Nepal: Everest trek a real treat

By Mark Inglis

Mark Inglis tells of the charity which sees him taking Kiwis to the Himalaya.

Yak on the track. Photo / Mark Inglis
Yak on the track. Photo / Mark Inglis

Bistaare, bistaare," is the Sherpa's call - (slowly, slowly) - but I think not.

We're at 3200m altitude, where the air is already getting thinner, and, at 9am, the day is starting to warm up, yaks and donkeys are kicking up a fine dust and the ringing of their bells sounds to me more like "Chheto, chheto" (faster, faster), which is how I feel.

The track broadens as we progress up the foothills of the Himalaya. Although we're only halfway up the ascent to the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar, on the ridge ahead is a clearing called "Everest View".

It has been four years since I stood on the summit of Sagamartha, looking down to the Khumbu region, and to see it again is emotional.

I host several trips to the Himalaya each year with three objectives: raise funds for Limbs4All, a charity I created with my wife, Anne, provide an exciting challenge for a group of adventurous people and to do what I enjoy best; interpreting a place and people I love.

Sixteen Kiwis joined me on the first Limbs4All Gokyo Lakes adventure, which involved 17 days trekking up to a height of 5483m - to the peak of Gokyo Ri, which offers one of the best views in the Himalaya.

The group ranged in age from 14 to 69 and, for all members, it was their first trip to Nepal. They arrived at the hotel in Kathmandu with that wide-eyed look that comes to those not used to the raw, elemental nature of Nepal's capital. It's dusty and noisy - a horn is an essential tool to be used as much as possible - there is poverty that you will rarely see elsewhere and a mass of teeming, heaving humanity.

As with most trips to the Khumbu, a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla was to be the start of the adventure but cloud in the mountains meant an extra day in the city, and more cloud meant a change of plan and a flight to an airfield at Phap Lu (at 2500m altitude).

After we hit the trail, the routine for the next 14 days went something like this:

6am: Wake up call with a cup of tea at the door of the tent and a large bowl of steaming water for a morning wash.

7am: Breakfast cooked by our five Sherpa cooks. Tents are gone by now - our 25 porters have packed up camp and headed off.

8am: Set off on the day's walking; some days as short as three easy hours, others as long as eight (or, if you are the double amputee, 10 hours downhill).

Noon: Lunch, either at the next camp or cooked along the trail.

6.30pm: Dinner - at least five courses of tasty food created by Parsuryam and his team of chefs that never fails to surprise even the fussiest of eaters.

8pm: It's rare for anyone to be out of their cosy sleeping bags.

After a bit of "Chheto" and just three days' trekking, it was great to be able to greet each team member as they climbed up to the Everest View point. It felt like a highlight but we were only just starting.

A day's rest in Namche Bazaar, the hub of Sherpa trading, and we were back on the Everest Base Camp trail for a few hours, until we turned left and headed up the Dudh Kosi river valley towards Gokyo Lakes. Already we were at the height of Aoraki/Mount Cook (3600m) and everyone started to feel the altitude.

But, just four days later, we were standing at the summit of Gokyo Ri (5483m) staring out at Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu, four of the 8000m peaks. Anywhere else and you would need to be standing on a 8000m peak to get such a magnificent view.

The next two days were spent descending the opposite side of the valley and enjoying tea in the home of my Sherpa, Dorji.

Dorji had just left for Everest (he has climbed Everest 11 times) but Fura, his wife, Lhakpa, his father, and Ang Yonden, his 6-year-old son, gave everyone an insight to Sherpa village life.

Ang Chuten, his daughter, has been at boarding school in Kathmandu since 2006, thanks to support from the girls from St Margaret's School in Christchurch.

We joined the Everest Base Camp highway later that day for a night in Tengboche and then spent three days retracing our steps back down the valleys.

Along the way, we called in on the school and hospital in Kunde, where Sir Edmund Hillary began work on behalf of the Sherpa, which continues today through his legacy, the Himalayan Trust.

Even flying home from Lukla had an element of adventure in it because Kathmandu Airport was closed while we were airborne, so we were diverted to the lowland airstrip of Sangari (a mere 160m above sea level).

So, how hard is a trek like this? I think if I had asked people part-way through if they wanted to go home many would have said "yes". But I asked them at the end and they all said, "Where to next?" That showed the challenge and the adventure was just right on a trip that you could grow from, that allowed participants to come away from these fantastic mountains and beautiful people with understanding and appreciation and, even more importantly, the chance to understand more about yourself.

As TS Eliot said: "Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go."

The 16 Kiwis on this adventure got a first-hand experience of just how true this is.

CHECKLIST

Further information: Mark Inglis' next adventure with World Expeditions leaves for Nepal on 7 November. It covers 21 days, including meals, accommodation, and flights ex-Auckland, from $6,250. Visit worldexpeditions.com or call 0800 350 354 for more information.

- NZ Herald

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