As a part of Himalayan Boot Camp 2024, Kuensel’s Chencho Dema travelled with seven other journalists from India, Nepal and Bangladesh to the Everest Base camp.

On May 2, we took off at 6am from the domestic airport in Kathmandu (1350m) to Tenzing-Hillary Airport, popularly known as Lukla Airport, considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world.

Excited and nervous, I boarded the plane and was mentally prepared for the terrifying flight. The ceiling of the aircraft is so low that not even the flight attendant can stand upright when she gives us sweets for take-off.

We settled for breakfast in a hotel in Lukla, where we met our two guides and porters who would help us to the base camp.  There was a guide at the front to lead and another at the end to ensure every one of us was there.

Our journey to the Everest Base Camp began. Our destination for the day was

Monjo. Monjo is a small town in the Khumbu region of Nepal at an altitude of 2800m and serves as the gateway to Sagarmatha National Park.

The stretch through lush green mountains and a beautiful river valley that runs through them. The last section of the trek before Monjo was the most difficult and took almost an hour uphill. At around 6.30pm, after almost 9 hours of hiking, we finally slogged to the lodge, tired but with smiles on our faces, bringing the first day to a close.

Accommodation along the trail is also basic. The room consists of two single beds and a window. The porters always arrived before us and kept our duffle bags outside our rooms. All we had to do was identify our bag and move it to our room.

From Monjo we started for Namche Bazaar at an altitude of 3,440 metres at around 8:00 am. Meandering through the village and then stopping at a checkpoint where police officials went through our bags to see if we had any drones.

Namche Bazaar is situated on the slope of an arch-shaped mountain. The colorful market town sells everything you might need during your trip. The village has a 24 hours night pub too. This is also where you’re introduced to daal bhaat, the staple diet.

This is also where I started meeting the first trekkers returning from their excursions and I nod at them as I grunt my way up the next set of stairs. There are stairs, and there are some more and they just seem to continue forever. Then comes the highest and longest suspension bridge, the Hillary Bridge. After an arduous journey spanning over three and a half relentless hours of climbing from the Hillary Bridge, pausing frequently to catch my breath, the moment of revelation arrived. At long last, there it was—Namche Bazaar, emerging from the mist like a hidden jewel nestled in the heart of the Himalayas. With a weary face and aching legs, we retired for the day after having daal bhaat.

Next day we met with Kanchha Sherpa, 92, the last surviving member of the 1953 British Expedition’s Sherpa team. After a brief, but enriching conversation and a photography session, we continued on our journey navigating the rugged mountain trail with determined steps.

Despite the challenging terrain and the steep incline, our pace was steady, driven by the breathtaking vistas of distant, snow-capped peaks that loom ahead, partially veiled by a soft, frail haze. Pausing occasionally to catch breath and take in the awe-inspiring landscape, the path ahead was a formidable two-hour steep uphill climb.

The next journey was easy, downhill and straight. We reached Khumjung, another beautiful breath-taking Sherpa village in the mountain which lies at an elevation of 3,790m. From here on, you start realising that amenities like a hot shower, charging your phone, an extra blanket and hot drinking water start becoming more expensive.

Fully charging a phone battery cost NPR 350, a day’s internet usage was NPR 800, a flask full of hot water at NPR 3000 and an extra blanket came at NPR 150.

The day began with a gentle descent and level paths, surrounded by colorful rhododendron flowers that evoked a comforting sense of home. The downhill trek to the lunch point at Phungi Tenga was tiring for the legs and slow, as trekkers and herds of jhopkya (a hybrid between a yak and domestic cattle) shared the path. It was surprising to see such a diverse range of people, from 2-year-old toddlers to those over 70, all making their way to Everest Base Camp.

The real challenge began after lunch. Crossing a suspension bridge, swaying in the heavy wind, tested our nerves. The estimated hour-long  journey stretched into over three as we struggled to reach the top. It was a sigh of relief to finally arrive at Tengboche (3,875m), where a majestic Buddhist monastery stood right before us. After daal bhaat again, we retired to our respective rooms.

The trek to Dingboche (4410m), the next destination, was moderate and this is where we really started to feel the mountains up close. Ama Dablam, the most beautiful mountain in the world that had been a distant guide so far, would be right there. We steadily climbed above the tree-line and spent most of the hike along the edge of a cliff. There were few stretches of stairs but were manageable.

Dingboche is nestled in a vast plain, surrounded by mountains on all sides. It is also a popular stop-over point for trekkers and climbers heading to the Base Camp, as most of them stay an extra day to acclimatize.

Here, helicopters are busy with sorties bringing down trekkers from the base camp, or rescuing trekkers who were feeling the heat high on Mt Everest.

The next morning was acclimatisation day. In the morning, a snowfall greeted us. The entire village was covered under a blanket of snow, completely transforming the landscape. We had to climb up to Nangkartshang Peak (5083m), steep uphill rough terrain for more than two hours.  Although it was a short hike, this is where you are tested by the altitude for the first time.

A trek to the Pyramid International Laboratory, a high-altitude scientific research center in the world, located at 5050m was our last stop before reaching Mt Everest Base Camp. There was heavy snowfall, blanketing the ground in white. It was my first time walking in the snow in years. Bundled in layers of clothing with only our eyes exposed, we set out from Dingboche.

The next leg of the trek was harder. As we exited the restaurant, we saw a steep climb in front of us. We start at the bottom of the icefall to climb steeply to the Everest Memorial. It looked far, it was steep, it was on uneven ground, and it was all above 4,500m.

After a tiring walk, we reach the Everest Memorial site, a melancholy place that holds memories of climbers who lost their lives in their attempts to summit Everest. The trek to Lobuche (4950m) was relatively easier. Lobuche is a small settlement and is also one of the last overnight stops with lodging before reaching the Everest Base Camp. However, we had planned to stay at the pyramid laboratory which was another hour away. As the night fell, temperature plunged below zero degrees and we would sleep with layers of clothes.

The day had finally come. After a breakfast of toast and black coffee, we set off early for Gorakshep (5,164m), the last village before Everest Base Camp. The trek began with a mix of uphill and flat terrain, followed by rough uphill sections. After a short break at Gorakshep, we continued our journey to the base camp. The terrain was getting rough now, all covered in rocks with  each step having to be calculated.

More than two hours later, we made it to Everest Base Camp. It was a sense of relief when you saw the signboard that read “Welcome to Everest Base Camp,” alongside photos of Hillary and Tenzing. There was a photo session with the national flag, I felt an immense sense of pride. Seeing the Khumbu Icefall up close was even more magical.

I met the world out here — Taiwan, South Korea, China, India, USA, Nepal, Brazil, Bangladesh, the UK, Greece, and I, the lone Bhutanese amongst them.

After a few minutes of wandering around Everest Base Camp, I finally said goodbye and we began our journey back.