Having walked just over half of the Capital Ring (not that you’d know it, since I’ve only blogged about 10% of it – but still planning to catch up – eventually!), I’ve suspended that project in favour of a bigger and better one: trekking to Everest Base Camp. More scenic, more interesting, more altitude, more…well…just about everything really, I am very excited to trade walking round London for walking around in Nepal.
The first improvement has been the weather. When I left London it was -5C with the wind chill, and snowing. On the shady roof-top terrace of my hotel here in Katmandu, prayer flags fluttering overhead in the balmy breeze, I am comfortable in cropped trousers and flip-flops. It must be around 27C. Bliss!
True, the pumping baseline of a ‘Gangnam Style’ remix blaring from an adjacent building, with occasional interjections from a selection of barking dogs and honking car horns in the street below, might not be to everyone’s taste. I’m just happy to be able to take my coat off. If it’s any consolation, Kathmandu is more than usually dusty and dangerous to walk around at the moment as a major road widening project has replaced the pavements with rubble and some sizeable holes, forcing pedestrians perilously close to the rather ‘lively’ traffic.
Nor is the prospect of a 3.45am wake-up call tomorrow in preparation for a 5am trip to the airport for our flights to Lukla likely to make my list of trip highlights. Sadly, my flip-flops won’t be required in Lukla: today’s forecast predicts an overnight temperature of -7C and a high of 4C tomorrow, and it will only get colder as we climb. I suspect the coat will be going back on.
But I’ll worry about that in the morning. Today is all about making final preparations – and then (hopefully) a bit of lolling to recover from a hectic last few weeks. In the cause of the former we have already had a team meeting, my first opportunity to meet the guides and the rest of the group. Unsurprisingly for a trip run by American company IMG, the majority of the 20 or so people in our group are Americans, with four Chinese and myself. Around half, including my friend Viki, are climbers hoping to make it to the highest point on earth in seven or eight weeks’ time. The rest of us are trekkers for whom base camp is the summit of our present ambitions, many of whom, like me, are here with a climbing partner or friend. I’m looking forward to getting to know them all over the next few weeks. Right now, however, I’m still processing being introduced to quite so many people who have (repeatedly, in some cases) and/or plan to climb Everest. Listening to the guides explain the plans for the coming days and weeks, highlighting preparations that need to made, protocols we need to follow, and checking everyone has the gear they need makes me realise that all these guys have taken a mental leap that I – and probably most people – have not: from viewing ‘climbing Everest’ as a euphemism for an endeavor of such enormous proportions as to be almost impossible, to seeing as it as an achievable goal to be worked towards as I might plan to move house, or going travelling. I guess to a certain extent we are capable of what we believe we are capable of. Certainly, it will be a privilege to be along for part of the ride. And so I’d better get back to making sure I’m ready to go…
My plan is to blog every few days as opportunities present, so watch this space. You might also be interested in the official IMG blog which is updated most days.