Why Trekking To Mount Everest Base Camp Was The Best Way To Celebrate A Milestone
Written by Phil Kirse
Psychologists may have some theories about why some people decide to mark their 30th (or 40th) birthday milestones by visiting a landmark such as Mt Everest Base Camp, but let’s not get too deep into it and over analyse this.
Leading up to my 30th birthday, my partner and I talked about a European river cruise along the Rhine, taking in the history and beauty of what Europe has to offer while enjoying the best of fine foods and wines.
As enjoyable as that sounded, it just didn’t strike home as a large enough bucket list item for a young couple – because we knew it was something we could do at any stage of our life, older and less mobile, it didn’t change anything.
We decided that while we were (relatively) young and able, if even somewhat immature some might say, fit and (completely) naïve to what was ahead, we should attempt an adventure trip.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve always wanted to visit Nepal and stand on the world’s tallest mountain, and what better time than now to do it?
If I am honest, the dream was to summit Mt Everest but realistically this was never going to be an option, both financially and physically.
The Mt Everest Base Camp Trek allowed us to do this, we would stand on ground 2 thirds up the worlds highest mountain, breathing 50% less oxygen and achieving something only a few people would ever experience.
It immediately escalated to the top of the travel to-do list, and we decided that to do ourselves justice, we would prepare a few months in advance.
We did our research and found a local company that had a great detailed itinerary with an interactive map on their website which was great and at a price within our budget too.
We chose a private tour – Youin Travel’s MOUNT EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK – 15 DAYS, so we booked a date, paid our deposit, arranged our flights and travel insurance and submitted our visa applications.
Then reality hit home. It was only when we had paid for the final itinerary and booked the trip that really reality hit.
We were going to walk through the Himalayas, some days for hours on end, reaching altitudes of 5,357 metres (17,575ft), experiencing low levels of oxygen and even the possibility of suffering altitude sickness. (AMS – acute mountain sickness)
What on earth were we thinking right? We were thinking this will be the best thing we have ever done… and we were right!
My partner and I weren’t trekkers. Heck, we aren’t even much of the outdoor types.
She worked in corporate and wore suits 9-5 and I was a senior motor mechanic at a local dealership.
While we like to walk in our local National Parks sometimes, we do so in a pair of running shoes, shorts and even tank tops, and not prepared for the worst-case scenarios – if something bad was to happen.
So, after the trip was booked and paid for, we started to do some “serious research”
Some may think this approach was backwards. I’d rather think of it as brave, my logic being was if the more I knew what to expect would knowing this possibly change my mind?
Our “research” included speaking to people who had walked the trek in group chats online, some blogs and watching random YouTube videos.
Most importantly, we then started walking. We set a target of doing at least a 4-6 hour trek every weekend before the trip.
We mixed the treks up, and the closer we got to leaving we attempted slightly more challenging treks with steeper hills.
We also walked as often as we could during the week to build up our stamina and endurance and I refrained from drinking alcohol too.
One of my biggest concerns was that despite all of our training and efforts, we couldn’t replicate the conditions we were soon to face.
We live in Sydney Australia, which is at sea level so we couldn’t prepare for the possibility of altitude sickness until we were there.
In the months between booking the trip and departing, I regularly bounced between excitement and anxiousness… a natural reaction by most I’m sure.
But just let me say this, this approach was something that we chose to do, during the actual trip we met many people of all ages and backgrounds who did no training before arriving and they managed it quite well.
So going to the extents we did is not necessary as such, we just felt it would give us a much more enjoyable trip if we were less tired and possibly help us acclimatise to higher altitudes just that little bit easier.
For this particular trip, anyone with an average physical condition can complete it, the guides are also watching people closely for signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and the benefit of a private tour did mean we weren’t “lost” in a large group of people.
The added benefit of a private tour is being able to have that flexibility of moving at your own pace, not somebody else’s. We could stop as often as we wanted or needed to and didn’t feel any pressure to rush to the next destination.
During our preparation, the one thing we seemed to read most frequently was that looking after your feet while trekking is the most important aspect.
You cannot walk 5-6+ hours a day with sore feet and blisters from poor-quality boots or socks, so give your new boots time to bed in before you travel. You will thank yourself for this later!
We bought ourselves good quality walking boots (I bought Columbus trekking bought online for $110) and also bought walking poles and hats, gloves etc on eBay and anything I thought would be required.
I carried that excitement and anxiety with me on the flight into Kathmandu until we arrived and saw our names on the welcome board.
We met our guide Hira and he escorted us to the private bus and transferred to the Shanker Hotel (Hotel Link)
The anxiety disappeared and it was full of excitement from here on in.. We had arrived!
Our tour group included my partner, myself, Hira (our guide), and a young and friendly porter.
We had a welcome dinner that evening and were introduced to a traditional Nepali meal and dancing.
I promised myself I would refrain from alcohol until after the trek, however, the bright lights of Kathmandu’s nightlife sucked me in and spat me out. I have no regrets!
Day Two was a fun-filled day of sightseeing with our guide and finishing any last-minute preparations, we also had some free time in the evening to walk amongst the local shops in Thamel and enjoy Kathmandu before meeting Hira to discuss the plan for the next day.
Once we started, my fears and anxieties took a back seat. “I’m here now,” I rationalised to myself.
“Unless I get injured and can’t complete it, this is it.”
If you think you have felt real adrenaline and excitement, trust me you haven’t…or at least I thought I had, until day three of the trip.
The experience of the adrenaline rush on the flight from Kathmandu and arriving at Lukla airport will live with me forever…
I won’t say too much about it but, I am sure you know or at least heard of how and where the runway is built.
And so, it was a matter of putting one foot in front of the next, step by step
And during the next few days, that’s exactly what we did.
Some parts were out of this world, some were just amazing – we’d stop so often and take a photo of the soaring snow-capped mountains knowing that a snapshot could not possibly do it justice.
But it didn’t matter, the snapshot in our minds remains crystal clear to this day.
Some parts were difficult of course, you cannot reach over 5,000m without inclines and declines.
We also experienced some signs of AMS and kept drinking lots of water and taking medicine, we filled up on carbs and sugars too at rest breaks to keep or energy levels high.
And at The Everest Base Camp itself, when the air was so thin that walking just 50 steps makes you gasp for breath like we were unfit 80-year-olds.
But surprisingly, it doesn’t take long to recover, and you keep going. Hira’s advice to just take it at your own pace really helped and not having that pressure amplified the enjoyment.
This was not a race. It was a battle of both mental and physical strength completing the distance, but also one of experiencing the majesty of the trek.
As I tentatively walk along the slope above the Khumbu Glacier and took the last steps and saw the magnificent site of Everest Base Camp ahead, a flood of emotion swept through me.
As my partner and I fought back tears – tears of joy, relief, triumph. We did it!
The challenge of the adventure we set out to achieve months prior was finally finished, we did it together and no one could ever take this away from us.
As we retraced our steps downhill over the next few days, I started to reflect on how I felt. The level of accomplishment was surreal, it hadn’t sunk in yet, standing there puts everything into perspective.
I travelled home with the mixture of a fulfilling a long-held dream as a teenager, enduring months of training, sacrificing with no alcohol and a newfound respect for the courageous men and women who have lost their lives on those very grounds attempting to summit.
And it certainly was a much better bucket list item, one I would recommend everyone to do, regardless of your age – although the beds along the trek were less comfortable than a leisurely cruise through Europe.
I wouldn’t have celebrated my 30th any other way… the only question now is, where to next?
If you have a milestone or a celebration coming soon – or you’re just fancying an adventure – then why not join us on a trek in one of the many options, we have available?
Call for a free consultation