Mt Everest - The famous mountain which many have conquered and where even more have lost their lives. Watching the movie Everest in 2016 reignited my curiosity about the mountain, which first began when I was a 7 year old, in awe of a neighbour of mine who made an attempt at the summit.
The thought of getting up close and personal with the mountain of all mountains lingered in my mind for the rest of the year. An attempt at the summit wasn’t of any interest to me, but upon hearing more about trekking to Everest Base Camp and the relative ‘ease’ at which it was able to be done, the idea was firmly lodged in my thoughts.
I put a deposit down with a trekking company for September 2017 and began my training from the beginning of the year, going on 20 kilometre walks over hilly terrain while wearing an altitude training mask. Altitude sickness and the issues that come with it were my main concerns, having never experienced trekking at those heights. My mind wasn’t put to rest about the possible dangers of the trek, when an Australian trekker passed away from altitude sickness on the trek only a few months away from my own trip.
But it wasn’t enough to deter me from going, and I soon found myself climbing aboard a tiny plane with fellow trekkers in my group (comprised of three Americans, a Brit, a Bulgarian and a Kenyan) at Kathmandu’s airport, to fly to Lukla where the trek began. In addition to the worries of altitude sickness lay the uneasiness about the landing in Lukla, with its airport widely known as one of the most dangerous in the world due to its short runway, located on a cliff face with no navigation aids.
The trek commenced upon our safe landing, and the next 12 or so days saw us hike through the mountains from village to village; some of the most physically challenging terrain I’ve experienced.
From Pakhding to Namche Bazaar, Tengboche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Gorak Shep and finally to Base Camp, each day was just as challenging as the last.
When you push yourself to the point of exhaustion and beyond, you can hardly forget it all. The clanging of the yak bells, thin cold air, headaches from a lack of oxygen and every step feeling laboursome.
Physical strength and endurance is one thing, but along the way you realise how much mental strength you need to get to there. “Just keep taking one step after the other” I kept telling myself, while letting my mind wander to distract from the fatigue. I can’t imagine what people go through to reach the summit itself.
The fruits of the labour though, are unmatched, with views that will take your breath away; the kinds of things you only see in pictures; the views I saw as a 7 year old in a picture book about Everest I was given by my neighbour. (That I still have to this day)
From the breath-taking and iconic Tenzing-Hillary Suspension Bridge and the eye-opening memorial to the fallen climbers and trekkers at the Thukla Pass, to the barren, yet beautiful landscape in the heart of the mountains, the pain and the struggle were certainly made up for.
It really is a whole different world up there; one which had been completely unexpected, with one of the more surreal moments along the way coming in Dingboche when sitting in a café watching the Everest movie, somewhat in disbelief that I was actually there now over a year later, making my own way to the tallest mountain in the world.
To wake up in the morning and look out of the window to see these giants standing proudly was a sight to behold, and was a true blessing and privilege to have been able to witness everything with my own eyes and marvel at creation.
Being accompanied by an amazing group of people who supported and encouraged each other the whole way, while keeping the mood light in difficult moments, topped it all off.
We all made it to the end goal, and sharing that experience together means a lot to me and is something I still cherish and will continue to do so for a long time to come.
The most challenging I’ve ever done in my life, reaching Everest Base Camp was an emotional moment, spending close to two hours there soaking it all in and being thankful for the opportunity to tick this dream off the bucket list.
The only way to truly understand what this was like, would be to experience it all for yourself.
Not only did the trek push me way out of my comfort zone and past my limits to achieve something I’d held as unachievable for such a long time, but it was a great reminder for me that great things can be achieved if one is willing to struggle and suffer along the journey.
I may not be going back anytime soon, if not ever, but I don’t necessarily need to - the experience has been etched into my memories forever.
Written by Josh Low