Everest Base Camp Part 4: The Descent

Note: This is an entry in a multi-part account of my June 2014 trek to Everest Base Camp. Navigate the full set here.

Day 9 (cont.): Descent to Pangboche

Following a celebratory breakfast after a successful summit of Kala Pattar, we started the descent. Since we lost a day due to the Lukla flight on the way in, we wanted to cut a day from the descent, so we needed to  make it all the way to Pangboche at 3900m.

The Gorak Shep-Thukla section looked much different in reverse with no clouds. Stunning!

Thukla pass

From Thukla to Pheriche was new trail. We descended a fairly steep canyon before breaking out into a huge open plain nestled at the foot of Tabuche.

Sita and I agree that this peaceful valley is one of the most unexpectedly beautiful segments of the trek and if the weather is clear it’d be a shame to skip it. It is also the easier way down.

We intended to stop for lunch in Pheriche but everything was closed so we decided to press on for another two hours to Pangboche


We reached Pangboche in only 3 hours from Gorak Shep, a very fast pace. It was good to collapse, eat, and recover from our longest, best day.

Day 10: Pangboche to Namche
Motivated by the prospect of showers and WiFi in the relative comfort of Namche, we made quick work of a four hour day from Pangboche. The trail rolls up and down before dropping a steep 600m to the river after Tengboche, before regaining some of it back to Namche.

This was a harder day than expected with the tricky final climb and the long day yesterday, but it was well within our comfort zone and we could relax and catch up on the news of the world on excellent WiFi after our showers. It was amazing to think we only had one day of hiking left! The adventure was quickly coming to a close. The guides broke out some rum and had a bit of an… ahem… celebration tonight. Who can blame them!

Day 11: Namche to Lukla

This day was deceptively brutal. It starts with a 600m descent of the notorious switchbacks. Then, the path to Phakding had way more uphill segments than I remember. It took almost 3 hours just to get to Phakding where we had lunch.

Remember the first segment of trail? All downhill. While that was a favor for us at the time, it meant that we got to enjoy one last hurrah of a hill climb all the way to Lukla. All told, today took about five hours of pretty reasonable hiking but it felt frustrating because it was so close to the end.

We finally walked through the city gate, happy to be heading back to civilization soon but sad to be leaving the beautiful mountain backdrops and Sherpa culture. We celebrated a trek well done with our friends and called it a night, praying for good weather on the way out the following day.

The weather this evening did not look promising but you never know.
Day 12: Lukla
The only thing worse than being stuck in Kathmandu on the way to Lukla, is being stuck in Lukla on your way back to Kathmandu. We awoke to clear skies and were cautiously optimistic that we would be getting out. But after breakfast, on our way to the “airport” at 5, we looked down the valley and saw clouds rolling in. Crap!

Nonetheless, we dutifully checked in and waited to hear our fate. The early flight was delayed from KTM: deja vu. But then we got word that a plane was on its way! A glimmer of hope? I said I’d believe it when I saw it land.

It did.  First in priority, we boarded a trusty Dornier 228 and strapped in for a wild ride. We cleared the fence on takeoff by at least 20 feet: no problem!

Back in Kathmandu, we landed, went back to the Hotel Nepalaya to shower, email, and relax before returning our rental parkas and feasting on our dream meals from the trek at Fire and Ice Pizzeria: a pesto pizza with sliced fresh mozzarella for me, a fresh salad for Sita, and ice cream for both. Our bodies were not primed for that kind of food but it was all worth it.

And so ended our Everest Base Camp trek: 84 miles, 4000m elevation gain and loss, 12 days on the trail, and memories for a lifetime. I may not return to Nepal for the near future (lots of other items on my list first) but I’ll always be proud of the trip we arranged and that we managed to achieve our goals while staying completely healthy and safe and having a ton of fun along the way.

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