It’s been a whole year since one of the most calamitous earthquakes to ravage the plateaus of the High Himalaya struck this beautiful region of Nepal. I’m back on the ground, delving deep into the Khumbu valleys out of Namche Bazaar and making my way to the Everest Base Camp at 5,300 meters up.
I discovered Lukla alive with just a few backpackers and trekkers eager for the trails – although the numbers had diminished considerably from the thousands who flocked here before the disaster. Regular arrivals were bringing more and more people to the start of the base camp route, and the way up through the fir forests and alpine tundra from Lukla to Namche Bazaar was trodden by a number of groups.
I did spy out some traces of the earthquake’s rumblings as I conquered the first sections of the trek, piercing deep into the Dhut Koshi towards Pheriche from the high-perched Sherpa towns of Solukhumbu. Occasionally, I’d spot clear signs of where a landslide had cascaded and crashed down the valley, but all the routes were open and the suspension bridges were all perfectly intact each step of the way.
The teahouses had also been re-established, and I was happy to see that many were now in great condition; the perennial smiles of their local Sherpa owners restored along with the buildings themselves (some to an even better degree than before!). By this point in the trek, the stream of fellow walkers had dwindled to just a trickle, and I found myself sharing the mountain huts with virtually no other souls.
I noticed the weather was drier than previous years, with little precipitation marking the trails. There has been a particularly potent El Niño cycle this year, which could help explain the minor smattering of snow on the higher massifs, even over the altitudinous climbing routes to the various summits I passed along the way.
Of course, the sweeping vistas of the Himalayas are still the breathtaking same. As I made my way towards the great bulwark of Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Everest in the distance, I couldn’t help but think that nothing – not even a colossal earthquake – could really alter this ancient land forever.