In October 2012 I embarked on what has to be my biggest challenge to date. Basecamp Everest.
I had no idea what to expect or really how mentally challenging it was going to be.
Our adventure started on 6th October when a party of 16 of us flew to Kathmandu where the fun really started.
We had to fly to a tiny airport in Nepal called Lukla which is renowned to be one of the most dangerous airports
in the world. Just a week before a plane had crashed killing all on board including 6 brits. It was quite an
experience but quite enjoyable. Still got to do it again on the return journey.
So we set off on our 12 day trek to basecamp and back, in gorgeous sunshine. Somehow we all knew this would not last.
After a couple of days we acclimatised in a village up in the hills called Namche which was a very civilised village built
into the mountainside. We were delighted to find a fantastic bakery which served the most mouth watering apple pie.
Something to look forward to on the way back down.
Ah we were a tad naive as we thought acclimatisation meant a rest. No it actually meant climbing to a high altitude
very slowly taking about 4 hours up and 2 hours back down.
After a few more days walking 10-12 hours a day we finally came across a teahouse that had a shower. Hooray…
We all waited patiently for our turn. The shower was in fact a room the size of a toilet cubicle with a stone floor and
the shower was a bucket of warm water. But it was warm and it was wet. It meant we could feel clean for a while
…. And we could wash our hair. Yippee!
Another acclimatisation day to very high altitude and another day of rice or noodles. It was starting to get a bit boring
on the menu front…. We were in fact by now nearing the day we would attempt our ascent to basecamp.
We had been on the move for 7 days now.
We woke up that morning at about 5am feeling tired, cold and apprehensive. Many of us were starting to feel some
effects of altitude which were not pleasant. I had experienced the sleepless nights and hallucinations along with the
heart palpitations when I laid down to sleep because one hadn’t taken any air in during the day. It was the weirdest
feeling and all I wanted to do was get out of my cold dark room as I felt so claustrophobic. We walked out of our tea
room out into the cold air knowing that this was the day where all our hard work would pay off and we would experience
the same feeling as lots of the famous explorers and also ordinary people like us.
It was exciting.
We all set off and walked for about 5 hours through some rocky terrain and then just before a large ascent up a
very steep mountain, stopped for a pit stop. I went off for a little walk and when I came back noticed our guides and
trip leaders in a huddle. When I got closer I noticed my friend and another lady in the group looking very upset
and in tears. What had happened? I learnt very quickly that our guide Dyhula who had summited Everest
3 times had decided it was too dangerous to take the girls any further as they were both suffering from altitude
sickness. It was devastating. To have come this far to be turned back on the day of Basecamp. We had to leave
them to descend back to the village and carry on for another 7 hours without them. We carried on feeling more
and more tired and finally got to the tea house we would be staying in that night. We had a quick lunch then
off we went on our final leg to basecamp the terrain had turned to volcanic rocks now and the final leg was hard on
the legs as it entailed a lot of loose and large rocks. We could at last see our final destination but as much as it
looked quite close it still took us hours to get there. What I found fascinating was that at all times we could see the
top of Everest and when we got within spitting distance of basecamp you could clearly see the summit. It seemed
so close. We were not allowed to go right into basecamp where the climbers doing the summit were training but
we could see it from where we finally stopped and celebrated the fact we were there. The first thing I did was
burst into tears out of sheer exhaustion and happiness that I had fulfilled my goal. I then talked to my Dad. He was
my inspiration for doing this and I wish with all my heart I could have shared this experience with him but I am sure
he could hear me and would be proud of me.
We all had our photo taken lots of times and all hugged and rejoiced in our achievement. We were very aware it was
about 4.00pm and we still had about 2 hours to get back to camp for the night before it got dark. So we set off back
down only to have one of our team become very sick with altitude sickness. John our paramedic nurse looked after him
whilst we all headed back as quickly as our tired legs could carry us. We were later in our schedule that day due
to our poorly colleagues so getting back to camp seemed to take forever and we just about got back before it got
pitch black. I have never been so happy to get inside a cold but dry building. I remember sitting on the bench with a
cup of tea and a mars bar thinking if I had to move I don't think I could. I was physically and emotionally drained.
I managed a bowl of soup that evening before I retired to my freezing cold, smelly room and slept like a baby.
No way was I getting up at 3am to do Kala Pattar. I’d achieved what I had come to achieve.
The descent was hard and tiring and as we descended for the next few days I had to suffer the indecency of my face
swelling with my eyes half closed. We also lost our very dear older member of the group to altitude sickness and exhaustion
and he had to be helicoptered off the mountain the following day after Basecamp. However one thing though that really
cheered me up was that we had met a great bunch of Canadian soldiers on the flight to Bahrain who were just a day behind
us on the same trek. So as we were descending on the first day down I hoped we would see them and we did.
There was one of the guys who I had a particular soft spot for and when he saw me he just scooped me up and give me
the cuddle I needed to get me through.
Finally we arrived in Lukla 5 days later. I felt so dirty and so tired and so poorly. I had a chest infection a huge
swelled head, filthy hair and hadn’t showered for 8 days.
I couldn't think of anything better than a nice hot shower but Lisa and I had to settle for a freezing cold outdoor
shower in -2 degrees just to make ourselves feel clean. I couldn't even get a lather on my hair because the water was
so cold. If I was in sound mind I don't think it would have even been an option.
The next day we survived our flight to Kathmandu and arrived at our hotel in glorious sunshine and all we all
wanted to do was stand in the shower for an hour.
In summary it was the most exhausting both mentally and physically experience I have ever had but I am so happy
to say I did. It had its up and downs but the whole experience and the great group we had made it all worthwhile.
I think if anyone was to ask if I would recommend it I would be very honest and tell them everything the good
and the bad and let them decide.
Two great bits of advise I would offer is take a hot water bottle and a book. It would have made a huge difference.
If you are looking to lose weight you certainly will I came back at least half a stone lighter and I don't lose weight ever.
A great book to read all about the journey to Basecamp and the summit is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.
I think if I had read it before I went I would not have gone……
Am I glad I went……….most definitely as I learnt so much about myself.