Everest Base Camp Trek
As the new trekking season beckons and I'm left wondering where I'll go to this season, I want to share with you the wonderful experience I had last year during Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek.
I'm the owner of Ambition Himalaya Treks and Expeditions. I manage tours and treks in Nepal, India, Bhutan and Tibet. I take part in a trek around October each year with my guests because trekking is my hobby as well as my profession. I chose Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek last year.
It was my seventh visit to Mount Everest Base Camp but the first in last six years. I chose EBC because my longtime guest and friend Diego had come from Spain with his three cousins. Diego was the first guest I served when I founded my company. He had come back two times more between his first visit and this one.
He had been to Annapurna Base Camp, Langtang Valley and Everest Base Camp previously. He was so enthralled by the experience at EBC that he had brought his cousins Fernando, Juan and Sebastian along with him. I was thinking about where I would go this year when Diego emailed me that he was coming for EBC trek with his cousins. My decision was set. I would join Diego to EBC.
We flew to Lukla on 8th that month. The trek to Phakding was wonderful. Diego is a seasoned trekker but his cousins surprised me. It was their first trip to Nepal but they did not break any sweat up to Phakding. Diego had told me the day before that his cousins were avid trekkers with ample prior trekking experience. I was relieved to see that it was true. I always worry when first time guests travel with our team.
The sight of mount Kusum Kangaru from Phakding never gets old. We spent a wonderful day in Phakding and trekked to Namche Bazaar the next day.
The next two days, following a day of acclimatization in Namche, of the trek went along fine. We rested at Tengboche and Dingboche for the night. The experience of the day we trekked to Lobuche from Dingboche was unforgettable.
We left Dingboche for Lobuche on 14th of October. We had rested a day in Dingboche for acclimatization. Therefor we started early. Just when we were about to reach Thukla, Diego stopped. He was ahead of us all. He said 'stop' in a hushed voice. We could sense the seriousness in his voice but we had no idea why he alarmed us all. He took a couple of steps backwards and pointed to a small rocky top on his left. There was an animal not more than 50 m ahead of us. 'It's a cat', said Diego. It definitely was. It was a snow leopard. We were overcome with sudden fear.
I must admit I had never seen a snow leopard before despite being in countless trekking trips to the Himalayas. The wild cats are shy in nature. They avoid humans. However, a snow leopard was before us in flesh and blood.
We knew they might be a danger to lone travelers but not to people who travel in groups. I gestured to Diego and his cousins to make loud noise in unison to scare the cat away from our path ahead.
However, the cat moved first. It jumped from the rock as if the ground was a springboard and landed a few feet ahead. It glanced towards us once and sprinted away to the right of where our road went. It was more afraid than we were.
We stayed where we were for a few minutes so as not to disturb the cat which might have been nearby. We then continued our way ahead. We acted calmly but each of us had cold chill going through our spine during the few seconds we were face to face with the cat. We talked about the encounter many times during the evening at Lobuche.
We trekked to the Everest Base Camp the next day. Everest Base Camp is a paradise. Diego's cousins said it was the best day in their lives. Everyone going to EBC for the first time says that. We returned back to Gorakshep that night after enjoying a wonderful time at EBC.
The next day's visit to Kalapatthar was equally breathtaking. Diego had missed Kalapatthar during his last trek to EBC. He complained why I did not insist him to go to Kalapatthar during his last trek. We returned back to Pheriche that night.
The remaining part of the journey would be going back downhill towards Namche and then Lukla. I was the last to sleep that night. I had been to this place a number of times before. Not disturbed by modernity, Everest region was not much different from the first time I came here. Everest Base Camp has got a bit more crowded but the region as a whole has remained unchanged.
However, this trip was completely different for me than the one's before. I enjoyed it more than my first trip to EBC. It was because of jolly good Diego and his easy going cousins, and the fact that I was coming back to the place after a long time. It was also because of the sudden, brief and thrilling encounter with a snow leopard.