Happy birthday to me

It was so cold. Under every laboured breath, I took a weary step. My body had finally had enough, and half way up Kala Patthar, my legs gave up on me. I sat down on a rock and started to cry.

It was my 30th birthday and I had paid to do this.

The day before, we trekked for eight hours to Everest Base Camp (EBC). My group and I started climbing Kala Patthar – which means black rock in Nepali – at 5.15am from the last village before EBC – Gorak Shep. We wanted to catch the sunrise over Everest and the Himalayan range.

It was always going to be a slow ascent. Every 10 steps, I needed a rest. At some 5164m, the air was thin and it was -15C. When I stopped, my muscles cooled down. Starting each walk became more painful than the last.  With my  head down, I clung onto my walking poles and dragged myself up the rocky path.

My guide, Isuri bounded over to me. “Are you ok?”

I tearfully looked up at him. “It’s so hard!”  I was exhausted, hungry and tired.

“Only  half way to go.”

“Only half way!” I cried. I knew the first half was the ‘easy’ bit. But there was no way that I would be able to get to the top for the sunrise. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to be only 6km from the summit of Everest – from the roof of the world.  I dried my tears and got up from my rock. If anything, it was going to be my mission to get to the top – no matter how much my thighs were screaming for me to stop.

In total, it took me two and a half hours to summit Kala Patthar and join the rest of my group. I was rewarded with the glorious sight of the sun peeping behind Lhotse, the mountain next to Everest. Layered up with thermals and our down jackets, we basked in the morning heat, before heading down for breakfast.

Although we had lost our acclimatisation days thanks to the bad weather ,we were lucky to hike to EBC and Kala Patthar – the viewing ‘platform’ for Everest without getting too sick. When I went, EBC was just a collection of rocks on the Khumbu Glacier. During the climbing season it’s busy with tents and those wishing to scale the highest mountain above sea level. But we had EBC all to ourselves and the sun was shining! It was an epic way to start my 30’s.

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When yaks attack

As the yak charged at me, only one thought flashed though my mind. Do I stay still or do I run? As it turns out, running away was a good idea. Being fast is even better.

We were fours days into our trek to Everest Base Camp. The week hadn’t started very well for my group. We were stranded in Kathmandu for six days, thanks to unseasonable bad weather and we spent the days waiting until 2pm to see if the flights were cancelled, then sat in cafes in the Boudhanath, people watching.

We had given up hope by Friday, but our guide, Hari, told us to get our backpacks. We were heading to the airport. And four days later, I had a spooked yak heading towards me.

It had ambled across the suspension bridge at a leisurely pace, when a tiny white terrier yapped and scared it. The terrier then bit it. But, thankfully, for me, I was well out of its way. The situation only took a few mins, but at least I knew to run away from yaks – no matter how young they are.

This wouldn’t be the last time I would be running away from yak trains on suspension bridges. At altitude, doing anything requires a lot of effort, so running away from four-legged horned beasts practically killed me.

The bad weather meant we had lost our acclimatisation days – bar one in Namche. We had contingency days built in, but that too got used up. It was going to be a hard and intense trek if we were to make it to Everest Base Camp (EBC) in time for the rest of my group to fly back to the UK for the 28th Nov.

Seeking an adventure

I may have treated my boyfriend to Iceland for his 30th this year, but I have decided to trek to Everest Base Camp when I turn the big 3-0 in November.

Ever since I spoke to a couple of travellers who told me November was a good time for Everest, and having spent my 25th in Melbourne, I wanted to celebrate the end of my 20’s in true teacup and cake style. Seeking another adventure by climbing a big ol’ mountain.

At the moment, I’m at the research stage. I went and borrowed a couple of books from my local library – The Longest Climb by Dominic Faulkner, Everest Exposed by George Band – to get me in the mood. I haven’t read them yet, but I’m looking forward to some good reads.

Not  confident to hop over to Nepal and organise the trip, I’m looking into an organised tour over here in the UK. My starting place was www.responsibletravel.com. I believe that when embarking on a trip such as this, it’s important to be sensitive to the environment and to the place that you visit. Not only do I want my money to go back to the people in the country that I spend my time in, I want to make sure that it’s sustainable for future generations.

What am I looking for? Well, I want to make sure that the porters have decent shoes and that they are not overloaded when transporting things up Everest, that local guides are used and the group is not too big. That’s just the starting point.

If you can help me with any tips or suggestions, let me know.