A trip to the Nepalese Himalayas entails a lot of experience (of which I am working on) and sheer determination (of which I soon discovered I had). Whether I was bending over an ice axe at the top of a mountain, sitting amongst the smells of incense burning inside a vibrant monastery, or even admiring the magnificent and often intimidating scenery, my recent trip to the Nepalese Himalayas had it all. Making a successful landing at Lukla airport marked the start of our month long journey amongst Nepal’s highest peaks. We had been dropped right into the heart of these mountains, which are stooped in tales of adventure, triumph, disaster, and passion. The Himalayas have a unique and compelling ability to captivate even the hardiest of adventurers. Looking up around me, it was easy to see why. Still only strictly in the foothills, the landscape was already eerily towering over us.
We had a month to summit two 6000 metre peaks, Mera and Island. Kit had been checked and re-checked; bags were packed and re-packed. Though, these concerns soon disappeared with the inevitable departure from Lukla for our climb that we had all worked so hard preparing for. Lukla is a community that has adapted to life in the mountains with apparent ease. Everyone is seemingly content with walking everywhere and carrying everything and they seem to have developed the strength of small giants. It became very normal to see substantial amounts of chopped firewood, hover past you, only to realise that a small man is bent double underneath it, carrying it.
Hours rolled into days and days into weeks as we made solid and steady progress up to Mera base camp. We climbed up, back down and up again, for what seemed like an eternity, as we became acclimatised to the altitude. Through the valley floors covered in sprawling bamboo shoots, up amongst the reds and pinks of the famous rhododendron forests and eventually up above the snow-line and amongst the ‘real’ mountains, already higher than most of Western Europe.
The journey came to its pinnacle on summit day. Feeling already sapped of energy, after a sleepless night perched up at high camp, I stumbled out of the tent and followed my head torch beam up 100 or so yards to the glacier. My numb fingers fumbled around with crampon straps but I was kept amused by the cursing around me coming out of the other team members. After three hours of slowly climbing the glacier in the last hours of darkness, we were switched out of autopilot as the sun silently emerged over the ridge behind us. The mountains began to develop a golden glow that was glistening off the snow all around us. Shedding off a few layers as the sun warmed our backs, we pressed on for the summit.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sight that we were greeted with as we climbed the last few metres to the top. The 360 degree panoramic view spanning three countries and some of the most famous mountains in the world, including the gigantic Mt. Everest, stunned us all into silence. As I stood on the summit higher than the six other continents in the world the sense of achievement and excitement was overwhelming. A journey so full of life-long memories, couldn’t have culminated in such an awesome, yet humbling way.
Words by Joe Jones