Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Why We Couldn't Do Everest Base Camp

Our first attempt to do Everest Base Camp (EBC) was unsuccessful - all because we couldn't fly into Lukla which is the starting point of the trek.

Here's a recap of what happened:

We flew Malindo Air from Kuala Lumpur and landed in Kathmandu on 16 September 2016 at around 9.30pm.

We stayed at the pleasant and cosy Hotel Yambu during our stay in Kathmandu.

The next morning (17 September 2016) we met up with Raj the owner of the tour agency and paid him the package fees for the entire EBC trek which covers accommodation, meals, return flights to Lukla, guide, porter, etc. In our conversation with him, he mentioned that the weather has not been good. However he confidently assured us that we will be able to fly to Lukla the next day.

With this assurance, we spent the rest of the day shopping for gear and clothing in Thamel. I managed to buy a nice stretchy trekking pants for NPR2,000.

There're various shops in Thamel selling all sorts of trekking gear and souvenirs too.

On the morning of 18 September 2016, we woke up to grey and gloomy skies. And then the heavens opened and it rained heavily. My heart sank - I knew we won't be able to make it. True enough, we didn't even need to go to the Tribhuvan International Airport (where flights to Lukla depart) as Raj just need to call up Lukla Airport to see whether it's opened.

In case you're wondering why the pilots are so poorly skilled that they can't land a plane at Lukla Airport in a little rain, let me share with you the reason. You see, Lukla Airport (also known as the Tenzing-Hillary Airport) is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains. According to Wikipedia, its runway is only 527m long! The History Channel, in a 2010 programme titled Most Extreme Airports, had rated Lukla Airport as THE most dangerous airport in the world!

Whenever it rains, the weather gets misty and foggy which makes it difficult for the pilot to fly the plane to Lukla, let alone land it at the airport. So to avoid hitting a mountain or something, they will just close the airport and cancel all flights in bad weather.

Raj was still hopeful that the weather will improve and that the Lukla Airport will reopen. So he told us to be on standby till 12 noon. Apparently flights to Lukla even go till 4pm if the weather improves. Kathmandu may be bright and sunny but if Lukla is misty and foggy, it's still a no go. So we kept our fingers crossed.

By 12 noon there was still no sign of Lukla Airport reopening and I was already losing hope.
After lunch Raj broke the bad news to us - that Lukla Airport will be closed for the whole day. He also informed us that he was unable to get tickets for us the following day, i.e. 19 September 2016. Apparently Lukla Airport was closed the entire week before we arrived in Kathmandu. So imagine the backlog of travellers who would have been waiting for their flight to Lukla.

Raj was able to get tickets for us on 20 September 2016. However there's still no assurance that the weather would be good on that day. Moreover flying out on 20 September would mean that we would have lost our 2 buffer days for acclamatisation in Namche Bazaar and Lobuche, which is relatively a big risk.

At that point we decided that instead of working with moving dates and with so many uncertainties, we decided it's best to let EBC go and do another trek instead.

Alas, all the training, planning and money invested in the past 2 years aiming for EBC have become wasted effort.

Honestly, if I had been travelling alone, I would have asked for a refund from Raj and return home to Kuala Lumpur earlier.


1) Because this was already my third time in Nepal (was here in 2012 and 2014) and I had already seen the majestic mountains that Nepal has to offer (eventually all mountains will begin to look the same, just like temples and churches); and

2) Because my main aim of going to Nepal in 2016 was to do EBC and nothing else. So since we couldn't fly to Lukla, might as well cut my loses and save the money to do EBC at another time, or save the money for another trip. I didn't want to spend money to do another trek just because I was already in Nepal.

But alas, there were 3 of us - one loves trekking and was really enthusiastic to do another trek despite being her third time in Nepal too. The other person was his first time in Nepal. I couldn't abandon them, it had to be a group decision and the group decided to trek to the Langtang region instead, which we did.

Will I attempt to do EBC again?

Well, the dream has been buried temporarily. If I decide to do EBC again, I'll attempt to do it via Tibet to eliminate the risk of not getting into Lukla Airport. And also because I've never been to Tibet.

In my next posts, I'll share with you how to time and plan your EBC trek. Stay tuned ...


Jipp Jippsy said...

Too bad. I think a friend of mine went there earlier than you guys by a few days and had to go to ABC instead due to bad weather. This is one of the drawbacks of planning a trip to EBC esp for those who have non-flexi number of days in Nepal. Never lose hope though.

Julie Lim said...

I still have hope of doing EBC one day. But I think it's best done by people who can afford to spend an indefinite amount of time in Nepal just to do EBC.

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