I’ve just discovered something which has absolutely staggered me, and that takes a lot usually I can tell you. And that is, it has been almost 11 years since I wrote a blog post about Everest Base Camp! It seems so ridiculous that I don’t even believe it myself, and so if someone wants to correct me then please do so, as I can’t find one! Sure I will have mentioned it more than once I am very sure, but I haven’t actually blogged about a trip there in all that time. And why might I drag this up you might say? Well I am going there next week (again) that’s why!
In fact if I were to write a soliloquy here and now about my life, and in fact this is probably part of just that, it would have to include the words Nepal, Kathmandu and Everest Base Camp.
Let me rewind. I first went to EBC in 2011, and to say I loved it would be the understatement of all understatements. In fact the first time I was fortunate enough to stand at the foot of the world’s tallest mountain I blubbed, unashamedly, like a baby. There are no words, still, that I can find to describe that feeling, and I have been back twice more too!
For me, to be fortunate enough to be able to go on an adventure which takes you to this place, is just the best thing that you can do. Phrases like ‘living my best life’ and ‘the adventure of a lifetime’ are almost entirely inadequate. I think I wrote first time round, that amongst other things, for those who like high mountains and beautiful age defying scenery, the place has nothing close in terms of a parallel. As just one statistic, the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas, which is Aconcagua in the Andes , is 6,962m, or 22,840ft. In the Himalayas there are over 100 mountains above this height. You stand in awe, lost for superlatives, at the momentous and staggering beauty of it all. And that’s just for starters!
My first trip to EBC was as part of of an unsuccessful attempt to climb Island Peak. I wasn’t ready, had no idea what I was doing, and that contributed to some altitude sickness. My mind was made up very firmly by the time I reached Kala Pattar (where the above photo was taken, which is THE vantage point for Everest) that I would be heading down next. And for those who don’t know, at Everest Base Camp you cannot see Everest at all. At Kala Pattar (about 400m higher than base camp) you get the best view – not bad is it?
Amongst so many other things that I learned on that trip, it was probably the reverence with which the local communities and indigenous people, (the Sherpas), hold Everest, that stuck the most. Just the name, Chomolungma (“Mother Goddess of the Universe”) tells you enough. But you also learn along the way that from children to the very old, these mountains are sacred in every way. Indeed many peaks in the Himalaya (I love just using the singular term for them) remain unclimbed as respect for the Gods who look over them and the people who live, breathe and respect their holy shadows.
The trip left an indelible imprint on me. Thrilled me, inspired me, and led me to do many other adventures in the mountains far and wide, from South America (twice), to Russia (of all places) to many trips to the Alps. This having already been to the roof of Africa, Kilimanjaro, too. So much so that in 2017, when having decided that I would never have the physiological capacity or ability to stand on the very summit of Everest, I had to go back. It was a magical trip. I’ve no idea why I didn’t blog about it, but it was fabulous.
The magic of that first trip, was, if anything ever better second time. I had a better understanding, a better appreciation of the culture, the landscape, the history, and the people. The first time I was in a daze almost (literally in fact, at times). When you are there the first time it goes by in a flash, and you are concentrating on your objective. The second time you understand why you are there. Everyone will have their own reasons. For me it wasn’t even one thing (to be at the foot of the greatest/tallest/most majestic thing on planet earth), but so many others. I loved Kathmandu alone for example, before I even got to the Himalayas. So much so that I booked an extra two days there just to hang out in the streets and shops and suck it all in.
I also loved the prayer flags, to the extent that my every house since that first trip has had some prayer flags flapping away in whatever garden I have had. I love the prayer wheels, the mantras, the gompas, the stupas, the whole ‘om mani padme hum’ thing, the food (dal bhat and Sherpa stew anyone?), and the people. The Nepalese people I have in fact found to be the most humble, welcoming and friendly people of anywhere I have ever been. They are so ridiculously proud (and rightly so) of their traditions, music and culture. They exude this from every pore. It is palpable, beautiful and infectious.
And so in 2018, I did it again. Same trip, just different travel company. 2017 was Ian Taylor Trekking, and 2018 was Exodus. For me, the difference between the two was huge. With Ian Taylor Trekking the whole time was incredible. Our guide, Ang Kami, was incredible, as were the rest of the team. The tea houses were great, and it was just a brilliant and amazing adventure, where your enjoyment and experience was always first. It was also educational, and exhilarating, even more so than the first time. With Exodus in 2018, although the trip and experience was as good as ever, I found that Exodus scrimped on money to every extent they could (and I’m being kind!), and it took away from the overall enjoyment a bit.
In 2019 I was determined to go again. Although I may have waxed lyrical above about the whole thing, I don’t think I could ever put into words on a page just what it feels like for me to be there. I’m often asked in fact, given what a big world it is out there, why I would keep going back. The answer is really simple – I love it beyond compare to any place I have ever been to. I can go on my own and feel utterly fulfilled in every one of my senses, and more.
In 2019 though, with my then partner Mel, we had none other than the New York Marathon (my first ever) in the November to get through, and that was such an incredible highlight on its own that I didn’t even miss Nepal! I did however, or we both did, book to go Nepal in March 2020. It would have been my first time to do the spring (climbers, pre-monsoon) trek to EBC. However, the world would sadly close its doors of course to foreign travel that very month. Bags were packed, and it was I think 6 or 7 days from getting to the airport when Covid would have other ideas for us and of course the rest of humanity.
So since March 2020, if I said here that I’ve been somewhere between itching and desperate (much closer to the latter) to repeat the whole thing, then it would be a huge understatement. It is my first proper trip post pandemic, apart from the Berlin Marathon. I’ve booked myself two days each side of the actual trek so I can take in again all of the sights and sounds and smells of Kathmandu. Ian Taylor Trekking will be my guides. Although I have to say that (despite the fact that I’m very happy to be going with them) I could indeed guide myself these days :).
So, given the fact that I didn’t blog the trip with Sheree, Al, Pip and many others in 2017, or Mark, Emily, Em, Ali and others in 2018, this one is getting the full treatment! Every trip is wonderful, and the people are always special regardless.
So roll on Thursday, and a flight to Kathmandu via Doha will start the adventure off.
Howdy Aquavista, wishing you a good trip to EBC. Many, many years ago, I searched for a climbing blog about Kilimanjaro. I found yours just before you left England and were struggling to make weight with your duffel bag. I’ve enjoyed all your posts to date and I thought I would finally leave you a comment. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to climb Kili yet. I have been an armchair explorer of everything Everest. I live in Florida, but have visited England many times with my family. One of those trips brought me to North Shields (we stayed in South Shields) to research an anchor that was found in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a small world. I am a Maritime Archaeologist. Have a great trip and post all of the details. Thanks for keeping your blog.
John – thank you so much for your comment and great to hear that you got to visit my home town too! I’ll be sure to put plenty of detail down about EBC – it is, as you will have read, a bit of a passion of mine.
Perhaps one day you will find yourself on Kili too? It is a place where not only my journeys really began, but also there is some unfinished business there too.
Sincere best wishes to you and thanks again for your message.