“Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing” – Helen Keller
In a few days, I will be leaving for probably the biggest adventure I’ve ever done. I’ll be heading to Nepal to do a trek to Everest Base Camp and then hopefully climb one of the Himalaya’s so-called trekking peaks near Everest, Lobuche East. I’ll be trekking with Robert Kay, who is going to be attempting to summit Everest for the third time. That is one reason for the title of my blog, PeeWee Adventures, for I am just trekking around Nepal, while Robert is doing the Big Adventure, actually climbing the highest mountain in the world.
But for me, a flatlander from Nebraska, its definitely out of my comfort zone. But you can only grow if you get out of your comfort zone once in a while.
Let me tell you a little about how this trip came about. This is definitely a bucket list thing for me. I’ve always loved books about Everest, the golden age of Exploration, Polar Exploration, Shackleton, Mallory, Hillary, things like that. I love stories about man at his best, pushing the limits, testing themselves against nature. I’m amazed at these stories and what humans have been able to accomplish with hard work, tenacity, teamwork, ingenuity, planning, incredible toughness, and often a little luck. So for a long time I have wanted to trek to Everest Base Camp but just had never made it happen.
Last spring my son Luke’s 7th grade class was having a guest speaker, Robert Kay, come talk to them about his adventures climbing the world’s 7 summits and Everest in particular and I asked if I could come listen to him talk. Maggie went as well and was speaking to Robert before the talk and told him I had always been interested in going to Everest. I came in a couple of minutes later and the first thing Robert said to me was, “Why haven’t you gone, you’re not getting any younger.” That really stuck with me as I realized at my age I’m not getting any faster, stronger, healthier, so I resolved that I would do this sooner than later.
Fast forward to this winter. Robert made it high on Everest last year but did not summit, so is going back this year to try again. I had heard that he was looking for people to trek to base camp with so I contacted him, and next thing you know, I’ve got a round trip ticket to Kathmandu. Robert has been a great help with gear, logistics, planning, and in fact, is acting as a de facto guide on this trip (he’s been to Nepal over a dozen times). He is climbing with Altitude Junkies, and Phil Crampton is the expedition leader, who has also been involved in helping organize our trek to base camp and the climb of Lobuche. They have both been awesome in helping me get ready.
As far as physically getting ready for this, I have a pretty good fitness base from endurance cycling the last few years. I have continued to cycle regularly, putting in some good gravel rides mostly on the weekends, and I have added weightlifting with the legs, core strengthening, treadmill with loaded backpack, and lots of hiking around Platte River State Park with the loaded backpack this winter. I think I’ve hiked every trail out there multiple times. Dakota, our 10 pound dog, loves hiking at Platte and gets excited every time he sees me getting the hiking gear ready.
I feel pretty good about my fitness heading into this, just hoping I will not be holding Robert up too much. Also, the altitude is a big unknown for me. The highest I’ve been is 14,000′, and I did fine with that, but we will be going up to 18,000′ on the way to base camp and Lobuche is about 20,000. The other concern I have is doing hard efforts multiple days in a row. I’m know I can handle a big effort for a day (think Trans Iowa) but I haven’t had much experience with consecutive big days.
Here is a brief synopsis of our itinerary. This is just a rough idea as things may change depending on weather, how we (that would probably mean me) are acclimating to the altitude, whether our plane goes missing over the southern Indian ocean, etc. Arrive Kathmandu after about 48 hours of travel time. About 3 days in Kathmandu, with time for sightseeing, getting trekking and climbing permits, recovering some from jet lag, relaxing. Then we take a helicopter to Lukla, elevation 9000′, where the trek begins. We will be trekking in the Khumbu region, named for the Khumbu glacier which comes down from Everest on the southwest side. There are no roads in the Khumbu region, so the only way to get around is to walk, and everything up there has basically been carried in by humans or yaks. The people of this region are the Sherpas, which is a race, not a job description as I had always thought. We will be trekking to base camp for about 10 days, gradually getting higher as we go.
We will start off with the whole group of climbers in the Altitude Junkies expedition for about 2 days to the biggest village in the region, Namche Bazaar (11,300′). Then Robert and I and maybe some of the others will branch off the main trekking route to go the “scenic route” to Gokyo village(15,715′) which will take a couple of days. Then we will climb Gokyo (17,585′) which has amazing views of Everest and several of the worlds highest peaks from the summit if skies are clear. From there we head back towards the main trekking route via Cho La, a high pass at 17,486, on past Lobuche to Gorak Shep (the last village before base camp). Just outside of Gorak Shep is a brown mound called Kala Pattar (18,175′) that we will climb, also has views of Everest. Then to base camp, where Robert will spend the next 6 weeks trying to summit Everest via the same route Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did 61 years ago.
I will then head to Lobuche and try to summit Lobuche East (20,075′). This is a peak that some Everest teams use to acclimate while getting ready to summit Everest. There is a base camp and a high camp on Lobuche so will be spending at least a couple of nights in tents. I will have a Sherpa guide and a porter for this portion of the trip. Then back to Lukla via the more common trekking route. All-in-all, I will have made a big circle, instead of an out-and-back. Just like you try to do when planning a single track route!
Overall, very excited to go on this trip of a lifetime. The toughest thing will be being away from my family for so long. I know I will miss them and be glad to see the when I get home. After my last post, I think Maggie is hoping I’ll just stay over in Nepal!
Hopefully I will be able to send some posts while I am in Nepal. Plan on having pictures and more complete write up when I return.