Day 10: Pheriche to Namche Bazaar

Namche Bazaar, Nepal
10,308 feet above sea level; 64% oxygen

We quickly learned that getting to Everest Base Camp was only half the battle. Indeed, the 40-mile return to Lukla was just as, if not more, challenging.

By this point, many of us are hinging on near exhaustion. Our knees ache from the constant downhill pounding. We are congested and coughing from the dust kicked up on the trail. We are hungry for a meal beyond rice or noodles. We are cold. And we need a proper bed and toilet.

We’re ready to go home.

As we slog along the trail, I’ve asked two Canadians who have recently tackled the summit of Kilimanjaro a simple question: Which was harder? Easily, I’m told, it has been this trek to Everest. While Kili is about 1,500 feet higher, the trip itself is only 5-7 days, only one of which is above 16,000 feet. Our trek to Base Camp has been about twice as long and we’ve spent the last three days sucking for air above 16,000 feet.

We quietly all pat ourselves on the back and then refocus on the task at hand.

As the day wore on, we continued to retrace our steps, passing the stone ledges where we frequently rested and those pleasant restaurants where we soaked in the fantastic views over cups of Hot Lemons.

There was little talk on the trail except for the occasionally obscenity yelled by our Australian group mate. “I’m sick of this,” he muttered as we began a 45-minute dusty descent that crushed our joints. Secretly, many of us agreed.

My camera stayed in my backpack for most of the day but thankfully Ray, a well-traveled guy from the UK, snapped some pretty fantastic shots.

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Soon, Namche Bazaar came into view and many of us could barely hold back our excitement for a return to reality. There were hot showers here! And Internet! Small bodegas that sold Diet Coke! And we could breathe! It was like we had arrived at Nirvana.

Showered and well fed, we sucked down Everest beers and started to reflect on what we had actually accomplished — how far we had gone and the blur of a past week.

At the table next to us, a group of trekkers chatted about acclimatization. They were clearly headed up the mountain while we were joyously heading down.

Part of me wanted to let them know what they were in for. But another part thought it might be best for them to experience it for themselves.

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