing trip that the next day back at work (yep, back at work) I had that moment, when going through (somewhat) pointless emails that it dawned on me… only a few days earlier I was looking at Mount Everest in the Himalayas. Sigh.

24
Feb

Random Sax

By: muttler
farewell himalayas

farewell himalayas

 

28/01/2018 – Lukla (2830m) to Kathmandu

Yes! As you have worked out there was a happy ending to the story the next day!

We got up early again, scheduled for the second flight of the day. As soon as we were up we could see from the skies it would be a different story. No breakfast, just a quick cuppa, and it was down to the airport. With only a slight delay of an hour or so, we saw the first planes coming in. Woo hoo! We would be leaving soon.

 

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And in no time we were getting on a plane. Oh the excitement! This time there was no fake-out… we were taking off from the short Lukla runway and on our way back. A nice smooth flight and in just an hour we were back in Kathmandu.

All things going to plan today would have been the day when everyone was starting to do their own thing, heading home or off on other adventures. But given we had not really had a proper farewell we did our best to try and finish off the day with some fun. We had a few different hotels amongst us, so myself and some others went to the very swanky G Adventures hotel to freshen up while some others were back at the Fuji, where it all began. But we all had hot running water and that was the main thing.

Oh, and that hot running water! On the trip I had never felt too much of an urge to *need* a hot shower, but it was quite glorious to be in one now. But it was also my last few hours in Kathmandu I could explore, so after freshening up, I decided to wander about the city, just to buy some souvenirs and soak it up one last time. Oh and to eat more chilli buff momos!

I didn’t do terribly much, picking up some small gifts for everyone back home. I also did enjoy my chilli buff momos as well as some steamed chocolate momos. They were OK, but I could see why they weren’t common on menus.

After getting back to the hotel and freshening up, we all met up again for one last dinner. Pasang and Mingma helped get us all together and what was lovely was that we had a chance to all say our farewells to them together. Pasang and Mingma were amazing and followed in what is seeming to be a long lineage of G Adventures CEO’s that are simply just pretty incredible people. These two were a massive part in making this such an incredible trip.

 

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Pasang and Mingma bid us adieu, and the whole hiking gang headed off to Fire and Ice, a local pizzaria. Yep, pizza. We had all had our fill of rice and daal bhat and momos and so some pizza was in order. And what pizza it was! Nice traditional Italian style pizza. So with lots of pizza and beers we enjoyed our last dinner together.

 

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Some of the crew had flights to get to or early mornings, so we said our goodbyes there. Some of us had lazy mornings the next day so we headed out to a local bad, Ozzie Bar (no, not an Aussie bar) for more drinks and live music. Damn, it was a strange place! Two of the guys had visited when they first arrived in Kathmandu and warned us it was a bit odd, and it was but so great. There was a local band playing cover songs, some in English, and some in Nepali which was fun. They then took a break and then things got kind of strange. A couple of locals were cuing up random Youtube videos on the screen and absolutely nuts dancing ensued! So crazy to watch them and everyone else getting right into it.

 

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The band came on and their cover of “Sex on Fire” was strangely and weirdly a bit of a highlight. Hearing it with the Nepali angle was one thing, but during the song, a random person in the crowd opened their bag, got a saxophone out, and started wandering the bar playing along. We all seemed to think he was part of the act, and while we couldn’t say he was entirely in tune with the band, we just thought it was an added layer of oddness to what was already happening. But then after a couple of other songs security went up to him, got him to put the sax away and marched him our of the bar! So strange! What a fantastical way to end my last night in Kathmandu and Nepal.

24
Feb

Anti-Climax

By: muttler
my bag... not going anywhere

my bag… not going anywhere

 

27/01/2018 – Stranded in Lukla (2830m)

Oh, the disappointment.

After the perfect trip I guess something was bound not to go to plan and alas it was on our last day. Bright and early (i.e. 5am) we were up and getting ourselves ready to wander down to Lukla airport for our early morning flight back to Kathmandu. The wake up call did not come as expected but I was awake as a fe were so we all met in the dining room. Pasang let us know that the clouds had settled in so there was no point heading down to the airport yet as nothing would be happening for a little while. But he was full of optimism that we would be off during the morning. Having had our delay in Kathmandu due to similar circumstances we were happy enough, although that started to fade a bit as we were offered breakfast at the lodge rather than head to the airport.

So we waited. And waited some more. Then yay! It was all systems go so we grabbed our bags and wandered to the airport. We went through security and waited along with a dozen or so other hikers in the freezing cold waiting area. We didn’t have a thermometer, but it was clearly below zero and none of us were that prepared. But oh well, we wouldn’t be here long. Or so we thought.

An hour passed. Then another. Then another. The sound of a helicopter got the whole room excited that a plane was arriving but alas, no. With every minute were were getting sadder or more frustrated. It wasn’t dire… none of us *had* to be in Kathmandu by tonight, but we had all been dreaming of our hot showers that were awaiting.

At about 3pm Pasang called it and decided we were better off waiting at the lodge. He was still hopeful we would be flying back, but he could see we were all cold and thought it best we were somewhere a little warmer. So back we went, but I had the feeling we were done. After an hour or so, it was official… we were spending another night in Lukla.

Everyone was pretty bummed. I mean in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that much of an issue, but I would be lying if, at the time, it didn’t take some shine off the trip. In hindsight I hardly think of this, but right then all we wanted was a hot shower, a big meal, and to be celebrating success in Kathmandu at our farewell dinner. Instead, our farewell dinner would be in the lodge here in Lukla. Oh well. I made it to Everest Base Camp so things weren’t so bad 🙂

24
Feb

Back to Lukla

By: muttler

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26/01/2018 – Chumoa (2750m) to Lukla (2830m)

Done!

Another relatively short day today to get us back to where it all began in the mountains, Lukla. Interesting we would start and end at basically the same altitude. 5 hours of “Nepali Flat” awaited and then we would be back for our final night in the Himalayas.

I was feeling great but there was the sense in the group that we were all keen to be done. Not that we were struggling or had enough, but having reached our goal, and with Kathmandu (and running water!) so close we just wanted to get there. So off we hoofed it.

 

last views of everest

last views of everest

 

During the way back we got to our last view of Everest, back where we saw her first. I’m not sure how everyone else was, but for me it was quite sad to think I may not ever see Mount Everest again with my own eyes. Who knows though hey? I had certainly loved the hiking and could easily see myself back to explore more of the Himalayas.

 

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The only real breaks were for some tea in Phakding (the location of our first night in the mountains) and a bit of lunch along the way too. At about 1:45pm we were back in Lukla. Wow. We were back… what a strange feeling. It was hard to imagine we were back from having been to Base Camp. We all celebrated with a drink, most of downing an Everest beer (when in Rome). It was fine, but boy was it gone quick!

I decided to go for a wander during the afternoon, but like Namche, the town was very quiet due to the low season. My highlight was having some fun with some of the local kids, my soccer practice from the night before coming in very handy.

It was our last night with the porters, so we all had dinner together and made our appreciation known. Pasang gave a lovely speech, as tomorrow we would all be in Kathmandu and beginning to go our own ways. Our 3 porters were amazing… the hard workers behind the scenes getting our bags where they needed to be. If this trip contributed to their livelihoods a little then I was very happy to do my small part.

24
Feb

Football Training

By: muttler

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25/01/2018 – Kenjuma (3570m) to Chumoa (2750m)

Not a lot to report for this day. It was a fairly easy day, with both regard to terrain and hiking time. The snowing was no more and we were back to nice blue skies, with just the dusting of white on the trees and trail reminding us of the previous day.

 

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back in namche

 

We left the puppy house and started making our way down. The snow had iced up a little making some of the steps a little precarious, but nothing too difficult. It was a different kind of morning than usual, with just a 2 hour walk until our first stop, which was back in Namche Bazaar. Hard to believe we were back.

 

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It was actually a lazy 3 hours or so of chilling out there and relaxing. Most of us just relaxed back at the cafe we did on the way up, enjoying some decent coffee. We were actually pretty keen to keep going, but the length of the hike back meant we had to break it up in this way, and it was better to relax in a warm cafe with coffee and wi-fi than get to our guest house at about lunch time with little to do. I got back about the town, but like the way up it was very quiet and not much open, so really it was just time to rest (and caffeinate) up. The streets were amazingly icy too meany getting about was more dangerous than it was worth!

 

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After some lunch we headed off on a fairly easy few hours. Down to the river and along the banks until we reached Chumoa, our home for the night. As luck would have it we had a makeshift football pitch next to us, and the whole crew was up for a game. So 5 a side it was, with team Australia and Ireland facing off against Pasang, Mingma and the porters. A couple of the local kids also jumped in when they could which was ace. Even though we weren’t that high up (now under 3000m) you could tell you were running at altitude. 10 paces and you were gasping for breath! After a bit of time we got used to it, and we played for an hour, every now and then having to retrieve the ball from the riverside. So much fun.

Other than that, it was dinner and a lot more cards before bed.

24
Feb

Snow Day

By: muttler
pasang enjoying the snow!

pasang enjoying the snow!

 

24/01/18 – Pheriche (4200m) to Kenjuma (3570m)

After yesterday’s epic day we were happy enough to just have 7 hours of mostly down ahead of us. As had been the whole trip I was still feeling fresh and enjoying the hiking, so again woke up at my usual early time, got warm in the dining room and prepared for the day. And what a day it turned out to be.

 

first clouds of the trip!

first clouds of the trip!

 

Pasang had advised us the previous night not to worry about having down jackets handy today, as once we were in the sun, it would be nice and (relatively) warm, and we would be powering down at a fair rate. We had enjoyed bright blue, cloudless skies to that point so there was no reason to doubt him. Looking outside though as we ate breakfast we saw something we had not seen to this point… clouds! We didn’t think much of it and got our gear together and headed out the door.

After about half an hour though we realised it would be a very different day. The clouds had settled in, which meant that the temperature stayed nice and cool. Then the unexpected happened… it started snowing! Yes!

 

 

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We were all pretty excited. Personally, I had dreamed of being in snow in the Himalayas, and to this point it hadn’t happened. I was disappointed, as our weather had been perfect, but seeing the snow start to fall made me realise how much I had been hoping for it. And for a couple of our group, they had never seen snow before, so you can imagine what it was like for them! Beautiful, dry, fluffy powder snow. At home, any snow falling would be cold and wet and mean a likely miserable experience. This was the exact opposite. The snow was so dry and light, that it just brushed off, meaning there would be plenty of snow being thrown around throughout the course of the day.

 

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We dropped into a tea house to adjust our gear. Even though it was dry, the temperature was still quite cold so the down jackets were retrieved.  Layered up, we headed down at a fair speed. The snow wasn’t slowing us down at all. The odd part of the trail would become a little more slippery, but otherwise it was magical. Every now and then you would cop a snowball in the back of the head from cheeky Pasang, or find Mingma up a tree ready to shake snow on to you. They sound like simple trivial things, but being in the beauty of the Himalayas with your great hiking crew meant these things would be etched into the memory banks for a long time.

It was surreal to compare our landscape with that from just a few days ago. Gone were the dusty brown trails, and now we had glorious white everywhere. Getting to the treeline made it even more spectacular.

 

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We arrived back in Tengboche (home of the monastery), now looking like a completely different village. We settled in for lunch, chatting with another traveller who was on his way up, lamenting the snow and the delay it was likely to cause him. We just let him know that it was making for spectacular trails and not to let it slow him down.

 

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The snow was steady as we left. 3 hours of hiking awaited in the falling snow… the first half downward, and then the last 1.5hr back up. Again, the snow was gorgeous and not holding us up at all… it was just making an amazing trip even more special.

Around 4pm we arrived at our tea house in Kenjuma. This was one we had popped in to on the way up, happily for us the one with the puppies. Only one puppy remained, with the other having gone off to different owners, but that still meant we had some puppy fun throughout the night. A perfect way to end a pretty perfect day.

24
Feb

Conquering Kala Patthar

By: muttler

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23/01/2018 – Gorakshep (5180m) to Pheriche (4200m) with a visit to Kala Patthar (5600m)

Oh my. What a day. Quite easily the toughest day of the trip and thankfully the toughest one there would be.

It all started at 5am. Yep, 5am.The plan was to hike to the top of Kala Patthar (also spelled Kala Pather), a mere 5600m and 250m higher than Base Camp. It was a 5am start so that we could get to the top to experience sunrise over the mountains, including Everest.

So off we went. Damn, it was cold. Pasang said it was a brisk minus 16 degrees, but this was really the only time during the trip when we really felt the cold deeply. It was also steep, the steepest we had encountered. That all made for a challenging morning! It was VERY slow going. Even those of us that were feeling pretty good were struggling with all the conditions. I was OK, just very short of breath and could feel my heart rate going pretty high. But I was warm enough and never felt as if I wouldn’t be able to do it.

 

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At about 7:45am we made it, just as the sun was starting to pop over the peaks of the mountains. It was actually pretty emotional, just like Base Camp. We were all exhausted and it dawned on us that we had made the epic trip together so were all super proud of each other. At the top we had 360 degree views of everything, including a picturesque Everest.We thought we may not spend too much time at the top but the conditions were pleasant now the sun was up so we hung about longer, like yesterday getting as many photos as we could. We were all just happy to rest too!

 

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Exhausted or not, with Kala Patthar conquered, it was time to head down. This morning had only just scratched the surface of what we had to achieve for the day, so we couldn’t delay much more. We had a LONG way to head down, so it was back to Gorakshep to rest (it only took us 45 minutes to get back down!) and have some breakfast.

 

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Everyone was in various states of exhaustion. Even though I was doing pretty well, it took a fait bit of mental fortitude to summon up the energy to get the backpack back on the back and start the descent. We still had 6 hours of hiking for the day to go and that messed with everyone’s heads. Before we left Pasang got us all to sign a shirt which we tacked up onto the room of the tea house. It seemed many of the groups were leaving mementos in the tea house, so who were we to break with tradition?

But eventually we all got going and begrudgingly headed downward. Most of us had music in our ears to spur us on. It was mostly the same track as the earlier days, being able to stop in Lobuche for a brief lunch and then keep going. Down was going well, and when we were headed downward everyone was doing OK. But when we had to head back up it was a killer.

 

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Eventually we took a turn from our previous path… instead of back from Dingboche, we headed down into a chilly valley to make our way to Pheriche. The sun was creeping below the mountaintops meaning we started to feel the cold. But the terrain was nice and flat and we all felt great powering along on it, and in what felt like no time we made it to our evening accomodation. For the last hour a friendly local doggo wandered along with us, ensuring that we intrepid travellers made it to our destination.

 

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In the village, just outside our guest house, was a monument for all who had died on Everest. Sadly the list of names was long, and my friend Maria was up on there which was quite a sobering end to the day. Her amazing feats had been at the forefront of many of my days in the Himalayas and I made sure to leave prayer flags here and there in her memory.

All of us were exhausted and after dinner there wasn’t too many hours of cards before we all had a well earned nights sleep.

24
Feb

Base Camp!

By: muttler

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22/01/2018 – Lobuche (4930m) to Gorakshep (5180m) with a trip to Everest Base Camp (5364m)

Mission accomplished! But I will get to that soon.

The day started at Lobuche with our earliest start since day one. A 6am rise and out the door by 7am meant no mucking around. It was off to Gorakshep, our base for the evening. It was a fairly standard climb like the other days, with moments of up, but otherwise fairly gradual.

 

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We arrived at Gorakshep nice and early at about 9:30am. Believe it or not it was time to order lunch… yep it would be a long day. With the early lunch in our bellies and a bit of a rest it was time for the final push… getting to Everest Base Camp. Off we went!

 

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This was quite challenging. There were a few factors in the mix. It was quite warm, we had been up quite early, we were now well and truly over 5000m, and there was a bit of scrambling over rocks to do with our hiking. Early on we got to see the classic “This Way To EBC” sign.

During the hike, we could actually spy base camp. There was really not anything to see as such, given it was not climbing season. There were a couple of lonely tents there. Apparently a couple were planning on summiting for Valentines Day (I wonder if they made it?!), but otherwise base camp was not the tent city it is come April and May.

 

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almost there…

 

It was a couple of hours of hiking, but we rounded a corner and over a rise and there it was! Everest Base Camp!

It was quite funny to see actually. Base camp moves a little each year as it is on the glacier, so there is no “official” sign or marker. Rather, one gets set up each year, and at this point the welcome to Base Camp was a pile of rocks, some prayer flags, and a makeshift sign. But it was Base Camp alright!

 

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We spent the next half an hour getting photos and goofing off. There was the odd fellow hiker that would make their way up but overall it was very quiet. In peak season I don’t doubt you would wait in line for your 30 seconds of glory. Instead we got to take as many photos as we liked and soak up our achievement. Me, I had a few ways to celebrate. First of all, and most importantly, the Ron Swanston flag that had travelled to Kilimanjaro with CC and I, and then to Base Camp with CC, emerged. Ron was my lucky charm and I was honoured to have him celebrate at base camp. Next, a celebratory Kit Kat, bought in Namche, was the order of the day. It was just perfect for devouring and celebrating! Finally, I also celebrated with a sneaky Hendricks gin that CC had provided me before leaving. Some fellow hikers, coincidentally from Scotland, the home of Hendricks, spied it and were very envious!

 

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We also had time to get photos leaping in the air and all kinds of shenanigans. Pasang had a perfect trigger finger to get maximum height!

 

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Eventually it was time to head back. While it was downhill, it was quite tough. Many of the team were struggling. I was feeling pretty good all things considered, and just contended with a minor headache coming and going. Nothing nearly as bad as summit day on Kili. After about an hour and half we were back, all still glowing from our achievement. Exhausted, and with an early morning ahead, it was a quiet night, one of managing the altitude and recounting our successes.