Trekking to Everest Base Camp

It was over dinner at Wave Project staff training in November 2018 that I first learnt of the intentions to do a fundraising trek to Everest Base Camp, Nepal and shouted at Beth, our lovely Northern Ireland based organiser, telling her I was suuuper keen to be involved. Although my role as the coordinator at Wave Project Cymru allows me to spend lots of time in or near the sea, at home in Wales I am lucky to also have mountainous landscape within easy reach to trudge through trying to keep up with my spaniel. That being said, with the biggest mountain in Wales standing at just 1085m, the 5380m height of Base Camp made me consider how far up the trail my sheer excitement would realistically carry me.

We met for the first time as a group in Kathmandu, meeting only as circular Whats App photo heads during the trek build up with Beth brilliantly handling every little query and question we had. Lots of us experienced flight delays & cancellations; I was told I’d have to stay in Delhi for 5 days upon arriving there for a change of plane. Despite the frustration of last minute changes, this was all part of the adventure, and the whole team made it – we may not have without the amazing Beth on hand to help calm us and assist with solutions despite not being able to join the trek herself. Friendship was formed amongst the group within hours of meeting, for me I feel the extremely positive and happy experience I had attributed hugely to the group I shared it with. I laughed A LOT every day (not unusual for me but given the altitude and physical activity I hadn’t really expected the giggles).

We flew to Lukla, a tiny airport with a reputation, to begin our trek. The paths were well defined with ups and downs and big bridges. You share the trail with trekkers and long lines of horses, donkeys, dzo, cows and yaks (the porters who carry bags and supplies up the mountain are there but are super quick and are barely around long enough to contribute to a queue). Over the days we passed through different terrain, at lower levels greener with plenty of trees reminding us of home (different parts of the UK & Ireland for most of the group). We stopped for lunch at teahouses along the way each day, finishing by late afternoon at the teahouse we were to stay and eating dinner between 6 and 7 pm. We ate breakfast between 6-7.30am, with one or two early mornings on longer days.

The guides and porters took care of everything; we literally only had to decide what we wanted to eat prior to mealtimes, get dressed and put one foot in front of the other. Our porters would carry our bags to the teahouses ahead of us and our bag would be in our room waiting for our arrival. Our guides would serve us dinner and hot drinks at each mealtime and take care of requests and payments for WIFI, showers and additional snacks and drinks. We’d shower upon arriving at our evening teahouse (proper showering did stop for 6 days for me personally as the evenings got colder and the water wasn’t always hot) and we’d read or play cards in the communal room (Jono taught the game American 8 and it will forever remind me of the Himalayas, a number of times we all got a bit too excited and were asked not to shout). The walls of the rooms are like paper, you can hear every snore, breath and whisper and because there are two people per room it makes it feel like a sleepover.

From Kathmandu to the mountain villages to the many towns we drove through on our way back to Kathmandu, Nepal is a special and unique place with lots of experiences to offer. I’d urge anyone who is even the slightest bit interested to visit. The base camp walk is manageable for the majority of people, you could even run it (speak to Justin). There are some steeper sections that may cause more breathlessness than a similar walk back home due to the thinner air, but we walked at a group pace and there was never any pressure to go faster than what each person was comfortable with. Despite walking for between 4 and 7 hours a day, everyday for 12 days not once did I feel done with walking. There was so much to take in, I pointed out more mountains for the guides to name than I could ever remember and different peaks would come into view whenever the clouds moved in a different direction. We even got to take a dip in the Dudh Kosi or ‘Milk River’ which I did not expect to be doing in the Himalayas (took a quite a while to catch my breath after getting in).

The Nepali people we encountered in the mountain villages on the trek live with basic amenities, making a living from the herds of trekkers passing through daily whether selling food, offering teahouse accommodation, horse hire, mountain guiding or porter services. The home comforts available to trekkers high up in the mountains is fascinating – some teahouses have en suite toilets, EVERYWHERE has WIFI, flat screen televisions and pool tables are common place (reminder – pretty much everything is carried up there by human or animal). As I learnt from Jono and our guides on the trip, trekking with a porter and guide provides an income to local people who live in the region and help maintain the trails. One of the other few areas of work available here is within the farming industry and this, like the trekking business, is only seasonal.

I’d like to send a huge thank you across the UK to Beth and Jono, Beth for taking on the mammoth task of organising the trip and Jono for being an awesome, awesome leader. The enthusiasm they have for the work and message they drive forward through their own project, The Surf Project Northern Ireland, is truly inspiring and we are lucky to have them as friends of the Wave Project. To Ken for stepping up when Jono had to head out with one of the team who took ill, although there’s clearly some Welsh/Northern Irish barrier in force which severely impeded our verbal communication. Also to Mountain Delights – Kamal & Nirmala for heading a truly great company and to the best mountain guides EVER Purna, Prem and Binod – real-life action men who took care of us as if their own family. The guides spotted every teeny trip or stumble, (rumour has it) on one occasion catching our filmmaker, Justin, mid-fall, saving both his camera and pride.

Flights were delayed and cancelled, the internal plane was changed to a helicopter, 2 of our group became seriously ill with altitude sickness, we started the trek as a team of 11 but finished as 6, we had to take a 5-hour bus ride instead of a 50-minute flight to get back to the city, there were 3 minor earthquakes felt in Kathmandu on the last day of our trek. Things don’t always go to plan. Discomfort and uncertainty aren’t always bad; they help us to grow and to appreciate. Elif & Lucia were cared for so well when ill and evacuated to hospital where they continued to receive great care for the very short time it was needed, the long, plan B bus ride gave us incredible views of new villages & countryside we’d otherwise never have seen. We were fortunate enough to be able to travel by helicopter, plane and bus and pay the hardworking, super-porters to transport our duffel bags to the various villages along the trek.

The group raised £13,000 for the Wave Project, which is AMAZING. Having seen the effects of funding uncertainty here in Wales and amongst other UK projects I am so grateful to the group for the hard work they put in to reach their targets and efforts of taking part in the trek; the financial aspect, being away from home and work, enduring discomfort, minus temperatures and no showers for days (or if that was just me, I sincerely apologise to the whole team). For Wales we raised over £1200 and a massive thank you goes to my Wave Project family including my volunteers and their families, surf club young people and parents, my family, friends and everyone who donated to make a difference to the lives of young people in South Wales.

All of you awesome people that donated to the cause saw and appreciated that we were heading to an unfamiliar environment, way out of our own comfort zones and sent money to support young people here in the UK that experience their own versions of discomfort, unexpected circumstances and adversity. All the money raised for certain gave us the encouragement needed on those freezing cold 5.30am starts and will allow Wave Project to help counterbalance negative life experiences with positive experiences in our seas led by awesome volunteers, helping young people who need it most.

Stay tuned for news on future Wave Project treks!

Holly, South Wales Coordinator x