How Four American Trekkers Became Among the Last to Summit Everest Base Camp in 2020
Journey to Nepal
The Last Four American’s to Summit EBC in 2020
In the midst of whispers of the novel virus Covid-19, four American travelers decided to take their chances and continue on their planned exploration to Nepal to attempt a summit of Mt. Everest Base Camp. Three of the travelers had already summited Mt. Kilimanjaro with Embark two years prior, so they were no stranger to adventures with Embark Exploration Co.
One of the trekkers, Derick Black, kept a detailed written account of the adventure, while Mariah Bridges, decided to video her experience traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina to Nepal and back.
Mariah traveled with lifelong friend, Matthew Barnhill. Mariah and Matthew originally were flying through China. A few weeks before their trip, the airline shut off all travel and China closed it’s borders. They quickly purchased another ticket through Qatar and were back in business.
Follow along in their journey as they experience Nepal and all its wonders. You will see how even at the start of the pandemic, they pressed on with optimism and joy. They would soon learn, they could very well be, the last four Americans to visit Everest Base Camp in 2020.
Day One and Two: Traveling to Nepal
CLT to JFK (2 Hours) — JFK to DOH (12 Hours) — DOH to KTM (7 Hours)
Total time: A couple days
Day Three: Exploring Nepal & Packing for the Trek
A full day of sightseeing with a tour of Pashupatinath temple oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu and one of the most sacred Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world.
We also visited the 5th Century Boudhanath stupa, the largest in the valley, known for its all-seeing eyes of Lord Buddha. The more than 50 Buddhist monasteries nearby have earned Boudhanath the nickname “Little Tibet.” The ancient stupa is one of the largest in the world. The influx of large populations of refugees from Tibet has created an ethnic Tibetan culture inside of the city of Kathmandu. Hundreds of Buddhists spend their days praying at the various temples in the area.
While they were exploring there was a color festival going on with children throwing color water balloons, it was fun to see everyone enjoying themselves, we can guess it was not fun dodging the water balloons!
Day Four: Flight to Lukla (9,383ft) – Trek Lukla to Phakding (8,697)
Distance: 4.77 miles | Gain/Loss: -686 ft | Move Time: 2hr 14min | Stop Time: 1hr 15min
The first trekking day begins with an early morning flight to the mountain town of Lukla, in the heart of the Khumbu region. The Dalai Lama named this route to Everest “the steps to Heaven.” After their arrival, we finish the day with the downhill trek to the “tea house” lodging in Phakding. These are simple lodges often run by Sherpa families, which provide rooms, meals and a taste for local life. Bedrooms are not heated, so sleeping bags are required.
Day Five: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Distance: 7.11 miles | Gain/Loss: +2,621 ft | Move Time: 4hr 8min | Stop Time: 3hr 3min
On this second day of trekking they continued north up the valley of the Dudh Kosi river to Namche Bazaar. Namche is an ancient market center now prospering as a tourist hub and a center of Sherpa culture. Despite its use as a generic term for porter, “Sherpa” refers to a distinct ethnic group originally from the mountains of eastern Nepal. Their reputation as mountain guides has made their name synonymous with the Himalaya and especially Mt. Everest.
You can see here they all really love the Nepal lemon ginger tea, said to taste like a yellow starburst.
Want to make some for yourself?
- Finally chop a bunch of ginger and let it steep in hot water.
- Add some a small amount of lemon zest and peels to that, let it steep.
- Finish with a dash of lemon juice at the end.
- Heat sugar and honey for a simple syrup
Day Six: Rest Day at Namche Bazaar
Namche Bazaar (11,319ft)
Their first rest day for acclimatization. Before breakfast they take a small scenic hike to a monument to the great Sherpa climber Tensing Norgay for great views of distant Mt. Everest and surrounding 8,000 meter peaks. The rest of the day is filled with browsing the many local shops in the colorful trading town of Namche Bazaar and of course, eating the famous chocolate carrot cake, sorry, we don’t have a recipe, you’ll just have to go to Nepal and experience it for yourself!
Day Six: Namche (11,319ft) to Tengbuche (12,693)
Distance: 6.1 miles | Gain/Loss: +1,375 ft | Move Time: 3hr 31min | Stop Time: 1hr 34min
Even though this is Day Six of the total adventure, it is only day three of trekking. The day starts with the trail descending all the way down to the Dudh Khosi river, crossing at the village of Phunki Tenga. You can see they stop to eat lunch on steep ridge to Tengboche, passing through Rhododendron and pine forests and enjoying the views of the snow-clad mountains. Stopping for the night in Tengboche, where they visit a Tibetan Buddhist monastery considered to be the largest monastery in the Khumbu region. As they arrived in Tengboche, they were greeted with a fluffy white surprise….
Day Seven: Tengboche (12,693) to Pheriche (14,015ft)
Distance: 7.01 miles | Gain/Loss: +1,322 ft | Move Time: 4hr 13min | Stop Time: 1hr 44min
Depending on weather, we may spend this night at either Pheriche, a charming but sometimes chilly village at the foot of the Khumbu Glacier, or at slightly more sheltered Dingboche, around the corner in the adjoining valley of the Imja Khola, but both at relatively the same elevation.
This is also the first time we hear the group talk about Type2Fun…. What is Type2Fun you ask? Well, join Mariah and Donovan describe what Type2Fun is on Embark Exploration Co’s new Podcast appropriately named: Type2Fun!
Day Eight: Rest Day in Pheriche (14,015ft)
Another day spent resting to fully acclimatize, with options to explore either of these charming villages, visit a local medical clinic, or hike to a nearby gompa.
Day Nine: Pheriche (14,015ft) to Loboche (16,175 ft)
Distance: 4.85 miles | Gain/Loss: +2,160 ft | Move Time: 3hr 25min | Stop Time: 2hr 6min
After breakfast, they ascended the alluvial plain of the river. Eventually crossing it and continuing their route to Lobuche by ascending the terminal moraine of the Khumbu Glacier at the village of Dughla, and continue along the lateral moraine to our destination for the night, the high village of Lobuche .
For the first time you get to see the special ingredient that helps keep the fire burning…. no, it is not wood.
Day Ten Lobuche (16,175 ft) to Gorak Shep (16,946 ft)
Distance: 2.97 miles | Gain/Loss: +771 ft | Move Time: 2hr 27min | Stop Time: 1hr 20min
A short but challenging day spent traversing the rocky shoulder of the Khumbu glacier. They arrive in Gorak Shep by lunchtime having gained almost a thousand feet of elevation before Everest Base Camp.
Day Eleven: Gorak Shep (16,946 ft) to Everest Base Camp (17,598 ft)
Distance: 4.04 miles (Round Trip) | Gain/Loss: +652 ft | Move Time: 2hr 52min | Stop Time: 2hr
Part Two: Gorak Shep to Thukla (15,155 ft)
Distance: 5.09 miles | Gain/Loss: -1,791 ft | Move Time: 2hr 39min | Stop Time: 41min
They started early on this day, as you can see, it is a long day. The sun welcomes us to the top of the world with its world-famous views of Nuptse, Lotse, Pumori and the jumble of lesser peaks that surround us. After the amazing views and experience of Mt. Everest Base Camp, they continued the rapid descent past the village of Loboche into the Imja Khola Valley, completing the long descent to the very quaint village to Thukla.
Since the country had already closed the mountain to the summit, Everest Base Camp was empty. They missed out on seeing all of the trekkers and their sherpas preparing to summit, but, all the more reason to go back when the country opens back up!
Day Twelve: Thukla (15,155 ft) to Tengbuche (12,702 ft)
Distance: 9.23 miles | Gain/Loss: -2,453 ft | Move Time: 4hr 37min | Stop Time: 1hr 31min
As they descend back below the tree line and pass a series of small villages. They return to relative civilization and lower elevations today, but first they must climb back up the ridge to Tengboche. This is why it is important to mentally prepare yourself for the entire trip, not simply the summit, because, the summit isn’t the end and on the way back, you have to climb and descend!
Day Thirteen: Tengbuche (12,702 ft) to Kathmandu (4,600 ft) via Helicopter
Derick Black best summed up this days adventure; “Due to everything that was going on with border closures, and flight cancellations, there was a good possibility that domestic flights in Nepal would be grounded before we could get to Lukla, which was going to take two more days. If we couldn’t fly from Lukla we would have to walk to Katmandu!”
Day Fourteen and Fifteen: Return Home
KTM to DOH (7 Hours) — DOH to JFK(12 Hours) — JFK to CLT (2 Hours)
Total time: What seemed like forever.
Even though this crew had to cut their adventure short, it clearly had all the makings of an incredible story. Embark takes great pride in planning for all scenarios, even quick evacuations. Even though nobody could have predicted Covid-19, the emergency procedures are all the same — get our clients home safe and sound.
Thank you Mariah for these detailed videos, and Derick Black for taking meticulous trekking notes.
Wonder where this crew will go next?