A friend of mine recently did a trek at the Mount Everest Base Camp. I had so many questions for her about this adventure. The interview was so satisfying to give and it was really uplifting to listen and learn from her accomplishment.
What inspired you to go to this trek?
My parents did things like this. They trekked in the Himalayas. My father would shut down his dental office annually for 2 months to go. I grew up around this. My siblings did not get the bug but I did.
How did you pick the Mt. Everest base camp trek?
It was my #1 bucket list trip. I had done many others in my late 40’s due to a new chapter in my life. This trek was for celebrating my 50th birthday. I’ve been narrowing down the things that are most meaningful and simple to me. I don’t want “things”–I just want adventure. I worked in a hospital and watched too many people waiting for retirement before they started their adventures. That’s just not practical and you can’t always do it then. You just have to make it happen. My parents are grateful they did it when they were younger. I wanted to be an example to my boys to follow their passion, have strength and be independent.
What were the other treks you did?
How did you physically prepare for this trek?
You can’t train for altitude and it doesn’t matter how much experience you have. It depends on the day. There is only so much you can do to prepare for it. The mountain, universe and weather will determine whether you’ll summit that day. The best climbers in the world are not the macho ones–they are the ones with the small egos who have complete respect for the mountain. They know how to listen and pay attention to all the factors. I work out everyday and do strength training in the the gym (before a trek). It’s not about being a runner; it’s about endurance.
Every Sunday before a trek, I do a 17 mile hike with my backpack, boots and snacks. It’s all about endurance; not being a runner or super athlete. Kilimanjaro is high but it’s not technical. On the trek, we are drinking 4 liters of water a day and eating 5,000-8,000 calories a day but you don’t feel like eating at high altitude. You have to eat lots of calories, carbs, nuts, chocolate, peanut butter, bread, pasta, etc… Some people take a high altitude glaucoma medicine and they do well with it.
What was your itinerary like?
I flew through Qatar and spent some days in Kathmandu on either end of the trip to learn about Hinduism and Buddhism. Our guide was a devout Hindu. The people are so content. Their day to day life is hard for us to comprehend. For example, I saw sherpas carry a full size refrigerator or 250 lbs. of lumber while I was carrying a backpack. You can’t climb Everest without a sherpa. There are also some holy mountains that are restricted from climbing so the sherpas won’t go there.
I went to the World Heritage sites for Buddhists and Hindus at Kathmandu. The Hindu Sadhu holy men are very decorated. I went to the Shiva temple. The government provides them with the items they need for their ceremonies. Some Sadhu are educated dropouts who become holy men. I received the 3rd eye “tikka” at a the World Heritage site. I also received a blessing at the Rongbuk monastery at 16,340 feet. The monk placed a khata (silk scarf) around my neck and blessed me for a safe journey.
Did you research this trip yourself or use a travel agent?
I picked a program based on reviews. There are hundreds of reviews you can read. I’m a discount traveler, too.
What hotel did you stay at when you weren’t on the trek?
In Kathmandu, I stayed at hotel that was an old palace–so it was beautiful on the outside but had an average interior. Then I moved to another hotel, The Yak and Yeti , and it was 5 star. It was the most heavenly experience to collapse there after such a rugged trek.
What was your toughest night like?
It was a 15 day trek and many nights were 30-40 below zero. We were in a plywood structure with no heat, called a Teahouse. The windows were frozen. They burn yak dung for 1 hour at night for fuel and heat. You sit by it to become warm. You sleep in your clothes in the sleeping bag with a hot water bottle that you grip with your life. You don’t want to eliminate because you don’t want to get out of the sleeping bag but you’re drinking all the time and the high altitude medicine is like a diuretic. We kept a bottle by our sleeping bags for elimination. The flight in from Kathmandu to Lukla was the most exciting thing. It’s the most dangerous place to land because of the short runway and because the airport is on a cliff. There’s a little propeller plane that holds 10 people. Some people don’t do the trek because of this flight.
What did you learn about yourself on this trek?
When I’m in nature, moving my body in the mountains–it’s my walking meditation. It’s where I do my thinking. I proved to myself that I really am a strong person. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment for myself–it’s not about anyone else. I just weep cathartically when I’m descending because of the beauty, fatigue and sadness to leave. I kept a journal on my treks and a lot poured out of me.