22 days on the trail- 3 passes and EBC!

3 passes and EBC

As I crossed Renjo La, the third and final pass and began a 1200m descent, tears began to roll down my face. I started running down the mountain as I always do on a long descent. But the waterfall flowed with all it’s might. I was overwhelmed but I didn’t have my reasons.   

Forever mesmerized by the mountains, I have always been grateful. But this was something else. It was an outpour resulting from the magic, tiredness, frustration, joy, silence, energy and elevation experienced in the past 20 days. Maybe since I was all I had to myself all this while. Maybe I didn’t want it to ever end.

Suddenly I remembered the long solitary hours on the trail, the enormity and grace of the heavenly peaks I would get lost in, the indifferent climb to Island Peak, the unusual night at Porter’s lodge, the Dutch couple who I couldn’t bid goodbye to after crossing Cho La, the laid back time with the gritty Aussie father-son duo in Gokyo, the inner frustration of redundant gopro at high altitudes, the sleepless cold nights when I would suddenly wake up and gasp for air, the freezing toilets and the long bumpy jeep ride.

Now it wasn’t that I hadn’t tasted any of it before. But this was a continual experience spread over many days and I never had time to reflect as much. The endless meditative hours alone gifted me with an unknown bliss. I was immersed in the trail, swaying and blowing in the wind. For hours and hours with the mountains. In the mountains.

To Kanchenjunga base camp!

22 days on the trail

To wake up early, sip black tea and tread on the trail before most hikers were my daily drill. And walk for hours witnessing the change in scenery, find inexpensive accommodation deduced by it’s outward appearance, negotiate with the owners in half-learnt Nepali, gobble up lunch, take a nap and get energized to meet fellow hikers, if any; discuss the day, weather and routes with their guides, talk to locals about life in the mountains and their whereabouts, walk around, wander, relish another cup of tea, and decide for dinner between rice, noodles and potatoes while making myself warm in the kitchen was roughly the routine for 22 days. 

And then, wait for slumber, which is an adventure itself at higher altitudes.

3 passes and EBC
Everest base camp

3 Passes and EBC – The Trek

The 3 passes and EBC is a long hike in the Everest region of the Himalayas in Nepal and can take anywhere between 15-20 days. I did not opt for flights which meant an extra 4 days of hiking and undertook a climb to my first  6000m; Island peak, which cost me 3 more days.

The high-altitude trek starts from around 2400m(via road from Salleri village) or 2800m(via flight from Lukla). It takes one to Everest base camp and the three high passes, all of which are in excess of 5000m. The trek demands good fitness of body and mind but considering the altitude, it is still manageable owing to the teahouses and the homestays that provide food and accommodation and cater to one’s every possible need, high up in the mountains.

The villages above 3000m are in themselves a wonder and demonstrate the depth and degree of human resilience and adaptability in the toughest conditions. And then, there is an exhibition on display of the highest mountain peaks in the world. Dancing amongst the clouds, playing hide and seek.

That is what makes the trek unique. That is why hiking in this mountain country is special.   

My days on the trail

Till Namche Bazaar

The first five days on the trail from Salleri were the quiet ones. The hikers were few, the trail overlapped with the muddy motorable roads, the villages were quaint and calm, the prices reasonable and the people warm, friendly and mostly idle.

Though the snow-capped peaks weren’t visible yet, when I think of it now, those were the precious days. Walking for hours without sighting a crowd is a pleasure only seasoned hikers would relate to. 

The trails converge at Cheplung village, where one can suddenly see a storm of hikers hurrying from Lukla. And that is when I tasted the first flavour of this highly popular trek.

The trail suddenly got brighter with colourful apparel and backpacks. A network of guides and porters came to the fore and the settlements now looked more like a tourist hub with bakeries, bars and hotels. A string of beautiful, long suspension bridges led to Namche Bazaar, the gateway to Everest.  

Sandakhphu trek to witness Sleeping Buddha!

3 passes and EBC
The gateway to Everest

Namche and beyond

Namche Bazaar is a unique town that caters to possibly every need of hikers and climbers and the people behind the scenes. There is a hustle and bustle around. Bakeries, adventure brands, spas, bars, it has just got about everything.

The rise in altitude and prices become evident.

Above 3000m, the real hike kicks in now. So does the risk of Acute Mountain Sickness(AMS). Hiking is a rhythmic activity where a consistent pace sets the tone of the walk. It is not about speed although when you are fit, your feet automatically make the next move. The next step is in tempo. And my feet loved the dance. They were treading on a beat. Along with the music of the strong winds and the majestic backdrop.

Gradually, the peaks started to reveal themselves. Ama Dablam and Nuptse are the most prominent ones. There are a few viewpoints to witness Everest and Lhotse along with a lot of other 6000m and 7000m; quite some of them are unnamed too.  

The hiking days are not too long with regular stops; some beautiful villages in Lobuche, Dzongla and Gokyo, which was my favourite. Except for the pass days which were long and testing without any settlements in between. They were also the most beautiful and rewarding. Standing in the middle of the Upper Himalayas, I couldn’t help but wonder at the vastness of the mountain ranges and the gigantic peaks. Those days were surreal as I ate my packed lunch and communed with the mountain Gods.  

3 passes and EBC
Ama Dablam

The end

Post Renjo La and Marulung, as I descended further, I was greeted with rhododendron trees in abundance in the villages of Thame and Thamo. Pink and red loomed all around in what felt like a fitting finish to a finale. In the overlapping villages, I stayed in the same lodges and met the folks as we listened to each other’s weeks that passed by. 

On the trek, I witnessed quite a few people getting rescued or returned. Any trek above 4000m comes with it’s beauty and risks. I felt fitter and better than ever. It is attributable to the work done before the climb. The training imparted to the body and mind.   

After all these days, I felt like I understood the mountains better and could come across as a guide. And there is one inherent characteristic of the mountains I would remind everyone that may or may not help but should be remembered.

It is the unpredictability.

Here is the video of my days:

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