This is not the type of post I usually write. Unlike other content, this one isn’t motivational, nor is it related to business communication, marketing or brand. I wrote this personal article to provide information to family, colleagues and friends on a little plan I’ve been working on these last few months.
In early March, I’m packing my bags and departing on a fifteen-day trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. It’s a 130km hike at altitudes of up to 5,480 metres. Now it’s one month away, and the little feeling that you’re actually going is starting to kick in. I’ve purchased my equipment, booked my flights and accommodation, and will be hopping on the plane in six weeks.
My interest in Everest and Himalayan mountaineering began in a grade 5 extra-curricular program, where myself and a couple of students went offsite and listened to an all-day lecture on Everest climbs from a seasoned mountaineer. It’s fascinating learning about high altitude and its effect on red blood cells, the local Sherpa people who have adapted to the oxygen-deprived living conditions, the English and Swiss climbing expeditions to put that first flag on the summit, and the triumphant successful summit climb of May 1963, achieved by New Zealand’s Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. I was also shocked to learn that for every ten people who climb Sagarmatha (Nepali for Everest), one person dies.
This interest laid dormant until mid-last year. When I finished school I occupied myself with adventures in Europe, USA, university, internships and that tricky first career year. Then one afternoon in my PR agency’s Melbourne office, I changed my laptop’s desktop background, without thinking, to a picture of Everest. Boom. On the way to my train home that day, the idea of Everest came back into my mind and I had a sudden realisation that it was actually viable! I texted my best mate Daniel to ask if he wanted to come, and my girlfriend Naomi to ask how she felt. Two days later, I emailed my boss and asked for three weeks’ annual leave.
Within a few weeks, Everest was booked.
At 5,480 metres above sea level, trekking to Everest Base Camp requires peak physical fitness. It’s not possible to train for high altitude (it affects everyone differently) but physical fitness improves the other aspects and gives your body the best possible chance.
I started with swimming once a week. A little bit of gym. I should’ve given up beer and unhealthy food a little earlier than I did, but it was December and Christmas was in the way. That’s the way it goes I think.
In December Daniel told me he wasn’t able to come, but he offered to help me train by going together with a third mate on a day climb to the summit of Mount Donna Buang. We all nearly vomited but we successfully achieved it. Since then I’ve been hiking regularly, swimming, and summiting local mountains (more like hills, to be technical).
Purchasing equipment has been a strong area of focus in recent weeks. The first priority was to buy the boots, as they’d need to be broken in to lessen the risk of blisters on the mountain. Over summer I spoke with my grandfather’s friend who hiked the mountain in the 1980s, and he recommended a Scarpa boot. I took his advice and have purchased the Scarpa Kailash GTX. It’s an incredibly comfortable boot and has provided unmatched support during the breaking-in stage.
The other climbing gear has been accumulating slowly since then. Naomi bought me trekking poles for Christmas, and I’ve been accumulating sub-zero degree clothing slowly…and expensively (on one occasion my jaw hit the floor as the store assistant told me the discounted sum payable for my clothing purchase was $780). The trick with buying Everest-ready trekking clothes is to ensure each layer retains heat but still allows moisture to pass through (a process known as wicking). Thermals should be merino wool and soft-shell outers are a must. For some equipment such as sleeping bag, mid-layers and casual shoes for evenings, my intent is to buy or rent them in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The fifteen day trek begins and ends in Kathmandu. There will be up to fifteen trekkers, a guide, and Sherpas to carry baggage and gear. On day one, we’ll fly into the world’s most dangerous airport, Lukla. From there, it’s a nine-day hike to Everest Base Camp. On the way up are villages such as the Sherpa commercial hub Namche Bazaar, Phakding and Lobuche.
We won’t be able to gain more than 750 vertical metres per-day trekking, or we run the risk of severe altitude sickness. Due to the risks of altitude, there are also a couple of acclimatisation days, where we start and finish at the same altitude to ensure our bodies are adapting. As we climb up, we’ll reach the Buddhist monastery Tengboche at 3,840 metres, which is considered a very holy place in Tibetan Buddhism. Finally, on day nine, we’re expected to ascend to Everest Base Camp! Woo hoo. Then it’s a five day walk back down to Lukla Airport, where the trek will officially come to an end.
My plane to Nepal leaves in around seven weeks from here. I can’t wait to get on a plane and be staring face-to-face at the Himalayas. Increasingly, I’ve also been thinking about the circumstances of life, and the fortune us Aussies have in being able to just follow a childhood dream in a semi-spontaneous manner.