On day 11 of our three weeks hiking and climbing in the Sagmartha National Park we arrived into Gorak Shep after the relatively short hike up the valley from Lobuche. Gorak Shep is the closest group of teahouses/lodges to Kala Pattar and the Everest Base Camp. The day we arrived happen to be the day a group of English lads were playing cricket on a dried up lake bed to raise money for charity. Quite appropriately the teams were Hillary vs. Tenzing, with Hillary coming out on top...I.e. Team Hillary was first, Team Tenzing came second.
Due to the cricket, the four teahouses in Gorak were full, so a teahouse made a former Mount Everest expedition tent available to us for the three days to sleep in outside. That suited us just fine as it made the experience all the more intrepid, including nights when the temperature dropped to below -10°C. Each morning when we emerged from the tent we would be welcomed by the incredible sight of the Nuptse mountain and to the left of it you can just make out Sagamartha (Mount Everest) herself peaking out above the ridgeline; a magic spot for some camping.
Two things you must do when in Gorak Shep is firstly, climb the near-by ray flag covered Kala Pattar which affords you the most popular vantage point for viewing Mount Everest, the Khumbu Ice Fall (that flows from the Western Cwm) and of course a view directly down onto Everest Base Camp. The morning air is cool and clear making for incredibly crisp clear colours that are just something else.
The second thing you must to is make the day trip further up the Khumbu Valley alongside the Khumbu Glacier to see firsthand the Everest Base Camp which is literally located on the glacier. Climbers attempting to summit Mt Everest from the south (as Hillary’s 1953 expedition did) have all based their expeditions here and must first climb up through the treacherous Khumbu Ice Fall.
Having brought crampons in Kathmandu it seemed an obvious opportunity to try them out and venture into the Ice Fall ourselves, moving aside as the Sherpas and Everest climbers passed us. This was an unreal experience considering New Zealand’s history with the mountain and having had a flatmate who was near obsessed with the Discovery’s series – Everest and Beyond – starring another New Zealander, Russell Brice.
Having been to the steps of Mt Doom after three amazing night at Gorak Shep we began the long hike back to Lukla. We would stay at the lodge village of Zonglha and trek over the ice covered Cho La Pass to Gokyo, passing through Dragnag and the crossing the Gyazumba glacier which promises yet more fantastic views.