The retreat from Base Camp to Lukla

As soon as Base Camp was decimated teams were evacuating to Kathmandu and Lukla. By the time we had decided to pack up and leave, helicopters had stopped flying from the Khumbu valley to Kathmandu as it seemed that the Nepalese government would commandeer any helicopter which came down and then re-purpose it for aid work in the region. This left us two options. Pay (a lot of) money to fly to Lukla and join the 1500 climbers and trekkers currently piled up there waiting to fly to Kathmandu, or trek down to Lukla over the course of 4–5 days visiting some of the Sherpa villages along the way where we could rest up and also assist with the clean-up of any earthquake damage.

We chose the second option.

All IMG clients, Hybrid and Classic climbers begin the slow move down the valley as one big unit

We trekked around 15kms from Base Camp to Pheriche where we stopped for a night. We then trekked another 15kms to the beautiful terraced village of Phortse, a place we had not been to before but heard so much about. This village is famous amongst the climbing community and the home to majority of the IMG climbing Sherpa. They have been climbing from this village for generations even with some men in their 80s still wandering around who were on the Tenzing-Hillary expedition of 1953. Phortse has no less than 65 Everest summiteers currently living there.

Our first day in Phortse we banded together with the local Sherpa, broke up into two teams and got to work cleaning up and repairing some of the Earthquake damage. Our particular team assisted with roof repairs on one badly damaged house, the demolition of a crumbling barn and the clean-up of a monastery which had lost some of its walls. It was hard work but very very rewarding.

We were in Phortse for two full days and in that time we met some wonderful people including the family of the amazing climbing Sherpa called Phinjo who has spent every day of the expedition with us. Phinjo invited us into his home where his wife prepared us tea and we admired all the climbing history decorated throughout his home.

Phinjo and I in his home

The children of this town were adorable, they would run up and ask us in English our age, favourite food and where we lived, almost like a little quiz. I had a long conversation with a scruffy little 9 year old girl called Lakba who was the first to come into our camp brimming with curiosity.

The whole experience in Phortse was very special and definitely a highlight of the expedition.

The Stupa below Phortse also badly damaged but Buddha still keeps one eye on the village

After Phortse we moved lower down to Namche where we camped in tents for the last night and then on the last day we trekked into Lukla where we spent a night in a very basic lodge next to the airport.

We flew to Kathmandu first thing the next morning as the queues of people had cleared out over the past few days.

The flight from Lukla to Kathmandu was on a tiny propeller plan which was blowing around and rising and dropping with the changes in air temperature. I was relieved once it touched down!

Kathmandu airport was filled with military aircraft from all over the world. It almost seemed like a competition on who could bring the best hardware with all the latest cargo planes and helicopters on display. Of course the Americans won with their Ospreys.

US Ospreys arriving into Kathmandu for aid — Image form NPR.ORG

IMG managed to secure us a hotel in Kathmandu where we spent 24 hours before all hopping on our respective flights across the globe to return to our sorely missed families and loved ones.

Kim, Siva, Paul, Andy, myself and Fatima left waiting for departure flights at one of the few still operating hotels in Kathmandu – a great moment knowing we were all safe and heading home. Plus we squeezed in a few GnTs in the process 😉

I haven’t had a chance to actually stop and process what happened in the past six weeks. All I know is that I am very saddened by what has happened to Nepal and its people, disappointed to have not made it to the top of Everest but happy to be alive. One thing I am sure of is how exhausted I am.

The summit of Everest, which had gone from an interest to an unhealthy obsession. (Photo by Paul Pottinger)

Will I return? Absolutely but my next adventure is our baby girl due in November. Everest will have to wait till 2017.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *