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 🙂

Getting Scared Now

I don’t know if it is a good thing to admit if you are scared or not? As far as I am concerned, it is generally a good thing to have a healthy respect for the mountains, but to have fear, deep fear, is maybe just too much. I say this because today, I have to admit, I am now no longer just ‘looking forward’ to this trip, I am also worried, a lot.

It is now just six days (six days? – holy cow!) until I go to Island Peak. Today I wanted to remind myself of what I am I up against, to get ‘into the zone’ as it were, and so I did a little googling. As well as various YouTube videos of planes landing at Lukla Airport (and some not landing at all – I am still very haunted by the fact that none other than Sir Edmund Hilary’s wife and son were killed there in a crash landing) I came across various ones of the Island Peak climb. So I have posted one of them below.

The bits in particular at 1:46, 2:32, 2:47 and 3:16 give me the heebie jeebies. Did I tell you that I was scared of heights? Yes really! Check this out, the guy, who incidentally looks far more composed than I will ever be at sea level, let alone 21,000 feet with a cliff face each side of you whilst balanced on a tea tray width of ice, is at times on his hands and knees. I don’t think I’ll cope, seriously, with that section.

That’s all I have to say for now. I have so much to write about over the next few days, but it will have to wait. For now, I just need to absorb this, and worry a while. It is getting serious. Very very serious.

Nine weeks to go – woop!

This weekend I was booking three forthcoming trips through work to Cannes, Paris and also Dallas when I began to look at the calendar. It then dawned on me that I have all of a sudden just nine weeks to go until Island Peak. Where did that come from? Through a combination of other things that I also have going on, I have also worked out that I am actually at home for just three weekends before I head out to the Himalayas. And that is downright scary, especially when you are a bad planner and procrastinator like I am!

Here was me thinking that October is a million miles away, and then all of a sudden, boom, I’m now worried that I don’t have enough time to do what I need to do, i.e. get mountain fit, buy new kit, and just be prepared without panicking, but then that’s me – I know what I’m like – and that’s why I’m worried. If I can do anything, anything at all, tomorrow, instead of today and get away with it, I will 🙂

I duly therefore started having a look at the Exodus (the travel company that I am going with) website to see what I might need. I also registered for their forums to see if I could meet some fellow travellers there. Success! The site has a ‘departure lounge’ forum and I managed to introduce myself to two of the fellow travellers (not sure how many are going in total yet) via a post I put up there. There is a guy called Dave and his wife Maureen, and also Martin and his wife too. One of them mentioned being somewhat nervous about the flight to Lukla, which I have to say is preying on my mind too. More about that one in another post.

I checked first as to what I need to start thinking about, and the first two I came across were vaccinations and visas. It seems I can get my visas for Nepal (two required – one for immigration, and one for trekking – the Nepalese collect fees from trekkers too) upon arrival in the country, so that is a tick off the list, although I’ll need four passport photos too it seems. The vaccinations are more vague – looks like I need Polio, Tetanus, Hep A and Typhoid. I may need Meningitis too as apparently there was an outbreak of it in Kathmandu a few years ago – will need to delve deeper. Then there is the Diamox question – I took it on Kili, but who knows if it helped or not?

Then I have the problem (and it is a big one) of kit, and it is twofold:

1. Getting hold of the right kit in the first place.
2. How to limit what I take, as the luggage allowance is just 15kg.

1. The ‘right’ kit.

So I need to take, as a minimum:

4/5 season sleeping bag
Thermarest
4/5 season down jacket
Walking boots
Gaiters
Walking trousers
Waterproofs
Trainers
Windproof gloves
Fleeces and mid layers
Base layers
Rucksack – 40 litres
Ice axe
Plastic climbing boots
Crampons
Down mitts
Harness
Karabiners
Prussic loops
Slings
Helmet
Jumar
Figure of Eight

This list is obviously before any ‘normal’ clothes that I might need. There are at least 14 of those items above that I do not even possess.

2. 15kg Weight limit

15kg – really? Are they serious! I reckon that two pairs of boots, a down sleeping bag, thermarest and rucksack come to about 10kg alone. That’s before toiletries, suntan lotion, snacks, climbing equipment, and whatever bag I take to put it all in. Oh yes and clothes. Ridiculous!

When I went to Kilimanjaro I took the bare minumum on the 7 day climb itself, and my duffel bag weighed 18kg. That was not including my boots or rucksack, and there was no climbing equipment whatsoever then.

I am told however that the 15kg is a strict limit, enforced by the flight to Lukla in the Twin Otter. This is really going to be a nightmare of massive proportions! Meantime I suppose I should start to try to get hold of some of the equipment itself. First 5 season sleeping bag that I googled retails at £600. You can hire them apparently for £75, but would you want to sleep in someone else’s sleeping bag? Not me!

Oh and finally I got a reminder today that I had to pay for my trip. It just occurred to me that if I look at all the holidays I have ever taken in my lifetime, this is by far and away the most expensive of them all, and that is before I spend a fortune on the above missing items. Holiday – did I really say holiday?

I’ve only gone and booked it!

This is an extremely quick update, as well, I’m at work, and supposed to be doing other things. Except I’m not. I have just BOOKED IT!!

On the 19th October 2011, I shall be flying via Delhi to Kathmandu, and then on to Lukla for the start of the trip proper. Some time around the 31st October I will be at Everest Base Camp (I can’t believe I am actually writing this, I really can’t), and then around the 4th November I will (I pray!) be at 6,189m, or 20,300 feet on Island Peak. The trip is 22 days altogether.

I have so much to do, so much training to do, so many things to buy, so much blogging to do 😀

For now I will savour the moment (and get back to work, if I can concentrate at all, which is unlikely), of this:

Everest, here I come!!!