It has been two weeks since I returned from Nepal and only now have I actually got my head around catching up with my blog. The one I sent from Kathmandu must have disappeared into the ether! The trip was very much tougher than I thought it would be, the whole experience takes time to absorb as it was a quite extraordinary time. At Kathmandu I met up with the rest of the group, 11 of us with Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa our team leader, and Ratna and Syam, two wonderful sherpas that really looked after us. I quickly found out that everyone was much more experienced than myself and also very fit, this made me very nervous about the whole trip, and I got teased as all my trekking kit looked brand new!
We spent a day sightseeing in Kathmandu, then the next day we flew to Lukla airport, and during the short flight saw the Himalayas rise up above the clouds and we amazed at the sheer size of them. Once our kit bags we poaded on to the yaks by the yak man we set off immediately on the start of our 12 day trek, the scenery was amazing, huge mountains as backdrops with very daunting looking hills.We crossed enormous metal prayer covered bridges going over huge gorges that even gave me vertigo.
After two days we arrived at Namche, the ascent was very hard as the altitude made it difficult to breathe and the climbing was hard. Namche is the busiest and by far largest village in the area and once we settled in Lhakpa took us to meet his parents in their traditional Tibetan home. This was a great honour as his Father Kancha Sherpa is the last remaining survivor of the famous 1953 British Expedition with Hillary and Tenzing who first summited Everest. Now at 87 he recounted amazing stories translated by Lhapka and we listened while being served tea by his cheerfully smiling wife.
The next day got harder as we climbed higher and we all felt the lack of oxygen, but we got our first views of Everest which helped the exhaustion!
Everest is shown on the top left, next to that is Lhotse and the mountain on the right with two peaks is Amadablam. The picture doesn’t give you the scale of the enormous size and was daunting as they all seemed a long way off! The weather was quite warm during the day but was starting to get progressively colder at night, we all had started to feel the effects of altitude sickness as we progressed higher, Nausea, loss of appetite and sleeping badly while getting more tired and coping with very basic toilet facilities . Lhapka watched us constantly for any serious signs and made us eat carbs and carry at least two litres of water with us at any one time. This plus my slr camera and large zoom lens and wet weather gear made my back pack very heavy to carry. We arrived at Tengboche on the 4th night which was a pretty settlement with amazing mountain views, one of the highlights of this trip was going to the monastery there and listening to the monks chanting, I think this alone should be on every one’s list to do.
The next two nights we spent at Dingboche, to continue our acclimatisation. By now we were all feeling pretty knackered and dirty and we all had really upset stomachs,what kept us going was the camaraderie of our group, we laughed a lot as a means of coping with all the discomforts we were facing. By now it was bitterly cold at night, no heating or electricity and our head torches and loo paper became our most important possessions! We had seen so many things on route that it was hard to take it all in. Three sherpas had died on Everest, and our sherpas were very upset, this is the time that the teams are preparing to summit Everest and the brave sherpas attach ladders and fix ropes to help their ascent.
The next few days became the hardest, we were all weaker, had lost weight and it became colder, the scenery was more dramatic and we felt very remote. All the sherpas were amazing and we had got into a routine of rising very early and going to bed at 8.00pm. We would stop often for water breaks and protein bars with the distant views of Everest keeping our goal in sight. We came to the memorials where in sight of Everest they showed climbers and sherpas who had died on the mountain.
We continued on to Lobouche and from there set off on a long hard haul to Everest Base Camp, it was six hours very hard walking and when we stopped at Gorak Shep the last place before the Base Camp sadly five of our group stayed there as they were too weak to go any further, altitude sickness affects anyone even the super fit and it becomes a lottery how it affects you, I felt it pretty quite early on and was worried that I wouldn’t get this far but I had enough reserves as I had come this far to go that bit extra.
After 3 difficult hours we got to base camp, seeing the Khumbu ice fall was incredible, by now Everest is out of sight and Nuptse takes the centre stage on the right with lots of tents dotted around for the expedition teams.
We stayed a short but emotional time there and walked the long route back to Gorak Shep and it was a very early night for all of us as the next morning five of us with two of by now our beloved sherpas climbed a small mountain to see the views of all the peaks around us. This was by far the best thing I have ever done, it was tough but so incredibly worth it.
I dont’ think any of this really sank in for the next few days as we had a long but faster descent gradually getting back to Lukla on the 12th day. We celebrated our adventures with the sherpas in the lodge that night, dancing to Boney M their favourite music. The next morning early we flew back to Kathmandu and had a Nepalese massage for our aching muscles and ate loads.
I have so many images that it has been hard to pick a few, it was really sad to say goodbye to everyone at Heathrow, we had formed a strong bond with each other, having been together for almost 3 weeks. I had a wonderful reception from my family and had been very home sick. For the next week I just lay on the sofa, with no energy and pretty spaced out and eating lots to gain all the weight I had lost. Have been following the Everest summit blogs as I have met some of the people climbing it and am thinking of them while back in my studio painting as they are hopefully on course to summit this weekend and I won’t be able to relax until I know they are all back down again safe and sound.
This was an incredible adventure, testing me in every way and I was so out of my comfort zone, I have finally fulfilled my long term ambition of doing this trip but I now feel I never want to leave Cornwall again!