"Everest Base Camp....that's just a walk in the park"
When I was telling a friend that I planned to take on Everest Base Camp as my next charity challenge, he said " Thats not really a challenge, it's just a walk in the park" my response now, "Thats the hardest walk in the park I've ever done,"
Let's start where all the best stories start though, at the beginning, a decade earlier.
10 years ago, my school friend Nick and I said, " Let's do Everest Base Camp for our 50th", where did the years go? Luckily, we timed this plan just right and avoided the pandemic. With the world returning to normal and having travelled previously with 360 Expeditions I was in no doubt who we would journey with on our adventure to the base of the top of the world. We were going to be joined by Dee and Lucy our fellow summit seekers and friends; we would also meet 18 new trekking friends on this once in a lifetime trip. Between the four of us we decided on four charities to support, St Lukes Cheshire Hospice, The Joshua Tree, NW Air Ambulance and BHF.
Tuesday 25th/Wednesday 26th/Thursday 27th October 2022
Our journey started from Winsford with diversions on the trains, first due to engineering works, them a gas leak in Wolverhampton, an overnight stay in Heathrow, where there was time for a quick beer. The next day the flight from Heathrow to Doha was delayed by 90 mins, we only had a window of 90 mins for our connection flight, we weren't going to make it. Luckily there was space on the next flight out and an hour later and we were off again but were we. Everyone boarded then we were told to disembark as the plane had a fault, then we were told to get back on 20 mins later, but was it the same plane? We didn't ask, and thankfully all went smoothly and before we knew it, we were collecting our bags in Katmandu arrivals. Then an "interesting" short bus ride later and we are in the Katmandu Guest house for lunch and a kit check before our adventure really began. Throughout the journey our little team of Summit Seekers was steadily growing and now 22 adventures were ready to set off on the journey of a lifetime.
The 360 Team led by Ben and Rob got us onto two minibuses and we set off on the four-hour journey to our overnight hotel. Recent flight path changes meant we could no longer fly from Katmandu to Lukla and had to travel to Ramechap airport. They don't seem to have rules on Nepalese roads just horns, for that matter they don't always have roads, sometimes just potholes, and definitely not tarmac. We arrived at our hotel, Taj Riverside Hotel, in Mulkot, a quick bite to eat and well it would be rude no to, a " Gurka Strength" beer, before it was off to bed for a 4 am start.
Friday 28th October 2022
It was still two hours to the airport, and we bumped and pushed slowly through the dark morning roads. We were one of the first trekking parties to arrive at the airport and it was to say the least, an unusual check in. Bags weighed (Set limits, but I think we all went over so had a communal fine), bags then taken to security, asked to unzip and asked if we had lighters, matches or knives? Bags checked we had to go one by one into what looked like a changing room through a curtain for a pat down, then asked again did we have lighters or knives in our rucksack? The guard checking me found my spare contact lenses, " No" " Wait" he said, I was like, no lenses no see, he said again " No Wait" and with that he disappeared through the curtain. What next, I thought, and to be honest I could never have guessed. He returned with two packets of contact lenses, in my prescription. " There you go, Good-Bye" and with that I was through security. Now I wouldn't say Lukla was a sparce airport but runway, waiting room and outdoor toilet, and you have done the tour. It was a cloudy day, and we needed it to clear, so there was a little waiting around, then a few hours later and activity suddenly started. The two planes on the runway started to be fueled, staff were running around, and bags taken out to load up. First plane off, second is away and then incomes the one from Lukla, it's time to go. Sardines probably have more space in a tin than we did on the plane, the noise was incredible, but not as incredible as the views, wow, doesn't do them justice. To be honest I lost track of time but all of a sudden through the clouds there is the upward slanting runway, wheels are down, bags are unpacked, and we are sat eating lunch and charging our phones in the tea house outside the airport. After lunch and a briefing, we set off for our first real trekking in Nepal.
A short acclimatization walk through the beautiful countryside and villages. A great chance to get to know knew teammates and meet the guides. We passed the local transport network a few times too today, Yak Trains, and we got our first chance to cross " The Bridge of Death", bit extreme it's a perfectly secure steel bridge across the ravine, but in my fear of exposure brain it's definitely " THE BRIDGE OF DEATH". This was our next tea House for the night at Phakding and if you wanted to probably the last chance for a hot shower and a "respectable" loo stop. I don't know what it is about exposure, but it fries my brain so as people settled into their rooms or explored the local bazaar and bakery (Yes there was a bakery), I had a word with myself stood looking out over the bridge and was determined to not let this fear ruin the trip.
Saturday 29th October 2022
Today was a nice respectable time of day to start trekking, just as the sun rose above the mountains all around us. However, in the modern world a new curveball can be thrown into the trekking mix of potential problems, one of our guides Ben, felt a little off overnight and after testing in the morning, he was positive for Covid. He was fine but for the next 5 days we didn't see him as he walked 20 minutes behind us, masked up. Rob " Topsy" was now in charge of 22 trekkers, for an ex-marine, no problem. Today we would make our way to the Sagarmatha National Park gate and potentially see Everest for the first time. Ahead was a day of trails, swing bridges and gradually climbing of altitude. The scenery in Nepal is breathtaking, the bridges "plentiful", the food fantastic, the people so friendly, and did I mention bridges? Four today and with each one my confidence slowly grew. It didn't help that they were just too wide to hold both sides with your hands and to be honest that wasn't a great thing to do any way as the metal rope threads were sharp where they met the main cable. What also didn't help when it came to bridges was the Yak/Donkey Trains that typically wanted to cross the same time as us. There's not a lot of space when me and a Yak want to pass 100's (Lets go 1000's) of feet in the air. The wind as well, wow the higher the bridge the stronger that got especially in the middle. The fourth and final bridge of the day was above the old broken bridge that swung below, the Tensing Hilary Bridge, I decided it was time for a little prayer, just in case. When we reached Topdanga Viewpoint (3140M) Everest was a little shy though and hid behind the clouds, so we carried on to the Mountain village of Namche Bazaar, which coincidently has the world's highest Irish Bar, well it would be rude not to.
Sunday 30th October 2022
A "rest day" today with an optional early start to climb to a viewing point to see Everest for the first time. This had to be done and as the sun started to rise so did, we. You easily forget that you are at altitude, well you do until you start climbing steps right outside the hotel up to the army camp vantage point. Was it worth the early start and the lung busting 20 mins, more than words can say "Yes". What a view, what a feeling as the sun rose above the snow-covered mountains there, she was for the first time, Mount Everest and her surrounding sisters.
Now "rest days" in the mountains aren't really rest days they are acclimatization days. So, after a spot of breakfast following our early morning view of Everest, we set off to climb the hills around Namche Bazaar. Photos really don't do the scenery justice but breath taking, awesome, staggering, impressive, hopefully help with the description. Acclimatization done, spot of lunch, a bit of bartering in the local shops, and remember that Irish bar I mentioned time for a quick pint, before we went for a blessing at the 300-year-old monastery. Enjoying local culture and traditions is a large part of this trek and having already spun numerous prayer wheels on the route to get here we now saw the largest prayer wheel of them all. I discovered with my head, that monastery doors are low (twice), 300-year-old floors creek (a lot) under my weight and when being blessed by the monk I got my mountain Buddhist name " Big Boss Man". What an experience, and a privilege to share their beliefs. Then it was back to Hotel Tibet for a Yak Burger dinner and an early night before the trekking gets serious, Base Camp is getting closer.
Monday 31st October 2022
We say goodbye to Namache Bazaar and head off uphill to our next destination, Dole. No more bridges over ravines but there was a lot of steps today. We got to our halfway Tea House for lunch "Dal Bhat", if I'm honest not my favourite lunch but it's great for nutrition, I'm told. When I say Tea houses people say, " Oh you didn't even Camp". A Nepalese Tea house has one main room where everyone eats and drinks and stays warm, huddled around the wood burner in the middle. However, it's not wood that they burn its cakes of dried Yak Poo. The " Bedrooms" are small cold rooms, with two wooden trestles and a mattress. The toilets (Especially the higher you go) are basic, if you are lucky there is a toilet bolted to a hole in the floor, with a large barrel of water and a scoop for you to flush it manually. (Remember at nights its -15 so sometimes you go, and the toilet is frozen from a previous visitor). If you aren't lucky the toilet is literally a hole in the floor, a floor that is sometimes frozen and very slippy, not ideal for squatting.
After lunch a bit of downhill which then means there can be only one thing to do, its back up hill to our mountain Tea House. We saw mountain deer's today as we climbed through the Alpine Forest. The days are getting longer, the air thinner, base camp closer, and the scenery just as magnificent.
Tuesday 1st November 2022
Overnight at out tea house at Dole and a bit of a lie in, an 8am start. One week before base camp. You start to get into a routine by now, bags packed for porters, leave them outside of the room, head to breakfast. What I had started to notice was how cold my hands were in a morning. No matter what I did by the time I was dressed and packed they were freezing and numb at times. Trying to put contact lenses in when you can't feel the end of your fingers is an experience. Today one of our trekkers had a thermos of unused hot water she asked if anyone wanted it to wash with, Kylie, I love you.
Just a short trek today but we keep on gaining altitude, and I was starting to find sleeping at nights was getting harder, more on the dreams later. Daytime walking though at this point and I still wasn't really feeling any effect. We arrived at our lodge "Yeti Lodge", in Macherma 4470m. We arrived quite early, the sun was shining and a few of us thought we'd sit out and enjoy the sun.... forgetting that at 4470m it doesn't stay warm long once the sun goes in. Before long back into the tea house for the staple drink of Lemon and ginger tea and a game of.... now there is no polite way to put this, the card game is called "Shit Head". On mountain treks there are times when there is nothing to do but sit together keep warm and play cards, this is a mountain card game. Another thing we were getting used to was food ordering. It started to feel like you ate, you ordered your next meal, you ate, you ordered breakfast. It was a well-oiled machine, the food choices were fantastic, the delivery method got a little hectic. You would order you meal, give the guide your number and name and then later at mealtime, this is where it went a little haywire, food was just bought out and instead of calling names or numbers just meal types were shouted, but hey we are nearly 5000m high we were grateful for the fantastic food we were getting.
Wednesday 2nd November 2022
I've done a few treks before this and maybe you get the odd emergency evacuation, but to show how unforgiving this environment is on this trek we eventually lost 6 people to medical helicopter evacs. 360 Expedition guides and ground team handled all of these superbly, today we said goodbye to a couple of our fellow trekkers as they were air lifted down to lower altitude. Nepal is a beautiful place, but not one to be taken lightly, we were now approaching serious attitude. We left the Yeti Lodge and started our days trekking that would take us to the Alpine like resort of Gokyu, a place of beauty surrounded by clear blue mountain lakes. Seriously it could have been an Alpine resort, but I hope it never does, you can just imagine jet skis, paddle boarders and the like taking over this little oasis, but that would definitely ruin its tranquil beauty. A serious climb up rewarded us with views of Glacial streams, mountain peaks and then the amazingly blue Gokyu lakes. What I also noticed now was the biting cold mountain wind. As soon as we stopped walking it really cut through you. I always love walking in shorts, but for how much longer at this height I wasn't sure, it was now getting cold. The cold was now affecting keeping in touch with home, I'd been lucky so far, all the tea houses had Wi-Fi but the higher we got the colder it was at nights and the Wi-Fi started to freeze overnight. I'd been able to call the kids on WhatsApp video everyday so far but now they were still at school due to the time difference, so I recorded them a video by the lakes. Thats when you realize how much you really miss them, it was a hard video to record. We walked past a couple of the brilliant blue lakes and saw the little village of Gokyu, with Gokyu Ri towering above, she would be taken on soon enough and that would be the hardest day so far. We arrived at our tea house, had a bit of time to ourselves and then had an option late in the afternoon to go for a look at the glacier we would be crossing in two days. As the sun went down, a few of us climbed the ridge behind the hotel to see the glacier we would be crossing tomorrow. Only 5 of us went and wow that was a hard brisk climb, we forgot slowly, slowly and it took it a lot out of me. Blimey it was cold once the sun had gone now the afternoon mountain air was, freezing. When we reached the ridge, it wasn't what I expected to be honest. The Glacier was grey and rubble, well that's what I thought at first. Then if you looked closely, you could see the pockets of ice beneath the loose grey rubble that was sitting on top. More and more ice popped up the harder you looked, and as we stood there in silence, in awe, you heard the glacier move, cracking and gently moaning under the setting sun.
Thursday 3rd November 2022
Thursday 3rd November 2022nremremReReR Remember rest days in the mountains are acclimatization days really. Today we had the option to walk out to see a glacier and the worlds 6th highest mountain Cho Oyo, on the Nepal/Tibet border. An early start took us up over the boulder fields and mountain passes. Past grazing yaks, beneath steep, snow-covered mountains to another Lake and then the Glacier and Cho Oyo. Well worth missing a lie in, on another beautiful sunny morning. You can tell the air is thinner now, but slowly, slowly and you can enjoy the walk without gasping for air. We headed back to the tea house, which actually had a bakery counter for a relaxing afternoon. We spent a little time by the lakeside just taking in the clean air and tranquilness of it all. While we were by the lake, we saw a group of trekkers who were waiting for a helicopter. We heard the faint rumble of an engine, that got louder and echoed though the valley. These pilots are amazing, and no sooner have they landed, passengers are loaded, and they are off. This one literally took off, headed in our direction, in a top gun tower buzzing style, it was just meters above us before rapidly disappearing into the distance high in the bright blue sky. Time to head back to the tea house for dinner, and to purchase a very important commodity, that would only get more expensive the higher we went. Toilet Roll, one roll for the cost of 16 back home, was the going rate right now.
Friday 4th November 2022
The biggest day so far was upon us. For anyone who says, " Why do base camp, you don't actually summit anywhere", today is the first of three 5000m + summits Gokyu Ri. Early, early start, 4am. Its literally freezing, as I found out when stepping off the path onto a frozen stream and danced like a mountain goat (In my head anyway) until I regained my balance. Moral of the story don't start walking until you are ready, trying to put gloves on and loop them through your pole means you don't concentrate which means you nearly break your neck. Anyway, balance and composure resumed, I just need to breath now, and we headed off out of the village, over the steppingstones up the imposing, steep mountain " path" (It's not a path it's a mountain side goat track) with our head torches lighting the way. This is what a summit night is all about. Water drink pipes frozen, hands tingling from the cold, cloudy breath filling the air Infront of your face under your head torch, this is a summit night. As we slowly made our way up the mountain the sun began to rise over the mountain range below and the lake started to show off her brilliant blueness. I think it was 3 or 4 hours up and slowly but surely the mountainside warmed, and the prayer flags got closer. Then the last big push to the summit and you get energy from deep inside to climb those final few Bolders. Wow (this word has been used a lot I know) but Wow what a view, Gogku Ri summit done. On these treks I always like to bring word from home for my fellow summit seekers. This time a voice mail from Stuart for Dee, a letter off Lucys Mum for her, A letter from Nicks Mum too for him, and my amazing kids had secretly sneaked (Although Charlotte had told me that she hadn't just hidden a letter for me in my bag, the day I left xxxx) a card for me. Their sweet voices had recorded a message, they had drawn pictures for me, it contained a coaster with their beautiful faces and a badge to sew on my sleeve that said Everest Base Camp. I read mine to one side as I knew emotion would take over and as I looked around, I think all four of us had that wave of happy emotion. I hope it was happy anyway, as tears brimmed up across the summit ridge. A couple of cups of tea later (or coffee) and a biscuit, photos taken and it's time to head down. So much quicker down, 90 mins later and its back at the tea house for breakfast, and a quick 30 min nap in our room, before heading off on part two of the days trekking, we were heading over the glacier to our next Tea house. Gokyu Ri 5357m had really taken it out of me and I wasn't looking forward to this next part.
Breakfast eaten and we left Gokyu lakes behind to cross the glacier to our next overnight tea house. We had to climb back out of the valley to the ridge line of the glacier then down a crumbling narrow ledge to get us into the glacier. Now at 124kg the ledges weren't really built for me, and it was a hairy way down. The guides were superb and bless Lucy she refused to go ahead until I was down, with her one side and Dee the other I felt reassured that I wouldn't take out the 60 kg porter who stood between me and the glacier bottom. We made it down to the Glacier and followed the path through the grumbling beast. A grey barren landscape with boulders and rubble to cross over an undulating pathway. (Nepalese flat as they call it) with continuous falling Bolders into vast melting ice lakes. The walls of the glacier were literally collapsing at times into the melted pools. It felt like you were walking through a different planet, that was dying under your feet. I was struggling now feeling very lightheaded and devoid of energy, the day was taking its toll. I stopped to eat chocolate, I needed sugar and tried to drink as much as I could I knew I had to stop the downturn in energy quickly. We had to climb out of the glacier up to a ridge, I could see the prayer flags, but they just weren't getting closer. It was turning into a long walk up the hillside, and I really had to dig deep. It was a relief that I was out of the glacier, but we still had a long trek to the tea house. I was still feeling weak and lightheaded, and I have to thank Lucy for staying with me (Sorry I really can't remember who else was there) as we walked into Camp. It seemed to take forever even when the smoke appeared on the horizon, and when we got there, I was literally on my knees. At the end of each day's trekking, we got tea and biscuits (Lemon and ginger tea to be precise) but all I wanted was the keys to my room to collapse. I forced down the drink and a biscuit, but the room was sounding loud, and my light headedness feeling worse, I have never been so happy to get a set of keys I gingerly made my way down the corridor, fumbled with the padlock key on the door, grabbed out my sleeping bag out of my bag and collapsed fully dressed under the bag and slept. I remember hearing Nick come in and saying " I don't know where Dave is" but didn't have the energy to say I'm under here. I'm presuming, he figured it out as three hours later I awoke and he was asleep on the bed next to me, we went for tea I felt better but really didn't want to eat but knew I had to so forced it down. It wasn't going to be a late night I just wanted more sleep as I knew tomorrow was another huge day. I'd just heard too at dinner that we had lost another trekker who was flying out at 6am, and there was the possibility to jump on the chopper and be dropped off at the next tea house, by passing the Cho Lo Pass and effectively getting a rest day. Today had almost broken me, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was tempted by this opportunity.
Saturday 5th November 2022
Cho Lo Pass- A massive day.
So, I did seriously contemplate sharing the chopper to bypass this section after feeling so low yesterday. However, chatting to Dee and Nick the night before and remembering our moto " Too inspired to be tired" I knew I had to do this, and I wanted to make my kids proud too. I felt a lot better after a good night's sleep but trying to eat the two fried eggs on a Chiappetta at 4am that I had ordered for breakfast was hard, they just wouldn't go down and the more I chewed the harder it was. We said goodbye to Toby who was helicoptering out and see you later to Jen who would be meeting us at the next Tea House, and we set off, to what felt almost vertically, up the mountain. It was a slow walk and 30 minutes later we heard the howl a helicopter as it took off below out of site, then it swooped up the valley and past us over the brow into the distance. There was no turning back now, Cho Lo Pass here we come. It seemed to take hours to walk to the ridgeline today and it was so cold as we were out of the sun. It looked like we could touch the sun line but every time we got closer it was just out of reach. Eventually we won the race with the son and stayed in her rays to the ridge line when we saw the beast, The Cho Lo Pass. Down below in the valley floor it started and snaked through the mountain like a mouth waiting to eat all that dared enter, after a brief break, to sun lotion up and strip off a few layers we started down into the abyss. Before long we found ourselves snaking up into the Bolders and over rocky paths, past metal signposts (And stone shed recycling bins?) that seemed to beckon us to our "Doom". Breaktime and a spot of lunch, I'd not ordered any as in my head I wasn't going to be here when we made the order last night. So, I ate snacks and nuts and looked up to where we were going. I can do this I'm feeling good I can smash this. Off we went almost vertical at times. Zig zagging along the mountain side. There was a metal cable to hold but to be honest at times it felt safer without. I'd made a mental note that today I wanted to be first up I wanted to smash this, and for most of the wall I led the way with Adam and Ben. I was loving it the adrebnaline was flowing for 95% of the way. Then my energy levels plummeted just as we stopped for the porters to come round with a bag full of oranges. Off we went again for the final push I could see the summit but now it was hard, push up a step stop breath go again push up stop breath go again and then after what seemed at eternity, the Summit of Cho Lo Pass. Remember there are no summits on this "walk in the park", this was the second 5000+m.
I don't mind admitting Wow I Loved this and right now was so glad I didn't take the chopper option.
As they say what goes up must come down, and so far, today it's been really hard, but I have loved it. Now back in 2018 I didn't summit Elbrus as I had a bit of a wobble on the snow/ice crossing. Today I would be wearing crampons (Mini ones yes but still crampons) for the first time. What can I say, what a difference, " Trust the crampons" shouted Steve A and yes trust I did. I loved it first down the wall, down a little rope section, crampons on and I was off, I was walking down a Glacier and loving it. The sad thing was that you could see how quickly the glacier was melting and it gave a harsh insight into global warming. We left the glacier behind took off our crampons and headed to our next tea house that was just 3kms away, that must have been mountain kms. Two hours later and we arrived at our tea house at Dzongla. My batteries after the last two days were almost empty and although an afternoon nap was called for, I wasn't quite as on my knees as they day before.
Sunday 6th November 2022
A short walk today to take us from Dzongla to Lobuche (4940 m). I took it easy today and enjoyed the calm serenity of the mountains and prepared for the big push to basecamp the next day. What I had noticed over the last day or two was that it was getting harder and harder to sleep overnight. At altitude I always find that I'm up a few times over night to go the toilet, but I was now finding that I was getting weird dreams too. A few times I awoke and sat bolt upright and have no recollection of why. This was nothing to how I felt when sleeping at 5000m though more on that later.
Monday 7th November 2022
D-Day or EBC Day
We left Lobuche today for our final push to Base Camp, we would walk to Gorak Shep, refuel and push on to EBC. The walk to Gorak Shep was long beautiful but hard. At times down uneven terrain, rocky mountain terrain, along a mountainside path. "Over the ravine" we could see the main road in and out of EBC, a very busy route, from where we stood it looked like ants beavering away. By now I was taking my time on the day walks, especially today as I knew we had a long 4 hour walk to lunch then at least another 3 to basecamp. We arrived for lunch, I wasn't hungry but new I had to eat, and then it was time, two weeks for this, 10 years of planning, EBC was 3 hours away. It was a hard 3 hours too Nepalese flat, up and down. When the sun went it got cold now, then after 2 hours of ups and downs we saw it, Everest Base Camp and the Kumbu Glacier, still an hour away but the fact we could see our destination gave me an extra push. We won't talk about the excuse for a human that we saw sat on a horse that was struggling along the terrain and sat there as the horse was beaten to move, enough said that we all voiced our unlike for this " person". Let's hope karma is a thing. Anyway, the final approach into base camp was to cross a boulder field and up the side of a glacial lake, then there she was Everest showing herself from behind the clouds and the famous base camp stone for our photo. They do say the world is a small place and 10 meters from the Heart of Base camp, we meet 6 people from Northwich, you can't go anywhere can you.
It was a little manic by the basecamp stone as everyone wanted their photo, then their group photo, then another photo, but we all got what we wanted. I took a little time out just to enjoy the place and went to the edge of " Base Camp" and marveled at the ice field. Everest unusually I'm told stayed on view normally in Base Camp she is hid by the clouds. Still 3 and half kilometers away from us vertically and a lot further time wise but she magnificently held the skyline. Base Camp itself was just an empty vast area, it's out of season for summit climbers, so no tents were up, but in a way, it was nice just to have Base Camp for us trekkers. Then like that it was time to leave, we had been, and we had conquered, and it was time to say goodbye. The route out was the same but much quicker, the sun was dropping and the temperature too. On the way out though we saw how unforgiving the mountain can be. During the trip we had to say goodbye to 6 friends' due helicopter evacs due to the altitude, but 360 handled everything superbly. They had oxygen, medicine and expertise on tap. We met a group of Scottish trekkers coming out though and one was in a bad way. They had no Oxygen, and this gent needed it quickly. The 360 guide's flew into action and we hope helped help to save this trekkers life.
We made our way back to the Gorak Shep Tea House, tired and cold, hoping he was ok, but also elated that we had done what we set out to do and visited the Base Camp at the top of the world, 5364m. Happy but shattered a few games of cards after dinner and everyone was soon off to bed. There was an option of a fourth 5000+m peak at 4am, but we had a hell of a journey back to Katmandu tomorrow and to be honest I was more than happy with what we had achieved, so we decided not to do this.
So, sleeping at 5000m, it's interesting to say the least. I was shattered but couldn't drop off it felt like I just lay there for hours but I must have dropped off because I had strobe like dreams, really fast images, then heart palpitations, my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. I would lie there not wanting to drop off then when I did, I'm told I would wake up screaming or gasping, all I remember is not being able to breath in my dreams. It was really weird and really scary; I was actually happy when it was time to get up.
It was going to be a sad day today as we would be leaving some of the team, we had chosen to Helicopter out back to Lukla as we didn't have time to walk out due to family commitments and work
Two of the team chose to climb today, Kala Patthar, but as we had a massive journey ahead, we gave it a miss, and when they returned elated but shattered it was thew correct call. We had breakfast and said our goodbyes and wished them well on their continuing journey to Island Peak or walking out, and then, it was Bear Grylls time.
The helicopter howled through the morning air, breaking the stillness of the mountains, we were on the second, it was impressive watching them swoop up the valley and descend with precision on the helipad made of rocks. Ours landed, the noise was deafening, and the down thrust blew anything not tied down away, it was a well-oiled machine, land refill with fuel, load people and bags and off. We climbed above our tea house and then swooped down into the glacial valley, and before we knew it, we were landing at our helipad to swap choppers, for an exhilarating journey back to Lukla, down valleys, over forests, villages, yak trains, and at times we skimmed the mountains themselves. With one final Suprise left, literally, what felt like a "handbrake turn "left hand into the Lukla Helipad. I was Bear Grylls!
Then we got to find out how the porters felt as we had to carry our bags one on shoulder one on head (We found this was easiest) on a circumference of Lukla (or that's how it felt) to get from Heli arrivals (uphill) to Plane departures, the locals must have thought we were mad, rushing through the streets.
Checked in with the usual security questions " lighters, Knives?" and we waited in the small but comfortable waiting lounge, three planes later and it was our turn to " drop off the mountain". Well, that show people had described take off to me previously. I was looking forward to this and as we taxied up hill to the top of the runway, we turned and yes that's a downward gradient. we were off. The speed got up quickly the end of the runway approached and ......... we were airborne, what an experience flying high into the clouds in our two-prop plane. Over too soon, as we flew above planes that were heading with more trekkers to Lukla, we landed back in Ramachap and boarded our minibus for the 6 hours back to Katmandu. With a brief stop at our first tea house again for lunch we eventually made the hustle and bustle of Katmandu in the late afternoon. You forget how rule free the roads are its crazy and yet not once did we see an accident. Rush hour in Katmandu is manic but slow and we eventually arrived at the Katmandu Guest house at 6pm.
It had been two weeks since my last one, and oh the water was so hot, I stood in the shower in our room for a good 10 minutes just enjoying the stinging beads of hot water running all over me, my newly grown beard dripping with water. Eventually I had to get out and we met the rest of the helicopter trekkers for dinner, my first Nepalese Curry!
It had been a long day, but this was our last night in Nepal and I had heard a lot about a place called "Sams Bar" a place climber and trekkers all visited when here. Nick and I went to explore when the rest went to bed, and it was surprisingly easy to find, if you managed to avoid the cars, bikes, and people selling you "dancing ladies" enroute. Sam's bar was a strange place like somewhere stuck in the 70's and that included people smoking inside, but two pints later and a bowl of free popcorn and I was content. So, content it tuned out that overnight I slept though my Duffel bag falling on the floor, starting my head shaver that vibrated and buzzed across the floor Nick said eventually he had to get up and fumble in the dark to turn it off. I was fast asleep all the way through.
It was our last day in Nepal, so Dee and I did a bit of shopping ad bartering, which I was getting quite good at. Then before we knew it time to say goodbye to our friends and start the journey home. A 28-hour journey that had it all. A mad drive through Katamndu's streets, check in at the airport, that was more luck I think than anything else that we got the right gate, 11 hours lay over in our next stop, Doha. Good luck to all the football fans due here, $17 a pint of Budweiser, but hey they have a large bear with its head stuck in a lampshade?
No delays on the two flights this time, but after being told off for sleeping on the floor in Doha (vagrancy rules supposedly, "but you can pay $140 for a bed for two hours"), I did give in and have a little sleep on the second flight home.
Heathrow was surprisingly smooth, straight through security, well unless you are Dee whose biometric passport always fails. Just me and Nick left now as we said our goodbyes to Dee, and we headed to Euston for our last leg of the journey. Then a lift back from Crewe and I'm home, journey done, adventure complete, bucket list ticked, Everest Base Camp visited, but at this moment in time the most important thing was I'm home, with my Family, and my Children. The third child is too cool for photos with Dad.
This was without a doubt the hardest trek I have ever done, and knowing my children were at home waiting to hear if their Dad had been successful was at times all the strength I needed.
Everest Base Camp you were amazing, thank you to everyone who made it possible. 360 expeditions, leaders, guides, sponsors, friends new and old and of course Family.
We raised over £7500 for our four charities, we had the adventure of a lifetime, and we survived what is "anything but a walk in the park".
What's next people ask me, " A shave, a rest, and well.......watch this space"