Sunday, May 29, 2011

The irrational walk to the Everest Base Camp

Everest taken by Pradeep
the amazing
photographer in our team.

People die climbing Everest. Some are accidents but a few are caused by ‘irrationality” - by people not heeding to common sense, people trudging on when they should not, against bad weather conditions, against warnings from their guides and friends. There is “a point” after which the misguided are often dragged down by well-wishers and sedated so they don’t keep climbing to their death.
It had been a long trek to Gorekshep. I had not walked fast so I was not physically exhausted. However my ability to sweat profusely had caused me to have a bad cold. During the first few days I had taken my jacket off frequently and sudden cold on my sweat soaked shirt had caused a cough to set in. I slowly realized the gravity of it as we lost altitude and oxygen. A cough that caused a moment of inconvenience at sea level was causing me to sit down and regain my breath at 5100m.
Little yellow tents. Still a good hours walk away.

It was with this cough that I started my walk towards the Everest Base Camp. The interesting thing about this two hour trek is that within minutes of the trek you can see the destination. The terrain wound up hills and down valleys but at no point you lost sight of the camp. A city of bright yellow and blue tents. You saw it as you walked up a steep slope or watched your step downhill. I saw it every time I coughed and had to sit down.
The weather was not co-operating with us and little flurries started to fall less than half way into the walk there. I was bundled in a down jacket and had thick gloves and hats on. The air was cold and dry. It made the cough bad. Others in the group – without a cough – walked on and I took my time sitting on rocks to recover from the persistent oxygen stealing exhale. It hurt. It physically hurt every time I coughed. The cough came from deep inside, not from the chest from the bottom of the abdomen and shook my whole body. Twice, my guide passed me and asked if I wanted to go back. Reflecting back I know I should have said yes and gone back. I passed two older, saner gentlemen and almost like a warning they spoke of going back – we have achieved our personal summit – were the wise words they spoke. Then I passed two men assisting a girl with a nervous breakdown. She had acute mountain sickness and had been abandoned on the way to the camp by her faster fitter friends. It was like walking in a movie where messages were being sent to you through people fallen on the road you walked on.

I made it to the base camp. I did not enjoy the base camp as I thought I would. I was sick. My hands were swollen to double their normal size. I reached and I tripped on rocks and I fell. I stood up, smiled and took a picture. Then I turned around and slowly and steadily made my way back to the tea house. I drank lots of warm water and threw up. I was coddled by two very caring team mates and put in bed. I lay there with an empty stomach and a full mind. I had been very stupid earlier in the day. It was insane to walk on. I would have advised anyone not to do it. It was dumb. But I could see the base camp. I had walked days to get there. I had left my family and walked all this way. I had wanted it so bad. I had reached “a point” and luckily/unluckily there had been no one to drag me down.


  1. Irrational but full of determination. You made it, Awesome !

  2. Thanks Sid :) As our guide used to say - It is crazy in the mountains.

  3. You did it and that's what counts, it's all about proving me to myself and you are a hands down winner on this count.