In March, I had the last minute opportunity to join the Northeast Mountaineering trek to Everest Basecamp. It was two weeks before departure that I said yes to the trip and began packing. I am so thankful for the support I had from my friends and family for this trip. I wasn't sure if dropping everything and leaving for a month was the right thing to do, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I've ever made. Since connecting with NEM, my life has completely changed. I have gone places I never dreamt I'd be able go. I've climbed mountains far taller than I thought my two legs could take me and I am pursuing my dream of working in the outdoor industry. The opportunities that NEM provides are irreplaceable and I am so grateful to be part of such an incredible community. Northeast Mountaineering taught me how to live.
It's been 7 months since I returned from Nepal. I posted photos throughout the trip to keep friends and family updated on the trek, but once I got home, I seemed to put them away for good until this week. I reflected upon the trip quite a bit lately and I think I came to terms with the inner battles I was fighting those 4 weeks in the Himalayas. This trip made me stronger than I thought possible and tore me down in the best way. I finally feel ready to dive back into these photos and share them. I hope you enjoy it!
Our trip started in March, flying out from Boston and beginning the long journey to Nepal. Boston > New York > China > Nepal. With long layovers and an unexpected stop in India, we were all excited to finally make it to Kathmandu after 36 hours of travel together.
We arrived in Nepal mid afternoon. Culture shock hadn't hit me until we stepped out of the airport. No turning back! The hustle and bustle of Kathmandu was like nothing I've ever seen before. People were everywhere- on foot, bike, moped, motorcycle or car. Cows and dogs roamed the streets. Shops everywhere, handmade goods and knockoff adventure gear. The air was thick and the streets were dirty but it somehow had so much charm. Destruction from the earthquake still remained but life seemed to go on with a smile for the people of Kathmandu. Everyone was so friendly!
The next morning we were able to explore Kathmandu in the light. We took a tour and were quickly immersed in their culture. A funeral was taking place on the bank of the holy Bagmati River. Family members carried a woman through the river and placed her down to be cremated. Quite honestly, I was in shock that I was witnessing this. Funerals in our culture are private, only open to the loved ones of the deceased. Yet, here we were, on a tour, watching a family mourn the loss of their mother. Our group was silent and tears rolled down my cheeks. We heard screams of sadness echoing across the water. I didn't take out my camera for a while, but our tour guide said it was okay. I look back at these photos and realize how important it is to take nothing for granted and to celebrate life.
A walk through the village.
We continued our tour and saw the Bodhnath Stupa, one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in the world.
After an incredible day learning about the culture, we sat down for a traditional Nepali dinner with our Nepalese guide. Devon, who runs Himalayan Hikers Expedition, would be guiding us alongside NEM to Everest Basecamp. He welcomed us with open arms!
An early morning wakeup call had us at the airport as the sun was rising. My heart raced as we navigated our way through the domestic terminal and boarded the tiny plane. Lukla's 1,729 ft runway terminates with a cliff, making it the world's most dangerous runway.
Jared captured this photo of me as we got our first view of Everest. There aren't words to describe the feeling of seeing that mountain with your own eyes.
We landed safely and settled into our first tea house of the trek.
Our trek to Everest Basecamp began shortly before noon. We left Lukla and started walking to Pahkding.
We settled in to our first teahouse, the River View Lodge in Phakding. Tea houses along the route are small hostels offering rooms, food and occasionally wifi (charged per GB). The main eating area is usually filled with people and warmed by a stove. The rooms are dorm style, with two to three beds in each, unheated. I didn't expect them to have as many amenities as they did. It was a nice welcome for our first night on the trek.
That evening, we went on a small hike to a nearby monastery. It was heavily effected by the earthquake in 2015 and they were rebuilding many structures. A small puppy followed us around!
We woke up to a beautiful sunny day as we began our second day on the trek. We crossed many suspension bridges along the way. After reaching a check point at Sagarmatha National Park and showing our permits, we were on our way to Namche Bazaar!
After a long day, we rounded the corner to see Namche Bazaar, 11,286 ft. This just about doubled the highest elevation I had ever been to. Namche is a huge village built into the hillside. It is the main trading center and hub for the Khumbu region. I had no idea the villages would be so big!
Our first stop was Sherpa Barista. We indulged in milkshakes, iced coffee, burgers and fries! I can't get over how good the food is at 11,000 feet in the middle of the Himalaya. Kabir, Devon and Cam played music during lunch.
Our second tea house instantly felt like home. The village was charming and so were the people. At dinner we all shared card tricks - with limited access to cell service, we were able to connect through good conversation and laughter.
The view from my room the next morning was unreal! We set out for an aclimitization hike to the Everest View Hotel and were able to get an up-close view of Mt. Everest, Ama Dablam, Nuptse and Lhotse.
After spending two days in Namche to ensure our bodies were getting used to the altitude, we left for Tengboche, which would bring us to 12,687 ft. It was such an interesting feeling being at high altitude, something I hadn't experience before. Walking 5 steps up to my room at the tea house had me out of breath! I drank more water each day than I usually drink in a week. Staying hydrated was essential!
Photos above by Corey Fitzgerald
This is where I noticed my health starting to decline. I had felt fairly sick the day prior but figured it was just part of the experience, but today's 5 hour hike might have been one of the worst 5 hours of walking I have ever endured. My stomach ached and I wasn't hungry, my head hurt and with every step I felt like I was going to pass out. When we made it to Tengboche, the sun was low on the horizon and temperatures dropped. I remember sitting in the tea house for dinner. The stove and other hikers filled the dining area with warmth, however, I shook with chills under every layer I had. I had a fever and went to lay down early. Our guides, both from NEM and HHE kept me as comfortable as possible and kept checking in on me. I could barely get food down and anything I could eat went right through me. I had never felt this sick but somehow still felt so incredibly lucky to be on this journey. I started to smile as I looked outside my window and saw Everest..
The journey continued to Dingboche, 14,470 ft.
The views each day were unlike anything I've ever seen. Glaciers and yak became normal sights.
After stopping staying in Lobuche and Gorak Shep, it was time to make the final push to Everest Base Camp (17,600ft). We arrived to EBC in a snowstorm and I think we were only there for about 15 minutes because of the weather. I have never felt so proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone to complete the trek to base camp. Photos below by Kabir:
NEM makes it to EBC:
Looking back at Everest Base Camp
Making it to basecamp was incredible. To stand in a place I had read and watched movies about at an elevation I never thought I'd be able to get to was unbelievable. Through my sickness, I still look back at that as one of the best days. But the trip was not over! The plan was to hike to Island Peak (20,305ft) over the next two days. It was decided that I should not continue on with how sick I was, so the team split up. I felt disappointed in myself for not being able to complete what I had set out to do, but I knew I shouldn't mess around with poor health at that elevation. It took me a long time to come to terms with turning around, but looking back I realize the stomach infection and fever was a lot to put my body through. It was a safe and smart decision, and I plan to go back someday to climb Island Peak. Nothing could take away from this journey. I just happened to get unlucky with getting sick and next time I will be more hyper aware of staying healthy.
We headed down to Namche in hopes I would begin to feel better. We received texts saying that the team made it to the top of Island Peak and while it killed me not to be there, I was so happy for them!
The hike down to lower elevation was quiet. My thoughts traveled to my friends back home, my dogs, my goals, the journey I was on and the people I had met. Every person we encountered was friendly, happy and seemed to be thankful to be here. I learned a lot about appreciating what you have from this trek and it changed the way I live back here in the US.
It was a bittersweet last day on the trail.
I took some distance from the group as we approached Lukla. I watched their backpacks disappear around the corner and walked the last part of the journey alone. Tears fell like raindrops as I realized what this trip taught me. I found strength in my darkest moments on this trek. Physically, I walked 80 miles at the highest elevation I had ever been in. Mentally, I finally believed in myself and found who I have always wanted to be. A strong, confident woman who can face adversity with grace. My legs were shaky, hair was a mess, I hadn't showered a long time and I was completely exhausted but I feel proud when I look at this photo of me as I walked the final steps of the trek:
When we made it back to Lukla after 16 days, we celebrated. It was the first time we got to hang out with our porters, the amazing men who carried our bags up to basecamp. I was constantly amazed at the weight they carried. The trek wouldn't have been possible without them. We drank, ate yak steak and danced the night away! Devon taught us how to dance to Nepalese music!
Our Northeast Mountaineering banner, officially on the wall in Lukla!
Looking back at these photos brings back some of the best memories of 2017. I highly recommend this trek to everyone, it is a life changing experience that will stay with me forever. I cannot recommend NEM and Himalayan Hikers Expedition enough. I know the trip would not have been the same without them. I always felt safe, taken care of and part of the team. Thank you Devon, Corey, Mark, Jared, Cam and to my friends and family who made it possible.
For more information on NEM's 2018 trek - http://www.nemountaineering.com/nepal-lobuche/