The Ama Dablam Base Camp Hike
Some people consider the Khumbu Valley the most beautiful valley in Nepal. While walking along its trails, you have stunning views of the highest mountains in the world. Of course everyone wants a glimpse of Everest, but there’s also imposing Lhotse and Nuptse with their teethlike ridges, the simple cone-shaped Pumori, and the beautiful and dangerous Ama Dablam.
The Everest Base Camp trek must be one of the most popular treks in the world. While I get what the hype is all about, I am usually put off by the popularity of certain places. The EBC trail is basically a “highway trail”, where you need to negotiate numerous other trekkers, yaks, donkeys, guides, porters and mountaineers. It is hard to find a quiet moment on the trail to fully take in the grandeur of the mountains. And, to me, that is what heading to the mountains is all about. There is too much movement and noise of people and animals to feel the connection with nature and with yourself.
The popular places for tourists to stop along the way are Namche Bazaar, Tengboche and Dingboche. If you want some peace and quiet, avoid these places! I only stopped for one night in Namche, instead of two, as is advised. I was already acclimated but I needed to refill my chocolate supplies. There is a market every day at the entrance of the town, where you can negotiate very good prices for all things you might need on the trek: biscuits, tea, chocolate, cheese. All these are very expensive in most other places in the mountains, so do take the opportunity to buy some of it here.
As I was looking at the map in search of a way off the main trail, I saw a nice side trek that seemed perfect for acclimating: the Ama Dablam Base Camp – 4600 m.
As soon as you leave Namche, Ama Dablam is the mountain that you see all along the way, to the right. It is a stunning view, and one of the most dangerous and difficult peals to climb, even though it’s not even 7000 m. The trail to Ama Dablam Base Camp starts in Pangboche, which is conveniently situated between the two tourist stops of Tengboche and Dingboche.
As difficult as climbing the mountain is, reaching its base camp is an easy two-hour, gentle uphill hike. If you start your walk early in the morning (as you should) you enjoy clear skies and the warm light falling over quiet pastures. I walked close to undisturbed yaks that were feeding calmly and ignoring my intrusive presence. It felt like a small piece of heaven, surrounded by mountains where time stood still and patient.
Ama Dablam Base Camp itself, unlike Everest Base Camp at this time of year (November), was filled with colorful tents and buzzing with people. This is the best season to climb Ama Dablam, and many expeditions were either preparing to go up or celebrating a safe descent.
I drank Japanese tea with one team who invited me into their tent to talk about mountains. They had just came down from a successful climb and were happy to share their stories and photos. I looked at their heart-stopping pictures of camp 3, nestled on a rock and surrounded by void on all sides. I glanced up at the imposing mountain and, standing there at its feet, I could not believe it was possible to make it up to its summit.
I wanted to go higher up, as my map showed a view point at 5000 m. If you don’t feel the effects of altitude, definitely go for it. It is a very pleasant and easy walk along a ridge with wonderful views of Ama Dablam and all the mountains surrounding you. The sun was casting its rays on the valleys, and the mountains were visible all around, near and far. There was hardly anyone else there and I finally found the intimacy I was looking for, that precious moment between me and nature. I didn’t find it like this anywhere else on the EBC trail.
The fog started its dance in the valleys, slowly closing in on the mountains and me. This happened almost every day after noon. It was my cue to start my descent.
Down in the village, I rewarded myself with sweets from the German bakery and large helpings of dal bhat, always filling at the end of a big trekking day.
It is a good idea to look for accommodation in a Sherpa’s house. I finished the day by the fire, with my Sherpa host telling stories about the mountain. I dream of one day going higher on Ama Dablam than just the Base Camp.
Article by Cristina Podocea.