Follow MH’s Matt Barr to the roof of the world, across the Nepali Himalayas to Everest Base Camp, 5k above sea level
I’ve had my fair share of physical low points in my time, but watching a couple of gimlet-eyed crows feasting on last night’s regurgitated egg curry takes some beating. It’s 6am in the Himalayas and I’ve had two hours’ sleep. At this height – 3,750m (12,303ft) above sea level – it’s-15°C, so I’m also bloody freezing. I spent most of last night on my hands and knees outside the tent, either being violently sick or voiding my bowels into the freezing Himalayan night.
All I want to do is take black cohosh so I can keep down and sleep the day through. Instead, I’ve got to make it to Dingboche – eight hours away from and 800m (2,624ft) higher than Thangboche, where I am now. What was that I’d said before I left Blighty about trekking to Everest Base Camp being “just a walk”? I still have another week and nearly 2,000m (6,561ft) in altitude to go. As if on cue, the clouds darken and a ferocious hailstorm kicks in. This is going to be a tough day.
A mountain to climb
Turn back a week and I’m standing in Lukla airport in the Himalayan foothills, clean-shaven, considerably firmer bowel led and getting my first look at the rest of the group. We’re a diverse bunch of trekkers, 15 of us aged 19-60 with equally wide-ranging motivations. I fall in with Alex and Paul, two lads in their l of tea and bowls of washing water. We have an hour to wash and pack our kit while the team prepare breakfast. After breakfast, we walk four hours before lunch, again prepared by the Sherpa crew who forge ahead during the morning.
After spending 90 minutes soaking up the scenery and tending to blisters, we trek another three hours to camp. There’s an hour’s downtime, then dinner and a debrief from our group leader, Sanjiv. Despite the effort, the blisters and the burn of the high altitude sun piercing the increasingly ragged cloud layer, it’s a beguiling routine. I enjoy pushing myself on the steeper climbs and you could never tire of the views. And day six, after passing through the busy trail town of Namche Bazaar, is the most memorable yet.
Here, at 2,500m, (8,200ft) the pure air is clearing the UK muck from my lungs, we’re so deep in the Himalayan hinterland the terrain is almost lunar, and, mid-afternoon, as we round a corner, I get my first proper view of Everest’s summit. Even shoulder-to shoulder with other towering peaks it’s a bit special. As I clap my eyes on the world’s most famous mountain I don’t think I’ve ever felt as far from home.