Marcus, Katie’s brother, has climbed the Himalayas to Everest Base Camp – our major sporting fundraiser this year!
He has raised an amazing £2607. Thank you to all of those who have supported his endeavours with pledges and donations.
There are a number of reasons Marcus chose this particular challenge. Katie lived her life to the full so he wanted to do something to push himself to the limit! The Himalayas are also a great place for reflection and healing away from all the trials and tribulations of today’s life, which Katie was very much part of. Most importantly, Katie was a great support to Marcus in tough times and so this was a tribute to her life and the happiness she gave him and all those who knew her.
The trek took 14 days, reaching a maximum altitude of 5,545m. It was physically and mentally challenging, but Marcus feels that Katie was sitting on his shoulder urging him on when the going got tough!
Extracts from Marcus’ Diary Camp Himalayan Trek to Everest Base 14 March – 2 April 2009
14 March Saturday: It was just like any other Saturday – I woke up, had a bowl of cereal, went for a bike ride. Before I knew it, it was lunch time. We had a yummy French onion soup, carbonara, etc. I finished my packing, left a message on my answer phone that I wasn’t going to be back until 3rd April; watched the rerun of the celebs climbing Kilimanjaro and then took off for the station having said goodbye to all the family.
I’d done this trip a million times but this was different. No phone, going the farthest East I’ve ever been to an unknown country. All of a sudden I felt very alone and slightly apprehensive. When I got to Heathrow Terminal 3 it was chaos. It was as if the great unwashed had descended on to my space and flight! Naturally we were delayed so no rush. The check-in staff were very friendly and told me that my connecting flight from Delhi to Kathmandu would ‘wait for me’! How very nice and jolly. Anyway, with my bag checked through and heading for the departure gates I felt as if I had just got to the top of the roller-coaster ready to plunge into the abyss and all that it will bring.
I look forward to the early nights and mornings and the scenery; different food and most of all just being alone with my thoughts and prayers.
15 March Sunday: Landed safely in Delhi. Great flight, amazing food (excellent curry and rice), good films, not much sleep. We were greeted off the plane and shown to security and then gate 7 for Kathmandu.
Coming out of arrivals onto the ‘road’ (cement/mud paving) I saw my name in bold letters with Mountain Kingdoms. Hot and muggy, 24°. We got into an old Toyota Jeep and headed for the centre. If you’ve never been to Kathmandu before you’d be mistaken to think it is a small mountain town/village with lots of ‘temply’ shaped houses with people placidly pedalling around in their kimonos, incense in the air – WRONG! KTM is proper 3rd world, very similar to Venezuela. There are real slum dog type slums with half naked children, thin rabid dogs and people sitting on the side of the road selling junk and the odd leek and carrot.
This place makes Costa Rica look like South Kensington and Sharm-el-Sheik look like Belgravia. I have to admit I am shocked at the amount of motorbikes, old cars, bikes and vans all blocking up the tiny roads through this sprawling city. It took over 30 mins. to do just a few miles. You get the classic Dad on the front of a motorbike with helmet and 2 kids on the back without helmets. He’s weaving dangerously through the mêlée all jostling for a position and tooting their horns.
These people have no money and 99.9% are scratching a living and the sanitation seems non-existent. The Shangri-La, by comparison, is a small, barely three star paradise that is gated off from the frenetic and noisy outside world. After what seems like 18-20 hours travelling I am finally here, pretty tired and jet lagged. I’ll grab something to eat, get an early night as I have a 9.30 start tomorrow. Have an early flight to Lukla on Tuesday and the start of the trek. I can’t wait!
16 March, Monday: Waking on Monday was hard going and at breakfast I met my guide – Dorge – he ascended Everest 6 times so is a legend. He was also charming: big wide open face, tanned with slitty eyes just as I had imagined him to be. He explained the trek to me and how there would be a 5.30 am pick up tomorrow and because I was on my own we could customise the trek a bit which was just what I wanted to hear.
He then took me into KTM proper on foot as I had to buy some hiking sticks and change some money. This was truly an eye opener. Kids in scruffy school uniforms everywhere. The pollution was stifling: motorbikes, cars, minivans all revving and beeping. People walking in the middle of the road. Now this is a poor country as I’ve already said with all the classic signs of a developing country. Average wage $150-200 per month. 2 bed apartment $10500 to buy 880 to rent per month. Car tax 100% just like Jamaica. Filth and squalour everywhere. None of the buildings are maintained and you find the street kids literally lying on the side of the pavement alongside stray dogs. Some are sucking dope (9-10 year olds). A mother with 4 kids huddled by the corner lamppost of a major intersection with her youngest 1-2 yr. old sleeping on a rug covered in dust and filth while his siblings squabbled about something. These are the real poor. They probably live on $5-10 per month, abandoned by their parents, reduced to a life of begging and stealing. Haven’t washed in years. Then, in complete contrast, you see a brand new Mercedes with a flag on the front cruising past with some important official that is living it up and has been voted in by these poor people hoping he will deliver on his promises to look after them. In a country like this it almost never happens.
Because of Tibet and the World Economic Crisis, tourism in Nepal has all but ground to a halt. There are virtually no foreigners here at all and those that are here are all staying at the Shangri-La. They have a very nice pool area which I’m currently relaxing in and might go for a dip. It must be 26-27% – lovely.
I changed some $s @ 80.33 to the dollar and got 12580 which should see me through until I get back. I’m going to add a diversion trip and go up another peak that overlooks base camp and where the view onto Everest is amazing apparently. I have no illusion of this trek not being tough and the going very slow especially at high altitude. It’s amazing to think that the book I’ve got to hike up to Base Camp is equivalent to over one month’s average salary for these people. The blessing here is that, unlike South American, inflation is under control and interest rates are 5% or so.
Last night I joined up for supper with an American family: Holly and sister Ivy (the Holly and the Ivy!) and Mom who is 71 but you wouldn’t have put her past 55. Ivy is the executive chef at Dos Caminos in NY where I dined just 3 weeks ago! She’s mainly in ‘The Park’ on 26th which is the first one and apparently the better of the three.
Need to get an early one tonight as tomorrow is full on. Flight leaves at 6.30am, lands in Lukla at 7.45 and then we head off up the mountain. HELP!! The sun is lovely and warm now so I’ll take a dip in the pool which is bloody freezing!
17 March, Tuesday: Had a fab supper last night, steak and rice and a bottle of red from Zonin, Sicily! Amazing, they sell their wine everywhere. Couldn’t sleep last night, too excited about the trek tomorrow. Kept tossing and turning. Finally got away but it seemed like only a few minutes before the alarm went off. Dragged myself out of bed and threw on something. Got myself in reasonable shape and headed for reception where the boys were ready to take me to the airport.
We drove in total darkness; people like shadows walking at the side of the street: cycles with no lights on which reminded me of driving to Rasudr in Egypt with dipped or no headlights.
We finally got to the airport and it was total organised chaos as usual. Security was a joke but we got on to a Twin Otter plane and zoomed off to Lukla. We climbed to 1150 ft. straight up and then flew in the heart of the mountain skimming the trees. I saw the runway which looked like a small strip of the scalextric car sets. We landed safely. The altitude wasn’t too bad. We walked to the tea house where we had warm sugary milky tea.
Finally we start trekking. I meet Dorge and we set off at a fairly blistering pace. This is definitely not for the faint hearted. We reach our lunch destination at 10.30 so we decide to stop for a peppermint tea and wait for the Americans (Holly, Ivy and Mom). After this we will not meet again so I thought in the interest of cross border relations I should bid them farewell.
The wind is picking up as we start to climb. My right knee is starting to grind a little. I hope it holds out. I might go and have the op. with Kelly and get a new titanium one as it’s been giving me jip ever since my squash accident when I was at Paine Webber nearly 20 years ago. I love this place. It’s like Switzerland but full of Tibetan-looking people. There is a very fast flowing glacial river below us with turquoise coloured water. I’m sitting by a Buddhist Temple. The bell has just rung 3 times for lunch I presume. There is definitely a Chinese/Buddhist influence here and the people look sort of dark Chinese.
They are right when they say it’s strenuous. I have just crossed a suspension bridge which made my bottom go very fizzy. Our US friends finally made it to Nurning Ghat at 11.20. Holly and Ivy wanted to go a lot faster. I suggested breaking off and heading straight for the summit. Both liked the idea. They stopped for lunch and we headed off pegging it to Phakding. Did it in 30 minutes sweating like a pig again but feeling great and alive. Thank God I did the training. My legs are in good shape and using the poles helps enormously.
Stopped for lunch which looks yummy: meat soup (couldn’t see any meat), stunning pork choi (had seconds), steamed rice, fried vegetables (potatoes and carrots cooked in saffron). This dish is called Dahl Baht – took a photo of it. Delish! I woofed it down. All cooked on an open wood fire which smoked the place out, but it is all part of the adventure.
Onwards and upwards. We’re heading for Monjo and then Namke Bazaar tomorrow which is a steep climb so must get some decent sleep tonight. We crossed yet another fizzy bottom bridge – a very long and wobbly one and then started climbing quite steeply. It was above 3000m. This started getting a little more challenging and I was running out of breath a lot more quickly. I finally got to where my smiley Sherpa said we would bed down but not before we passed the campsite where the girls were staying. Oh my God!!! It is perched on the top of a cliff, 3 yaks tied up, outside loo, etc. etc. and the weather was closing in. In fact, as I write this I am all snuggled up in my double sleeping bag having had a superbly warm shower. I hear the first spots of rain hitting the tin roof with ever greater vigour and I was going to complain about not having an en suite bathroom! My heart goes out to them. Poor things this might persuade them to go the tea house route. I mean, I love camping but not after having sweated my heart and soul out trekking for 5-6 hours at a pretty serious pace. My smiley Sherpa tells me that tomorrow and all the climbing days are much worse – this might be more challenging than I thought! Despite the slight dizziness and nagging headache due to the dreaded altitude sickness, (AS for short or should I say ARS), I know I’ll make it.
They were serving Momo in a lot of restaurants on the way up. I’ll have to ask them what it is!
Just going to read another few chapters of my book and then it’s dinner time. I loved lunch but it did slow me down a little. So tomorrow, if I’m walking after lunch, which I don’t think I am, it’s garlic soup which is meant to be good for ARS!
I’ve measured on the map and on day 1 I did more than 10 kms. Less than 30 kms. to Base Camp, admittedly all uphill. So if we cover 5-7 km. a day, I’ll be surprised
18 March, Wednesday: I woke up this morning feeling like a new man. Had a great sleep and didn’t get up once in the night and woke up naturally. No more headaches or nausea which is great. Spoke to an American couple last night. They were both working for an excursion company in Washington State. Not quite sure if they were an item or not. Both very good looking and she was making all the moves. They were guides for this company and had summitted Everest at least once (very impressive). She was now going to do it without oxygen. Now that is very impressive. She’d been to S. America and all over with this company. He was from Scottish descent and still spoke with a Gallic lilt – both in their early 30s.
I told them I was finding it quite tough and they said to take it much more slowly which I will do today. We’ve got about 3-4 kms. to do today, all uphill from Monjo to Namche Bazaar where we will have lunch and rest for the afternoon.
I’m staying in a classic tea house made entirely of wood with little or no insulation. The ones they are building now are made of stone and have double glazing etc. Bit like a Swiss Chalet and look most impressive. There is, of course, no central heating so the mornings are cold to say the least. I’m drinking about 3-4 litres of water a day and 10 cups of black tea with sugar to keep the energy levels up. I’ve been eating exactly the same meals as the guide and porter. I have to say that Dahl Bat, which I had for lunch yesterday, is great. I had garlic soup last night which was yummy. I wonder what’s for brekky, I’m starving.
It’s a beautiful day out there and I’m looking forward to getting to Namche and exploring the town a little. As we leave Monjo we enter the Sagamartha National Park where I will have to show them my hiking permit again. I like the fact that they are quite strict about who goes in and out. I can see from the map that we’ve got another 3 fizzy bottom bridges to cross; they’re quite hairy! When we get to Namche I’ll get my first view of Everest which will be great I’m sure. More black tea and omelette brekky coming up! My Sherpa, whose name I keep forgetting – begins with P – had a lovely noodle soup for breakfast which I’m definitely having tomorrow, although the omelette on top of fresh hot bread was good too!
Walking much more slowly today and feeling less dizzy and headachy. Legs are good and strong as are those of the porters carrying stuff up to Namche. One guy, who has now shot ahead, must himself have weighed 55 kgs and was carrying 50 kgs of rice. Total respect for these people – my backpack comes in at about 2kgs.
Stopped for a rest. The sun’s out and it’s a stunning day. Got my first glimpse of Everest. God she’s beautiful. Cloud was swirling around her quite rounded top.
The American couple who are guides just overtook me! I’m amazed at the age range. There are 2 yr. olds (local) up to 7 yr. olds (foreign) all trudging up the mountain. We stop for a break and Dorge gives me a delicious orange. The river is now far below us. We’ve been climbing steadily now for an hour or so with lots of stops which makes it much more bearable.
As we climb everything becomes a bit more expensive, as it all has to be schlepped up by the porters in their sandals and gym shoes.
Namche Bazaar, Wed. pm. After 4 ½ hrs, 2 ½ miles climbing from 2850 -3450 ms. I feel very happy with this. Got to our hotel which is stone built. I’ve got an en suite loo and shower!
Namche is a thriving little town with a KTM Dev. Bank! Perched on the side of a pretty steep descent. Population about 1500. Lots of shops and restaurants etc. Black tea and sugar are the order of the day along with garlic soup and Dahl Baht for lunch. Then a quick kip and off to a monastery, Buddhist temple and hopefully a spectacular view of Mt. Everest. The weather is closing in again so we shall see, (as Mum would say).
The weather came in and it started to snow hard so we binned the temple and went to the shopping area which was great and cheap. Manouth trousers for £14, amazing. I’ll get some on the way back. Dorge then took me to a real Sherpa Tea House which is not easy to find. There is a long wooden room with sacks of rice and boxes of foodstuff everywhere. One of the women was making Momo which are basically steamed dumplings with a spicy meat filling. Absolutely stunning with some hot sauce and black tea. I also had a sip of rice beer but stopped at a sip as I knew it would knock me out! This was, up till now, the best, most unusual experience which would not have happened had I been in a group. I was asking the cook how she made the Momo – meat filling: minced meat, onion, green garlic, pepper, butter, curry powder, salt: pastry: wheat flour, eggs, water, salt, made with a pasta maker! I was chatting to the lady who runs the Tea House where we are staying and she said she’d show me how to make it on the way back which is great.
Supper time soon then bed. Dorge and I have another 5-6 hours walk tomorrow to get to Toubouche then another 5 days till we get close to Everest Base Camp and Kalapalthur which is higher than base camp.
19 March, Thursday: woke up feeling a bit dizzy and headachy so decided to stay another day and acclimatize. Fun day of rest. We went to the military camp and saw a helicopter take off. We also went to the Museum of Nepal and Trekkers: then on to a proper Sherpa House Museum. It was amazing inside the way these people lived and still live in the traditional way. Inside upstairs was amazing. If I ever build a mountain lodge, I’d love to base it around this.
Then we went to the Photo Museum and all the summiters, including Sir Edmund Hillary and an Italian Count Guido Monzino (1973) who came with 120 Sherpas, the largest expedition ever to Everest. Edmund Hillary is a bit like Bob Marley in Jamaica. God. I didn’t realise that he had died last year. He did a tremendous amount of good in this region of Nepal and built 11 schools and much more to boot.
After lunch (Dahl Baht) we went for a hike up to the abandoned airport at Syonbouche. Dorge, Holly, Ivy and me. It was steep and the first time we had trekked together. Mom stayed at the hotel to chill. We hoofed it up to about 3800 and saw some provisions being taken up for an Everest expedition (liquid oxygen and kerosene). Ivy seemed to know the chap whose company was organising this. The way down was like going down a very steep black run with lots of moguls. We scooped Mom up and went to town for a bit of retail therapy that ended up in a Sherpa bar. We drank a ‘few’ rice beers and ate Momo – yum – I had to help Mom with the Momo.
Back to the hotel for yet more food: soup, burgers and mash which were very good. We were all shattered and retired gracefully. I succumbed to some altitude sickness pill and passed out after a chapter of my fab book Cloudstreet.
20 March, Friday: Fab sleep – could have gone on sleeping for 2-5 hours. Great brekky, scrambled eggs on toast, potatoes, black tea and sugar. Said farewell to Holly, Ivy and Charleen and look forward to catching up with them again soon. Headed off to Tenboche (3860m.) and trekked for about 5kms. Stopped for lunch and knowing that we had a very steep 2km. climb ahead, I just had noodle and veg. soup, delicious and 2 black teas with sugar.
We are just entering the National Park Nursery Rhododendron Forest which reminds me of something a British lady said to her guide just outside Lukla ‘I expected more flowers’ – typical girl! I thought, well hopefully she’ll get them now.
Dorge brought me my lunch and then disappeared to eat his. It’s so sweet, he knows I like to have a little time to write my journal etc. He kept calling me Mike so I called him Dodgy and that’s how it remained for the whole trip!
I’m looking at the steep trek ahead and the weather, as everyday, is starting to set in. They haven’t had rain for 6 months so we’ve brought them a blessing. The tradition here is that their God is white. I knew I’d have some sort of calling!! It’s a straight 45° uphill for 2 km. so I’ll be shattered in about 4 hours from now. Much easier than I thought. It’s only 2.30 and we are here! I really enjoyed that. It was steep but I kept up and not even out of breath! Feeling much stronger in the legs.
The lodge here is very simple. My room is tiny – same as on the first night. The shower is a bucket and I’ve opted for the wash bowl. Feel refreshed and looking forward to some tea.
On my way up I saw some boys (late teens) carrying huge planks of wood, 10 each measuring ¼ inch thick, 4 foot wide, 10 foot long. Unreal, it must have weighed 80 – 90 kgs. and very awkward to carry. Yaks rushing up and down the mountain carrying all sorts of paraphernalia.
The tea and bourbons are very much appreciated. The sun has disappeared and it’s getting very cold. Am going to put some more wool on. Then it’s off to the Monastery at 4pm and back for an early supper I hope. We’ve been hiking for 6-7 hrs. which takes it out of you.
My fingers and toes have started to tingle like mad – just the tips. Extraordinary feeling, bit like a soft electric shock. Apparently it’s AS again but otherwise no headache or nausea. These pills really seem to do the trick.
Went to the monastery, very impressive and colourful. Loads of people taking pictures inside when it clearly says not to. I did sneak 2 in myself but very discretely rather than making a paparazzi impression. Starting to get quite cold in the morning so the Sherpas and I huddle around this great wood burner that really chucks out the heat with just a few bits of wood, amazing. Sherpas chatting away incessantly, very soporific; must stay awake until supper which will be Dahl Baht with chicken and mushroom soup. My appetite is starting to go. I only had a bit of my soup but most of the Dahl Bat which tasted very good. My fingers and toes are tingling something chronic – it’s AS again.
Just going to the Sherpa museum in Namche. I had to go to the slumdog millionaire loos quite often as a result of the AS drugs. Also getting some very minor nose bleeds that must also be part of the effect.
21 March, Saturday: The room was freezing and my water had a thin layer of ice on it. I slept in all my clothes except the hiking trousers. I had 2 sleeping bags and the ‘bed’ was like stone. Probably the most uncomfortable night yet. I chatted to a Canadian who worked for the Toronto fire brigade. He was trying to catch up with his group. He had come down with a nasty which had laid him up in Namche B. for an extra day. I suggested it might be AS but he was having none of it saying it might have been a bug. He told me that the previous evening he was sitting by the fire and a Frenchman came in, very pale staring straight ahead., etc. suffering from AS. In this instance I thought differently and suggested it was the after effects of the severe kicking England gave France at Rugby a week ago!
Had porridge, scrambled eggs and toast for brekky which they call ‘continental’ as opposed to ‘American’ which substitutes the porridge with sausage.
We headed off to Dingboche. It was hard work even though the trail was more on a level until we got to Shomore where we stopped for lunch. The wind is really picking up now. On the way up I met a couple from Lancashire who had brought their 6 yr. old son with them. They were heading for Base Camp. The little boy was amazing.
The English family just walked in. They’re from Wakefield, Yorks and they work for the NHS in mental health. They’ve taken 6 weeks off to do this. Their son is full of beans. I reckon he’ll get to Base Camp before them. They started way below Lukla and slowly made their way up. Clever, as ARS doesn’t kick in if you go that slowly.
Set off again, it’s hard work today. We finally reached Dingboche at 4350m. Our lodge is, of course, the highest – probably 4400m. Built of stone and with an ‘en suite’ bathroom, i.e. lavatory with a bucket and water. At least it’s something. Some granddad has just walked in with scholls on, loose trousers and a fleece. I think his accent is Scottish, probably from the Highlands.
It’s snowing like mad and a yak is feeding just outside my window. The owner’s wife is starting the fire thank God. I can’t believe how cold it is. They must have been as hard as nails to do this in the 60s. Fingers, toes and tips of my ears are tingling. I struck up a conversation with the Scotsman (67) who turns out to be a Canadian from Vancouver. His wife is from E. Finland (charming, softly spoken and allergic to gluten!). He is also charming. He originated from Brighton UK and has worked in Canada since 1967 in oil exploration.
I had Yak Steak and Chips, yum. I then headed to bed wondering if I will survive runny tummy or durchfall (German, which means ‘fall through’). When I get back to my icy room through the heavy snow I didn’t have to wonder anymore!
22 March, Sunday: Last night I slept in three layers top and bottom. Woke up twice in the night. No light so I had to guess a bit at the location of the loo pan. This morning more fall through. I can feel the weight coming off as I must be burning much more than I’m eating. Last night they were stoking the fire with flattened, dried yak dung which didn’t smell at all. This morning in the dining area it’s freezing. I was the first one in and all the porters were just getting up. I ordered porridge and cheese omelette. Hope to get some of it down before we head off to Chakung for the day and attempt a small climb to just about 5000m. then back here tonight. Ate all my porridge, but could only manage half the omelette.
There are too many of what I would call the ‘masses’ here. I think this trek should become much more exclusive, not only in price but also in facilities. I see many traipsing up here without a guide and doing it on the cheap. The surplus cash should be divided amongst all the lodges and they should all have central heating, double glazing, proper insulation, electricity, hot and cold, en suite everything. So it’s like a skiing experience. The best part is the walking and climbing. The nights are pretty horrid and I won’t miss them at all!
For example, everyone should be charged $1000 to trek regardless of length. If it is more than 2 weeks it’s $500 per week extra. Flights on to Lukla should be expensive. Luxury room $50 now $15; standard room £35 now $10. Meals should be two to three times more expensive as should water. The scale rises as you get closer to the summit. A trip like this should cost £4-5 k. not £2k. It should be a once in a lifetime! Kids under 12, students and OAPs 65+ should be half price.
Finally got to Kumku, 4730m. Highest I’ve ever been. Feel quite tired and a bit giddy because of lack of oxygen. Might attempt the big climb this afternoon but I do feel a bit knackered. Altitude makes you sleepy and I really could do with a few winks now. I notice that my nose is bleeding quite a lot. The capillaries don’t like the altitude and are bursting. I just had noodle and veg. soup, but I feel a bit sick though it’s alright after the first mouthful. It’s weird the way your body doesn’t want food at altitude. What with that and fall through you’re on to a winner if you want to lose weight.
I’ve got a bit of a headache, so after lunch we’ll be heading back for a rest as tomorrow we’re going to 4910m. (44 off base camp) My guess is that it’s going to be a pig.
Just taken a photo of some women unloading 8 or 9 yaks carrying potatoes. I notice here that the women do the heavy work – very sensible!
I’m totally shattered and glad to be back in my bed resting. This is the way to do it. Go up, then come back down, go up a little further, stay etc…. Dorge explained how they do Everest. It’s not a gentle ascent and it’s up and down for about 6 weeks returning to 3400m. for a total rest. Then a big 6-7 day push to the top. Amazing. Wouldn’t want to do it myself, rather sail the Pacific or Atlantic. Much more fun!
Lovely afternoon kip. Woken up by my dear porter who brought me warm water to wash in. The temperature has dropped by 15° to minus 3° or so. It takes all my will power to get out of my warm sleeping bag, strip off to the waist, wash, deodorise and put on a fresh T-shirt and clothes. I’m completely exhausted after this 4 minute ordeal. I put layer upon layer on and go up to the dining area in the hope that the fire is on. It’s not. Luckily nice porter brings me hot tea (chai) and biscuits and yes! Yak dung is being lit as we speak. So hopefully I’ll be nice and toasty in a few minutes.
Tomorrow we head for Lobuche 5018m. good job we did 4730m. today. Only 3 more days till base camp. I am enjoying the challenge but it’s very, very hard and anyone who says it’s easy is lying. It’s not the walking, that’s the nice bit, it’s not even the AS and fall through. It’s the bloody cold. Unreal.
The fire gets quite hot now and my Yak and Chips arrives bang on 6pm followed by two small 2 ½ inch long bananas.
23 March, Monday: Great sleep and only up once in the night. Woke up at 6.20 just before sweet porter brought me my hot water to wash. I think I’m growing a beard but I can’t see as there are no mirrors and it’s too cold to shave it off. Washing takes about l min. then quickly put clothes back on. All packed and ready to go. Porridge, toast and honey for brekky. It’s a stunning day, not a cloud in the sky and I do feel a lot better. It’s good when you stay 2 days in one place. I must take my pills as we are going up to Lobuche today 5018 m. then all being well we hit EBC the day after!
Tummy is definitely flatter what with no booze and not able to get the food down.
We set off at 7.50 and got to Lobuche 4950m. at 12.30 Best walk ever. Didn’t even break into a sweat! Getting much fitter and more used to the terrain. The gloves I’ve got aren’t brilliant as my hands are freezing cold and now in the warmth of the dining area they are tingling like mad and bright red. It’s very welcoming here unlike Dingboche which was a bit of a dump. At least the wood burner or shit burner is on!
Looking forward to my lunch and a kip. Tomorrow Base Camp, can’t wait.
I’ve just been shown my room – amazing! It’s warm with a loo at the end of the corridor. This is more like it. It’s a shame all the lodges aren’t like this. I can’t understand it. Double glazing makes all the difference!
That was the best Sherpa non vegetarian plate I’ve had. Huge chunks of meat (yak) in a red yummy sauce, green veg and a mountain of rice cooked by the most unlikely character but absolutely stunning. Looking forward to my kip. Can’t quite believe I’m at nearly 5000m.
Met up with the Canadian couple from Vancouver with Finnish wife. I’m sure I’ll catch up with them this evening. They are right next door to me so I heard them say I was quite an interesting guy, thank God! Dorge told me we’d be up at 5am to get to Base Camp so I didn’t sleep as I wouldn’t get to sleep tonight. Cup of tea round the fire. Grilled chicken and rice for supper – very good – the chef here is excellent.
It was so cold tonight that my water bottle froze solid.
24 March, Tuesday: Woken at an ungodly hour, 5.30 but actually felt OK. Started taking a whole Damex as we are over 5000m. Dressing was laborious and painful it was so cold. I could hardly believe it. Next holiday must be somewhere warm. I’m hating this cold big time. How they did it in the old days I have no idea. They seriously need to sort this heating out. The cold ruins the experience in my opinion.
The views were stunning on the way, looking down on huge glaciers with rocks in them and some tunnel type structures. Finally got to Gorake Shep. Quick tea and biscuits and off to Base Camp.
M A D E I T !!!
Took a few piccies of me in the KLF T-shirt.
THIS IS BY FAR THE HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE!
Getting back was no picnic either. When I finally got to the guest house I’d been walking 9 hours. Nothing can prepare you for this. I feel sick, exhausted, fever hot, so I’m definitely taking a day off tomorrow before attempting Kaleputter, the highest I’ll ever go with a great view of Everest.
Everest: “You’d think you’d see her from everywhere, but she’s shy and shrouded nearly all of the time.
Large but mysterious. Guarded by all her soldiers rising to protect her from human gaze.
Only a few get to stand on top of her. She has claimed many who try.”
If not, I’ll bin it and go down to Panbouche. I’ve done it, that’s the main thing. Spoke to Dorge who keeps calling me Mike so I’m going along with it. As to re-booking my flights – I told him I’m not well, which is true. We’ll call the office from Namche Bazaar, l days walk from Lukla. Felt a lot better!
Really struggling down the hill, have no energy left. Hope I make it to Lukla. Dorge called the office to see if they can change my ticket from Thursday to Monday. We’re hoofing it down to get as far as poss. So I can make the Sunday Lukla-KTM flight and maybe catch up with my American friends too.
Had lunch at Lobuche which was good! Yak meat, stew and rice. Gave me a bit of a lift. Then a slow plod downhill to Periche to a wonderful lodge, very …… heated (at least in the common parts). Dido playing in the background. Now you’re talking. Why can’t they all be like this? I know you want a bit of local colour but you don’t want it thrown at you like a bucket of shit all the time. I’m hopeful that the rooms are OK and at least insulated.
To get here we passed a number of glacial streams. Very pretty. Then walked through a snowing cloud. Snow was coming at you from all directions, most bizarre and somewhat cold and mysterious. I think we covered about 9 kms. today which isn’t bad going – mainly downhill, thank God, to about 4280m. I’m starting to feel more human again. In fact a lot better and think I might treat myself to a shower today. I’ll see what they’re like. No, as usual it’s freezing. They haven’t a clue about insulation, it’s such a shame. Huge gaps in the window frames – so unnecessary.
26 March, Thursday: Had a great sleep. Good brekky and off as far as we can get: Namche Bazaar is possible. Went from Periche to Tabouche where we went back to that horrid hotel. Food wasn’t as bad as I recalled. We picked up an American Nepali on the way who was most charming and we talked politics. He’s splitting from his wife who’s an aspiring politician. His name is Marti Brown and his house, 40 miles east of San Francisco, was worth $275,000 two years ago and is now worth $100,000. I asked him what he thought of Schwarzenegger. He hated him.
‘In the cloudy’ The first time I heard this lovely way of describing something obscured by clouds was when I caught a glimpse of Everest going up to Namche Bazaar. Dorge said ‘over there where the cloudy is’.
Another 6 km. to Nanche Bazaar. I hope I make it as there’s an en suite shower and loo and heater. I can have a shower as I look like a Yeti after 10 days trekking! After a lot of ups and downs I still had loads of energy to get to Namche Bazaar. Finally made it for 5pm. Ordered the water and grabbed a warm shower. Even though the shower head only had 4/5 squirty bits, it was lovely to get my whole body washed again. Massive shave and clean clothes.
Dorge just informed me that I can change my flight for $30. So I said ‘yes please’. So with a fair wind I should be home by Monday! Fantastic, to see the girls and my family – I wish I were there right now.
This has completely put me off cold holidays and even Arosa might be in jeopardy! From now on it’s beach, pool, sun, sun and more sun and all that goes with it. Holly, Ivy and Charlene dropped me a note to tell me about their travels and that they missed me —- naturally!
I’m sitting in the restaurant and have ordered chicken, chips and a coke just to keep in with the local traditions. Got a bit of a lie-in tomorrow and will do my packing. Finished my book last night, brilliant, called Cloudstreet by Tim Wilson. He’s written others which I’m going to buy.
Off to Packdung, last stop before Lukla and then back to Shangri-La for a night then off to London on Monday. Fantastic. I have had a lovely time here but I’m looking forward to getting back. Don’t think I’ll rush back here somehow!
Met some Italians from Brescia at Tanbouche whilst having lunch today. They were charming but they couldn’t stomach the food! Typical. We had a long chat: shame I didn’t get their details. Oh well you meet people all the time.
Tomorrow Packdung – a stroll, 4 hours. The day after Lukla; then KTM, then LHR. Need to go to the KTM Bank to get Dorge some money for a tip.
27 March, Friday: Today we crossed 6 fizzy bottom bridges. Chatting to Dorge and he tells me he has 3 kids and sends them to boarding school, but in fact it’s a private day school for 10000rps per month – that’s £100 for all three! They go to school all year round with very little holiday and they learn English, whereas State schools don’t teach English and have 2 months holiday in the Summer – God forbid! He pays no taxes as his income isn’t high enough but he has to pay property tax on the home he bought. 4000rps per year – £40.
This is how the trip works: a guide is chosen by the company who goes with the guest to Lukla. At the airport there are hundreds of porters looking for loads to carry up the mountain. If you have a load you are lucky! Competition is fierce. 60 kgs. from Lukla to Base Camp = 8000rps=£80. Double load, double money. Lukla to Namche Bazaar =2000rps=£20. Lukla to Base Camp 5 days: Base Camp to Luka 1 day (no load) running! So, a porter is lucky to get a load to BC every Wednesday and with a day’s rest you can make about £250 a month. £3800 a year. However, the season is only March to June/July and Oct/Nov. So for 7 to 8 months @£250 = £2000 max. and you have three boys, you’re taking in £6k. a year. A few porters have mobile phones!
Still got a bit of a tummy surprisingly, but my legs have changed shape completely – much more streamlined. The ‘skins’ shorts I bought have been amazing, no chaffing at all. Brilliant, although my ‘legs don’t touch’ as Katie would say.
I hope our American friends, the Italians, the Swiss boys from Basel and all the other travellers I met are still enjoying themselves. I’m so looking forward to getting home now and I’m really going to enjoy the flight back.
Off to town now to find a cash machine and then on to Pachdung. Stopped in a proper Sherpa Bar and had Momo and coke.
Oxygen is the same: the difference is the pressure. At high altitude the pressure is less and so O2 won’t flow through the cells in your lungs and on into the blood vessels as efficiently as at sea level where the pressure is high. This makes perfect sense – explained by a German!
28 March, Saturday: Had another good sleep and proceeded to Lukla our final destination. I was thinking of the Brazilian group that I met at Pharding. They had an American couple from New Orleans with them. He’s just recovered from cancer and looked OK; she looked as if she’d eaten half of New Orleans! Their trip was a 15 day trek in Chirklung, Base Camp, Kalaputnor, Gokyo and back to Lukla. I told the guide she was way too ambitious. It had taken them 5 hours from Lukla to Pachdung which is mostly downhill and only 5 km. away. I wasn’t being unkind or complacent, I just know what was ahead and that Miss New Orleans wouldn’t make it.
About 30 mins. out of Lukla, by way of a punishment, the world decided to fall out of my bottom and I had to run to the woods and pretend to be a bear. We breezed the last bit and got here for lunch. Shopping this afternoon then flight to KTM tomorrow, God willing.
29 March, Sunday: Got the second flight out this morning on AGN Air. The British guys had been waiting 2 days to get out and were pissed off. The plane lurches itself forward down a 20° incline and just manages to take off before the runway runs out and a sheer drop presents itself. Got to KTM and went straight to the Jet Airways desk but they couldn’t get me out of Delhi today and I didn’t have a visa, so I needed to go into town and change the whole ticket. You’d think they’d have a sales desk in KTM Airport, but that would make it just too easy!
Into town we go – not as chaotic but still as grimy. I notice all the meat left at the side of the road in the sun with flies all over it. Stuff that someone is going to buy and actually eat! It’s amazing how their expectations are so much lower than ours. It would be impossible for any of mine of Jules’ friends to survive here a year. I know I’d struggle. Big time.
Went into town for a walk and almost got asphyxiated. Got a cab back and phoned home and spoke to Jules. It was so good to hear her voice again. I’m so glad I changed my ticket to tomorrow even though it cost me £500!
Spent most of the flight on the loo but it was so worth getting home.
My friend Ian wants to race to the Azores and back in 2 years time I think I might be much more up for that!
And finally to Katie…I did think of Katie a lot on this trip – the first thing that came to mind was that she would say to me “I’m glad you’re doing this rather than me!” Katie was one for comfort and style and this was anything but.
I had lots of chats with her along the way about all sorts of things from the trivial to the more serious such as what I should do with my kids school wise, are they happy, etc.
I really felt her presence a lot egging me on especially up the really steep and horrid bits. Walking through the snow on the higher points did remind me of our skiing holidays we had in the Alps trudging to or from some bar!
On the way down I met an American chap who was recovering from cancer and he asked me why I did base camp and I told him all about KLF – the connection and relevance to him really hit home and made me realise how worthwhile my trip had been both personally and for the Fund.