It’s curious to me how my motivation for trekking to Everest Base Camp in June of 2018 changed as I was doing it.
When I first learned that such a thing is possible (in October 2017, thanks to Facebook pictures by my friend Ben in Kathmandu — hi, Ben!), I thought, “Holy cow!! That’s awesome! I HAVE TO DO THIS, TOO!” It instantly moved to the top of my bucket list. I wanted to do something incredible. I wanted the bragging rights. I wanted the thrill. Thus, when it came time to extend my contract with my job and ask for a month sabbatical, it was the only thing on my mind to do.
I aimed for the beginning of June, 2018. Tourist season ends in May, and monsoons begin around mid-June. I thought if I’m lucky, I can catch the tail end of tourist season and some of the incredible views. (While I ended up not getting rained on at least, it was, unfortunately, mostly rather cloudy, so any views were mere glimpses.) I did research on how to train, and so I started doing more time in the gym, lifting weights with a PT, cardio, etc. I read about what to pack, and so I bought the necessary items I lacked or secured rentals when appropriate (hiking pants, thermal underwear, sleeping bag, etc.). I didn’t spend time debating which guide company to use: I went with MountTrails, the same company Ben used, at his recommendation (and my guide Hem was fantastic! Happy to give contact details for anyone interested). I made a (very good) last-minute decision to also hire a porter for my bag, after a moment of panic that I’m still too fat and out of shape to do the trek. And then, I headed off to Kathmandu…
We flew into Lukla first (2,860 meters above sea level), landing on a tiny, tiny strip of a runway. From there, we made our way to Namche Bazaar (3,440m), a common rest stop for trekkers and hikers. Here, I began re-read parts of the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, a first-person description of the failed Everest summit expedition in 1997 and the inspiration for the 2015 film Everest. I had read it the year before, prior to any inkling that I might actually be in this part of the world. It was quite inspiring to re-read it now, having first-hand knowledge of what a Nepalese chorten stupa looks like, or how small Lukla town is, or what it’s like to see prayer flags fluttering in the wind. I actually began considering whether I could/should try climbing to the top of Everest someday.
^ one tiny slip-up on the part of the pilot, and we all die… how comforting!
^ prayer wheels, mani stones, and prayer flags see greet us as we embark on our journey
^ mani stones are found everywhere here and have the mantra om mani padme hum written on them in Tibetan
^ the suspension bridges were my favorite! (We went along the higher one here.)
^ entrance to the sacred Khombu Valley, home of the sherpas
^ always walk on the left when you encounter burial mounds like this (like Hem is doing)
^ it’s absolutely incredible that people can carry up to 120kg (265lbs!) on their back for many kilometers uphill. But there is no other way, except mule or yak. He has my utmost respect.
^Namche Bazaar! Two nights here to acclimate to the altitude.
^ those are some mighty big prayer wheels
^ playing around with the functions on my camera….
^ prayer wheel with mountains
^ overlooking Namche Bazaar from the hill above
^ stupa with prayer flags above Namche Bazaar
We’re now on day 3 of our journey, and still merely in the foothills of the Himalayas. There is greenery all around us, and I haven’t had any difficulty with the altitude yet. We’ve met a few other people along the way who are also headed to EBC. I don’t know if they made it or not.
To be continued….