Issue 33

My Trek to Everest Base Camp

Last November, I decided to fulfil one of my childhood dreams and trek to Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas. I also decided to use this experience to raise money for one of my favourite charities – 'Mind', which supports people suffering from mental health problems.

The preparation was hard work. For 2 months before, I had to walk up hill on the tread mill in the gym for an hour every night and do long hikes on the weekends in the Brecon Beacons.

I landed in Kathmandu, the Capital City and met up with the other people who I would be trekking with. The group consisted of 2 Scotts, 3 English people, an American and an Australian.

The next morning, we were due to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla in the Himalayas where we would start our trek. There was just one problem – Lukla had been voted the most dangerous airport in the world as the runway is perched on the edge of a steep cliff and I am rather nervous of flying.

As I approached the small propeller plane (with a flat tyre), I remember thinking 'what on earth am I doing?', but was quickly bundled (dragged?) onto the plane by my new friends.

The flight to Lukla was spectacular and we soon caught sight of the Himalayas. The snow capped mountains were huge and almost had a magical air about them. Before I knew it, we landed at Lukla airport and it was the scariest moment of my life, but we landed safely.

The group was introduced to our trekking guides, Lakpha, Ming Mao and Chetin. The trekking guides were from the Sherpa people who lived in the local area and

they knew the Himalayas like the back of their hands. We were also introduced to Yo, a quiet pleasant man, who was in charge of the Yaks (a type of Himalayan Cow) that would carry our belongings whilst we trekked.

Once the group had assembled, we set off along the woodland trails of the lower valleys. The scenery was stunning and it wasn't long before we got our first view of Everest.

We stayed in little huts along the way called tea houses and were introduced to the staple food of Dahl Bhat – a kind of vegetable curry with rice which we practically ate every day for the 12 day trek.

The owners of the tea houses were very friendly and we always had good fun listening to their legends about Yetis (imaginary creatures) who were apparently responsible for attacks on cattle and humans many years ago.

The higher we climbed, the scenery became more barren and it was harder to walk due to the higher altitude (thinner air). It was also more difficult to sleep. However, I pushed myself to the limit so that I didn't fall behind.

I enjoyed greeting the local villagers with the little bit of Sherpa language that I had learned and they found my efforts hilarious.

As we got nearer to the top, the trek became much harder and the air was so thin, it was difficult to walk 200 metres without stopping for a rest. On top of this, the Sun was very strong which resulted in us being dehydrated.

The final stretch was a real struggle and I was starting to suffer from altitude sickness, so had to go very slowly.

I had initially thought that Base Camp was going to be a large summit, but in fact it was simply the floor of a large valley just below the summit of Mount Everest. This valley seemed to go on for ever and this was definitely the hardest part of the trek. When I reached the valley floor, I practically collapsed with exhaustion, but I felt triumphant that I had made it. As we had a 3 hour journey back to the tea house that evening, we did not stay long at Base Camp and begun the long journey back.

Climbing to Everest Base Camp taught me a few things. The first thing is that it's always good to have a goal to aim at as it can really change your life. It is good to make big goals, but also to make them realistic.

The second thing it taught me is that people are the same wherever you go in the world. You get nice people, not so nice people, but mainly unbelievably kind people.

The trekking guides who led the trek were some of the nicest people I've met. Tragically, they were seriously affected by the recent earthquake in Nepal and were rendered homeless with all their possessions destroyed.

However, all of the people who had been on treks with them, including myself, clubbed together and sent them as much money as we could possibly afford. Therefore, they will all be able to feed and clothe their families for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the best thing about the trek was knowing that I had raised money for a great charity and found out on my return that friends, family and strangers had donated over £1000 to Mind UK on my behalf.

By Huw, Occupational Therapist