Everest Base Camp Trek Day 8 Part 1: Snowed in at base camp! And, yak love

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ February 22nd, 2012. Updated on February 20th, 2013. Published in: Travel blog » Nepal.
Snowing and low clouds around Everest Base Camp Nepal

You don’t ever think about getting snowed in at Everest Base Camp until it actually happens to you …

A night at Gorak Shep by Everest Base Camp

I slept well considering the altitude. Perhaps the physical battle with the wind yesterday while climbing Kala Patthar helped. During the evening I stayed seated by the wood stove. A bottle of boiled water accompanied me to bed and that was all as I dreamed of completing the Everest Base Camp Trek in the morning.

Waking up to the thought of making it to Everest Base camp was not as exciting as I would have hoped. Kala Patthar offers the real visual spectacle. Everest Base Camp barely offers a view of the world’s tallest mountain.

Mount Everest lies hidden behind nearer mountains with only it’s very tip exposed when looking from below.

No, Base Camp itself is more about the human element of accomplishment than a dazzling visual display. Or rather it’s about the people who first climbed the world’s tallest mountain. Back in the day.

When people say there is no golden age of travel or exploration I think of the first people to climb Mount Everest, or of Scott, Fiennes, or Shackleton.

Many of the super equipped mountaineers or explorers of today seemed limited on gimmicks to make a name for themselves. While some will say there’s still something to be said for accomplishing such feats. I say there’s a reason why such feats don’t conjure up the passion that the original pioneers do. Have we run out of challenges?

Gorak Shep at Everest base camp Nepal under snow

Gorak Shep under snow

Snow on Everest, the silent dream killer

“You don’t know?” stated Narayan in mild shock as I opened my bedroom door. “It snowed heavily last night. We need to get out of here before we are trapped!”

And with that the morning flew into the unexpected. Peaking out my tiny window I could see nothing but a white blanket of pristine snow. Clothes on I walked out into a winter wonderland scene.

Yesterday the whole area was an earthy brown color. Dry, dusty and very windy. Today everything was covered in white snow, and more snow was falling.

Visibility was low as thick cloud hung low over the camp. Anything above 30 feet was lost in the soupy white cotton wool like sky. A sky that was letting loose silent fluttering snow. The ground below thick and carpeted in its new white coating.

“If we’d been a day late, we wouldn’t have made it as far as we did. Now it seemed like the final destination would be denied to us.”

Real Yak’s don’t like the snow

I am like a kid when it comes to snow. I can’t get enough of it. Crunching through the fresh powder I won’t pretend the people huddled inside looking out must have been thinking I was crazy.

So too did the herd of Yak’s who were hunkered down behind a snowy drift. Huge damp carpeted creatures with mini drifts of snow covering their backs. I approached hoping for a photo of this impressive sight.

Sleeping Yaks in the Snow in Nepal

Let sleeping Yaks in the snow alone …

I managed a few before one hairy mammoth Yak rose up. Unlike regular animals in damp conditions he did not shake off his extra white coat of snow. He snorted. Peered at the rest of his herd, then looked at me.

A big hairy Yak looking for warm love

I stood there shooting away as the Yak moved closer. A generally docile creature I was not worried. Then a few others began to follow. I stepped back a little. They weren’t merely having a morning stroll. They were pretty much on a direct path towards me.

I backed up to the steps leading up to the lodge. The “Alpha” yak continued towards me. A tapping at the window revealed a few people waving at me to come in. A good warning if ever there was one.

Yaks in the snow in Nepal

… or else they may take a liking to you …

Stepping up to the first level above the steps I waited a little. The yak kept coming. He was on a slow steady path towards me, unrelenting.

I climbed up the next set of steps. And, much to my amazement the yak did the same thing.

A man started shouting from across the snowy plain. The yak took a look at him in recognition, then snorted before continuing on towards me.

Walking towards the lodge door the man finally arrived just in time to shout some orders at the yak who, begrudgingly, obeyed and turned about.

Inside I was told the Yak was just looking to “get warm”.

I hope it was by the fire and not with me.

Close up photograph of a yak in the snow

“He just wanted to get close and feel your body heat” … so joked his owner … not my thing …

Too much snow on Everest, we need to leave

Narayan was packed and ready to go.

“We need to leave,” he was serious. “If we get cut off then we could be trapped up here for weeks. Your shoes are no good to get out if it gets any thicker out there. We need to leave now.”

I trust Narayan. He also knew me well enough to repeat his opinion, and add in some more for my next round of questions.

My packing was slow, very slow. I couldn’t believe we’d come this far just to turn around on the last day.

I won’t lie, a part of me wanted to turn this into a trapped on Everest Base Camp story.

It took an hour for me to pack in total.

Breakfast in the clouds

I came downstairs to see my breakfast waiting for me. Narayan was looking bemused. He pointed outside.

The clouds had lifted. And in true high altitude fashion the weather had changed dramatically. There were blue skies. We were going to base camp!

Coming Soon

Everest Base Camp Trek Day 8 Part II (Giant glacier walking, Yeti tracks and an avalanche)

Note this trek took place in late December/early January during the off-peak winter season

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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16 Great responses to Everest Base Camp Trek Day 8 Part 1: Snowed in at base camp! And, yak love

  1. Tash says:

    Oh! Ha! I was feeling such disappointment….and then bam! Great storytelling!

    Love the Yak story, too! How funny!

  2. Mandy says:

    Slightly on the lighter note today. You really behaved like a kid throughout the post. First the snow, then the yaks and last the packing. ;)

    Maybe the yak sensed that you too need some ‘warm love’ thus attracted to you. :D


    • Well, it can’t all be “struggle this, struggle that” :)

      Aren’t all men meant to be little kids at heart? But yes, put me in snow, and I’m a lost boy again!

      That Yak can find love on the other-side of the mountain ha ha.

  3. My gosh, this is the most extraordinary adventure! I don’t think I’d be able to survive the cold, unless a yak cuddled with me every night, but I still hope I can do this some day.

  4. hayadeen says:

    The weather was doing it right, what a way to add drama in your everest journey..haha.

    I don’t always believe in luck.
    we must work hard to get what we want, but i think in your case luck is needed..

    • Hindsight. Could this story ask for anything else other than snow on the final leg to base camp after rushing all the way to beat it?

      Well … You should have seen my face that morning. Denied on the morning to visit base camp. Irony.

      Then to come down an hour later to see blue skies. Seriously, wait until tomorrow and you see the change!!

  5. Anna's World says:

    Snow!! Love it!! Although just thinking about it makes me think you might be quite miserable, but you seem so happy!

    Maybe a cold country is what you really like?

  6. Victoria says:

    Really cool story … no really!
    Fabulous yak encounter – they look like magnificent beasts. Your adventure makes me wanna hop on a plane …

    • Get the ticket!

      Yaks are really amazing. The altitude they live at, their look, and their demeanor. Not the biggest fan of them on the trails as they are immovable awkward beasts that won’t give way. I had to climb a few rocks to avoid getting run over …

  7. 1. Beautiful photos!
    2. Yaks — awwww… If there weren’t so much snow on it, I’d bet it’d be warm to cuddle with.
    3. This journey is telling me that I’ll EVER hike Everest in winter (and now I’m even wondering if I’ll want to hike it at all).
    4. Have we run out of challenges? Once large feats are accomplished, it’s hard to top, though many try or follow the footsteps to try their hand at what’s been tried. Man always tries to come up with new challenges (ie extreme sports, reducing things to thrill, but I’m not sure it’s as great or as satisfying as the all-natural feats.

    • 1) Thank you!

      2) Every girl I’ve met has wanted to cuddle a yak?! I see a big old hairy smelly bull? Am I missing something ;) Or just jealous!

      3) I went in winter. Go in peak season, it’s quite easy then!

      4) People are paragliding off the top of Everest now. Our biggest failure in exploration is not making space travel a priority.