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.

It takes more than one man to climb a mountain.

eric-shipton

Deciding to undertake the 60th anniversary trek to Everest Base Camp in May has opened up a whole new world to me. Not only had I never taken been remotely interested in Nepal in general or Kathmandu in particular before the planning began but I had also didn’t know anything about mountaineering or mountaineers or even the Himalayas. I didn’t even know that Mt Everest has one foot in Nepal and the other in Tibet.

In the last few months though I’ve found myself devouring anything I come across that mentions Kathmandu, Everest, mountains, training, trekking etc and I’ve come across some fascinating stuff, particularly about the pioneers of mountaineering in this region.

Does the name Eric Shipton mean anything to anyone? No? What about Sir Edmund Hillary? Now that’s familiar isn’t it? Even John Hunt is fairly well known as the leader of that 1953 expedition that saw Hillary and Tenzing stand on top of the world.

So who was Eric Shipton and what did he have to do with Everest? Quite a lot actually, as I’ve recently discovered.

The sports houses at Grange Lane Junior School in Scunthorpe, where I attended up to the age of eleven, were named Everest, Sherpa, Tenzing and Shipton, the first three were obvious associations but I had no idea why the fourth would be called Shipton.

So I did as all good writers do – I turned to research. This took me on quite an interesting journey, through newspaper archives, autobiographies and travel memoirs. I did get slightly sidetracked with all of the interesting accounts of the mountaineering in the Nepal region but ultimately I discovered some interesting facts about Eric Shipton.

Shipton was in fact a distinguished British Himalayan mountaineer, heavily involved in many expeditions from the 1930s through to the 1950s. He was the leader of the 1935 expedition that gave nineteen year old Tenzing Norgay his start as an Everest Sherpa and he was the one who made the decision, in 1951, to accept two New Zealand mountaineers onto his team that undertook the reconnaissance expedition to Everest, chalking out the now famous route over the Khumbu Glacier. Edmund Hillary was one of those New Zealanders, the rest, as they say, is history.

khumbu-glacier-300x200

Initially Eric Shipton accepted leadership of the 1953 expedition but was then controversially replaced with John Hunt on the grounds of Hunt’s organisational skills.

Eric Shipton it seems was a popular mountaineer. In his memoir View From the Summit Sir Edmund Hillary maintains his affection for Shipton and voices his belief that they would still have been successful under Shipton’s leadership.

Mountaineering enthusiasts will know of him but unfortunately Eric Shipton’s name did not go down in the annals of history or the continuing public consciousness as did that of Edmund Hillary and the leader of that 1953 expedition, John Hunt.

I think I might be remembering him though as I climb those slopes and get my first view of the Khumbu Glacier and he was also known to have taken photos of what may have been a Yeti footprint, so I’ll be on the lookout, just in case.

Shipton's Yeti footprint, with an iceaxe showing the scale

Shipton’s Yeti footprint, with an iceaxe showing the scale

Don’t forget that you can encourage me in my efforts (to reach Base Camp that is, not to find a Yeti) by donating to the Because I’m a Girl Campaign. All you need to do is go to the Donate page at the top there and follow the prompts – easy really and you’ll be helping a really worthwhile cause.

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.