'It is better to
travel well than to arrive'
"Mountains are not
stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I
practice my religion."
Now I finally have the time and means to actually go before I am physically unable to, so I have bought my flight tickets and I have nearly all the planning done. It's going to cost the best part of £3000, what with equipment and everything - cheap at twice the price.
My first real look at trekking to Everest Base Camp
(EBC) made me realise it has become a
bit of a gap year thing with lots of people heading there during the peak
months of October to mid November. Many of these people (around 30%) do not make it. They either get too
tired, too ill or more likely they suffer from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
caused by ascending too high too fast. People actually die doing this and many
more do themselves serious harm and are evacuated by helicopter. Many people have very little experience
of hiking so all too often these holidays end in misery. I don't intend for that to happen
to me so I have done my research and I'm going out of my way to look after myself.
1. A real physical challenge
of course, a real effort is
a basic requirement but at a relaxed pace - I'm giving myself plenty of time
for rest, acclimatisation and for side trips to explore all parts of the region.
To fulfil all of these requirements the answer seemed obvious - go by myself, during the winter, and do the far harder trek that crosses the 3 main valleys of the Khumbu region. This is known as the Three Passes Trek and it will mean spending 10 days above 4,000m with the highest point being 5,550m (18,200 ft). Apart from minor inconveniences such as: earthquake, landslide, avalanche, crevasse, altitude, wild animals, snow blindness and diseases including rabies, the only real problem is the night-time temperatures of possibly -30oC.
A kit list that includes a very warm sleeping bag and a proper down jacket to cope with arctic temperatures is required. This kit list must supply all you NEED for 6 weeks in the mountains and should not include all the things you WANT. It must be as light as possible as once the high altitude starts to hit you the pack on your back will begin to double in weight. I aim to carry under 8kg of kit and keep a very environmentally kind footprint. I aim to eat what the locals eat and to purify my drinking water as I go along.
I don't get on with flying. No, really! I will need to be sedated by prescription when I board the flight from the UK as I get very anxious and start talking about bombs and terrorists and crashing - basically freaking out big-style. This behaviour is very likely to get me thrown off the plane and arrested nowadays. Most trekkers to EBC also take an internal flight east from Kathmandu to the town of Lukla - BUT Lukla Airport is one of the most terrifying in the world. It is on a small terrace on the side of a mountain and I WILL NOT BE GOING THERE.
Instead I have decided to take the even more dangerous 10 hour bus journey to a place called Shivalaya and walk to Lukla instead. That takes at least 6 days and is the route that Hillary & Tenzing followed when they climbed Everest. The 'walk in' as it is known, is an ideal way to acclimatise properly to the altitude and also a great way to get even fitter for when you reach the high mountains. It's a less well-travelled route now which means it is very quiet and very cheap and I will have better contact with the local people instead of with loads of 20 somethings with bluetooth speakers all shouting WOO HOO!
From Lukla I will walk the Three Passes Trek for around 21 days in a big circle to get back to Lukla where I will once again walk 6 days back to Shivalaya and get the bus back to Kathmandu, a total of about 210 miles walking. The whole expedition should take around 39 days (including rest/acclimatisation days and side trips) but I have given myself 42. Christmas eve and Christmas morning will be spent at Namche Bazaar which will be perfect as I can communicate with the rest of the world from there, have a hot shower and it will probably be snowing! I expect to do the 'walk out' faster than the 'walk in' as I should be very fit, acclimatised and used to hard trekking every day for 5 weeks by then. If that happens then I will get back to Kathmandu with extra time for sightseeing.
I am probably fit
enough for this trek as I do long hikes every week (and have done so for years) and will be doing several
more UK mountain trips between now and my flight. However, I am starting on a
bit of an extra health regime for the next 6 months which includes: daily workouts at home using several fitness apps,
walking around everywhere with a 12kg pack on my back and losing just a few kg
from around my waist. I am concentrating on core strength, shoulders, back and
of course legs.
Let me tell you a bit about trekking in Nepal and how it works. The walking usually starts in the morning around 8am to get the best weather and is usually finished by 2-3pm. You stay the night in small, remote mountain hamlets in places called teahouses. These are hostels made of wood and local stone run by the local people where they serve basic hot food, supply bed and blankets, boiled water and take care of you as much as they can. The views from your window are some of the greatest in the world. The teahouses at high altitude are very basic indeed and are warmed by a single yak dung fuelled fire. There is no need to camp or carry your own food, there are toilets in (or outside) the teahouses and you can mostly find a teahouse to have a midday lunch in while you are trekking. Nowadays they will even charge your phone and camera (solar power and hydro-electric is used) and many have an internet connection. In conclusion; Nepal is widely known as a hiking heaven and I'm chomping at the bit to ascend!
Go to my Himalaya diary to see my preparation and planning.
The purpose of
walking is 'not to arrive but just to walk, one step after another'.
'When walking, just