|The whole group at Gorak Shep. [Photo: SgTrekker]|
" ....The only noise audible was my own heavy panting as my lungs laboured to suck in as much oxygen in the rarefied air at 5190m. My footsteps were tiny shuffles, weighed down by my pair of trekking boots which, merely a couple of days ago felt as light as feathers, but now behaved like tonnes of Himalayan rocks bound to my feet.
My eyes never lifted off from the ground as rocks after rocks appeared in haphazard fashion, threatening to trip my trailing foot should I be just so careless to lift it a little less high. A few steps. And another long pause to catch my breath. Peering in front, the ridge led straight to Everest Base Camp. We were not far, but time is running out for us... "
[In this Travellogue, I have tried my best to credit all the photos to their respective photographers, and I tried my best to recall verbatim what member said during the whole trip. Most events are as I could remember them. Those who have expressed their wish not to have their photos shared online I have post-processed the photographs so that their faces are pixelated to protect their privacy.]
A short prologue
Some holidays were but just mere holidays. Some were downright forgettable. Others were literally life-changing, where one was left to draw on the last reserve one had in the attempt to complete even the seemingly simplest of tasks. Seeing how one's teammates grit their teeth to go on, and how each adapted in his or her own ways, in the face of potentially debilitating illnesses, and how they fought back against the odds of what Nature dished out to them to finally accomplish their objectives; importantly, seeing how our children learned and practised the true meaning of the word 'GRIT' and how they were mentally prepared to go all out for the ultimate target of the journey, made trips like these so much more meaningful.
It had been three weeks since our return. And even until now, I still could not distinguish what appeared to be real (but in actual fact was all artifically man-made) back here in metropolitan Singapore and what was the real reality back up in the mountains where everything was exactly how Nature had been for millions of years - it was just you, your clothing, your will against everything else the elements hurled upon you. Every day as I drove and as I worked, flashes of memories of scenes from up in the mountain came - seeing my teammates struggling to walk, labouriously gasping for air, and remembering their expressions of relief by the end of the day.
An indescribably sense of malaise had been robed over me these three weeks. Nothing had changed back home. But everything else inside my heart, inside my mind seemed to have been permanently altered. The drudgery (in Adrian's own word) of life became a numbing automatic conveyor belt of events. I have, I think, unknowingly become Himalayanised.
Training for EBC
Our Ironman friend Rudin Leong warned us: "Hey, for EBC you all MUST train one ok!"Deligence marked the characteristic of training for many of the team members. Kai Sing has been conditioning his core and lower limbs for years just for this trip. Alex and Lai Peng have been doing their weekly runs. Kc Tng even ran 10km after 10km while on business trips overseas. The children were naturally the least of our worries as cross country runs, Tae Kwondo training and rock climbing dotted their weekly schedules. I was off seasoned from all my races for the year, but I found stair climbing with loaded backpacks a great conditioning exercise. Serene, the veteran Nepali trekker, was the most relaxed of us all, doing her usual 10km runs on a 'only-when-the-stars-are-aligned' basis.
"Alex, Lai Peng, don't worry. Trekking in Nepal is like walking with a zone 2 heart rate all the way one. It's not siong. Very easy one," I remembered two years ago I tried convincing these two good people to embark on this trek of their lifetime. Heart rate zone 2 all the way was probably correct. But everything else I said was wrong.
Trekking to EBC is a serious undertaking, the long duration of the route daily, the gradient of the climbs, and the harsh and freezing environment with rarefied oxygen levels meant that it will never be a stroll in the park. That is why Lonely Planet describes this trek as a moderate to difficult trek. Running alone is not enough. Conditioning and strengthening of the gluteus, quadriceps and calves muscles that are crucial to climbing is important. And at more than 5000m altitude, one's cardiopulmonary system has to work doubly hard to compensate. So it is critical to build one's aerobic capacity.
What’s this thing about Everest Base Camp?
The old EBC was where the mountaineers of old used to set up camp to await their window period of ascent, and thus was of historical significance. And as the Khumbu Glacier retracted over the decades, the new Base Camp is now a little further away, closer to the infamous Khumbu icefall. We were told that in the past, the Khumbu glacier surface was levelled with the side of the path, but as it melted it sank lower and now in order to reach the base camp one has to climb down a cliff of rocks. At 5130m, this ancient piece of ice saw the footprints of many a great mountaineers.
We have always wanted to trek to EBC. Summitting Mount Everest is a totally different thing altogether. But trekking to EBC is something within the reach of mortal beings like ourselves. After several smaller, shorter Nepal and Sabah treks, many of us in the group were ready. And so we thought.
Many websites would expound the importance of packing light and with just the essentials for a 15 day trip like this. There was one Ang Moh woman who did the whole trek with a 50litres backpack weighing only 10kg. Scrutinizing their packing lists, we found that they really brought only the bare essentials. Apparently nowadays, the aviation authority in Kathmandu has reduced the individual's weight allowance for the STOL flight to Lukla to 15kg per person. Every kg of extra will cost about S$2. Not a huge sum, but it would be wise to keep as close to the stipulated weight allowance.
"Don't pack too many unneccessary clothing," I instructed Serene
"But we must still bring bakkwa leh," said Darric.
"I also need to bring my drone mah," complained Kong Wan.
"Wah lau, packing also get stressed out! I rather pay for the excess," joked Alex.
“Should I bring an extra pair of trainer shoes?” wondered Cheng Cheng.
“Or can I bring a hard case roller luggage instead of a backpack, because I am worried for my back?” considered Mimi.
“Must buy a trekking shoes one ah?” asked Tan JK. Adrian replied: “Yeah, better. Can get a cheap one from Decathlon. Quite decently priced.”
For those who are not keen to buy a minus 10 degrees sleeping bag (costing about $149 at Decahtlon, weighing at about 1.25kg), one can just borrow a used one that is just as good from the local tour operators. Same goes for the down count 900 down jacket. This can be borrowed from the operator themselves and throwing the thoughts about cleanliness aside, this would be more than sufficient for the whole trip, with the middle fleece layer and middle down layer thrown in on top of the base layers.
EBC Trek Day 1
|Click on the photo above to see who sent us off at 3:45am at home.|
"The beginning of an adventure... and plenty of adventures with Professor Murphy to start off with."
|Wow! Roydon was there at 4am to send us off at the airport!|
One couldn't be blamed to harbour a dreaded sense of consternation when planned to fly on the infamous Malaysia Airlines. Granted the price at S$450 a person for a transited flight to Kathmandu was a real great deal, we managed to suppress our anxiety just below the water level upon our tour leader's repeated reassurance. Everything went on smoothly, too smoothly for comfort, knowing well the notoriety of SgTrekker's trekking trips. We enjoyed our breakfast with little suspicion of what was to come.
|The Kaans and the Ng's were all ready to go!|
Spirits were high and the team members looked and felt ready for the back-breaking trek.
|Group photo: sans Mimi, Zaid, Cheng Cheng, Leong, Jason and Matthew.|
|Ah Leong and Kai Sing were so happy to have that extra leg room.|
|KC Tng, Patrick Papin and Darric looking forward to some mountain action.|
Professor Murphy did strike not long after we took off from SIN to land at KLIA for the transit. For no reason, Ka Lin and five of us from our family got bumped off the next flight MH 170 to Malindo Air OD184, scheduled to arrive one hour later at Kathmandu. No amount of table banging would help as the equally confused transit counter staff guided us unsuccessfully to the first originally promised lounge that rejected us, and we ended up in another CIP lounge for some measly breakfast while the rest of the group took off. Ka Lin was a great help. Her fluent Bahasa lubricated the whole process for us, and four and a half hours later we set foot on the grounds of Kathmandu Tribhuvan Airport, only to find a Telegram message from Lai Peng on my handphone waiting for me:
"We have 2 bags missing n cannot find yours. Our luggage confirmed MIA. Raymond's luggage also missing. Stressful. Adrian has already brought the rest to the hotel. Now it's Alex, me and Raymond in the airport waiting outside for you all. Officially 10 pieces of luggage missing!"
I Telegrammed back while still stuck in the queue applying for our visa on arrival: "Aaaaw man, this is really an adventure!"
Alex: "My adventure also started. 2 out of 3 missing. 😢"After a while, we decided that the easiest method of communication was with the walkie talkie. So we turned on our walkie talkies and Alex, myself, Kai Sing we started all radio-ing each other inside and outside of the immigration area, like officials working in the airport. Well, at least the walkie talkies came into good use right from the beginning.
|The first group was on the way to the hotel while Alex, Lai Peng, Raymond waited in the airport for their missing luggage.|
Adventure in Thamel
Most everyone visitor to Kathmandu will find himself/herself spending plenty of time in this 'Orchard Road belt' of Kathmandu, where shops abounds- from butcher shops, vegetable stalls to bookshops, coldwear/hiking shops, restaurants to even modern supermarkets with POS systems. I never failed to be amazed by the buzzle of Thamel.
It was always a good idea to leave a few items to be acquired in Thamel, as the obligatory roam of the streets would take us from shop to shop. For our family, as well as Tan JK, Raymond, Ka Lin and Alex. Lai Peng, who have all lost our luggage, this shopping trip was of even more importance as we were mentally prepared to wear what we had and a little more additional that we were buying for the next 15 days.
The VIDEO: Buying up a storm in Thamel!
The VIDEO: Finally trekking! From Lukla to Phakding.
The VIDEO: Climb and climb and climb and finally climbed to Namche Bazaar