Everest Base Camp Trek: The Final Hurdle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe river of mud, yak poo and urine beneath my feet had become a blur some kilometres back, all that mattered now was that my feet were taking me forward, not what they were stepping in.

I began chanting to myself, one … two … three ….

One, two, three, counting my footsteps, counting the steps getting me closer to the end. Every turn on the track spat out more steps upwards, never ending, one, two, three.

One … two … three … Yangjing’s encouraging ‘not far now,’ urging me forward, washed over me as the mud ran under my feet. I’d long since stopped looking for the end point. The late afternoon dampness enveloped me, so far removed from the morning crispness we had set off in some 10 hours ago.

Yangjing, one of our guides - I owe her a huge debt of thanks.

Yangjing, one of our guides – I owe her a huge debt of thanks.

At what point had enthusiasm for the day’s challenge turned into a struggle and then into a determination that blotted out all else? There was no option, I had to keep going, I would reach the end.

Ironic, that as we headed theoretically down the mountain, the track took us upwards to our destination. This was our starting point just over two weeks ago, obviously we set off in a downwards direction but who realised or remembered that this is what we would face at the end. I certainly never thought that one of my biggest struggles would face me on this last day.

The entrance to the Sagamartha National Park, the gate that we’d originally passed through enthusiastically and with a verve that had gone missing in me in recent hours came into view, but still more steps.

Upwards.

One … two … three …

Finally, after what seemed like forever, I walked under that arch, through that entrance way and back into Lukla. That main street didn’t seem so long the last time I walked it. One … two … three ….

One … two … three. The slippery rocks that paved the way needed a watchful eye and careful footwork, the open ditch needed to be crossed, I almost stumbled and needed Yangjing’s steadying hand.

More steps up to the lodge, I grabbed the handrail needing all the help I could get. It was no longer one, two, three but one … one … one …

And then it was over.

I’d done it.

I’d trekked from Lukla to Everest Base Camp and returned. The tears held determinably in check for the last couple of hours erupted, there was no stopping them. The seat that I collapsed onto was so welcome, my legs no longer capable of supporting me.

Others in the group who’d arrived half an hour in front of me shouted their congratulations and high fived me, but all I could do was sob. Anande put a warming cup of hot mango juice in front of me, at least I think it was mango, he accepted my gulp of thanks and refilled the cup as I emptied it.

From my sitting position I unloaded my pack from my back, leant my hiking pole against the wall, leaned back and breathed.

Yep, I’d done it and despite my tears I was grinning inside.

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One Hell of a Walk – Base Camp Day

The wonderful guys who got us there.

The wonderful guys who got us there.

I know I’m jumping all over the place with my posts on my trek to Everest Base Camp and this one is totally out of sequence, but I’m writing them as they come to me, if I had to do it in order it may never happen. So today, maybe, is the one you’ve been waiting for.

Today was the day we had all been anticipating for months, the day that all thirteen of us  had been training for and the day that we expected great things from. Did it deliver? Overwhelmingly, yes.

Everest Base Camp had been my focus for the last eleven months, the planning and training had taken over my life for almost a year, every step I’d climbed, every track I’d walked, every kilo I’d carried in my backpack, were all aimed squarely at this day. I’d spent hours researching the clothing and the gear that I’d need, talking to others who had done the trek and sales people who knew the technical stuff about boots and hiking poles and water bottles. I’d agonized over how many t-shirts I should take and whether I’d be able to cope with the toilet facilities (or lack thereof) and I’d worried that my training wouldn’t be enough. I probably knew more than was good for me about Lukla airport and altitude sickness and those who had died on the mountain and  now here I was, only a couple of hours away from my goal.

The altitude had made me restless during the night, actually I had lain awake worrying about the lack of oxygen at nearly five and a half thousand metres and the possibility of breathing problems and the fact that I was alone with no one to keep an eye on me – not good thoughts in the middle of the night, and then I was awake before dawn listening to the sounds of other trekkers setting off early so I was a touch tired this morning. But then, this was nothing new. I was tired most mornings.

It was a glorious Sunday morning as we set off with the sun reflecting off the high peaks above Gorak Shep.

It was one hell of a walk along the ridge from Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp but this day gave us some of the most stunning scenery and views of the most majestic mountains that we had experienced. It was difficult to watch where our feet were going when our heads were continually veering to the right to gaze at the continuous panorama.

How did I feel when I finally achieved my goal?

Overwhelmed.

Arriving at Base Camp was a very emotional moment for me and inevitably the tears flowed. It had been hard, at times more than hard. I’d struggled, I’d cried and I’d laughed but I’d also been determined. Determined to achieve the goal I set myself almost a year ago. I wasn’t going to give in.

Here’s just a part of what we saw that day and what I think probably had a deep effect on all of us.

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