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Green Man
Himalaya Planning Diary
(See also Himalaya Expedition 2018)

March   April   May   June   July   August   September   October   November

March 2018 - The idea

  • I decided impulsively to go to Nepal after hearing that I was going to get some personal injury compensation money that would cover the whole expedition.
    My wife was understanding but immediately concerned for my safety - everything from cholera to crevasses continues to cross her mind.
     

  • Decided that I wanted to attempt the much harder and far, far longer Three Passes Trek without flying to/from Lukla. That did not actually reduce the amount of worry.


April 2018 - Admin

  • Sent off for a new passport as mine was way out of date.
     

  • Created an itinerary and realised that I needed 42 days in total, with 40 days in Nepal.
     

  • Bought my flight tickets way in advance to make sure of a good price and also to make sure that I was compelled to push myself to get ready.


May 2018 - Prep

  • Started working on my kit list. Carrying everything yourself makes you yearn to have a pack that weighs less than 8kg. I needed to decide; how I was going to supply myself with clean water; how I was going to keep clean and healthy; how I was going to keep warm by day and by night.
     

  • I decided to start running to get fit. I downloaded an app that promised to take me from couch to 5k in 6 weeks. I wasn't quite starting from the couch being a regular hiker but this was a start of my running. It went well and my stamina improved every run.
     

  • Changed the itinerary to give myself more rest and acclimatisation days and a simplified plan for seeing everything I wanted to see.

March   April   May   June   July   August   September   October   November


June - Start of training

  • I quit my job. I can't get 6 weeks off work to go to Nepal, plus I didn't want to work there anymore anyway. I'd been there 2 years when I only meant to be there for a year, so time was up. Now I can put all my energy into training and preparing.
     

  • Serious problems with my Achilles tendon and the underneath of my left foot. I had no alternative but to stop running and tend to this injury. In fact I went from 2k back to the couch!
    Am I going to be able to do this hike or is it all over before it's even begun?


July - Repair

  •  I now find out that I have a very tight calf muscle and policeman's heel on the left foot. In fact, to get Latin on you, I have Achilles Tendonitis, Plantar Fasciitis and Peroneal tendon injury. The Achilles tendon has been under strain and has been micro-tearing (yuck!). This has been caused by going at speed, up loads of steep hills, without proper stretching beforehand, whilst being old.
    The cure involves no running, no hiking up any steep hills for a while, wearing a foot brace at night, stretching exercises, special insoles, pain relieving gel, deep massage and slow strengthening of the calf muscles. It should improve slowly over the next few months. It had better!
     

  • Training sessions every day using a few phone apps. Great improvements to strength, stamina and BMI. Fast, 2 mile 'yomps' with 12kg backpack every day. Sometimes twice a day. I'm continuing with our weekly 10 mile hikes but we're doing flat routes.

March   April   May   June   July   August   September   October   November


August 2018 - Shopping and training!

  • The compensation cheque arrived and the shopping for all of the kit that I don't already have has started. I wasn't about to cut corners with my comfort and safety so the equipment is both lightweight and extremely practical. The sleeping bag is comfy to -25oC and the down jacket is guaranteed to keep me warm and dry to 6000m. I am using a UV water purification system called a 'SteriPen Classic 3' that is very lightweight and effective.
     

  • Sent off my new passport to the Nepalese Embassy in London to get the 90 day, multi-entry visa for £75. It arrived back without a problem a week later.
     

  • My foot seems to be improving but it is still painful when I exercise it.
     

  • Another major milestone - I cut my hair! Until a couple of years ago it was literally down to my waist. Since then it has started to thin a bit and a lot has been lost to motorcycling and mountaineering, both infamously bad for your hair. To make things easier for the Nepal trek and to give my hair a chance to repair I got it cut to collar length.  I do miss it but life is so much easier now. Trekking will be far less stressful and I don't need to pack a brush nor hair bands.


March   April   May   June   July   August   September   October   November

September 2018 - Amassing the kit

  • I booked a room in a guest house in Kathmandu for my first night's stay. At least I know where I'm heading now.
    The hotel is on the quiet edge of the famous Thamel area, which is in the centre of the city and is the international hub for trekkers.
    Breakfast is included and I can eat it from the rooftop terrace and look out over the city.
    The guest house will pick me up from the airport and they are arranging my onward bus tickets to Shivalaya. That all saves a lot of rushing around and stress.
     

  • Equipment is still arriving from all over. Stuff in the post every day.
     

  • I paid for my travel insurance which includes helicopter rescue - vital if you are going to this hazardous place.
     

  • The Rab 'Valiance' down jacket is beautiful, so incredibly comfortable and weighs virtually nothing (660g).
    It's hard to believe that it will keep both the arctic wind and the rain out. I can't wait until I need to wear it in anger. 
     

  • The Rab 'Ascent 1100' sleeping bag is roomy and warm and seems to make you instantly fall asleep when you get in it.
    Like the jacket it packs away very small. I admit to a penchant for Rab products. They're a bit expensive but they really do the job.
     

  • Definite improvement in my foot ailment now. The tendon has been slowly and gently stretched by the foot brace and the insoles are helping the policeman's heel to recover. It may be hopelessly optimistic, but I think another 2 months of treatment will have done the trick. What I mustn't forget is to give the other foot some treatment too, as it may be developing the same trouble.
     

  • Sudden realisation that none of my Silva Compasses would work at Nepal's latitude. The answer was to buy a compass that works all over the northern hemisphere. I bought the Suunto M-3 NH Compass.
     

  • Training using the apps is going extremely well and I am losing weight rapidly and growing muscles everywhere. My core strength is far improved and that will be invaluable when the going gets tough.
     

  • Most importantly, I've managed to get all my kit into the dimensions for hand luggage (55cm x 35 x 25) which means I don't have to let it out of my sight during my flights. That is a great relief.
     

  • Bought a subscription to Gaia GPS for £15. It really is a powerful tool with so much detail. I've spent a lot of time creating the separate routes for each day of my expedition and now all of the navigation will be so much easier. GPS is available all over the Khumbu and having this software to back up my map reading is just another layer of safety.
     

  • My wife is far happier now that I'm not going to be trekking alone. This is Shackleton (named after my inspiration) and he is coming with me.

  


March   April   May   June   July   August   September   October   November

October 2018 - Full-time training

  • I start the month feeling physically ready despite knowing full well that most of the training for the high altitude section of this trek will be undertaken during the 'walk in'. All I can do in advance is get as fit as possible so that I can cope with the flights, polluted Kathmandu, a long bus ride and a week of hard mountain walking. If I am still moving after all that then I should have what it takes to finish the entire trek.
     

  • I am lucky to have a large park area with woodland right near my house. I have devised a 2 mile course around it in a figure of eight shape and I have been walking round it twice a day, at full speed with a 12 kg pack. My aim was to get my average speed faster and I'm now managing a constant 4.2mph which, for a man of my stature, is a real mad dash. It takes me 28 minutes and my ankle is still not complaining.
     

  • I keep looking at all of my kit and it looks like something must be missing. All of that money spent and there's almost nothing there! I expect that means that my packing list has been successful. Everything is tiny and does 2 jobs. I will only know how well I've planned when I get back but I know from previous trips that taking too much is the biggest mistake. I am picking some things up in Kathmandu and others in Namche Bazaar en route. Anything I find I don't need can be donated to worthy causes. Anything missing from my list can always be bought in Nepal.

MasterLock TSA cable lock
Optimus Titanium Spork - for eating Dhal Bhat without using dirty hands.
1 x 5L (red), 1 x 15L (green)  Lifeventure 'Ultralight' compression sacks
Suunto M-3 NH Compass
Nalgene Ultralite 1 Litre Wide Mouth HDPE Bottle with filter
Montane Ultra Tour 40 rucksack, S/M Electric Blue 
Kathoula Microspikes
Walking pole (buy in KTM)
Maps (buy in KTM and Namche) 
Sony NP-BX1 InfoLITHIUM X Type Rechargeable Battery for camera (spare)
8 x AA Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries
Spare 70GB memory for camera
Headphones for phone
SteriPEN Classic 3 
Zendure A3 10,000 mAh Power pack 
Puffer for cleaning camera lens
USB to European two pin adaptor 
USB to Indian three-pin adaptor
Petzl 'E-light 2' Ultra compact Headlamp with spare batteries. 
USB charging leads for camera, phone and power pack (3 total)
Rab 'Ascent 1100' down sleeping bag in 15L compression sack
2 pair Under Armour underwear black
Rab 'Nucleus' Hoody, green
Yoga trousers - base layer and for teahouse wear
Peter Storm down jacket, purple - in stuff sack
Berghaus 'Deluge' pants - waterproof overtrousers
Compression top, black
Rab 'Valiance' waterproof down jacket with stuff sack
Rab 'Silkwarm' silk gloves
1 pair Bridgedale Heavyweight Merino Endurance Knee Sock, black, large
Montane 'Prism' inner mittens
Military goretex outer mittens, extreme cold, olive green
Montane 'Prism' Booties
Berghaus Hydroshell Cap
Buff x 2 (purple & green)
Lightweight Poncho 
Worn/carried on person (not in pack)
Under Armour underwear x 1 black
1 pair Bridgedale Heavyweight Merino Endurance Knee Sock, black, large
UK size 9 Lowa 'Taurus GTX Midi' Boots. Synthetic, Gore-Tex, lightweight. 
Rab 'Hunsa' Stretch Gaiters
Brasher stretch trousers with belt. 
Pencil (H) with eraser
Pencil sharpener, metal
Reactolite Prescription Glasses, cleaning cloth, soft case 
Peter Storm t-shirt black
Protec Landscape Notebook Belt Pouch
Protec Portrait Notebook Belt Pouch
Timex Expedition watch with Indiglo backlight
Handkerchief.
Wallet
'Shackleton' 
Sony Cyber-shot HX60VB camera with battery & 128gb memory
Sony Xperia XZ1 Smartphone. 
Camera case and strap, chestnut PU leather
 
Health kit
1 x 12 hour Voltarol (Diclofenac) 50g tube 2.32%. 
Toothpaste 30ml
Sudocrem 30g  - zinc oxide
Immodium (Loperamide). 12 capsules
Strepsils Sore Throat And Cough Lozenges - 24 Lozenges 
2 Plastic bags for rubbish, shopping etc
Vitamin & mineral pills x 30
Compeed Extreme Medium Plasters x 24
Bandage & plasters
Small nail clippers, stainless steel.
Gaffer tape
Foam Earplugs x 4 packs 
Aquatabs® - Water Purification tablets. 1 tablet per litre water x 50 
Dry bag and toilet rolls
Baby Wipes 40 
Disposable Razor
Travel Towel (cut in half)
Highlander Active Wash soap - 50 sheets  
Toothbrush
Painkillers 
SPF50 sun protection

Lipbalm with sun protection

Pack total weight is 7.3kg.

A further nightmare! It turns out that the only thing that is interfering with my ankle's recovery now is the gear change mechanism on the bike. It puts my foot at a bad angle and the up and down movement when I change gear is making my Achilles Tendon complain. I don't have the time, money or inclination to start messing around with the bike before I go away, so the bike is off the road, put on a SORN and I won't be riding again until I get back.
I don't know, this trip has already cost me all my money, my hair and now my motorcycle - what next?! Oh yes, I remember: it's going to involve lots of pain and suffering, lugging my tired old carcass up and over the Himalaya for 6 weeks.
Am I mad? Discuss.

Checked out my ankle by taking a hike on the North Downs Way using some of the steepest routes we could find. No problems at all going up or down and I didn't wake up to any pain the following day. I haven't used any pain killing cream for a week now.

Now that my foot problem is abating my training 'Yomps' are improving too. I am now carrying the 12 kg pack at an average of 4.3 mph and today managed 4.4 over the 2 mile course. This short, intense form of training seems to be an excellent way of quickly obtaining strength and stamina without picking up further injuries.

As I'm not going to bother shaving while in Nepal I've started to grow a beard now. This will get the itchy stage out of the way and also mean that I should have some extra face insulation by the time the snowline is met.

Oh my God! It's only 30 days 'till I have to get on a plane. It's too late to change my mind.

Spent the weekend in the Brecons with the Scout group and it all went very well. There was some snow flurries and very low temperatures but the kids all managed Corn Du, Pen Y Fan and Cribyn. Personally I was very pleased with my fitness level and very happy that my ankle didn't play up at all. I found myself running uphill on several occasions and my legs coped far more easily than they had in the past. Even so I'm cranking my training up a notch as now is the time (1 month to go) to put on some weight as well as more muscle. I will soon drop the former once in Nepal but I need to try and hold onto the latter. For example, I lost a quarter of a stone in the two days we were in the Brecons.

I end the month feeling fitter, leaner and stronger than I have been for many years. My ankle is more or less fixed. I am packed. Everything is sorted out. I don't think I've forgotten anything and my pack is very light. It's a very satisfying feeling.

March   April   May   June   July   August   September   October   November


November 2018 - Almost time to go!

3 weeks to go before I leave my wife and home for 6 long weeks, including Christmas. Part of me feels very guilty for that but unfortunately as John Muir is often quoted as saying, 'The mountains are calling and I must go'.

Alternating my morning leg exercising between 120 squats one day and a yomp the next. Yesterday's yomp was the fastest so far (4.5mph) and the squats today were only mildly painful. One would hope that all this intensive strain without incident means that I am not likely to drop dead with a heart attack on route. Still, better to go to the 'great nature reserve in the sky' via the Himalaya than from my dismal local hospital.

Beard is now in the itchy stage and despite my training having knocked years off my face to expose my 'boyish good looks' (discuss) the grey whiskers now sprouting chaotically all over my face have all but reversed the effect. My down jacket is 'steel grey' in colour and now my face matches it. My only hope is that by the end I look a bit more distinguished rather than totally extinguished!

All my clothing has been washed and treated to make it breathable, wickable and waterproof again. All the equipment has been tested and approved.

My training and planning so far has been very determined and focussed but it is now all but done. Now, with 2 weeks to go, I need to relax and get into the frame of mind and pace of life that I want to sustain through my trek. That isn't so easy as life still goes on as normal and will do while I am away.

Make that 150 squats!

Forget that, I'm up to 175 reps in one rapid set and I possibly need an intervention! My theory is that if I suffer lots of pain now, my suffering will be less on the mountains. I know from experience that is true, however, the main driving force, the source of all the stamina is still the mind. You need focus, determination, a fair amount of true grit and above all, good morale. I like walking uphill - call me mad but it's true.

Last things to do; Change my spending money into cash, confirm flight, inform bank and phone company of my travel plans, get myself to Heathrow, do not have panic attack on the flight.


 


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