Trekking to the world’s highest mountain is becoming more popular as it becomes more accessible and people look to challenge themselves in new ways. While it does not require the fitness and commitment, or indeed financial outlay, required to scale the world’s highest peak, it can be far from comfortable and success is not guaranteed. For all but the hardiest high-altitude climbers, and well acclamatised locals, the altitude can make the trek rather unpleasant at times. Add to this a change in diet, basic living conditions in tea houses and sleeping in sub-zero temperatures, you would have to question why people choose to do it. But they do. Thousands of people every year head to Nepal and eagerly awaiting their flight to Lukla, one of the most notorious airports in the world, to begin what often turns out to be a life-changing experience.
Whilst the trail and facilities on it have improved significantly in recent years as more tourists visit this beautiful part of the world, it is still far removed from the home comforts experienced in most westerners’ daily lives. Sanitation is very basic in most tea houses and visits to the toilet are an experience in themselves, made all the easier if you are already an expert in yoga positions; the Crow and the Firefly positions being most beneficial (be honest, you just googled them!) If you manage to avoid sunburn, dehydration, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, altitude sickness and homesickness the rewards are huge. Most of the aforementioned are avoidable, but you get the point. What is it that drives us to challenge ourselves to reach these goals? This is often a very personal choice and many of our clients travel alone or in small groups, so their motivations vary massively.
We interview a number of people from across the world to look at their motivations, their experiences in the region and how they feel this classic trek has impacted on their everyday life.
Here, we interview Kevin Hall (UK) an Ace the Himalaya Representative.
Have you ever completed a trek like this before?
I have been very lucky to have trekked in the Khumbu valley before I trekked to Everest Base camp. I first visited in 2008 and lead a school group there from the U.K. I instantly loved the area and found the history around the first expeditions to the mountain fascinating. Although I initially only trekked as high as Tengboche the seed was planted, and I knew I wanted to return.
What motivated you to do trek to Everest Base Camp?
Having already visited the area before I was determined to test myself to get to Everest Base Camp. I had spoken to many people about the trek and I wanted to experience it for myself. When the chance to lead a school group on an expedition came up I jumped at the chance and set off with a team of 4 college age students and teachers and we all made it EBC.
What was the most challenging thing on the trek for you?
I didn’t feel fully prepared in terms of fitness so found I was slower than some other members of the group but I found that taking it easy is good. It was challenging to ensure that all the students in the group were well and safe. One of them was sick at one point and we were considering evacuating him but in the end he made it! Some of the tea houses were very basic and after a long day trekking I love sitting in front of a warm fire with lovely food, not something you can easily do in tea houses higher up.
Where there any aspects of the trek that you didn’t enjoy?
Personally I do not like the toilets but this is a small price to pay for the beautiful views and the company of the Nepalese people.
What was the thing you most enjoyed?
Probably reaching the top of Kala Patthar to watch the sunrise behind Everest. What an amazing morning that was! We left the tea house a little later than planned because of snow fall. But still, it was pitch black and with our guide we were the first people of the morning to reach the top. After a tough walk we finally reached the top to see stunning views. We then headed down to eat breakfast and head back to Pheriche.
Would you recommend it to a friend?
Yes I have and continue to do so. Its easy to forget that not everyone loves walking and trekking though. It is a tough trek but people of average fitness can achieve it, often people think its harder than it is. However, it is useful to do your research as I have met people at Namche Bazar who appear completely overwhelmed. Its achievable but not a stroll in the park either.
If you went back again how would you approach it differently?
I would take more snacks and treats to eat on the way. I would take a warmer sleeping bag because I was cold on a couple of evenings and that can be miserable.