Everest Base Camp Trek Day 3: Acclimatization & Shopping in Namche Bazaar

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ February 10th, 2012. Updated on February 20th, 2013. Published in: Travel blog » Nepal.
Yak overlooking the Himalayan mountains

Not quite a Yak, but he’s also not suffering from altitude sickness …

Importance of acclimatization when trekking in Nepal

We are staying in Namche Bazaar (3,500 meters / 11,482 feet) for two days and two nights to acclimatize before continuing on the Everest Base Camp Trek. And, for me to have an emergency shop as my trekking boots are falling apart.

I also must admit that I am already feeling the symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS). As it is I’m not feeling 100%, it’s the winter off-season and my broken boots are not helping in making things easier. Now with a dull headache I’m more conscious of this silent killer that I met before.

It’s not about fitness, bravado, or youth. Altitude sickness can strike anyone at anytime when you are above 2,400 meters (8,000 ft).

I’ve experienced it myself on previous occasions. I’ve fought with it, chanced with it, and suffered because of it.

I’ve seen others vomit, fall, curl up like babies, cry, panic, scream, talk as if mad and become the walking dead due to it.

Girl suffering from Altitude sickness

Girl suffering from Altitude sickness above Namche Bazaar. She did not make it. Not only was she putting her own health at risk, but in a group it might mean a cancelled trek.

Evacuations and the halting of a trek due to people not understanding altitude sickness is common place. So is a fast unexpected death.

What is altitude sickness?

Also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), it’s basically when your body does not get enough oxygen due to the thinning of air at high altitudes.

Other contributing factors are dehydration due to water vapor from your lungs evaporating at a higher rate and the fact there is less moisture up at altitude anyway.

Symptoms of altitude sickness on the Everest Base Camp Trek

Minor symptoms to worsening symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia and drowsiness.

Severe symptoms include shortness of breath (even when resting), migraine like headache, vomiting, coughing, retinal haemorrhage, edema, visual impairment, bladder & bowel dysfunction, loss of coordination.

There will be a video of me with some of the symptoms in a few days.

How to prevent altitude sickness

Take your time

As a general rule of thumb one should not climb more than 300 meters (1,000 ft) a day.

You should not sleep at a higher place than where you climbed that day. In other words, sleep at a lower altitude than where you climbed in a day. Even if it means going back down the trail to find a lower spot.

Lose the ego. This thing is a silent killer. I’ve seen many, many a trekker power on as if it’s a test of fitness to trek in Nepal. Or due to a rush to be back at work (Regional Asian trekkers on short vacations in particular).

Maybe it’s all true and you only have a few weeks vacation; but  high altitude doesn’t care about how much vacation time you have.

Thousands have done this route before you, it’s not a race. AMS is not so obvious. One night you might just wake up gasping for breath, not being able to breathe and die.

Helicopter Ambulance in Nepal

Helicopter Ambulance in Nepal, many more people than you think end up in one

Treatment for altitude sickness

Descent. Get to a lower altitude as soon as possible. I’ve seen midnight trekkers going in the opposite direction due to a partner suddenly getting sick in the night.

There are a host of medical treatments for AMS. Including diuretics and blood thinners. I am not going to recommend or suggest such things. If you intend on taking medication then I advise you to seek a qualified medical practitioners advice first. Also, be aware that many of the drugs for AMS are sold over the counter in Nepal. And, many are fake.

Seek medical advise before your trek in Nepal.

Day trip to a higher altitude for acclimatization in Namche Bazaar

As part of our acclimatization Narayan and I woke early for a breakfast of  thick pancakes and hot lemon drinks. Really, there is nothing better for a trekking breakfast for me than pancakes. That said, my stomach was in bits and I was out of energy before we got stated. A mild headache had formed the day before and I do not feel as I have done in previous treks.

The mind games were underway already it seemed.

Was I still sick? Was I no longer fit enough for this kind of thing? Was I just going too soon? Alone in the mountains and the questions coming flooding in faster than I liked.

What’s more my primary concern were my boots. A morning of wrapping insulation tape around them yet again before trekking for two hours to reach Syanboche at (3,750m / 12,303 ft) saw them lose the last of my tape. There were at least some distractions up here.

Syanboche airport and helicopter transports

Syanboche airport in Nepal is no more than a strip of dirt road. Used primarily for transporting food, construction materials, rich tourists, and the occasional medical evacuation.

Helicopter near Everest Base Camp Nepal

Helicopter taking off with locals and supplies near Everest Base Camp (There goes my lens as the dust was really like a sandblaster)

We were lucky today. It seemed to be a hot bed of building activity. helicopters were coming in every hour it seemed. All carrying heavy loads of timber with them. On the way out they would take locals.

Cost of helicopter ride

USD $5,000 for a tourist to fly to Lukla from here. This is actually the cost of a medical evacuation and not a hitchhike ride. But try telling that to the locals who more often than not,do take many medical evacuations. The cost for a local to fly? Well, that one was harder to find out. Anywhere between 50 rupees and 500 were mentioned. AKA – big difference. But, a flawed pricing question did not help.

The view of  Mount Everest from Syanboche

Syanboche is home to a few rather exclusive hotels. The place the rich and famous go for Mount Everest views from heated hotel rooms over breakfast. Then just hop on a helicopter and go for a ride around Everest before flying back to Kathmandu.

For the rest of the world there are a few other hotels. All perched in nice locations overlooking the surrounding Himalayan mountains.

A dry and desolate landscape offering a spectacular view of the Earths crowning glory up ahead.

Shopping in Namche Bazaar, Nepal

Namche Bazzar market, not quite what you might expect ...

Namche Bazaar market, not quite what you might expect …

Namche bazaar is one of the last locations of a big market en route to Mount Everest base camp. Villages from all around this area use it as a central market. Moreover, there’s a Tibetan market here as well. Once just a weekend event it’s now become a part of the Namche Bazaar as a whole.

My mission was simple, find new trekking boots.

Looking for trekking boots in Namche Bazaar

650 rupees would buy me a pair of cheap fake gym shoes. The kind that would last not even a week. The price was fine, but even the locals admitted they might not make it to Everest Base Camp.

Filled with trekking stores I roamed the streets looking for something strong. Everything was fake. I could have taken the chance. But I knew buying a new pair of boots would also bring on blisters and other aliments associated with new boots. Least of all new fake boots.

Second hand trekking stores in Namche Bazaar

The closest we came to finding anything suitable was found in only one store. A pair of size 11 second-hand Solomon trekking boots. How quite they got there I don’t know. I only hope the owner sold them in Kathmandu and somehow they made it back here.

Still, I had visions of a dead trekker somewhere being removed of their footwear. And, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it were true.

At USD $100 they were costly. More to the point, they were too big. I would have to stuff the inner lining or wear more socks. Either way, a risk.

Namche Bazzar from above

Namche Bazaar from above

In thought I wandered around some more. Shoe repair here was brutally crude. Thick twine and Rugby glue were used. My boots could be repaired with string and glue but would leak. What’s more Narayan kept mentioning that snow was rumored to be on the way by passing traders.

Choices, Choices

I was damned if I did, and damned if I didn’t no matter my choice. So, I ended up in a hardware store buying roll upon roll of more insulating tape. It seems duct tape had not reached Nepal yet. But it is an essential part of my article on “Equipment and gear you need for trekking in Nepal“.

Narayan for the first time made the suggestion of going back …

More self-doubt shuddered in. Sometimes you just feel jinxed.

I’m too stubborn though. When things start to go against me, I simply dig my heels in and power forward.

Narayan was right to ask me though. Porters coming down were saying it was getting brutally cold up ahead. If we were to go back, there was no shame.

A trek is to be enjoyed, not endured.

If I was going to fail it would not be without trying at least. Fake boots falling apart, or a mountain of foot blisters and blood were the alternative fail routes.

I figured two boots mummified in electrical insulation tape would make a better story. And so we powered ahead into the unknown winter that lay ahead …

Don’t miss out on the Trek to Everest Base Camp: become a member for free and get it all delivered via email – full details here

Coming Soon:

Everest Base Camp Trek Day 4  (Tengboche, let the mental battles begin)

Note this is not live, the trek took place in December/January

The Everest Base Camp Guide:

Planning a trip to Nepal and trekking to Everest Base Camp? For all the details on what to do, when to go, permits need, costs, maps and much more check out my dedicated Guide to Everest Base Camp.

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17 Great responses to Everest Base Camp Trek Day 3: Acclimatization & Shopping in Namche Bazaar

  1. mandy says:

    It’s like reading a adventurous non-fiction book, would be nice to read the entire book without having to wait for the next chapters (and I want to read it at first hand) :) Better yet is snuggling comfortably in bed with the ‘real’ book and mesmerized by your adventure quest :P

    Simply irresistible ;)

    • One of the nicest comments I could get :) Thank you Mandy. It took quite a bit of time to put all of these together glad you are enjoying it.

      Was thinking about putting them all into one downloadable ebook, but not sure how many people would like it?

  2. Michael says:

    I’m on tenterhooks for the next episode.

  3. Malcom says:

    Wonderful Yak photo!! This is a great few blog posts. Enjoying them a lot. Keep it up mate.

  4. Giovanna says:

    I can’t help watching at my collection of ancient-60ies-Dolomite,Nordica,La Scarpa by La Scarpa,all firmas maybe by now not existing,sturdy italian size 38(5)leather trekking shoes,and thinking of how much you are longing for such a pair…I’m using some for a unusual snowfall down here,envying you somewhat!Excluded AMS and taped boots!

    • Tell you what, I’ll envy you for good boots, and you envy me for trekking up here!

      Yes, good boots are hard to find here. When you do, they are usually the wrong size. In fact I’ve not seen good boots in all South East Asia. Most are just light weight built for fashion type boots. Not long-lasting.

  5. Ooooh this is getting good!

    Bravo, Dave.

  6. Nooooo…. Why not keep the shoes and get the new fake ones too as a backup? Better than $5000 for med evacuation?

    OMG- $5000, really? That’s totally taking advantage of tourists and their physical failings. I get it but… that’s extortion.

    Really enjoying this series. I’m holding my breath on your shoes. Good luck!

    • Okay … buying a back up pair of boots makes a lot of sense right now … trying to remember why I didn’t? I think something to do with the weight and a full bag.

      I wouldn’t have been so bad as to need and evacuation just for bad boots though. But yea, $5,000 is pretty steep. I think they justified it by saying they put trained medical personnel on board.

      I also met a man who called one in! And yes, he paid $5,000. Or rather his insurance company did.

  7. Andreas says:

    So the reason for your AMS was that did Phakding – Namche Bazar (1.200 m difference) in one day instead of four?
    But how realistic is to make “only” 300 m per day in such an environment? I guess you have to sleep where you have a lodge?

    • AMS can generally strike at anytime above 3000m. Some people never get AMS, including a number of cigarette smokers, others can it quite early one. Back on the Annapurna circuit I experienced AMS quite severely due to not taking a second day in Manang.

      This time I think it was a combination of things. I did this in winter and was really struggling with no grips on my boots which was taking a lot of effort. This is probably why I got AMS early. But yes 300m can make a lot of difference when at altitude.

      Lodges are not a problem on this trek. They are quite plentiful.

  8. Vicky says:

    I would love to do the Mount Everest base camp trek but altitude sickness really is terrifying. When it hits you do you know right away that you have altitude sickness as opposed to just being tried/cranky/exhausted? So unfortunate your boots were falling apart at the same time as well!

    • No, the symptoms are often disguised as mild headaches and / or tiredness. Two of the things that are quite common with trekking in general. However a headache is one of the prime symptoms one should watch out for and if experiencing such symptoms take precautions related to Altitude sickness.