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Extracts of a Leader’s Diary…….Everest Base Camp
I met the members at Kathmandu International Airport, arriving late in the afternoon. A group of friends and friends of friends from different parts of Europe and Canada. They had converged in London and taken the flight together, the start of their re-union and journey to the foot of Everest. The Kunti Bar in The Shanker Hotel was ablaze with excitement, friends meeting each other after long absences and anticipation of their once in a lifetime adventure together trekking to the highest mountain in the world.
There’s no other flight like the one to Lukla. Flying over the hills you gaze down on terrace slopes and trails that snake through the villages and over the mountains. Small isolated villages only connected by these trails makes you wonder in awe of life for the people who inhabit these remote recesses. You also get a fantastic view of the Himalayas from the minute you take off to landing on this awesome airstrip in the lap of Everest, or Sagar Matha: Mother Goddess of the Snows, as she is know locally. The weather was good and the flight on time. Our Dzoes (hybrid between Yak and cow) were waiting and the Sirdar quickly arranged for the bags to be loaded up as we started the trek. Lunch stop at Thado Koshi provided stunning views of Kunsum Kangaroo up the valley. As the dzoes passed us by, cameras were clicking away as the members recognised The Responsible Travellers bags strapped aloft teh saddles. The driver smiled at everyone and carried on.
Already on the first day, one is in awe of the landscape and scenery of Nepal. As we pass through the small sherpa settlements we get a glimpse of the rural life in Nepal, a step back in time to medieval costumes and practices. I learn talking to the members that with the exception of their trip organiser, Jamie, non of the others had trekked over 3000m before. That evening, as always on the first night in the mountains, we had a talk on altitude in order for them to understand the basics of being at altitude. What to expect, how to prevent illness and to enjoy the experience of the journey in this most beautiful but hazardous environment.
Climbing up to the view point above Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa capital, we took in one of the most celebrated views in teh world. I don’t think there is a travel brochure that does not include thiis magnificant vista. The members were all acclimastising well and we had an excellent walk visiting Sir Edmund Hillary’s Hospital and school.
I was reminded however, that a leader’s job is not a regular 9-5, but that my responsibilities extend 24 hours round the clock when there was a knock at my door in the middle of the night. One member was worried about her health and had some anxiety. We sat and I confided that what she experienced was very common and explained the physiology behind trekking at altitude. I suggested some ways to avoid any discomfort and soon she was settled in bed again. Since that night she had no problems again, and I had perfect night’s sleep!
After trekking through Tengboche, the famous Monastery where climbers go for blessings before attempting the summit, we had 3 nights at Dingboche. This allows us time to explore the chukung valley and climb the less frequented Nangershang which I personally think is an amazing viewpoint. Looking down on the confluence of Khumbu, Imja and Chukung valleys it is a 360 degree viewpoint. We pushed on to Loboche, and after a beautiful sunset it began to snow. Well, you can’t expect to come to the mountains and not have snow can you?! Actually for many it may not, but we had the white stuff still coming down at breakfast time to make the experience completely authentic! As we trekked out it was beautiful with the light covering which didn’t hamper our progress. After a quick refuelling at Gorekshep (the 1953 base camp and last permanent building) we headed out to base camp. We made very good time, even ahead of others who had started behind us and the team were coping well with the altitude. The sun smiled down on us providing glorious views today and indeed throughout our trek. Upon reaching Base Camp there were congratulations and hugs all round, the culmination of their shared experience. I was delighted to be there, a wonderful group of people who make my job so worthwhile and satisfying – 100% success to the top. Dave, with his great foresight fished out a can of beer from his pack, not just any beer but non other than the Everest label. Amidst much cheering he unclasped the top and bubbles and foam came gushing out. Whoever said you need champagne to celebrate!