Lukla to Monjo – Day 1 Trek to Everest Base Camp


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On day one of our trek to Everest Base Camp we took a bus from our hotel in Kathmandu to the airport.  Then we’d fly from Kathmandu to Lukla.  Then we would start on our trek to Everest Base Camp.  Our walk today would take us from  Lukla to Monjo.

Read the day by day, and sometimes step by step story of our trek to Everest Base Camp and back.

 

Day 1 Starts Early:  Kathmandu

The alarm went off at 0430.  The two reminder calls from the hotel came at 0445.  It’s going to be our last shower for possibly 18 days, so we make the most of it.  

Then we do a final weigh in of the big red bag (BRB) and our day pack.  The day pack that we’re using is as big as the pack we’ve used as our round the world pack for the last 11 months.    Find out what we packed in our bags to take on the trek in our Trek Gear List.  We carried most of this with us since we set off in May 2014, but we did have to buy some extra gear in Kathmandu – here’s our experiences of shopping in Kathmandu.

 

Neither of us trust the scales in the room as we both personally weigh in the lightest by a good few kilos in the last 11 months.  This doesn’t seem real as we have truly have eaten our way across India in the last three months.

We’re late for the 0515 breakfast by 20 minutes, but there’s still plenty of food and time left.

By 6am as our guide Ramesh tells we’ve attained Nepali citizenship by surrendering our passports.  We’re leaving them at the Radisson for safety.  We’ll now be without ID until we return to Kathmandu in 18 or so days time.

Flying from Kathmandu Airport

The airport is interesting – we’re in the domestic terminal, which isn’t quite finished. Security is minimal and despite all the signs stating that there should be no photography or videos, we’re all at it.

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Our BRB’s were on the roof of the minivan that brought us here and have now joined us.  It’s time to weigh them at the Tara Air check in.

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Kathmandu to Lukla Luggage Allowance

Our allowance is 10 kilos for the BRB and 5 kilos for the day pack.  Overage is paid at 110 Nepalese rupees per kilo.  (about US$1.10 per kilo).  We weigh in with the lowest in the group.  Nige is 15 kilos dead and I’ve got 14.7 kilos.  I do admit to taking some stuff out of my daypack and handing it to Nige who’d already been weighed…

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45 minutes later we’re pushing through the crowds as it’s pretty busy here.  There’s a mix of folks heading to the airport at Lukla like us, to trek.  There are families heading out on a scenic flight.  It’s easy to tell the difference.  They’re in shorts, t shirts and thongs (flipflops).  We have huge red down jackets on and we’re carting heavy day packs.

 

We take a tour of the side roads of the airport in our bus just for the 14 of us and Ramesh and wait on the tarmac for our plane.

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Our Plane from Kathmandu to Lukla

Our plane lands, taxi’s and deplanes its full load of people and luggage.  We pile in and we’re taxiing off before we can even fasten our seat belts.

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Kathmandu to Lukla Flight

There’s a pilot, a co-pilot and one cabin crew, who offers us cotton wool balls (for the noise) and sweets for the pressure.  The down jackets will keep us warm.   The cabin is neither pressurised nor heated.  We’re also offered the opportunity to read the emergency instructions notice, but I’m not convinced that anyone can reach them.

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Take off is smooth and quick and the flight itself takes 42 minutes. Those on the left hand side of the plane get a great, but hazy view of the snow capped Himalayas.

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Ramesh, our guide points out Everest to me through the cockpit window.

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Approaching Lukla – Tenzing-Hillary Airport

Then suddenly the landing strip at Lukla (or Tenzing-Hillary Airport) comes into view.  It’s known as the world’s most dangerous airport.

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And it’s tiny.  Even when we get closer in what seems like seconds.

Approaching Lukla Airport

Arriving at Lukla – The World’s Most Dangerous Airport

The runway is 527 m (1,729 ft) × 30 m (98 ft) with a 11.7% gradient. The airport’s elevation is 9,334 ft (2,845 m).

Trekking at altitude carries risks.  We insured ourselves through World Nomads – buying specific altitude coverage in case of altitude sickness.  We were also able to renew our policy while out of our home country.    Get a price for your travel and health insurance now.

There is no prospect of a successful go-around due to the terrain. There is high terrain immediately beyond the northern end of the runway.  There’s a steeply angled drop at the southern end of the runway into the valley below.

Landing is very quick and smooth and the slope of the strip slows us. We’ll be taking off downhill when we leave in 18 days time.

Lukla Airport

Tenzing Hillary Airport Lukla

We’re deplaned, the plane is loaded with folks returning to Kathmandu and its gone within 10 minutes, in which time our BRB’s have also disappeared.

Heading off from Lukla

Beginning the Trek – Lukla to Monjo

We hike round the end of the runway and are reunited with the BRB’s. We swap out a few items and then head for the lodge for a cup of tea and a bottle of water.

Sorting Gear at Lukla

World Expeditions, our trekking company provides boiled water for us, but not at this first stop. And there’s a change of plan today.  We were supposed to walk for around two hours to Ghat, where we’d spend our first night.  That campsite is full with a big group, so we’ll stop there for lunch and continue to what should have been our 2nd day stop at Monjo.

Lukla to Monjo Logistics

If you’re interested in the details of how far we trekked each day and what the altitude gain is, here are those details.

Lukla to Monjo Distance

The distance between Lukla and Monjo is 8.8 miles or 13 kilometres.

Lukla to Monjo Altitude Gain

The altitude of Lukla is 2860m, the altitude of Monjo is 2845m.  We had a negative atltitude by the end of the day!

Lukla to Monjo Time Trekking

It took us 6.25 hours to walk from Lukla to Monjo.

Lukla to Monjo Trail Map

Map Lukla to Monjo

 

We won’t arrive at camp until around 5pm.  12 hours after we left Kathmandu.  It is a portent of things to come, although none of us quite realize this yet, as we set off up through Lukla.  The others in our group have been training, as we’ve been on the road for a year travelling we haven’t trained as such, but there have been a few treks and trails that we’ve done, that I hope will have prepared my legs a little.

We went hiking in Sri Lanka, there were some amazing mountains in China – Huanglong, Huashan and Jiuzhaigou spring to mind.

Walking through Lukla

The first few hours pass in a bit of a blur.

 

Leaving Lukla

There are steps (down and up), the path is clear, apart from when there are lots of people.  It feels a little like the Lake District on a sunny bank holiday.

Trail out of Lukla

What You’ll See On the way from Lukla to Monjo

We pass folks who are returning, with red faces, blistered lips and all reach for more sun cream.  There are tea houses galore.  Some look rather pleasant.

There are donkeys, dzo’s (a cross between a Yak and a cow). We’re warned to stay on the hill side and well out of the way.

Animals on the Trail

The cry of “porter” becomes familiar as we attempt to keep out of their way as they drag loads up to 100 kilos up the hills.  We just attempt to breath and put one foot in front of the other.

Porter Packs

Porter Packs

It’s pretty much single file, as we keep meeting other groups.  We also need to keep an eye on what you’re putting your feet on and into.

Walking from Lukla to Monjo

All around are glorious views.  And we start to pass Buddhist monuments on a regular basis.

Lukla to Monjo Buddhist Stupa

Prayer Wheels and Stupa

Those of us wanting to offend no one and call for the most luck ensure we pass prayer wheels in a clockwise direction, adding our turns.

Lukla to Monjo Prayer Wheels

Nepal Suspension Bridges

And we find our first suspension bridge, pretty tame compared to some that we’ll meet further up in the mountains, but it still requires concentration to get across. There is metal grating underfoot, wrapped steel wires and netting on the sides.

Nepali Suspension Bridge

We take breaks, chew sweets and candies and drink a little water.

Trekking - take breaks

Day 1 Lunch Break: Ghat

We left Lukla at 10am, and we arrive in Ghat by 12:07.  This is the home of Lapka Sherpa (one of our Sherpa guides) and his parents.  It’s also the WEX Ghat campsite.  It might be early in the trip, but we can get our devices charged at a bargain 200 NPR each.

Ghat en route from Lukla to Monjo

Food:  Lunch

Lunch gives us a view of what’s to come.  Its tasty – there are cheese and tomato toasties, tuna, potatoes and veg.  There’s dessert too and we all hand over our water bottles to have boiled water to fill them for the afternoon’s walk to Monjo.

Everst Base Camp Trekking food

We get introduced to our first loo with a view, where ventilation isn’t a problem.  We’re lulled into a false sense of security with the cleanliness and westernliness of the toilets.  Oh how green we were I think now, looking back.

Loo with a View

After lunch it’s more of the same.  More dzos, the horns seem more ominous now.

Meeting Dzos on the Everest Base Camp Trek

More suspension bridges and  prayer flags flapping in the increasing breeze as the day starts to turn gloomy and the sun goes.

Prayer Flags in Nepal

Not all bridges are high, as we start the undulating route towards Monjo.  It reminds me of the “Chinese downs” that we found in Huashan, Huangshan and Zhangjiajie.  There’s always an up that follows…

Nepal River Crossing

 

There’s not just the glorious mountain tops, but also the visible signs of spring, there’s increasing blossom as we head upwards.

Spring in Nepal

Arriving in Monjo

Finally we reach the Mount Kailash Lodge and take a right.  We’d left Ghat at 13:10 and it’s 17:00 dead when we stumble through the woods for 7-8 minutes.  Then, we reach what will become a familiar sight for us.  A field of orange tents and home for the night.

World Expeditions Campsite Monjo

Everest Base Camp Trek Accommodation.

Our trekking company is World Expeditions – and 14 of of 18 nights we will spend here in the Himalayas will be in tents.  Yes, we’re camping.  It’s more environmentally friendly – there’s no wood used in their construction, and their use employs more locals.

If you’re undertaking this trek independently, there are plenty of tea houses along the way offering accommodation.

Porters will carry our BRB’s each day and they’ll appear magically at the end of the day.  We just have to take care of our day packs.

Campsite in Monjo

Monjo Campsite Lodge and Dining Room

There’s a lodge or dining room at each campsite we’ll stay in, which will be heated to varying degrees by a yak dung stove. The tents sleep two (although some of our group have paid for single occupany).  They’re standing height.  There are two metal framed, beds with a 5 inch foam mattress and a pillow on each.  There’s space for the BRB at the end of the bed. They’re surprisingly cosy.  Warmer too than some of the lodges we will stay in.

Day 1 dinner food on the Everest Base Camp Trek

Our dinner on this first night, fills us, – there’s pasta, chips, momo’s and a briefing on what to expect for the morning.  We have our first birthday of the trip and wish Darryl all the best complete with cake made by our cook and kitchen boys.

 

Celebrating Birthdays on the Everest Base Camp Trek

The dining room is cozy, but by 1930 we’re all ready for bed, we take our bottles of boiled water with us.  They’ll act as hot water bottles.  There’s a quick line up for the toilets,  we find two of which actually flush, with our head torches – there are no lights here.  We crawl into our sleeping bags and while there’s no cries of “G’night John Boy”, it definitely feels like the adventure has begun.  We’ve made it through the first day of our trek to Everest Base Camp, and got from Kathmandu to Lukla to Monjo.

You can read about the costs of our travel in Nepal and the next step on our trek to everest base camp – Monjo to Namche Bazaar on Day 2.

 

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About Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is an avid reader, writer and traveller. She loves hiking, sailing, skiing and exploring the world through food. She left a successful career in IT security and compliance in both the UK and US to travel the world with husband and partner in adventure, Nigel.

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