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Nepal 2014

Everest Base Camp Trek. Thoughts and Reflections

NEPAL | Saturday, 31 May 2014 | Views [1757]

The Everest Base Camp trek is the most extreme, life-altering experience you can imagine. It will challenge you on every level: physically, emotionally and culturally, and will force you to call on reserves of strength, character and integrity that you probably have not accessed before. If you approach it with an open mind and leave your everyday life behind you, the trek will probably provide some of the most wonderful moments of your life.

Emotionally the return to Lukla (end of trek) felt similar to me to the 2006 walk into the Plaza de Compostela in Santiago de Compostela in Spain after long days on the Camino; a mixture of pride of achievement, relief at the release from self-imposed effort, a happy-sad / laugh-cry emotion; a strong feeling of immense privilege to have been permitted to pass among the giants of Nature unhindered; privileged to have witnessed the nobility, strength and character of the Nepalis in spite of the inconceivable privations they endure; to have been in the presence of the gods with godly people made strong by their desperate circumstances, unbending, uncomplaining, not blaming or resentful; and to have a small inkling, finally, of why people climb mountains.

 As for lessons I learned on the boulder fields, the impossibly rocky ascents, challenging descents and the cold, thin air:

  • Hiking in very rough terrain is an exercise in mindfulness. Every step is made with deliberation and care. You must focus to avoid the twist, the stumble, the fall that could spell disaster.
  • At altitude you are present with every part of your body; your breath, your muscles, your vision, your sense of time and place. It is a rare opportunity to feel your body as a complete entity, not as separate, selfish and competing parts.
  • When faced by obstacles to your intended path, take them one step at a time. Haste and impatience won't get you through them in better condition or faster.
  • When faced with a seemingly impossible task you will find a way if you take it slowly and keep your balance.
  • You are capable of much more than you think you are. Nothing we do in our everyday life brings us close to our limits of achievement despite what we think.
  • We give up too easily. We must believe we are stronger, healthier, younger and more capable. 

When I recall some of the settlements I saw on ridges a thousand metres above us, I am still in awe of the industry, the perseverance, the dedication, the love, the honesty that drives these amazing mountain people to construct their homes, their lives and their families' futures painstakingly, patiently, lovingly, one stone at a time. Building retaining walls for their tiny strip terraces to plant small crops of millet and barley, spinach and kale; carrying every rock and then cutting and shaping them to construct their houses; harvesting the wood to shape their windows and doors.

  • We do not know what labour is. We have no experience of true love.

Can you imagine having your children learn to walk on rough cobbles, where your patios and terraces drop metres to the next level without guard rails, where there is no surface that is level, no running water, no heating, primitive sanitation and an unvarying diet of rice, lentil dal and vegetables. Can you imagine yourself then, with these privations, smiling and welcoming strangers to pass through your space as honoured guests?

  • We have no idea how fortunate we are, and we are oblivious to how selfish we are.

Tags: everest base camp trek, lessons learned


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