The day we arrived to the village of Namche during our trek to Mt Everest Base Camp was by far one of the hardest days and experiences I have ever had physically. The trek to our campsite was insanely tough. There were tears and moments where I felt like giving up. I didn’t have trouble from a physical fitness standpoint but early in the day, my heart was beating extremely fast. I expected I may struggle some so prior to my trip, my cardiologist had prescribed extra medications for ‘as needed’ situations. I stopped to take these and knew I’d likely be taking them the max amount moving forward.
The group carried on and two guides stayed with me along with my husband, Tim. He was amazing. Walking with me every step. I was so embarrassed at the difficulty I was having, I refused to look anyone in the eye. I kept my eyes to the ground and focused on one foot in front of the other.
Once we reached Namche there was a huge sense of relief however we still had to make our way through the town and up a steep staircase. I remember standing at the bottom of the stairs , where we had to make our way up to the campsite, with tears in my eyes. The day had been incredibly tough for me and my heart felt it would explode right out of my chest. By the time I actually reached our campsite, I didn’t think I could go another step. I literally felt my body would collapse. Just as before, I put one foot in front of the other. Almost pulling my body up with the trekking poles.
Once we made it to camp, I sat down on my cot in our tent. A knot formed in my throat and all of the tears I had tried so hard to hold in just came rolling down my face. As I was in the middle of a tiny breakdown, our guide walked by. I attempted to avoid eye contact as I didn’t want him to catch a glimpse of me broken like this. I was a grown woman who seemed to be feeling sorry for herself and didn’t want anyone to see this moment of weakness. After all, at home, I am known by others for being the one to carry an unbelievable amount of strength. I was under no illusion this trip would be difficult but never realized just how difficult. Arjun, our guide, stepped in our tent and sat down beside me. He immediately wiped my tears from my face and reminded me that I was going to be ok. That I was going to complete the trek. My goal-Mt Everest Base Camp. He believed in me.
During our trek earlier in the day, we briefly caught a glimpse of Mt Everest in all of her glory. Looking back in time, I felt so distracted with my breathing that I don’t feel I was able to enjoy the view as much as I wish I could have. The focus was too much on me catching my breath and preparing for the next part of the day’s hike.
Each step of this difficult day, I thought about our friends Brendi and Emily. They are two of the scholarship recipients we met through Cancer for College. Our purpose for this trip was to raise money and awareness for this incredible organization. Every time I felt like giving up, vomiting, or crying I tried to remember what these young people had been through. They’ve conquered their own mountain. They are an inspiration. It’s almost as if I was channeling their strength to complete this challenge before me.
Hours after arriving to camp, I still didn’t feel 100%. My body didn’t know if it was hot or cold and I had already begun coughing and sneezing. Little did I know that this was only the beginning.
“Don’t look forward. Look behind you at all you have accomplished.” This stuck with me on our ‘rest day’ in Namche. Our guide Arjun spoke these words to me as we did our acclimatization hike. Rest days are not really for rest. They are to get your body used to the altitude. World Expeditions has this entire trek down to a science. Arjun had stuck beside me the entire way thus far. Carrying my backpack at times, offering me his trekking poles until I bought my own, and just giving positive words along the way. He was encouraging, full of life, and happiness.
We did get the opportunity to explore Namche where I purchased some new trekking poles and we sat and had a coffee. It’s a very busy area with many shops and is home to the world’s highest Irish pub which sits at 11,386 feet. I do wish we had more time in this area. My husband said he’d return to Nepal just for this village.
The next day we had our trek to Deboche. It should have taken about 5 hours but it took me 8 hours of trekking. I had 5 days until Base Camp and wanted to go as slow as possible hoping to avoid altitude sickness. My entire body was hurting. The terrain was mostly straight up. I had moments of giving up yet again. I was tearful and could barely breathe. My throat was hurting as was my head. This was probably the worst I had felt since the beginning of the trip. It was a combination of the physical activity affecting my breathing along with the altitude and temperature changes.
This shows how incredibly tough it was for me at times. Thankfully my guide, Arjun, and my husband were great encouragers!
The walk to Deboche was a beautiful one and we had the opportunity to visit the village of Thyangboche and the monastery that was re-built with the assistance of Sir Edmund Hillary. The views along the way were stunning and once again we had the opportunity to see Mt Everest as well as other major peaks of the area.
By now, I felt I had finally found my pace. I was always behind but was starting to accept that this was ok. That had been one of my biggest issues leading up to this time. I was upset with myself that I wasn’t at the same speed as everyone else. The pressure I was putting on myself wasn’t necessary. Now looking back, I think almost anyone could complete this trek assuming they are approved by a doctor. Finding your own pace through the trip can make or break you.
It was really starting to get cold and I decided to sleep in my clothes for the next day. Something I’d continue the rest of the trip. It just made my life easier. I had also given up ‘bathing’ when our sweet guides brought our ‘washy-washy’ bowls in the mornings. My face and private areas were the only things getting cleaned. Ha! I had only had one shower since we began and I didn’t expect another until we returned to Kathmandu.
Still making jokes after a long day. I think the altitude was getting to me. Ha!
One thing I shared in my journal during this time was the fact we never felt ‘in danger’ during this trip. In reality, if we took one wrong step it could be harmful. We saw three avalanches and a rock slide during the entire trek. I thought I’d be more afraid of this along with the suspension bridges but I wasn’t. I felt comfortable and confident the whole way through when it came to these issues. I chose to focus on getting to Base Camp. That was my end goal. I HAD to make it there.
Read more about my trip in my ‘A Journey through Nepal’ series:
Also check out this story published on Forbes about my journey: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexandratalty/2018/12/31/the-travel-blogger-hiking-everest-to-help-cancer-survivors/#8a322f5300f1