The trek to Everest Base Camp offers sensational mountain views and an insight into the lives of the Sherpa people. Emily Harridge shares the lessons that she learned trekking in April 2015:
1. Horses, mules and yaks have right of way. Make sure you always move aside when you hear them coming (they all wear large bells to give prior warning) unless you want to be pushed into the embankment or down a cliff!
2. People can carry more weight than yaks. Yaks have a limit of 60 kgs while porters can (officially) carry 80 kgs and sometimes more! It is an amazing sight watching how many bags some of the porters can carry. Planks of wood, food and building materials are all carried up these hills in baskets or sling ropes balanced on their heads. (Porters also have right of way up and down the mountain. Stand back with respect.)
3. Altitude sickness sucks. Climb slowly and do not race up the mountain. Remember that slow and steady wins the race every time. If you are competitive like me, then you need to slow down and forget about people overtaking you. They are most probably well-adjusted climbers or local Sherpa and Porters who will race up the trails without hesitation. I live at sea level so acclimatising takes more time.
4. Garlic soup is great for adapting to high altitudes. Yes, lots of cloves of garlic in broth. Just make sure everyone else in your group also eats it. Speaking of smells…
5. Get used to being dirty. Hot showers are almost non-existent and forget about washing your clothes or hair. Just watch out on the descent: as the warmer climate breeds bacteria and the smells really come out.
6. At night it is cold, really cold. Forget about heated rooms. Make sure when going to bed you have a warm sleeping bag, doona (Australian for blanket or down quilt), beanie, socks and your down jacket. Dining areas in the tea houses are just as cold at night. At higher altitude, trees are scarce, so often the only way to heat the rooms is by burning cow pats or yak dung which is collected from the mountains, and then ignited with kerosene. Not a pleasant smell either.
7. Western flushing toilets are a luxury. Get used to a hole in the ground and don’t forget to bring your own toilet paper.
8. Be conscious of international travellers. They are everywhere: Americans, Peruvians, Indians, Canadians, Serbians and even New Zealanders. I made a comment about New Zealanders that I wish I hadn’t. The room went completely silent as I then asked who was from NZ. A group of about 20 trekkers were sitting right next to us. Very embarrassing!
9. Appreciate your Sherpas. They are the ones who make things comfortable for you: from organising and helping with your food, making sure you do not get lost, to helping carry some of your gear and guiding you up the mountain. These people are the real heroes of Nepal.
10. Know your limits and know when to turn back. Even if your goal is close. It is not worth risking everything, especially your health. You can always come back and try again.
Emily Harridge @emilyharridge