Barrie's amble to the Everest Base Camp for the British Heart Foundation
You may remember I wrote about Barrie's trek last year - this is his day by day story of his awesome completed journey, in his own words. A brilliant effort, well done Barrie!
"15th March 2012, the day of the flight to Nepal to start the Everest Base Camp trek, seven months after registration with the British Heart Foundation (BHF). The training was completed and the required sponsor money of over £4,000 collected thanks to generous friends, work colleagues and local businesses.
I arrived at Terminal 4 to meet my fellow 20 trekkers, 9 of whom I had met on a training day in Surrey, to climb the substantial Leith Hill near Dorking at (294 m) above sea level. I can remember thinking at the time is this adequate training for the Himalayas. Strangely we all met with no prior arrangement at a well known coffee bar, maybe it was the bright red T-Shirts and Fleeces with the BHF emblem emblazoned on them. We were joined by the BHF representative Natasha, who handed us a list informing us who was going to be our tent buddy for the trek. For the next 18 nights I was going to share a hotel room and tent with a chap called Simon, who interestingly had completed another trek for the BHF like myself and was of a similar age. Also joining us at the airport was Pat the trek Doctor; little did he know how busy he was going to be in the next 18 days.
Having changed flights at Delhi we arrived at Kathmandu to be greeted by Kamel our team leader for the trek and Bhola, who had conquered the north side of Everest 29,029 ft (8,848 m) in 2011. Having never been to an Asian country before, the coach journey to the hotel was an eye opener and had my heart racing with anticipation. The evening meal was a time for Kamel to give us a brief description of our future trek. It was then Pat's turn to inform us what to expect medically in relation to water, food and altitude. He also explained that he expected us to drink at least 5 litres of fluid a day, this in his own words 'would help us to produce our own champagne and not burgundy'.
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Day 3 of my adventure, up at 05.00hrs to make our way to Kathmandu airport to fly to Lukla (2,840m); also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport, which is widely considered to be the most dangerous airport in the world. This is due to its short runway and unforgiving approach path to its perch, high in the Himalayan Mountains. As far as I was concerned this was more exhilarating than any ride at a theme park. The excitement level was increased whilst on the Dornier DO-228 twin-engine propped plane, when noticing the 2 pilots were using a Sat-Nav that was smaller than the one I use for navigating the roads of Britain, let alone the mountains of the Himalayas. Also to fly for most of the journey with mountain tops above you and seeing the pilots reading broadsheets and then flying into a mountain and hitting its up-hill 16 degree one way runway, was utterly enthralling. After lunch and allowing the 21 Sherpa crew to sort and divide the camping equipment and baggage onto 8 Ghopkyo (mix breed of Yak & normal cow, as the Yak cannot survive below (3,000m); we began our 3hr trek along a pleasant trail with a few steep climbs from Tarhe Khola, where we had a superb view of the Kusum-Kangru (6,369m) crossing. After a short climb we reached Ghat village, and after another 1½hrs of trekking we arrived at Tok Tok (2,760m) for the overnight camp.
Day 4; a trek to Namche Bazaar (3,440m). After crossing the suspension bridge over the Dudh-Kosi River, the walk was pleasant with a few uphill climbs that didn't seem that bad on the legs. After 3 hours walking we reached the entrance of Sagarmatha National Park, where my trekking permit was checked. We continued to trek by the river until the last bridge over the Imjatse River, from here the walk was along a winding uphill path to Namche Bazaar, with views of Kwangde (6,011m) peak and its other sister peaks to the east, with Kusum Kangru behind us as we climbed higher. During this part of the day we had our first view of Everest, Nuptse (7,864m) and Lhotse (8,516m). After a day of 6 hours trekking, we reached the famed Namche Bazaar, with its colourful houses situated in an amphitheatre shaped bowl and our night of camping.
Day 5; an acclimatisation day. A morning walk to the Everest View Hotel with its own helipad and volley ball court bizarrely, where 4 of us decided to have a game, using an orange as a ball, soon realising that after every point we would need a rest when playing at (3,880m). The stunning views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam (6,812 m) from here, made me realise that my future days trekking in the Himalayas was going to be extraordinary.
Day 6: Trek to Thyangboche (3,867m) was approx 10kms and we came to a busy place called Shanasa, where I was lucky to see a beautifully coloured Danphe pheasant (Impeyan pheasant), the national bird of Nepal, From Shanasa, the trail descended to the Imjatse River at Phungitenga (3,250m), a small settlement with a couple of teahouses in the midst of the alpine woods of mostly silver fir blue pines, rhododendron, magnolia and birch trees. At Phungitenga there were a number of beautiful prayer wheels that needed to be propelled clockwise for luck. The walk from here was strenuous for an hour on a winding trail through shaded woods. After leaving the woods, the day continued uphill (my hours of training up and down Cardiac Hil at Shorne country park were finally showing some use) with views of the mountain of Kangtenga (6782 m). From Tyangboche, the trail descended through a forest of birch, fir, juniper and rhododendron and our overnight camping at a lovely spot known as Deboche (3,650m) with views of Mt. Ama Dablam, Mt. Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse. At our evening meal it had become clear that 3 trekkers were missing due to diarrhoea and vomiting (D&V) and altitude sickness, This become more apparent as the evening progressed, when two trekkers took the opportunity of using the extra oxygen and the more inviting rooms and beds supplied in the local tea house for the night.
Day 7; the trek to Dingboche (4,358m) approximately 12kms that should take roughly 6 hours. As the trek progresses you find that you are walking with fellow trekkers who have a similar pace. So inevitably you start to chat, when you are not desperately trying to improve your oxygen intake. During these conversations you find you are sharing this adventure with like minded people, who are raising money for the BHF in memory of a loved one or have had heart problems before and understand how the BHF's work has enabled them to live and continue a fulfilling life. During this day, another 2 fell foul of the dreaded D&V but continued to put one foot in front of the other to reach Everest Base Camp. The afternoon part of the day was fairly moderate as we entered the Imjatse Valley with the mighty peaks of Ama Dablam, Nuptse and Lhotse towering above us. We finally reached Dingboche, a beautiful patchwork of fields with stonewalls protecting the future crops of barley and potatoes from the cold winds and grazing animals. The evening was rather tainted, due to the knowledge being passed on that one of our fellow trekkers had a helicopter ride back to Kathmandu hospital.
Day 8; was an acclimatisation day where we visited a Monastery in Dingboche and took in the breathtaking views of the north face of Ama Dablam and the Lhotse-Nuptse ridge.
Day 9; the Trek to Loboche (4,928m) approximately 8kms the onward journey led us north for about 40-50mins until we came to a prayer wheel house. The trail was gentle walking down and arriving at the Pheriche village. As the day progressed we had views of the Mt.Tawache, Ama Dablam and to the north Pokalde (5,741m), Kongma-tse (5,820m) and the great wall of Nuptse. After a further walk of 1½-2hrs the trail from Pheriche joined a trail near Dugla (4,595m) crossing a small wooden bridge over the river of Khumbu glacier. Not long after we stopped for lunch, before continuing for an hour up a steep hill to the top. As we reached the summit of the hill we enterd a memorial area of prayer flags and a number of monuments, dedicated to climbers who had lost their lives attempting to reach the lofty pinnacles of what were now becoming majestic mountains to me. Time was spent here to read the monuments and realise that we were in an unforgiving part of the world. There was still another 1½-2hrs of trekking up to Loboche, which was hidden and sheltered from the wind for the overnight camping.
Day10; the day I climbed Kala Patthar (5,545m) but first a 4 hour trek to Gorakshep at 5.178m. The trek followed a rocky moraine path from which we could see the icy-glacial pond and icebergs below the Khumbu glacier. After the last rocky moraine dunes, a short downhill walk brought us to Gorakshep where we had lunch and a short rest before the 2 hour ascend of Kala Patthar. On the edge of the moraine (rocks and debris left behind by melting and retreating glaciers) was is a dry lake bed, so we had to climb down the moraine into the lake bed and then start climbing Kala Patthar. The first part of our climb was fairly steep so we gained elevation quickly, which in this part of the world is not good for breathing, but once you get into your own rhythm and remember to only drink from your camel pack when you stop, its manageable. Arriving at the upper third of Kala Patthar, we came across large black boulders to clamber across. After a 20 minute scramble to the top I'm at the highest point of the trek. Whilst looking at Everest from this vantage point, it's was still hard to believe its pinnacle was 2 miles higher than me Wow! Will sleep well tonight.
Day 11; the final destination Everest Base Camp (5364). The good night sleep did not materialise as my tent buddy had invited the dreaded D&V to invest itself in his body. So first port of call is to notify the Doc 'thanks Barrie' he says 'I will go and see him, how are you'? 'good thanks', was the reply. The excitement in the camp was high, as today was why we had raised money for BHF and why we had trained. Strange there seemed to be a good pace today from everyone, even my tent buddy who was in a bad way, was not going miss out the final destination. The trek to the camp took 2 hours on rugged barren land with ice and glaciers to cross and very cold. Strangely we did not stay long photos were taken and we returned to Gorakshep. On the way back the doc asked once again 'how are you Barrie?' did he believe I was going to be infected with D&V?
Day 12; Today we descended 900m towards our overnight camp in Pheriche (4,245m). A day of reflection, I've been to the Everest Base Camp and it seemed others were deep in thought as the 14km trek was completed in a quiet and purposeful way. My tent buddy struggled today to cover the ground but was supported by the Sherpas who carried his rucksack and water to help him through the day.
Day13; A day of ups and downs but descending 700m to Kyangjuma (3550m)
Day 14; The morning started with a steep climb back towards Namche Bazar with winding tracks through a landscape of pine forests and steep valleys. The views were magnificent as we followed a relatively easy path towards the Sherpa capital before continuing down, taking the long path back down to the river. Retracing our steps from nine days earlier, we crossed the river once more towards the park entrance at Monjo. From here we had a 5k walk to our campsite for the evening at Tok Tok (2760m) for overnight camping near the bank of the Dudh-Kosi River.
Day 15; The final day's walk was a pleasant 6 hour walk in total, with a few short uphill climbs before descending back down to the Bhote-Koshi River, crossing via the swinging cable bridges three times. Stopping in Phakding en-route, we then crossed the river and began our final leg of an epic journey. The last uphill climb of 45 minutes brought us back to the busy village of Lukla (2,800m), where we spent the night partying with our 21 support staff of Sherpas, cooks and not forgetting our Yak herdsman and son.
Day 16; The amazing flight from Lukla to Kathmandu. Once again, the anticipation waiting for the take off was exhilarating. First the pilot pointed the twin-engine propped plane down the 12% 450m long runway then the decision was made to go for it, basically the plane became a runaway train, down the hill and then gliding into the air with no up lift of any kind. The rest of the flight was the last views looking up and down at the Himalayan mountains.
Day17; A day spent relaxing in the vibrant city of Kathmandu.
Day 18; The flight home via Delhi If there was a highlight of the day it was walking up the middle escalators with pace at St Pancras tube station, noticing the expressions on commuters' faces, possible thinking 'what is he doing?' Little did they know I had had altitude training.
Remember the BHF is the nation's heart charity. Its vision is a world where people don't die prematurely from heart disease. You can contribute to this vision by adding to £5090.47 at www.justgiving.com/Barrie-Howes"