Dec 12, 2019 Praveen

The Everest in me - The Trek

We reached Khatmandu on 9th Nov 2019 and were to leave for Lukla the next day. An early rise would ensure a timely start; so, we took off at 2.30 am sharp and drove to Ramachep. The flight to our next destination awaited us – Lukla, which was placed at 2855 meters (m) above sea level.

The goal was to trek our way from there to EBC, which was at 5364 m – an elevation of ~2500 m, to be covered in an 8 day trek.

Total Submission

Lukla is considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world. But the excitement trumped our fears. We were rearing to go!

On reaching Lukla, the head Sherpa decided that we bypass Phakding which was planned to be our first stop, and get to Manjo directly. This meant a 15 kms trek on day 1 itself!

Now, don’t forget that we had woken up at 2am, drove 5 hours and took a flight to reach Lukla just earlier in the day. The change in plans was sure to strain our bodies at the very onset. But here, we were to put our trust in the leader before our own judgments and limiting beliefs.

In the first part of the series I had mentioned about submitting myself to the ‘Idea’ of scaling the mountain. It had got me to this point in the expedition. Now, that we had arrived, it was time we submitted ourselves to head Sherpa, his team and Satyarup Siddhanta.

Submission is a crucial part of the process – to trust that whatever decision is taken will be in our best interest.

Mind Over Body

Bypassing Phakding was grueling, but all of the 12 members managed to get through it. We reached the Tea house at Monjo, which was hardly a cozy stay. But we were up for it. The real challenge however, was using the Indian style toilets.

A fellow trekker fell badly ill that evening. To me it looked like he wouldn’t be able to continue. But day 2, I was surprised to see him wake up fresh and rearing to go. He looked much better than we had left him previous night.

This showed how you will power can cushion your mind – whatever happened, he would complete EBC!

In fact, he was leading all the way on day 2!

Basics First

This was supposed to be the most challenging leg of the trip, called Namche Bazar. Standing tall at 600 m from Monjo, Namche is a very steep climb. It’s said, if you cross Namche, you are almost certain to reach EBC.

The place was very scenic and we were told to go slower, enjoying the view. Time was not a constraint and our only goal today was to reach Namche. So we walked enjoying like a group of friends, eating dry fruits, energy bars and hydrating ourselves continually. The key was to keep ourselves away from cold. Satyarup had instructed us to keep our neck, head, ears and feet covered all the time, and eat and hydrate more than required. This would help us avoid unwanted medical issues.

We had made the mistake of eating junk food on Day 1. From day 2 till we reached EBC though, we followed one routine:

Morning was to be a protein diet, mostly eggs and oats – Lunch was rice, dal and vegetables – Evenings were soups and eggs.

Namche was a bustling city where everything was expensive, as this was to be the last pit-stop where we could buy any trekking material. We were happy to find a nice place called German Bakery where we got good coffee, bread and most of all – free WIFI and phone charging! The scenery was spell binding and to be able to do face-time with family made it totally worthwhile.

Day 2 was about enjoying the journey. We were not discussing about the challenges of the following day.

Our focus was only on the short term goal; i.e. to complete the day.

Mind Playing Tricks

The basic idea of acclimatization is to climb up a hill about 300 m, come back and sleep – Climb high and sleep low. Its helps you sleep better at lower altitudes once you have climbed that much. Hotel Everest View was to be our acclimatization point which was at an ideal distance from where we were. But the thinning air made it very challenging. We had lunch there and climbed downhill. Here is when another twist came our way.

We were told that instead of going to Namche we would climb down other side of the hill to reach Kenjoma. This would save another 2 hours for the next day’s trek.

This was the point when 2 of our fellow trekkers started struggling badly. They decided to give up right then. We knew that it wasn’t their bodies giving up, but their MINDS! It was a big setback for the whole team.

One of them was a dear friend and I told him to reconsider in the morning. But he didn’t trust me or Satyarup and decided to go with what his body was telling him. This came down to our basic learning –

When treading on new roads, always trust the expert; sometimes, even over your own body!

Double Our Success

On 13th Nov we left Kenjoma, but just the 10 of us now. We were to trek 300 m up to 3950 m and reach Pengboche. Constant hydration being key, we would intake a lot of hot ginger, honey and lemon tea all through the trek. We ensure we consumed at least 5-8 ltrs of water each day without fail. We also kept our neck, face, ears and feet covered as instructed by Satyarup. Having followed these tips diligently, our chances of success had doubled.

Thankfully, although being prone to cold, I did not catch one through the trek. We realized how important it was to stick to the basics and secure the only instrument that would get us to EBC – our body.

Much Needed Inspiration

Dingboche was our next pit stop at 4410 m. This was the only point where we were to stay 2 days and we eagerly looked forward to some relaxed time. Next day was to be an acclimatization trek to Nangkar Tshang. This was a full moon night and the mildly lit sky suffused us with positive energies. We felt assured that we were going to make our way through. It felt like the divine energies were blessing us through the moonlit sky.

While scouting for a place to rest, we found this wonderful nest called Café 4410. We were in disbelief to have found such a great place at this altitude. It served the best food and I was all over the blueberry cake. We spend the next 2 hours sipping coffee and playing Uno. We struck a deal that we would come back to the place.

On 15th Nov we started climbing the steep trek to Nangkar Tshang. At the fag end of the trek, with about 150 m left, I felt like running the last stretch. Satyarup accented and I scooted over all the rocks like an exuberant kid. Although a funny moment, but deep down it gave me a feeling of conquering Everest. All these days we had slept in rooms smaller than the size of a toilet, trekked long hours and constantly challenged our body and our mind. We had to find expressions which helped us feel success at every step.

Trumping Fear

Once we came down, we had our basic lunch at the tea house and soon left for Café 4410. We had planned to watch the movie, Everest while sipping on some coffee. Later, Satya shared his experiences at Everest and talked about the avalanche that hit in 2015. Listening to it gave us goosebumps.

By then however, our longing and desire for what we aimed, had become greater than the fear of even losing our lives.

It was at the back of our mind but not playing on our mind. The only vision we allowed in, was of us celebrating at EBC on 17th Nov.

The Journey is All That Matters

On 16th Nov we started from Dingboche, heading to Lobuche set at 4910 mts, slowly catching up to EBC altitude. Sometimes, moving slow is the only thing you can do, so do it well.

Often in business, in the pursuit of getting to things faster, we lost the essence of journey and sometimes we harm ourselves – Could be in the form of finance, relationships, health etc. Plan for both Short term and long term goals.

We slept like a mummy inside a sleeping bag, without much movement - Got up 3-4 times at night to answer natures call in the shivering cold - Found our way to the bathroom in the pitch dark – Washed ourselves with the freezing cold water, and yet all that didn’t matter. With my long beard I avoided washing my face for days. But however you smell or look became irrelevant at that point. The only thing that mattered, was the journey. Having learnt this, today all these things have become immaterial to me.

As long as you are enjoying and enriching your life while working, with a sense of pride to be living your designed life, other things like your look, what you drive, where you stay etc. don’t matter!

We slept on 16th night knowing that 17th was the day! All of us were on a high, having scripted this success story together – As a team!