Himalayas Day Two

Day two in Kathmandu starts with breakfast at a fairly civilised 8am. I am tired as I had a bit of a fitful sleep due to having the window wide open all night, which in itself was entirely necessary due to the air conditioning in the room seemingly pumping hot air out instead of cold, and the dial not making any difference no matter which way it is set. Outside you can hear dogs, monkeys, endless traffic and all manner of other strange sounds. It is all so different too that it makes you want to listen to it and try to make sense of it all.

After breakfast we meet Ngima, who then does a full briefing with us. We have to get our trekking passes issued, and then he explains the route to us for Everest Base Camp and Island Peak. The journey will differ slightly it seems from the trip notes, but for the better. He gives us a map each which has been highlighted and noted where we will spend each day.

We will spend two days around Namche Bazaar it seems, which is great, as this will be the first night at altitude proper (above 3,300m). Whilst there we will also get to spend time at the Edmund Hillary hospital, which actually makes me really emotional thinking about it for some reason. We will also I think get to spend the 8th night at Everest Base Camp! This is so unexpected (whilst EBC was always part of the route it was due to be a very fleeting visit) it about floors me, and I have to look out of the window as I think I am welling up. We will also spend just two or three nights now (as opposed to what I thought was four) in tents on the glacier at Island Peak, which still seems like a long way away for some reason, probably because it is.

After breakfast we head back into Thamel, to ‘The Summit Brothers’ mountain hire shop.

A typical shopping street in Thamel.....

And the 'Summit Brothers' Hire shop.

We are duly decked out (for those of the group who don’t already have them, which is about half) with plastic boots, crampons, ice axes, helmets (mine looks like it is off a building site and it is suggested that I look like Bob the Builder) and the like. We have to pack all of our Island Peak equipment separately as it will be taken today to Everest Base Camp and we will thus not see it again on the trek until the climb itself.

After a leisurely lunch of pizza in Thamel, we go back and pack for the trip proper. Everything has to be sorted into four bags. One for Island Peak with the climbing stuff, one for the trek with all clothes, sleeping bag, toiletries etc, one day bag/rucksack with waterproofs and camelbak and the like, and then anything else is left behind at the hotel so that you have a clean set of clothes to change into when you return from the Himalayas. As I am packing I realise that I have forgotten to pack my Camelbak, and so I head back into Thamel again to buy one. After a bit of haggling I get a rather cheap and nasty looking one, which is probably because it is actually cheap (about 8 quid including an albeit flimsy insulating tube) and nasty, and I hope will last the course.

Duly packed and ready for the off, I get a message from a friend I used to very recently work with, Louise, who is trekking in Nepal with a friend of hers at the same time as me. She asks if I would like a beer and dinner, and that sounds like a perfect way to round off my stay here, and so we meet at 7pm. A thoroughly enjoyable evening is had and we have some great food and a copious supply of Everest beer. I find out during the evening that Lou had altered her trekking plans to come back to Kathmandu so she could see me whilst I am out there, which was very flattering. Thanks Lou if you ever come to read this 🙂

Lou and I at 'Old Orleans' restaurant in Thamel, much recommended if you are down that way.

I get back to the hotel rather later than I should for what will be a 5am start in the morning, but nomatter, it was so good to meet up, and I actually wish afterwards that I had stayed longer.

Tomorrow though is effectively here already. At 5.30am we will head to the airport to fly to Lukla. I have been dreading this flight for some time to the world’s shortest runway, banked at 15 degrees. Then shortly after arriving at Sir Edmund Hillary airport, (which sadly and ironically claimed the lives of his wife and son in a crash landing there) we will start walking right away, towards Everest. I will at last be on the path of giants, the same path that Edmund Hillary himself took in fact. The trip is now on, well and truly.

In just over a week’s time, I will stand directly underneath the tallest natural phenomena on the planet, Mount Everest. And if that doesn’t get you out of bed by 5am in the morning, then nothing ever will. See you in the mountains 🙂

It’s here, it is finally here

I almost cannot believe that I am writing this post. Tomorrow I will set off on the adventure of my life, to Everest Base Camp, and to (hopefully) the summit of one of the world’s great trekking peaks, Island Peak.

Island Peak, Himalayas, 6.189m

Since I decided to do this trip I have always felt incredibly nervous about it. So why do it, you may ask? Well there are several reasons why it is happening, and so let me explain.

Firstly I needed since doing Kilimanjaro to push myself higher and harder, and this has both of those elements.

Secondly I have a love affair with Everest, the whole notion of it, and have become a junkie to books, films, websites about it. I claim to have so far scratched only the surface of it, but I had to go there and see it, it has become a pilgrimage in that respect.

Thirdly, it is because of so many people saying that Everest Base Camp is so, well, uninteresting, that I had to do something else to combine it with. I am told that EBC is dirty, that you can’t see Everest itself from there (or not the summit anyway), that it is ugly and featureless. I care about none of those things of course – for me just being there will be the greatest thrill imaginable.

Fourth, it is about reaching a peak. If you have followed my blog previously you will know that whilst I don’t spend a lot of time on mountains, my greatest emotions seem to come out when attaining a summit. It can be a small ridge in the Lake District, or a massive climb with fixed ropes and ice axes like this one, but the attainment and the achievement is always the same, and something that I can scarcely put into words.

This trip actually is the product of a number of things, most particularly a conversation between me and a friend Paul, of “Darina and Paul” fame from Kilimanjaro (see previous blogs again, or let me know, I can send you links if you ask me nicely :)). So after we had been skiing earlier this year, Paul said that he’d like to go to Annapurna. I did too, but I felt that I couldn’t go to the Himalayas without at least seeing Everest, it just wouldn’t have been right for me. Paul then said that he wouldn’t like to just go to Base Camp without climbing a mountain, and I agreed, it would be frustrating. So we agreed to not do the trip basically, although then I decided that I just had to go and do it. Paul is now doing the New York Marathon, and will be off there soon (whilst I am away in fact) to do just that. So to Paul (and Darina, and Jason, and Ryan, and everyone else who is doing it) – I wish you the very very best of luck.

This trip for me is harder by a long chalk than anything that I have ever done. I will spend over a week at altitudes over 5.5km up in the air. I will be climbing an ice ridge which totally freaks me out.

I am so excited about it that I don’t know if I will sleep tonight at all.

There will be no more blog posts from me until I return from my trip, as I do not have the means to get them up here live as far as I know. I will do a daily diary however, and will describe to the fullest the things I experience, and this will be posted when I am back.

I am going on the same path as that followed by all of the great Everest expeditions themselves, from Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay, to Reinhold Messner and Ed Viesturs, and all of the mountaineering greats. I will move from the Dudh Kosi Valley to the Khumbu, passing through evocatively named places liked Namche Bazaar, until I reach the mighty Kumbu Icefall, which is the glacier coming down from Everest herself.

When I (hopefully) reach my destination of Island Peak, I will from the summit at around 20,400 feet be amidst (and be staring at) three of the highest five peaks on earth.

The words ‘bring it on’ seem sorely and hopelessly inadequate. I hope I am up to it……may I say wish me luck?

Seven More Sleeps to Go!

Please forgive the less than riveting title to this post, but it has just dawned upon me that it is in fact a true statement, so it has to be as good as any that I can come up with at this moment in time, given the fact that I am feeling hopelessly and outrageously underprepared for this trip.

The unpreparedness comes now from a lack of training. I know, I know – I have said myself so many times that I must not make the mistake of not being fit, but the fact is I haven’t got it at the moment, and that is such a shame. I have been away too many times in the last two months, and have been lacking in the discipline that I should have had to make the most out of things. Going to the gym when you are in hotels is just not enough, and sometimes just doesn’t even happen.

In the last two months I have had trips to Cannes, Paris, Dallas (twice), San Francisco, and Munich. I think I have been away from home for 16 of the last 22 days, which is ridiculous. I now am home from a week long trip and all of a sudden the Himalayas are therefore almost upon me.

But prepared I must get in every other way that I can, so at least I turn up with the right equipment. There are probably three areas of most concern, apart from the fitness aspect. They are kit, medical supplies, and clothes. All of these stem mainly from the weight allowance of 15kg which I have been told is set in stone.

As far as the kit itself is concerned, I think I am mainly there. I have for example about four jackets, one hooded permatex, one fleece, one goretex waterproof, and one down. I have my sleeping bag (borrowed from a friend Anna – thanks Anna :)), my Thermarest, down mits, balaclava etc etc. I will do another post on this – there is so much of it. I will be able to rent the majority of my technical climbing equipment when in Kathmandu.

I have a lot of the medical stuff yet to get – painkillers, diarrhoea medicine, water purification tablets, blister plasters, wet wipes etc etc., and will do this at the weekend before I go. All of these things add up in weight of course, and so I have to be careful. I also have the not small matter of contact lenses to sort out – I use dailies when I go away, and so for 22 days I need at least (allowing for ones I drop or spoil etc) about 60 contact lenses.

As far as clothes are concerned, well I have to see what I can put in after I get everythimg else in. I have a feeling though that I am going to end up one stinky guy at the end of 22 days!

Finally for now, I came upon a great quote online when doing a bit of trawling last evening – which I wanted to share, and it goes as follows:

What is so compelling about trekking through an unknown country is the immediacy of existence. Life is instantaneous. There is no past or future, only the present; and that consists of simply putting one foot in front of the other. That simple act can be achieved without conscious thought (if all is going well), or it can be the most difficult or painful exercise imaginable if the way is rough and you’re dogged by illness or injury. On the trail when things go well, the days expand and every moment is cause for celebration; the journey itself becomes intoxicating, life enhancing. It is the ultimate great escape. Not an escape from reality (as some might suggest), but an escape into reality – an opportunity to divest oneself of the restraints and clutter of ‘normal’ existence, and to be cleansed by an awareness of what little it takes to survive and live well – if only for a few short weeks in a year.

Live the moment. Live it well. Live now.

I think the above is attributed to a guy called Kev Reynolds, an author of a number of books on Nepal and other adventures. I love the quote – I may have to read more of his stuff. It is getting a bit late for me to order any more books, and I certainly don’t have room for any more that’s for sure.

Until the next time – when I will put some pictures up of my war room – it’s getting a bit busy in there 🙂

Everest!!!!!!

The phrase “there are simply not enough superlatives in the English language….”, is one which I feel is becoming overused these days. I quote this because I hear it a lot, and heard it recently whilst watching a video of Michael Palin’s fantastic “Himalaya” series on DVD. He used it when seeing Everest for the first time, and I can only say that I hope to join him in coining that phrase for myself.

Today then is a landmark day in my life. I have decided that I will trek to Everest base camp, come what may, hell or high water etc. It has been brewing for some considerable time of course, but today was the day that did it. I may look back in years to come as to what catapulted my thoughts into this state of dedication to the mountain, and so I should write them down here, for posterity if nothing else. They will follow in later posts.

The decision making process has been going on for some time I should say – maybe even for years, but recent events have got me to where I am now.

Everything was ultimately so complicated though, and so more of that in later posts too.

In recent weeks I have read several books on the 1996 Everest disaster, in which 12 climbers lost their lives. The books by Jon Krakauer and Anotoli Boukreev tell quite vividly different accounts of an awful and frightening occasion, and what they both did for me was make me want to climb the mountain. Yes CLIMB. I can’t climb a tree, but that’s what they make me want to do. That is where I got to with Kilimanjaro – I felt that the more I read about altitude sickness, and scary stories about how you might die up there etc, the more I wanted to be there.

With Everest it is more than that, a whole lot more. For one I can’t climb it. I am not capable (I have literally no climbing experience whatsoever), couldn’t afford it (it costs around £50,000 for a trip these days, before equipment and flights etc), and certainly haven’t the time (they recommend about 72 days I believe in the region to acclimatise etc. before going up to the top). Despite all that why do I find myself researching climbing trips to not just this but the whole of the Seven Summits?? Well let’s see where that all gets to….

For now I the important thing for me is that I am back on track – the time is now! In the past 48 hours I have deliberated over so many things: Who to trek with? (there are so many travel companies out there); What equipment do I need?; Whether to just do Base Camp or to combine it with another peak (much more of that later…..); Which camera to buy? :); How soon to do it? etc. The most important thing (though very definitely never easy for me) is to concentrate firmly on the most important objective – to get to see Everest, preferably from the ‘classic’ view point, which is apparently from a place called Kala Patthar, from where you get views like this:

Everest from Kala Pattar

I can’t even comment on the above right now – there are no words, let alone superlatives, that could tell you how I would, no, how I WILL feel, when I get to see that for myself.

So when I stared this blog 18 months or more ago, I had no idea when I named it “To Kilimanjaro and Beyond”, what the ‘beyond’ bit might be. Well for now it is going to be to pay a visit to what the Nepalese Sherpa call “Chomolungma”, which translates to “Goddess Mother of the Earth”. Now how exciting is that?

Watch this space…..

It has obviously been way too long since I have posted to my blog, and the main reason is that I haven’t really had much to say. All work and no play is definitely not good!

I am working on a little trip at the moment though, which may just involve a bike, and a mountain. Did anyone say Himalayas/Everest?

Watch this space……..:D