Heading out of Phakding we follow the Dudh Kosi northwards. This day's walk takes us through magnificent forests with glimpses of the mountains ahead. We cross the river several times by bridges as we pass through the villages of Benkar, Monzo and Jorsale. A final bridge brings us to the foot of the steep climb to Namche. Halfway up this ascent, we may get our first glimpse, cloud-permitting, of the summit of Everest appearing majestically behind the great ridge of Nuptse-Lhotse.
A last 300m of climbing brings us to Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa capital and the main town in the area. Namche is a prosperous Sherpa town and an important trading centre. It has a weekly market on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning but the town bustle all day every day with trekkers, coffee shops, bakeries and stores selling all kinds of trekking and climbing gear as well as Tibetan souvenirs. Tea-house (sleeping altitude 3,440m) (B).
We climb steeply out of Namche past the airstrip at Shyangboche to the Everest View Hotel, the highpoint of our day at 3,880m. Built by the Japanese, this spectacularly situated hotel with wonderful views of Everest and Ama Dablam is an ideal place for a tea break. Descending through forest we come to Khumjung, where we have lunch close to the Sir Edmund Hillary School. After lunch, we walk up to Kunde and visit the Edmund Hillary Hospital.
The twin villages of Kunde and Khumjung are set below Khumbila, the rocky peak sacred to all Sherpas. For much of the walk, we have great views of Ama Dablam and other Himalayan giants. We walk back down through Khumjumg to the monastery. Sadly it was damaged in the earthquake but is now being repaired. Inside is a small box and after paying the entry fee (which goes towards the repairs) - we will be shown the only Yeti skull in the world! Descending to the main trail we spend the night at Kyanjuma. Tea-house (sleeping altitude 3,600m) (B).
Today is a very long, hard day as we leave very early, following the Khumbu Glacier northwards to Gorak Shep (5,184m). The trail undulates up and down the moraine with some short steep sections. The trail is rocky as we are now on the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. It will take us about 3 hours to reach Gorak Shep where we will have a rest and something to eat. From here to base camp and back there are no lodges so we will fill our water bottles and take some snacks for the walk to Everest Base Camp. We start by walking across the sandy flat at Gorak Shep and climb onto the lateral moraine of the Khumbu glacier.
The trail ascends the side of the glacier for a couple of hours before finally descending onto the rocky glacial moraine itself. The trail winds up and down through fascinating ice seracs to the area known as Everest Base Camp, where in spring, we might see in the distance some of the expedition teams as they prepare to climb the mountain. From the Base Camp we get fantastic close up views of the Khumbu Ice Fall and we can appreciate just how difficult it is for the climbers to negotiate a route through the huge blocks of ice. Nuptse towers above us and Pumori rears up behind us.
After a short photo stop by the Base Camp rock we retrace our steps to Gorak Shep. Please note that accommodation options are extremely limited at Gorak Shep and the tea house used is very basic, though the communal dining area is warm, and the food served promptly to satisfy trekkers' appetites. Because of the high altitude the plumbing facilities can be affected and water freezes much of the time. Tea-house (sleeping altitude 5,184m) (B).
We have another hard day as we climb steeply above Gorak Shep to the small peak of Kala Pattar, 'Black Rock', at 5,545m from where we can look down over the base camps of the various Everest expeditions. This climb affords a magnificent view of the Khumbu Glacier and above all a close-up view of the world's highest mountain.
We return to Gorak Shep and retrace our steps to Lobuje for lunch and then continue on down the valley to the lower altitude of Pheriche for the night. (Please note that the walk to Everest Base Camp and the climb of Kala Pattar are both very tough. Sometimes we may change the order in which we tackle the walks depending on the group's ability and weather conditions). Tea-house (sleeping altitude 4,243m) (B).