Everest Base Camp Trek Days 9-11 – Gorak Shep to Lukla

Kala Patthar Hike to Finish Our Mount Everest Base Camp Trek
Kala Patthar Hike to Finish Our Mount Everest Base Camp Trek

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek

Trek to Everest Base Camp Days 9-11

In March 2015, I set off on the adventure of a lifetime with 3 good friends. Although we had reached base camp on day 8, we still had a quick hike up Kala Patthar to conquer, and then the entire hike back to Lukla before completing our entire Mount Everest Base Camp Trek.

If you’re following along from day 1 trekking to Everest Base Camp, welcome back! If you’re new to this adventure, you may want to first start with day 1 of our Everest Base Camp trek from Kathmandu to Lukla and Phakding and then come back to continue on.

In this article:
Mount Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 9, Kala Patthar and on to Pangboche
Mount Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 10, Pangboche to Namche Bazaar
Mount Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 11, Namche Bazaar to Lukla

Our Mount Everest Base Camp trek had been the adventure of a lifetime so far. On day 8 of our Mount Everest Base Camp trek, we hiked from Lobuche to Gorak Shep, and then on to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. In spite of a huge snow storm, we had managed to make it successfully to base camp and stare at the glory that is Mount Everest. It had been a long trip so far – an extremely exhausting and cold trip – but as all trekkers know, a trek is not just about getting to your destination. You also have to make it back to where you started!

It had been a long trip so far – an extremely exhausting and cold trip. But as all trekkers know, a trek is not just about getting to your destination. You also have to make it back to where you started!

We had 3 days to make it back along the same route we had spent 8 days coming up. Sure, it would be easier going down in elevation, but we still had a lot of uphill followed by downhill followed by uphill…rinse and repeat. But first, Kala Patthar…

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 9, Kala Patthar and on to Pangboche

Elevation: ~16,900 feet to ~13,100 feet
Mileage: ~10.8 miles gradual downhill

Mount Everest Base Camp: Gorak Shep to Pangboche (Kala Patthar hike not included)
Mount Everest Base Camp: Gorak Shep to Pangboche (Kala Patthar hike not included)
Elevation from Gorak Shep to Pangboche
Elevation from Gorak Shep to Pangboche

Day 9 of our Mount Everest Base Camp trek wasn’t too bad. Ransom and Steve woke up before sunrise to hike Kala Patthar, a nearby “hill” where you get a great view of Mount Everest. Kala Patthar is a common hike for people doing the Mount Everest Base Camp trek, but you have to get up very early to do it on day 9 before hiking another ~11 miles all the way to Pangboche.

Since their boots were frozen shut as they got dressed (literally, frozen), I made the warm decision to stay in bed until they got back from their Kala Patthar hike. Knowing my own limits and how far I had pushed to this point, I felt that I deserved some extra sleep in my warm sleeping bag.

The boys made it back a few hours later after their hike up Kala Patthar with some incredible pictures of Mount Everest. They hadn’t gone all the way to the top, but they did some good work! I was still very happy (and warm) with my choice to stay in bed. Not wanting to waste any time, we packed up ready to head to Pangboche from Gorak Shep.

To this point, the snow had covered most of the trail but it was starting to melt much more rapidly. Instead of a snowy trail, it was now a slushy, icy, muddy trail. This made it hard to walk with our low-quality crampons bought in Namche Bazaar (which held up mighty well with some fixings along the way for only costing $15!). It was also incredible how much more crowded the trail of people going towards Mount Everest Base Camp

It was also incredible how much more crowded the trail of people going towards Mount Everest Base Camp was now vs when we were hiking out. On our hike to base camp I think we saw a total of maybe 20 people the entire way up, and now we were passing that many people every few steps. They were literally ankle to ankle walking up. Our Mount Everest Base Camp trek may have been extra difficult because of the snow, but I was grateful it had not been this crowded for us!

We made it to our tea house in Pangboche in about 7 hours, which was relatively good timing with the trail conditions. Along the way, we had stopped midpoint for lunch again in Dughla. On our trek to Mount Everest Base Camp, the water hadn’t looked especially clean when we stopped for lunch so we had passed on filling up here. Now, Ransom and I chose to once again skip the water there, but Steve decided to do a double treatment since it looked a bit cleaner.

Once we got to our tea house in Pangboche that evening, he realized what a mistake this had been. Steve, unfortunately, did not join us for dinner that night. Instead, he spent most of the night…um…getting rid of whatever had been in the water in Dughla. Poor guy.

Like a trooper, he woke up the next morning ready to hike on! He didn’t have much choice unless he wanted to call for a helicopter, so, one foot in front of the other, he hiked on.

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 10, Pangboche to Namche Bazaar

Elevation: ~13,100 feet to ~11,300 feet
Mileage: ~8 miles of uphill and downhill

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek Map: Pangboche to Namche Bazaar
Mount Everest Base Camp Trek Map: Pangboche to Namche BazaarMount Everest Base Camp Trek Map: Pangboche to Namche Bazaar
Elevation from Pangboche to Namche Bazaar
Elevation from Pangboche to Namche Bazaar

It’s amazing how well your body can hold it together when it knows there’s no end in sight…and how quickly it can fall apart when it knows the journey is almost over. This is what started to happen on day 10 of our Mount Everest Base camp trek.

I took notes along the way to remind myself of what happened on what days and my notes for day 10 start with “Fuck this place”. It’s repeated a few times throughout the rest of the note, which wasn’t that long. Probably because at this point, I was kinda over it… I was especially grateful I had chosen not to hike Kala Patthar the day before because everything in my was starting to hurt even without the extra hike.

The trails coming back from Mount Everest Base Camp were much clearer at the lower elevations. It was almost difficult to recognize that where we were hiking was a place we had been only a few days before because, without snow, it looked completely different. It certainly helped our hike from Mount Everest Base Camp not having the snow to contend with. However even without it, there was so much uphill and downhill making it to Namche Bazaar – and SO much “Napali flat” – that we were just over it. We came, we saw, we conquered…we were ready to be done.

Poor Steve was moving a bit slower, understandably, but it wasn’t as though any of us minded. We were beyond exhausted. We had all noticeably lost weight and muscle mass from not being able to eat enough calories to counter what we were burning every day, and our bodies were starting to suffer.

Eventually, we made it to Namche Bazaar and celebrated with a coca-cola. Ransom and I also decided to indulge in our first beer of the trip now that we were leaving elevation. We had held off up until now so as to keep our bodies in tip-top shape and fully hydrated to handle the higher altitudes. Steve, in his condition, chose to skip the beer. Good move, Steve. Good move. Exhausted, we finished our dinner and settled in for bed knowing that we only had one day left before we were back to a lovely, hot shower!

Exhausted, we finished our dinner and settled in for bed knowing that we only had one day left before we were back to a lovely, hot shower! But we also knew that the last day would likely be the most difficult.

For comparison, here are some before and after shots on the same trail, a few days apart:

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 11, Namche Bazaar to Lukla

Elevation: ~11,300 feet to ~9.600 feet
Mileage: ~11 miles of uphill and downhill

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek Map Day 11: Namche Bazaar to Lukla
Mount Everest Base Camp Trek Map Day 11: Namche Bazaar to Lukla
Elevation from Namche Bazaar to Lukla
Elevation from Namche Bazaar to Lukla

We’re almost there! Well, kind of. Day 11 of our Mount Everest Base Camp was probably the roughest day for me. The first half of the day was all downhill, which was really rough on my already sore knee (getting old really does suck!). We stopped for lunch in Phakding and unfortunately, the food tasted very frost bitten which made it hard to eat. Knowing we were only a few miles from Lukla, we set off in good spirits, only to be crushed by the long, slow, painful uphill pretty much the whole way.

Day 11 of our Mount Everest Base Camp trek was probably the roughest day for me. The first half of the day was mostly downhill, which was really rough on my already sore knee (getting old really does suck!). We stopped for lunch in Phakding and unfortunately, the food tasted very frost bitten which made it hard to eat. Knowing we were only a few miles from Lukla, we set off in good spirits, only to be crushed by the long, slow, painful uphill pretty much the whole way.

But, don’t let that fool you. It was still up and down in some spots which was like someone taking a steak knife to my knee with each step. As we were hiking, in my head I named this day the “You are capable of so much more than you think” day. It really is amazing what the body is capable of in spite of the brain. With every painful step, I wanted to stop. I wanted to sit down and not get up again. I wanted to find a horse or a helicopter or something, anything, that would get me to Lukla without having to walk another step.

But, luckily I’m also pretty stubborn. So, I told myself with each step that I had made it this far and I was determined to make it to the end.

And that’s exactly what I did. Walking into the town of Lukla was probably one of the happiest moments of my entire life – we were here! We had made it! And we were SO ready for a good meal. I had never done anything like this before. I had pushed through the pain, the cold, the tight chest and lack of Oxygen. I pushed it through the wet, cold boots every morning and numb feet. I pushed through, and I accomplished what I set out to. I felt amazing. Well, shitty physically, but amazing mentally!

Once again, we didn’t last long after dinner at our tea house in Lukla and didn’t want to as we had to be up very early the next morning for our flight back to Kathmandu. A hot shower awaited back in Thamel!

We woke up early the next morning, packed our bags once more, and walked the short walk to the airport (you could see the airport from our teahouse). We ran into our same Irish friends we had seen all along the way and boarded the plane for Kathmandu. The takeoff is incredible – you have such a short runway to takeoff that you feel as though the pilot won’t be able to make it…and then you’re in the air. We had finished our Mount Everest Base Camp trek.

We had finished our Mount Everest Base Camp Trek.

Back in Kathmandu, our van was waiting to take us back to our hotel and we were excited to get clean, eat some food, and maybe get a massage! Sadly, the water at our hotel never quite got hot, but we did eat well, and we did enjoy our massage which was a lovely way to end the trip.

Goodbye, Lukla
Goodbye, Lukla

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek – Closing Notes

The Mount Everest Base Camp trek is something that I think everyone should experience once in their lifetime, but with caution. Altitude sickness is a real thing and with an average of 50-60 helicopter rescues off the trek every day during the busy season, it proves that people greatly underestimate this trip.

If you’re going to do it, train well. Pace yourself. Eat your food. And hydrate. A lot. Seriously. And get travel insurance for sure, just in case. It’s a painful journey, but the payoff was so much more valuable because of the pain that I overcame. I hope you are able to make it, and I hope my story has been helpful for you!

Namaste 🙂


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