Monday, 12 March 2012

Everest Base Camp Trek

Following on from last weeks' blog; here is an account written by Deborah Simmonds after her first experience of a trek to Everest Base Camp.

So, something about the trip……well, it was amazing! The more time goes on, the more the magnitude of what I’ve done really hits me! I think it took someone to point out that Mont Blanc is less than 5000m high, and we went to 5500m to make me realize that it really was quite a feat! (Although there were days on the trek when it felt like the most monumental feat ever!!) It was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done….the beauty of the country, the challenge of the trek, the warmness of the people, the camaraderie of the group, the incredibly different living conditions (I will never get used to long-drop toilets!! Or to showers that involve an old woman sitting on the roof of the outbuilding pouring water over you from a bucket!!!). Total sensory overload, but in a good way!

Head Down, Bum Up!

The trek itself lasted 14 days (we had time in Kathmandu at the beginning and end of the trip, which was really a holiday in itself –what a place!!)….and (after a flight in the smallest plane I’ve ever traveled in courtesy of Yeti Airlines!) we started off down in the valley surrounded by incredibly lush vegetation walking along next to very fast flowing rivers…..crossing the rivers was a bit of a challenge as the bridges seem to have been built on the premise of “the higher – and wobblier – the better!” – The fact that they’re daubed with endless prayer flags too didn’t inspire a massive amount of confidence! I would love to say that the views from the bridges made it worth it, but I went very much for the “head down, bum up” approach and just got over them as quickly as possible!

Still Going Up!

In the early days of the trek, we passed through lots of little villages and really got a sense of the mountain communities – real hives of industry. I think we were all awed by the men who passed us carrying loads which were easily twice their body weight….a couple of the guys in the group tried to lift one of these loads at one point with no success, yet the tiny wee chap whose load it was, managed to pop it on his head and carry on, at some speed, up the hill….amazing. Everywhere we went, we came across beautifully decorated prayer wheels and rocks daubed with mantras written to protect the traveler…..quite some sight. In Pangboche and Thyangboche, we were also lucky enough to visit Buddhist monasteries which are incredibly vibrant, yet tranquil at the same time. There is very much a sense of calm amongst all the brightly decorated walls and furnishings.

As we climbed up towards Base Camp, the terrain became more and more “lunar” – very rocky with un-defined paths…thank heavens for the Sherpas! (On so many fronts!) Thankfully, I managed to escape the effects of altitude – unfortunately for 6 of my fellow trekkers, that wasn’t the case and they were carted off down the mountain to recover from a variety of altitude related ailments. 2 went down by helicopter, 1 went down on the back of a Sherpa and another on a suicidal horse! All part of the adventure! J

If Carling Made Road Signs.....

The group were a lovely bunch – a very diverse group from all over the UK and ranging in age from 24 to 62 (bless!)….but all genuinely lovely people, which meant that you had great company whoever you happened to be walking next to during the day or sitting next to at meal-times….everyone had their own fascinating stories to tell, or a new game of cards to teach me (none of which I mastered!!)… was really a case of back-to-basics as we huddled round in the lodges in the evenings….light bulbs dangling from wires in the ceilings and oil powered burners keeping us warm (before we all had to don down jackets & head-torches, grab our hot-water-filled water bottles and head out to the tents! Like being back in the Brownies….not!! J) 

The day we reached Base Camp was massively challenging as we started walking at 5.30am and reached Base Camp at 1.30pm…..the surrounding mountains were stunning and thankfully, we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine (as we were through most of the trek…hurrah!). We had got to a point though where everyone was physically fairly exhausted so plenty of chocolate….and Fruit Pastilles….was needed to keep going! Any excuse for a Dairy Milk!! I think I share a similar view to Michael Palin on Base Camp….I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I expected (if that makes sense!)…..there is absolutely nothing there….just snow and rock….I did think there would be at least a sign saying “This is It!”.

This Is It!

But, my shallow expectations aside, there is no getting away from the fact that I was standing, with my lovely group of trek buddies, in the shadow of Everest…..and that in itself was more than worth the toil!

In summary, it was a phenomenal experience….the best of times and the worst of times, massively rewarding and incredibly challenging….at times, I wondered what on earth I was thinking even attempting it, and at other times I was on the most incredible high just thinking about where I was and what I was doing….what more can I say!?

Clear Blue Skies Every Day


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