Countdown to Kathmandu: 59 days!

kathmandu-city-bOnce again I must comment on the propensity of time to take flight and disappear, leaving in its wake a confused population wondering where it’s gone. With barely any warning, except the fact that it happens every year, the first three months of 2013 are almost at an end.

And you know what that means don’t you?

Kathmandu and Everest Base Camp are now only two months away! That’s 8 weeks on Monday!! That’s 59 days!!! I’m down to counting the days.

I’ve made the final payment, I’ve got the E tickets, I’ve got the accommodation vouchers, I’ve got most of the gear, I’ve even got bright orange bag tags from World Expeditions making it easier for their representative to spot me at Kathmandu airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFriends ask if I’m getting excited and I am. The thought of the amazing scenery that I’m going to be seeing, the iconic Himalayan mountain range with its snow capped peaks, the exciting but ever so scary flight into Lukla and my ultimate destination, Everest Base Camp where sixty years ago Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay prepared for their ascent on the summit. Yes, I’m excited.

But I’m also heading into the unknown, an unknown culture, and that worries me a little. Will I be able to cope?  Until last year the Indian sub continent had always been on my list of places I didn’t want to visit. The thought of the less than sanitary conditions, the strange food and the chaos and the confusion, the ‘foreignness’, all so alien to my western upbringing and sensibilities, had always sent me in the totally opposite travel direction.

But there Mt Everest sits, with one foot in Nepal and one in Tibet, daring me to approach and that approach takes me through Kathmandu.

Kathmandu is going to throw the lot at me – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the dirt, the dust, the lack of western sanitation. It’s going to challenge me like I’ve never been challenged before. I know this so I guess I’m going in forearmed and, as I’ve just been reminded by Steve over at Around The World With Steve, all of those things may be out of my control but I have total control over my attitude. Let’s see if I can utilize that control.

Sea to summit – well, almost

Kathmandu

Assuming everything goes according to plan, next year’s trek will see me climbing out of my comfort zone and reaching Everest base camp, after a 15 day trek from Kathmandu, and several people have asked me exactly how high this is. Originally I was going as far as Thyangboche Monastery but, as you all know by now, I had second thoughts and decided to opt out of the safe option and go those few extra miles, well, a couple of thousand metres actually.

I think now might be a good time to put this extra couple of thousand metres in perspective for you. So listen carefully.

Everest Base Camp sits at an altitude of 5,364 metres, difficult to imagine, so let me put it this way. I live on the coastal plain of Western Australia, barely a hill in site, let’s call that 0 metres.

Burns Beach near Perth, Western Australia

The Darling Scarp butts up against this coastal plain but, even then, the highest point on the Darling Ranges is Mount Cooke at 582m.

Lukla

I will be flying in to Kathmandu which sits at 1,400m, so I’ll already be almost three times higher than the highest point in my area. Let’s take Australia as a whole – the highest point on mainland Australia is Mount Kosciuszko at 2,228 metres. After a short (apparently exhilarating) fight from Kathmandu to Lukla at 2,860 metres I’ll actually begin the trek. So, I’ll start trekking at a point higher than the summit of Mt Kosciusko!

Thyangboche Monastery

Five days later I’ll reach Thyangboche at 3,867 metres. This is where I was going to stop but, no, I decided to extend the agony thrill, for another few days and those extra couple of thousand metres.

Everest Base Camp and the tents of the summiteers

On the tenth day of the trek I’ll make it to Base Camp (in what condition I’m not sure, but I will be there) at 5,364 metres. May, when I’ll be there, is traditionally when many of the summit ascents take place so it could be a pretty busy place with the summit groups making their preparations.

A strenuous couple of hours will take us up to the summit of Kala Pattar, the highest point on the trek at 5,545 metres that gives us the famous views of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. When you think that Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is 5,895 metres suddenly I realize how high I’m going.

Most of the amazing photos of Everest that you find in books and on-line are taken from Kalar Pattar, it’s a hard slog of between one and two hours depending on your level of fitness, up what looks like a brown hump of dirt.

The track heading up Kala Pattar

It’s a big hump though with the ascent of this final leg made acutely difficult due to the lack of oxygen in the lungs at this height. I’ve read several accounts of the ascent of this final hurdle before you get to witness the spectacular views that it affords. Without exception these accounts reveal the difficulty, the hurt and the struggle, and highlight the sheer determination needed to reach the summit. If the photos are anything to go by though the rewarding views are worth it.

View from Kala Pattar

I aim to take some of those amazing photos. In approx 6 months time these photos will be replaced by those that I have taken myself!

Remember, you can support me and my efforts by donating to the ‘Because I’m a Girl Campaign.’ Just go to the Donate page up there on my header or read all about it on the Challenge for the girls page.

I Will Fly … High

This post spoke to me this morning and just seemed appropriate. Penny has some wonderful thoughts on life and it’s worth visiting her. Enjoy the sunshine 🙂

The Why About This

I Will Fly … High!

We (all of us) are the compilation of our journey through life – our struggles, our sorrows, our joys and successes.

Birds fly. They, with glorious feathered wings, descend into the heavens to soar high above the sky – ennobled through their freedom of flying.

We humans are earthbound it seems, forever to have our feet on the earth of the ground.

But is this a truth? Are we? After all we are creatures of our own making. Do we not control our destinies, chose the direction we would follow?

Perhaps … if we so desire … we can set free our imaginations, our dreams and we too can fly.

Fly today my friends, fly high…touch the sky!

To Touch the Sky

I would fly

if I could,

I might close my eyes,

spreading arms open wide

and rise up

touch the sky.

And now that I think on it

perhaps

a…

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Anatomical differences Do make a difference!

Namche Bazaar – photo coutesy of Cameron McNeish

It’s not often (well, never really) that I’ve let a male shop assistant get his hands anywhere near my boobs, but last weekend I let the very helpful Greg do just that. At least I think his name was Greg, it definitely began with G.

Now, before you all start thinking I’m getting desperate or something, let me point out that it was all in the name of research. Research of the trekking variety – this time I was checking out day packs for my upcoming trek in the Himalayas. I’m not sure whether it was the excitement of being in the midst of all this wonderful gear, that up to a few weeks ago I had been completely unaware of, the suitability of the particular day pack in question or the excellent salesman, but I walked out of the shop with my very own Deuter SL daypack. It did help that there was an impressive reduced sale price attached to the purchase.

Having never been in the market for such stuff before I’ve had to rely on advice about what I’m going to need. The lovely Learna from World Expeditions has given me a few pointers about what to look for and the aforementioned Greg (?) at Mountain Design in Joondalup was an absolute fount of knowledge.

This is not something you can go into blind. Let’s face it, if you get an ill fitting pack you could end up with chaffed nipples – and you wouldn’t want that, would you? My day pack is designed specifically for women, we have shorter backs you know, and the sternum strap (which is where Greg came in, needing to fasten this said strap across the boob area) is designed to help reduce pressure points in the chest area. The info that came with it states that ‘A team of female outdoor sports specialists has taken a long hard look at the anatomical differences between men and women rucksack users.’ Wonder where I can apply for that job.

Ok, moving right along, away from what could happen if I got the wrong one to the fact that, apart from fitting well, the Deuter SL has lots of lovely compartments designed for storing all the necessary bits n pieces, a bottom compartment and an extendable lid. I could go on but I’m thinking you’re probably starting to lose interest.

Now, I just need to put some weight in it and practice walking with it. Do you think it’ll look odd if I start hiking through the streets with it on?

Abandoning my comfort zone!

Have you ever had one of those ‘wow’ moments? You know the ones, where you suddenly go ‘yes! This is me, this is what I should be doing.’ Not the run of the mill ‘this would be a good idea’ type moment or even the ‘this would be a great idea’ type moment, but the ‘wow, I have to do this’ type moment, even if it means stepping way outside your comfort zone. I’ve experienced it once before, in my 40th year, when I read an article in the newspaper that started me studying again and set me on the road (a long road I must admit), to getting my PhD. Well, it happened again a couple of weeks ago and consequently my travel plans have taken an interesting twist.

Now, any of you that have been around my blog for a few months will know that I have been deliberating for some time on my next destination. There have been a few options but I really haven’t been able to settle on anything, which is unusual for me, I generally get by planning my next holiday. Obviously there was a reason which, as I say, has just become abundantly clear.

I was browsing the internet one evening, as you do, when I came upon the website for World Expeditions. Delving a little further this is what I found:

Everest 60th

Anniversary Trek

A classic short trek combining Sherpa culture with views of

Everest and a special black tie dinner to celebrate the 60th

Anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest

So, guess who’s going trekking in the Himalayas next May? Now, I need to put this in perspective and explain why it jumped out at me. Well, 1953 was rather an eventful year, it saw not only the ascent of this great mountain in May but also the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II a few days later in early June and, most importantly to complete the hat trick, I was born in the July. So it was a triple whammy and I can’t think of a better way to prove to myself in my 60th year, that I can step outside my comfort zone, push my boundaries and step lightly in at least some of Hillary’s footsteps.

Now, I don’t intend to be silly about this, I know my limitations, but I have almost a year and a lot can be achieved in a year when you set your mind to it. I’ve chosen the easiest of five treks that will meet up in the grounds of the Thyangboche Monastery, nearly 4000 m above sea level, on 29th May 2013 for a special celebratory evening within sight of Everest.

This is something that I have never even thought about doing before, I have a long ‘to do’ list as far as travel destinations are concerned and this has never been on it, let alone anywhere near the top. Paris (again), Italy (again), New Zealand, even Turkey and Machu Pichu, they’re all there, but Nepal? The Himalayas?

But hey, I’ve booked, the deposit’s paid, the training has begun.

Stay with me, it could get interesting.