Everest Three Passes Trek: Into Thin Air

Ok we stole the title for our blogpost from Jon Krakauer’s book (It’s a story about the Mt Everest expeditions in the 1996 season which for many climbers & Sherpas had a disastrous ending due to a storm. Many of you probably saw the same story in the movie ‘Everest’ which is now playing in theatres.), but it described exactly how we felt when reaching the higher passes along our trip. The air became thinner and thinner, the higher we went.

Did you know?
Above 5000 meters, the oxygen level in the air is only 50%! At 8000 meter it’s about 30%.

For most of our readers a detailed itinerary is not so interesting, but we can tell you we had an amazing time in the mountains which we can show you with some pictures and some facts & figures. (For those who are interested, you can find a detailed day to day overview here).

Feel good moments:

  • The fourth but successful trial to reach Lukla: The check-in, the flight and especially the landing went smoothly. Céline got great mountain views but Benjamin had to sit on the other side of the aircraft (to spread the load) which was only filled with 18 passengers, 2 pilots and 1 stewardess.
    Note to complete our airplane saga: On our way back – while we were “hanging” in the air, the weather turned bad in Kathmandu so that airport closed, which forced the pilots to land on another further airport. There we had to wait around for about half an hour (literally just standing/sitting outside the plane right next to the runway), before we could take off again and land on Kathmandu’s airport.

  • Crossing the passes (Renjo La and Cho La) gave us an enormous “WAAUW”-feeling and immediately one forgets the effort of the endeavour. The views one gets at these points (both about 5350m high) were breath-taking and the reason why to do this trip. We could see the high mountain range very clearly which is less the case on the regular EBC (Everest Base Camp) trekking.

  • The first (and only!) time we found out there was a warm water tab in the communal ‘bathroom’ of a lodge we were staying at. We immediately washed ourselves completely.
  • Just before the highest mountain village ‘Gorak Shep’ we had again cell phone reach (Yes, at 5180m there is a cell phone tower) and received the message that Benjamin had become a godfather from his brother’s child on Friday 9/10/2015. We received the news two days later, but that was no excuse to treat ourselves with a Sprite that evening! (The fact that it was 8x as expensive as in Kathmandu made it really a special treat) But it was worth it: Lewis Burssens was born!
  • Leaving at 5 in the morning to climb to Kala Pattar (5550m), a viewpoint on Mount Everest, in the fog. Thinking about returning as the fog did not seem to go away, but still continuing… Luckily, as over halfway, the fog slowly disappeared and just before the clouds came in, we saw Mount Everest in front of us and many other mountain peaks. It had something magical, being above the clouds and watching these giants.

  • Going down from Everest Base Camp made us feel very excited:
    – We were ‘finished’ while the others were dragging themselves up the mountains sweating and puffing, and some seemed not happy at all. Knowing that they had exhausting days before them (and we were finished, with great mountain views in our memory) made us really smile non-stop 🙂 . The ‘Namastes’ and ‘Goodmornings’ never came with so much enthusiasm as during our descent.
    – The many crowds coming up: this made us realise that the track would only become busier and busier, while we had the mountains almost to ourselves. We did the 3-passes trekking, which is anyway a less crowded trekking, but also at a time it was quite calm because of less tourism due to the earthquake. Reaching the ‘regular’ Everest Base camp Trek was quite a shock, to see so many people, packed-up lodges, … but on the other hand: (yeey!) finally surpassing other (slower) walkers.

Did you know?
In the regular high season (October-November), Lukla welcomes everyday 300 to 400 trekkers. At the time we started our trekking, this was about 60 to 80/day. This number was however increasing each day, but still not at the pre-earthquake level.

Personal records

  • Highest altitude: 5400m
  • Highest mountain view: 8480m (Mt. Everest)
  • Days spent above 4000m: 8
  • Number of times crossed 5000m: 6 times
  • Longest walking day: 8 hour
  • Earliest sleeping hour: 18h45 (it was warmer in our sleeping bag than in the dining room)
  • Earliest getting up: 4h30

Signals that your personal hygiene standards are going down:

  • Above 3000m: Using your yesterday’s panties as a washcloth to wash yourself as the water becomes too cold to just splash it over your face & body.
  • Above 4000m: When washing does no longer involve water. Babywipes do the trick!
  • In order to complete the personal records:
    – Days without a shower: 15 days
    – Days without using water to wash: 10 days (ok, that is maybe not something be proud of 🙂 )

Our favourite quotations during the trekking:

  • “Slow but steady” (or “Bistare, bistare” in Nepali), to set our pace (and heart rate) while going up. This was really necessary in order not to encounter too much altitude sickness symptoms.
  • “Every ridge hides another ridge”, a bit of anti-peptalk while walking up, to set our expectations right. In the mountains, you may never expect that the ridge that you see is the actual mountain top… it never is 🙂 .
  • “Sharing is caring”, when we shared too much personal space & intimate moments while being packed in tiny bedrooms & bathrooms.
  • “Eyes are the laziest muscles! They see where you have to go, but don’t do nothing of the work!”, Benjamin’s words when going up and – as usual- it took longer than you think.
  • “Sister, how is your feel?”, not our quote, but the one of our porterguide who was checking from time to time how Céline felt.
  • “WAAAAAUUUWWW”, ok this must be the number one quote, as we said this so many times, when looking at magnificent views, over and over again.

Things we will not miss:

  • The paper thin bedroom walls: where you could even hear the zipper of your neighbour’s sleeping bag going up.
  • Squat toilets. Bring your own toilet paper. Do not throw your paper into the hole. No flush (a small can of water is all you get). Wet floors. (Do we need to say more?). If these toilets would be the norm in Belgium, no man would visit the toilet longer than a woman… as is now the case (apparently).
  • The cold:
    – Morning room temperatures of 2-4°C (This involved stuffing our clothes for the next day in our sleeping bag in order to keep them warm)
    – Hiking temperatures of -5 to -8°C (One day, the straw of our camelbak even froze)
    – Wearing thermals & down jackets inside, all the time!

Did you know?
The more eco-friendly lodges heat up the dining room with a stove, in which they burn yak dong, which they dried in the sun. It takes about 4 days to dry the poo before it can be used as fuel. However, in the first lodges we were the only guests, and the stove was not lit at all 🙂

Did we got help?

  • YES, we got each other 🙂 (mellow mellow)
  • YES, we got a porterguide. This is someone in between a guide and a porter, and hence, the daily budget is also somewhere in between. Jakat took care of our big backpack (12-15 kilos), so we only had to carry a small backpack with our daily water (3 liters each), our camera, some cookies, … He also showed us the way, named the many enormous mountains we saw, and guides us to the teahouses where we would spend the night.
  • YES, we got drugs! It is called Diamox, and is a medicine that helps you acclimatise faster. Benjamin took it for 4 days (mainly headache symptoms), and Céline for 2 days (mainly shortage of breath symptoms). Nevertheless, AMS (acute mountain sickness) has to be taken seriously, as you constantly hear and see helicopters flying over the valley to rescue trekkers/climbers out of the mountains.

Would we do it again?

And we would recommend it to everyone, therefore here our detailed itinerary. Do not hesitate to contact us, if you have any questions or need tips.

couple standing at Everest Base Camp
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This post has 1 Comment

  1. heerlijke avonturen als je jong bent,
    en daar ergens boven op de berg, heeft Celine haar verjaardag gevierd,
    hiervoor een dikke proficiat, ondertussen ben ikzelf op bedevaart
    geweest, naar Lourdes Frankrijk, en voor iedereen die er voor open staat
    een gebedje ten hemel gezonden, en al waren we niet op de op de mont Everest
    we waren toch op de Tourmalet !!! groeten

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