Five years ago i embarked upon the single biggest most scary thing i’d ever den in my life up to that point. It all came about pretty organically and grew into this amazing trip. I met friends for life, I raised money for charity, I can say I’ve seen Mount Everest in all her glory, I even got altitude sickness.
Long story short was we were trekking to Everest Base Camp as many thousands of amateur trekkers do each and every walking season. In the end I never made it due to the erratic weather keeping us in a dusty and smoggy Kathmandu, and then due to my altitude sickness.
Everest Base Camp was the goal. And although I never made it I still made a few personal goals on that trip that I only realised in the weeks months and years since undertaking such a mammoth feat.
For an shy introvert like me, meeting up with my group at Heathrow airport was a really big deal and the first major challenge to overcome. My fears and nerves were unfounded because they were all lovely. We’ve all been in touch today to mark the five year anniversary of our trip.
Next up was the endurance to keep walking for 13 days straight in a high altitude environment. I think I had an advantage since I live in Scotland and had been out ‘training’ in the hills and munros in my own beautiful country. I got this covered I thought to myself. But you never know when illness can strike. It started out with a slight cough. 3 days in Kathmandu will do that to a person! My cough was getting worse. When we eventually made it to the mountains i sounded like an 80 year old but was determined to go on. We knew time was tight.
Halfway along the route from Lukla to Base Camp we had day of climbing this HUGE hill to the monastery at Tengboche. It was tiring. It was at least a 20% incline. It was where I broke. My constant coughing took my breath away and before i knew it I heard a conversation between our guide and the doctor that i didn’t like. ARGH they’re going to stop me!
Upon entering the monastery we were met with a huge dimly lit square room. The only light to come in was a diagonal shard of sunshine coming through one of the large rectangular windows. My group and fellow trekkers entered and sat on the floor. The monks began chanting and the tears flowed. I just couldn’t stop myself. It was an emotional but also magical moment for me. I can’t describe the feeling but it felt special and other-worldly. I felt my family at home watching over me. I felt the chants and huge crashing cymbal beating off my chest. My cough had stopped and been replaced my tears flowing down my cheeks. If this was it then I’d be happy because I’m pretty sure i’ll never experience the magic every again.
The next day we pushed on further up the trail and it was that night i had to tell the group that i couldn’t go on any longer. The doctor agreed and as we waved off the fantastic four to push on I cried again. Luckily my sunglasses were hiding a lot.
I made my way back down the trail with the doctor and three others. We chatted and laughed and had tea and got hot soup at some stops along the way. It was tough putting one foot in front of the other as my whole body ached with flu-like symptoms too.
That evening i spent the night in a lodge with our sherpa sleeping under what I’m sure was a huge animal skin to keep me warm. I felt relief and sadness, but overall at peace that i’d made the right decision. I didn’t want to press on and end up sicker than I already was.
Next day we made it back to our base at a market like horseshoe shaped village perched high in the valley called Namche Bazaar. Our tents were up when we arrived and this is where the fantastic four would meet us later that night or early next morning. I ventured out with Peter, an older gent in our group who really looked after us all. He was a real calming influence on us all. A gem of a guy. We found a cafe with internet access and i set about sending an email to my family and friends at home who were awaiting news.
How do you tell the people who have helped you for a full year that you didn’t meet the target you set out at the very beginning? It was hard but I laid it all out in that email. To this day i don’t think I’ve ever read that email again. Too painful.
As darkness and cold set in about 7pm we heard a few laughs in the distance. It was the fantastic four retiring to us after making it all the way to base camp. Since time was tight they didn’t hang around very long and had walked all the way back down to Namche in a day. Quite an achievement. I was so proud and also glad they had all returned unscathed, albeit extremely tired. That night we spent the night in a lodge instead of the tents where we all got a hot shower and hearty food with a celebratory Coke. The group were back together. I slept like a baby.
The next day was the last day and we had to make it to Lukla to catch our little twin prop plane back to Kathmandu early next morning. The weather was still misbehaving and we were unsure if we were going to make it back. You see the weather conditions have to be really clear for those small 19 seat planes to fly, otherwise you’ve got a potential disaster on your hands. Luckily the next morning we got on one of those flights in pure clear sunshine and touched down at Kathmandu a little after 2pm. We had time to shower, pack the rest of our bags and head to the airport for an early evening flight home.
Looking back on that trip fills me with too many emotions to list here. It was the best of times it was the worst of times. It’s still the biggest achievement in my life so far. And that little plane trip to/from Lukla - I’d never do that again, not now that i’ve seen the tiny airport on the hillside on those world’s scariest airport programmes! yikes.
I set out with one goal. I achieved so many others. Sometimes fate happens and makes you takes a chance and then sometimes fate steps in and prevents you from doing things. It’s all fate though.
Whatever will be will be.
You see a chance? take it.
You are not alone. You might feel like the loneliest person alive right now, but you are not alone.
This was the aftermath of 10k of mud and dirt and obstacles and challenges. Tough.
Weddings. Such happy occasions. Love and friends and family. I ended up being so emotional.