I’ll let you into a secret. With only four days until I leave for Nepal, I am petrified. It’s not the fact I’m leaving for two months (ok, maybe a little bit), it’s the fear of failure. Of course I’ll miss all my friends and family, but they’ll still be here when I come back. There’s so many ways to keep in touch – Facebook, email, Skype, Twitter, telephone and texts. You can even write to me – send all letters to Kathmandu post office – although there’s not guarantee that it’ll get there. I am led to believe the post going into the country is better than post going out. It could be that I return home before any postcards and letters do.
But, back to my original point. I’m scared of not completing my hike to Base Camp and not fulfilling my epic dream. In all honestly, I would feel like a complete failure, and that’s never a nice feeling to have. My main worry is altitude sickness. Once the guide tells you to go back down, game over.
There’s two base camps – South Base Camp, which is the more popular of the two and stands at 5, 346m (17, 598ft) and, yes you’ve guessed it – North Base Camp – which is in the Tibetan side and is slightly higher at 5, 545 (18,182ft). I’m going through the Nepalese side with an organised tour. If you’re interested, my itinerary is online. I wanted to go scale Everest from the Tibetan side – but by golly, is that expensive and the tours I found drove there. For me, that defeats the object of a challenge. Driving is too easy.
I’ve had altitude sickness before. Wanting to get off the beaten track to Machu Picchu, Peru, I opted to walk the Lares trek, which is shorter than the popular Inca Trail, but goes higher at 4, 560m and 4, 520m. It didn’t help that I go sick that day of the trek and had a temperature. It was too late to back out, so it was a case of getting on with it. All I cared about was putting one foot in front of the other. It wasn’t until my guide had put me on the back of a horse for the most difficult part of the trek, did I truly appreciate the Andes. I must have scared my guide everytime I went to sleep. Altitude sickness can be fatal. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, tiredness, and generally feeling unwell. I made it to Machu Picchu before the hordes of people descended, still ill. It was worth the illness. I had the place to myself, and it was fantastic.
For this trip, I’ve got pills! Acetazolamide to be exact. My leaflet says it’s a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor. Carbonic anhydrase – according to Wikipedia – changes the rate of the chemical reaction between carbon dioxide and water to bicarbonates and protein, so these pills stop this chemical reaction. Side effects (which affect less than 1 in 10 people) include dizziness, drowsiness, tiredness, feeling or being sick, headaches and changes in the way things taste. As long as I don’t get altitude sickness, I don’t care!
The other thing which is slightly alarming is the weather and upcoming strikes. A quick check on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)today says that since 2 Nov, all domestic flights have been cancelled due to weather conditions, although normal services have resumed. There’s a planned strike on the 8 Nov in Kathmandu Valley and nationwide on 11 Nov. I came across this press release today titled, Stranded Everest trekkers criticise Nepal officials. Let’s hope it all clears by the time I get there.
As much as I’m gung-ho about going, and looking forward to the adventure, I am nervous and apprehensive of going. Who am I going to meet? Will there be other people on my trip (On my Lares trek, it was just me, my guide, porter, cook and six alpacas.) Will I get on with them? What will I do after I finish the Everest trip? Will the weather make places impassable? Will I get to Tibet?
However, fear is not an excuse to not do something. If you’re scared, the more reason you should do it (well, apart from bungee jumping. That is one thing I will never do.)