The highest peak in the world resides back home in Nepal. Sitting at 8848m above sea level, it presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather and wind as well as significant hazards from the avalanches. More than 4000 people from all over the world have summited this monstrous mountain.
We started our trek on 20 February 2017 and, according to our guide, there were already several deaths on the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek this year.
“Why would you do such thing? It’s not the right season! Are you out of your mind?” This is what we heard every time EBC trek was mentioned.
I remember telling a friend of mine that, because it was going to be up to -21 degrees on our trek, I was going to leave my mobile phone behind.
“They can trace you if you are buried under the ice if you have a mobile phone!”
She really believed I was going to die. And I guess it was a possibility, given the death rates.
I was not worried about dying. Even though we did not have control over most things, we had prepared ourselves as best as we could through lots of research and had decided that we would turn back if one of us did not feel quite right.
Did I underestimate the mountain? Like anyone who had not ‘been there, done that’ – YES! While I knew it was not going to be easy, I definitely underestimated it because I had no experience being at such heights and such low temperatures. We were expecting temperatures to fall up to -21 degrees Celsius. My only experience with minus temperature was in London when we went to an ice bar, which was -5 degrees – I lasted there for 45 minutes.
So why EBC? No fancy reason for that, I come from Nepal and it’s probably the least travelled of all the countries I have been to.
I love trekking. It’s like therapy for me. It all comes down to being strong both physically and mentally. Going back a few years, I hated any kind of exercise. I remember joining the gym in my university in Toowoomba (why, I don’t really know). I hopped onto a treadmill and walked very slowly for about 2 minutes. I remember feeling a bit warm and breathing hard. I thought that was all I could handle. That’s it, 2 minutes on the treadmill!
When I started weight training, thanks to my gym junkie (that’s what people who go to the gym are called right?) husband, I began to uncover what I was capable of. Not just physically but emotionally as well. For those who have known me, know how much I have changed and developed as a person. All this was possible because of the challenges I overcame over the years. Every little one of them. You won’t believe this but I was not even able to walk out of the house on my own as a kid!
So as you can see, the seemingly simple task people carry out without even thinking was an enormous mountain to climb for me. So it does not really matter what it is, a challenge is a challenge and it is going to turn you into a masterpiece when you overcome it!
So whether it is sumitting the Everest (this is on my plate for the future), making myself get out of bed at 5 in the morning or the little weight increments in the gym, they all help us grow and develop. They give our life meaning, something to look forward to and, above all, it makes the world a better place.
Challenges we faced on the EBC trek and lessons learnt
We faced a whole heap of challenges as expected but here are a few that taught me valuable lesson:
1. The altitude monster
The trek starts at Lukla (2860m) and most people start feeling the lower oxygen levels. There is no denying that the mountain needs to be respected. It took a tremendous amount of strength (I am not talking physical strength here; your body can only take you so far) to make it to our goal. Have you ever been out of breath tying your shoe laces? With 50% less oxygen than sea level to use at the top of our trek, we found ourselves struggling with small tasks like dressing ourselves, putting shoes on and walking at a normal pace.
We found ourselves waking up in the middle of the night gasping for breath with even lower oxygen levels in the tiny room, and that’s if we did manage to fall asleep. On the trek, we had two choices – suffocate or breathe in the dust. We just could not put masks on at that oxygen level. There was no beating the mountain. All we could do was keep putting one foot forward and taking our time.
Life Lesson: The struggle we go through today is the strength we will need tomorrow. We can’t afford to not have one!
Rest day! What rest day?
Namche Bazaar (3440m) was our first acclimatization spot, I seriously thought I was going to spend the next day and a half in my sleeping bag. Especially when you have been up all night in the freezing cold with diarrhoea! We needed to move, and climb higher why? To make the next day a little bit easier! This continued on all our so called ‘rest days’. So, yes we climbed every single day of the 14 days’ trek, some days up to 9 hours! But you know what? I would do it all over again. Because all the hard work paid off when we got to the base camp. Only four out of the eight of us made it all the way. It was such a unique feeling that has left a lasting impression in our hearts and minds.
Life Lesson: Great things start to happen when you persevere.
Dal Bhatt Tarkari
We eat this day in, day out in Nepal and I will admit I love the stuff. It is Nepalese for lentil (Dal), rice (Bhatt) and vegetables (Tarkari).
For those who know me, I love my food and I can never have enough of it. I love training too, so that kind of balances everything out ;)
The first couple of days up to Namche, I totally lost my appetite. In high altitude, this is bad news! You need the food and water to survive. I know you need them regardless the altitude but it can be life threatening at high altitude. I was already contemplating heading back down if things did not settle in the next 24 hours. Then the next day, BAM! The diarrhoea! It was god sent! No, I am not being sarcastic. In fact, it could not have come at a better time. Also, we had an ensuite with a sit-down toilet that flushed. We were able to treat the diarrhoea after an embarrassing long bitterly cold night spent in and out of the toilet, and suddenly I was hungry again! Awesome, right? Now I could continue with my trek.
Life Lesson: Sometimes bad things happen for good reasons. The struggles are there to push us forward, to move us, to drive us. Struggles are our friends.
Don’t get too excited, this is just one of the Nepalese names for toilet! Ok so this was the topic of discussion most of the time during our trek. Funny though, I was reading a blog post by another blogger and she has mentioned this too so we may not be alone in this. It was also the biggest challenge for me to overcome mentally.
My worst fear about doing this trek was if the toilets are going to be clean. I try not to go into public toilets when the toilet lid is shut. I am terrified of what I could uncover! We were pretty lucky until Day 4 but the toilet terror truly began when we got to Tengboche (3850m).
Tengboche toilets did not flush due to freezing temperatures. They had to be flushed with bucket water. I tell you what, people did not know how to flush this way. Yup, we had to flush and clean before the toilet was usable. You can imagine what started happening right? This is the only time I was grateful we went trekking off season and there were only 12 people in the lodge instead of up to 500! I can honestly say, I was so grateful for my husband forcing me to buy a Sewee, it’s a life saver! But we survived, I survived and you know what? I am not so scared of dirty toilets anymore. They are still disgusting but they don’t bother me as much.
Life Lesson: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most things we worry so much about don’t even matter. Life still goes on, we still come out greater.
The day of 28/02/17
So we trekked up for 3 hours to Gorak Shep, stopped there for lunch then began our final approximately 5 hours’ trek to the Everest Base Camp. This day we really felt 10 years older. Dry lips, sore body, lack of oxygen nearly got the better of us but we decided this is not the time to give up! It never ok to give up! We were literally dragging our feet on the final few steps to the base camp. Then suddenly it hit us! We had made it! We were at the Everest Base Camp! And all the pain and discomfort just melted away as we exchanged hugs with our fellow trekkers and congratulated each other. Writing about this day still brings tears of joy in my eyes. And what made it so beautiful is that I got to experience it with my husband Ray.
Life Lesson: When you get to your destination, it all makes sense. All the struggles, hardship and pain suddenly make sense. We are filled with joy and it really is easy when it’s done!
The Everest Base Camp trek was never on the list of my things to do until late 2016. I needed a challenge. I needed to push myself to the limits and see just what I am capable of and what better way to do it, than this! I had a goal, I made a plan to move towards it, worked towards achieving it and now I have achieved it.
I take the lessons learnt on this trek everywhere! Whether it is my life, gym, work. It has changed my life for the better.
If you are planning on getting adventurous with Everest Base Camp, hit me with any questions you may have.