Friday, February 4, 2011

EBC Trek: Summary

I stopped to look back and admire a mountain that I had just passed. I had never seen anything so breathtaking in my life. Its terrain seemed unbeatable, its size seemed incalculable... I then turned back forward, and saw three mountains towering twice as high above me as that which I had first admired.

This was the Himalaya and the Everest Base Camp Trek.

The flight into Lukla to start the trek is an unforgettable experience on its own: a 15-person plane landing on a tiny runway somehow built into the side of a mountain. You know you're not on your average flight when everyone applauds after a successful landing.

Mountain life starts immediately once in Lukla. Proper showers, toilets and sinks are now rare luxuries. The majority of food and drinks are either flown in or carried in on the backs of porters or yaks over several days. The sun is strong and warming during the day but once it goes away anything that can freeze will.

The scenery changes dramatically over the weeks that you spend trekking to Base Camp and back. At first you're surrounded by a lush evergreen forest. But as you rise in altitude day by day this slowly changes into sparse patches of vegetation, and then finally disappears altogether. During your final days before Base Camp and at Base Camp, you are walking on rocks, sand and ice. The scene is a glorious mixture of glaciers and snow-covered mountains.

The people and culture of the region are uniquely interesting as well. The Sherpa people are always eager to tell you about their history, traditions and general way of life, whether it's during a long conversation by the fire at night or a short chat while passing on the trail.

The climax and piece de resistance of the journey is of course reaching Mt. Everest. This is an experience that lives up to every bit of its hype. The tallest point on Earth's surface, the absolute top of the world. The ultimate, natural battleground of adventure-seekers and the unfortunate resting place of many of them. As you look around you it sinks in that you are in the middle of the Himalaya, snow-covered mountains and glaciers of ice and rock as far as the eye can see.

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