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The first part of the story can be found here

Behind the Scenes of Mass Trekking

Lobuche: We consider ourselves “fortunate” as we’ve managed to secure a room… in the ugliest hotel within the ugliest village along the trek. It feels like a chicken coop, with staff seemingly engaged in a competition to determine who can provide the least welcoming service in the entire valley—the gold medal will be awarded to the next village, Gorak Shep. To pass the time, we take a stroll along the moraine, all while the constant roar of helicopters fills the air as they take off and land just a few meters away from us every ten minutes, ferrying tourists and equipment. It’s during this walk that we encounter yet another open-air dumping ground. Two young girls and a man with disproportionately large hands paired with an enormous smile that seem suspended from his small body, are incinerating their lodge’s waste. They earn €250 a month and come from a neighboring valley, supplementing the meager agricultural income of their families in this manner. As for the porters, those individuals who are officially limited to carrying loads of 35kg—although they often bear heavier loads because regulations are what they are—the Everest experience isn’t a that great either. One porter laments, “We spend almost all our earnings on food and lodging. The only income we actually receive comes from tips. Also, there are times when we have to sleep in a nearby village because the porter’s quarters are fully occupied.”

A few plastic bottles and biscuit wrappers later, still under the constant drone of helicopters, we arrive at Gorak Shep—aka Gorak Shit. Gorak Shep is a rat hole where the understocked hotels feed then vomit armies of humans more or less suited to be at such an altitude. But let’s not be overly critical. There are also some wonderful aspects to this place. The moment you venture a bit beyond this enclave, the landscape transforms into a grand spectacle. Right beside us, the Khumbu glacier sprawls out, originating from Mount Sagarmatha. Above the glacier, a series of towering peaks adorned with smaller glaciers, which vary from chaotic to geometric in form, create a mesmerizing vista. On the opposite side, Mount Pumori presents its rounded and comforting silhouette in contrast to the sharp contours of Nuptse and the preceding mountain range. As the evening draws near and everyone seeks refuge indoors, the successive waves of clouds, steadily thickening, eventually envelop the entire panorama. It’s a spectacle that I have the privilege of witnessing almost in solitude.

Everest Base Camp (EBC)

The Everest Base Camp is an unlikely place. Situated right on the glacier, what initially started as a Spartan, utilitarian tent camp, essential for climbing the world’s tallest peak, has evolved into a village of tents catering to rich tourists. There are spas, cafes – equipped with a bona fide espresso machine, no less! – delectable food… the camp relies on a fleet of helicopters to ferry clients and fresh provisions. Hundreds of Nepalis work here, returning season after season. Among them are guides, porters, cooks, and support staff responsible for tasks like fetching water and transporting blue containers filled with shit to the airport. They construct camps using iron bars to break the ice, lay down pathways, and establish prayer shrines for blessings, among other duties. And, of course, there are the renowned “Ice Doctors” who install ropes and prepare the route up to camp 2, with whom I engage in insightful discussions about the region’s challenges. Nepalis are known for their cheerful disposition, so I revisit the camp multiple times to capture moments of life. I even have the privilege of spending a night there. In this milieu, you encounter a different breed of tourists, and while I don’t endorse the extravagant display of resources, arriving with a substantial bias, I do manage to forge meaningful connections – albeit not always – and even encounter one of the porters I had followed for several days during the Makalu trek six years ago. If only I didn’t have to write this sentence in my journal: “HELICOPTERS, HELICOPTERS, HELICOPTERS!!!! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!”

Kongma La, the Last of the Three Passes

After spending these few days at the base of the world’s cock-a-doodle-doo it’s time to embark on the journey towards the third and final pass: Kongma La. Let’s not keep you in suspense any longer. Despite often being overshadowed, I personally find it to be the most beautiful of the three passes, even though I struggle to make it to the top – whereas Umesh considers it “the easiest of the three.” The descent treats us to breathtaking vistas of Ama Dablam, momentarily diverting our attention from watching our steps. In Chhukung, we receive a warm welcome on this blustery day, just as the first snowflakes begin to fall. Finally, we spend the evening engaged in delightful conversations with the lodge owners around a generous stove. With pride, he showcases his collection of gemstones gathered from the region, as well as a variety of foreign currencies. I contribute a few Iranian coins from my wallet to his collection.

Ama Dablam — The Queen of Solukhumbu

On the journey back, a poo-poo break becomes necessary. Umesh approaches me, looking disheartened: “These are traditional toilets; I can’t shit in them!” I burst into laughter and playfully taunt him, “Who’s the tourist here?” Considering the abundance of hotels in the village, it appears we’ve stumbled upon the sole local tea-house. Before bidding farewell to the valley, we embark on one final side-trek to the Ama Dablam base camp. Fresh snow has blanketed the ground due to the previous day’s snowfall, and I’m tired, battling a sore throat, and walking with discomfort. The ascent isn’t particularly strenuous, but my body has decided otherwise. Along the way, I offer words of encouragement to a porter laboring under the weight of an oversized load spilling over from all directions, which revitalizes me somewhat. Finally, at the summit of the ascent, Ama Dablam presents itself—an exquisite rocky pyramid shaped by the skilled hands of some divine craftsman, crowned with ice chiseled by unrelenting winds. It stands as a colossal queen, commanding our admiration for its grandeur and flawless contours. Since this particular side-trek isn’t included in the “packages” offered by trekking agencies, only a handful of climbers—among them two amiable Russians who live up to their reputation as enthusiastic drinkers—and a handful of passing tourists share this space. Nonetheless, there’s inevitably that one motherfucker with a Bluetooth speaker, dancing and recording a TikTok video.

Amidst Trekkers & Donkey Shit

Descending, one descent after another, we relish the sight of tourists struggling uphill, all while wearing smiles on our faces, perhaps tinged with a touch of sadistic amusement. We wish we could reassure them, assure them they’re nearly there, that things will get better, but such words would be untruthful. And so, we remain silent. Umesh, typically a cheerful individual, comes close to losing his composure when a group of five people monopolizes the entire trail, colliding with him without offering even a perfunctory apology. He’s grown weary of this bustling crowd as well. The time to depart has arrived. We once again tread the “donkey trail,” this time in the opposite direction, trudging through the mud and the remnants of mule droppings that clutter the path. These hardworking mules labor daily to ferry supplies—mainly gas and food—from Lukla Airport our evening’s resting place. I harbor an odd desire to visit the renowned airport where aircraft seem to teeter on the edge of the abyss due to the airport’s exceptionally short and steep runway.

Oh No! I’m Going to Diiiiie!

Before embarking on our journey, we face one final challenge just a few meters from the “bus station” where the Jeeps are parked, known as Tham Dada. Here, a new road is in the process of being constructed. Our path ends up in a narrow trail over unstable terrain composed of sand and crumbling stones that threaten to tumble into the abyss below. I’ve encountered my fair share of treacherous paths, but this one ranks among the most harrowing, despite its brevity. There’s no margin for the slightest mistake; one wrong move, and it’s curtains! Umesh, youthful and resourceful, doesn’t hesitate for an instant. As for me, burdened by my unwieldy backpack, I’m feeling somewhat uneasy. “I believe I’ll opt for the longer path, even if it’s less comfortable with this backpack on,” I admit. Umesh offers to come and retrieve it for me, but that’s simply not an option. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news to his parents, explaining that he slipped and fell. So, positioned above me, he seizes a length of rope handed to him by a local villager and instructs, “Attach your bag, I’ll pull it.” Beneath their concerned gaze, I embark on the tightrope-like trail. Step by step, my eyes fixed firmly on the path ahead, I advance with extreme care. I dare not shift my gaze to the right for fear of being drawn into the abyss. Finally, there’s one last ascent up a mound of gravel that crumbles progressively with each step, and this time, I hurry to prevent my thoughts from overtaking me. Reaching the summit, my mouth is dry, and my heart is beating hard. A peculiar conclusion to our trek. Nepali locals approach from the opposite direction, and we offer them a word of caution about the danger. It’s even more challenging in their direction. The first person takes a brief look and forges ahead. OMG! I can’t bear to watch. The second individual agrees to be “secured” by grasping a length of rope handed to him by another Nepali. He proceeds with the utmost care and, too, arrives safely.


Since then, Umesh completed his training to become a guide. Just a few days ago, he successfully obtained his license. Now, there’s only one thing he’s eagerly anticipating: venturing into the mountains with his inaugural group of clients. Soon, soon, bhai1!

This text has been translated with the help of an AI. The translation sounds so much fancier than me that I found it really funny and kept it like that except for a few bad words which I inevitably had to keep to « make it real ». 😜

  1. “bhai” means “little brother” in Nepali. ↩︎

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