Words by Sean and Neil Rudman.
In December 2016, we were both extremely lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Nepal and complete the Everest Base Camp trek. As part of this trip we held a fundraiser for the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust, to help them with their efforts to rebuild schools and provide better healthcare to the Himalayan region. Thanks to everyone who supported us and donated we managed to raise thousands of dollars following the devastating 2015 Nepal Earthquake.
After spending three days in the chaotic capital of Kathmandu we met our group and flew to Lukla where the trek begins, often ranked as one of the world’s more dangerous flights. The group consisted of ourselves and one other Kiwi along with six Aussie’s. This resulted in plenty of light-hearted competitive banter and lots of laughs, and while the Aussies outnumbered us two-to-one, didn’t hold up their end very well.
From Lukla at 2,800m elevation to Base Camp took nine days covering 62km and gaining 2,500m in altitude. Two of the nine days were acclimatisation days. Naively, we all thought these would be nice relaxing days to allow us to recharge, but how wrong we were! It turns out that acclimatisation days only work if you climb to a higher elevation, and then descend back the same altitude you spent the night before. Therefore, these days saw us climbing around 500m before descending back to the place we stayed the night before.
Once we climbed above 4,000m the effects of altitude started the make themselves known. At first it was just shortness of breath, then the headaches started and the shortness of breath got worse. Tasks which are normally simple, such as stuffing a sleeping bag in its bag, become extremely difficult and require multiple breaks to catch your breath. While the weather we had during the trek was exceptional with warm days and clear skies, the nights still got extremely cold with the toilets freezing, along with the water bottles beside our beds.
On day 9 (Monday 12th December) we reached Base Camp at 5,364m altitude. Due to it not being summit season there was no one staying at Base Camp. We were surprised to realise that Base Camp sits directly on top of an active glacier creaking loudly below our feet.
We spent about an hour there taking photos, congratulating each other and enjoying a well-deserved ‘Everest’ beer that we carried up. We then descended an hour and spent the night at Gorak Shep, the highest settlement on the trek. That evening we attempted the summit of Kala Patthar to watch the sun set on Everest. Unfortunately, due to the lateness of the day we were unable to reach the summit. However, from halfway up (slightly higher than Base Camp) we were fortunate enough to witness the sun set on Everest (Sagarmāthā /Chomolungma) just as the moon rose over the top of its peak – a cherished sight.
After a rather cold, sleepless and uncomfortable night above 5,000m we began our descent. That day we descended over 1,000m in altitude to everyone’s relief, as the effects of altitude began to subside.
Overall it took us only four days to descend what took nine days to climb. One of the highlights was certainly our amazing group guides and porters, who were some of the most cheerful and friendly people we have ever met, and without them we never would have made it to Base Camp!
Nepal is an absolutely amazing country with incredible people. Being surrounded 360 degrees by peaks all over 6,000m for two weeks is a humbling and unforgettable experience. We have both been fortunate to travel a fair bit, but this is the first time we included a fundraising element. This meant the trip was not only extremely enjoyable, but also very rewarding. We witnessed some of the devastation caused by the earthquake and visited one of the school rebuilds being conducted by the Himalayan Trust. This helped us to realise how important a cause this is and feel very proud of the fundraising we achieved.