Arriving at Everest Base Camp: an Emotional Experience
Today is a big day because Everest Base Camp is just around the corner – tomorrow we will be there: hopefully! I am very excited but also slightly nervous since today we will reach Lobuche, which is located at 4,940 meters.
(from “Last Acclimatisation Day“)
When I open my eyes, my first thought is, “TODAY is the day, in only a few hours we will be at Everest Base Camp, we have been walking for so long and today we will finally reach it”. I experienced a cocktail of feelings: excitement, happiness, sadness, fear, to name but a few. Of course I wanted to complete the trek, and reach the destination but I was not ready yet for the journey to end, since it had been so great.
At breakfast, for the first time during the whole trek, Fatima and I are the first ones to be downstairs waiting for the others. We no longer understand the world, since we are always late and the others have to wait for us. What is happening? We wait for an hour or so and as time passes, everyone starts to gradually show up one by one: our group, the Indians and some Italians we met along the way. They tell us about their experiences from the previous night and that they couldn’t sleep because of the AMS (acute mountain sickness) symptoms. Most of them look like zombies and no-one is really in a good mood.
It is around 7 am and the weather is just adding to the whole atmosphere, since it is very foggy, humid and cold. But we have all come this far and so together we go and hit the road one more time. There are around 15 of us leaving the guardhouse, the ones who are feeling better motivate and give strength to the others and we know that everything will be okay.
The atmosphere in the group soon changes for the better and good vibes are felt, stories are being shared about the WHY of doing this trek. While talking to one or the other person, time flies and when we reach Gorak Shep (5,140 m), we stop for lunch, but there the big group splits up and we remain with the Indians. During our lunch break, no-one feels hungry, mostly because of AMS symptoms. I order a Sherpa stew (local dish) and when I look to my left, checking out the flags hanging on the wall, I cannot believe my eyes. There is a flag hanging on the wall, and it is not JUST any FLAG; no, it is the flag of the NGO Fatima I worked with in Lesbos, Greece during the refugee crisis, just two months before we came to Nepal. The flag of Health Point Foundation!
I know that Cejil, an Indian, who also worked with HPF, went to EBC a few months ago but I had no idea that he had left a flag here.
Immediately I run over to the counter to ask the owner if I can take the flag down because I would like to take it with me to EBC and return it later. She says yes and I am super excited. Just after lunch, we leave our big back-bags in the room, take only the necessary items, and start heading towards EBC.
When we start walking, there is not the best energy in the air due to the, now stronger AMS symptoms everyone is struggling with. Thankfully the entire trek from Gorakh Shep to EBC is a straight path, so it will not require an extreme effort. Suddenly one of us stops and screams “Avalanche” and for a second my heart stops. Thankfully he points in the other direction, far away from us so there is no danger for us.
We continue forward and some yaks as well as some porters come towards us from the opposite direction. The path we have to walk on is quite narrow so we have to give them space to let them pass.
It is cold but not yet freezing and since it is quite windy, small ice crystals form on my face and my eyes fill up with tears because of the wind. The path to EBC is mostly all flat and therefore it is much easier to breathe in comparison to the way from Dingboche to Lobuche, which was mostly uphill.
Considering the pain they must feel at this moment, which I luckily have not had to experience since I started taking a prophylaxis for AMS a few days earlier, I must say that it is amazing to see the strength and resolve everyone has – some people are really struggling but no one dares to give up. I am feeling proud.
EBC is now visible from far and my heart starts pumping fast. We walk down a steep path, now covered by ice, trying not to slip and fall – and here we are at Everest Base Camp. I am looking around and I am a little bit “confused”.
If it weren’t for this stone, I wouldn’t realize that I am at Everest Base Camp. My guide sees my disappointment and says that it is like this because actually this day (31st May) marks the end of the season – no-one goes to the summit of Everest from June to August because of the monsoon season.
We put our bags down and take some group pictures in front of the praying flags. I then show my gratitude and say a few prayers for my loved ones and for arriving safely. We explore the area for some time but before we know it, we have to head back again because it is not recommended to stay at this high altitude for longer than 20 minutes.
For me the feeling of: “Wow, you made it to Everest Base Camp” hasn’t really sunk in yet, I don’t feel any different but I guess the change will show itself with every day, little by little, I will notice the things which have shaped and touched me thanks to this amazing trek …