50% less oxygen than we’re used to, freezing temperatures, no showers for three weeks, blisters bursting through your socks but hopefully one of the best experiences of our lives – that is Mount Everest Base Camp Trek in a nutshell.
At 5380m/17650ft Everest Base Camp is at a higher altitude than alot of mountains. Bearing in mind that Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is a mere 600 metres higher than the bottom of Everest, which gives you an idea of the extreme conditions that the (quite literally) breathtaking Himalayas will present us with.
Apparently if you're reasonably fit, play abit of sports and are generally healthy anybody can tackle Base camp. We're hoping that we fit into that category. I am pretty sure Ed will have no problems at all as we all know he's a freak of nature in the fitness department. I, on the other hand, have been training my butt off for the last few months trying to get my fitness levels up to a "reasonably fit" state - a difficult feat for someone who not so very long ago could not even jog 1 km without stopping. Saying that, we're both now pretty confident on the fitness side of things....we'd want to be as we will be on the mountain in a week.
Our trek is going to take 17 days - 14 days to get up (including 2 acclimatisation days) and only 3 days to get back down. It's a total of 115km's of hiking, but that does not include the additional day hikes which we will be doing which will add on several more km's. The terrain is not just ascension or desension and instead the hilarioulsy dubbed "Nepalese flat" (up down up down up down) and we will gain around 35000feet and lose 24000 feet just on the way to Base camp, with the reverse on the way back. Brutal!
Just to throw another spanner in, altitude sickness could have the power to ruin our trek. There’s no way of knowing who it will target and your level of physical fitness has no bearing on your likelihood to experience it. The only thing we can do to prepare for this is to ascend very slowly and take acclimatisation days where we stay in one spot for a few days. The idea is you should "walk high, sleep low" so on our acclimatisation days there will be no resting - instead we will need to trek higher up the mountain and then return back to sleep.
Fortunately for us we will not be needing to haul all our gear up with us. We have hired a guide from Kathmandu to lead us up the hill, and a local sherpa to carry our backpacks for us. It is quite insane the ammount of weight these guys can carry - here we are struggling with our 8kg daypack yet they will carry 30kgs each (we have a weight limit of 15kg per bag) and will practically run up the hill getting to the destination hours before us.
We will be staying in "tea houses" which are primative wooden huts which we will share with other hikers. The huts have no heating apart from a single stove in the main common room which is fueled by yak dung. The sleeping area's are not heated and I have been informed that they will get to around 1-10 to -15 degrees at night (yes, that was MINUS 10 to MINUS 15!). Having said that, October is the peak time for trekking, just after monsoon period and just prior to it getting too cold in the winter - so I expect there will be hundreds of other trekkers all huddled round hopefully sharing body heat.
Whilst our main aim is to trek to the base camp of Everest, due to the massive mountains surrounding it we will not actually get to view Mt Everest from this point. We will be walking to the Khumbu Icefall, and walking in many famous climbers footsteps so it will be pretty surreal, but we won't see Everest itself.
Therefore our second aim is to hike up Kala Patthar Mountain as well. This mountain is actually higher than Everest base camp, the summit is 5650mtrs/18533ft and is quite an undertaking that a lot of people are unable to manage due to altitude issues. The hike is not technical, but is very steep and unrelenting and the air is so much thinner up there. I don't know the exact figure, but a huge percentage of people who attempt this mountain are not able to summit due to the physically demanding nature of it. If we are able to succed though, we will be rewarded with incredible views of the entire Mt Everest from base camp to the peak including the icefall and the glacier - this would be truely incredible as not even a mountaineer climbing Mt Everest gets to see the full mountain. In addition to this we also would see other famous mountains like Lhotse and Nuptse.
Bring it ON!!