|Report Name||Xtreme Everest - 7 to 29 Apr '07|
We all met at Heathrow terminal 3 on Saturday evening with shiny blue Jagged Globe bags. The Qatar airways flight was on time and the service on-board the new aeroplane was excellent. Most slept the second leg from Doha to Kathmandu where we arrived 20 minutes early. The real adventure started here with the barrage of attention from porters/taxi drivers and hotel touts as we walked through the exit, but we were rescued by a welcoming representative of Summit Trekking, who safely transferred the team and our bags to the Summit Hotel.
As soon as we arrived at the hotel the Xtreme-Everest Kathmandu Science team greeted us off the bus. Then the extremely pleasant Hotel Staff welcomed us with garlands of marigolds and a blessing ceremony. We knew we were going to be looked after well here!
This trek was different to the usual ‘EBC’ trek in that we were part of the largest experiment to date into human response to high altitude being run by a group of researchers and doctors from University College London. Everyone in our team had committed to the cause not just because they wanted to walk the classic path of Hillary and Tensing to the base of the Khumbu ice-fall, but also because they wanted to learn about and contribute to high altitude medicine and physiology.
We spent two days in Kathmandu recovering from the flight and also allowing the science team to complete the second round of testing (the first round of exercise tests, including VO2max, had been performed in the preceeding months at Archway, London). The team looked after us well and shared our excitement as they waved us off at sunrise on the 3rd day and we transferred to the domestic terminal. An unforgettable flight to Lukla followed, skimming just over a ridge of trees and skilfully landing on the uphill airstrip. Yeti airlines of course.
I was looking forward to meeting our Sirdar for the trip, Mingmar, and sure enough he was there to meet us with a friendly smile. He organised his sherpas and porters with ease and took our kit bags off us. Everybody was raring to go and we headed off shortly for an enjoyable two-day leg to Namche Bazaar in brilliant sunshine.
Professor Monty greeted us at the apple-pie shop at Namche (3400m) and his science team continued the welcome over the next two days. Everybody was tested again, and we were treated to a fascinating lecture into the science behind the studies. Our lodge on the hill was a lovely place to relax and acclimatize, and we were never short on entertainment (James Bond movies to playing pool to shopping).
The team was in good health and we set off for the next two-day leg up to Pheriche (4200m). We were blessed with more beautiful morning weather and stunning views of Chomolungma (Mount Everest) as we skirted around the paths above Namche. The views of Ama Dablam the following day surpassed everyones’ expectations.
At Pheriche we again rested for two days to acclimatize and also to allow for further tests by the science team there. We were above the tree-line now and coming to the important change in altitude of the final leg into Base Camp. Unfortunately one of the team was too ill to make much more ascent and we were all saddened to have to say a temporary farewell (but we knew we would be reunited for the return section). The rest of us carried on up first to Lobuche, then Gorak Shep and finally we made it onto the Khumbu glacier and walked into Everest Base Camp (5300m).
It was a fantastic morning when we arrived and the views of Everest were simply stunning. There was another welcoming party for us and the science team again took over. This was to be our only bit of camping (otherwise we stayed in lodges/tea houses) and we were all amazed how warm and comfortable our lodgings were considering we were perched on 50 foot or so of ice! We got to meet the climbing team who gave us a slide show of their first ascent of the ice fall which was fascinating to watch. Our evenings were filled with entertaining lectures on more science and climbing history. On the last night we enjoyed a farewell sing-song and got to perform a song that we had written to the assembled mess tent full with our group and the science and climbing teams.
The next day was the toughest. Roughly half the group chose to ascend Kala Pattar (5600m) and were rewarded with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. We joined up again at Gorak Shep and continued the long walk down to Dingboche in light snow, which we reached before nightfall.
The walk down was no anti-climax. We got time to visit the ancient monastery at upper Pangboche and were treated to an amazing display of chanting and praying. Everybody was thrilled to reach the relative civilization of Namche, and the Science team treated us to a party which included a Ceroc dance class! The last day’s walk down the lush valley to Lukla in crisp sunshine was another highlight.
The flight back from Lukla was equally exciting. Everyone had been dreaming of getting back to the luxuriant oasis that is the Summit Hotel and the opportunity for showers and fresh clothes. There was only a few short tests left to complete and we all got to go into Kathmandu for sight-seeing and shopping. We enjoyed a final meal together at the Rum Doodle restaurant.
Our flight home with Qatar Airways could not have run smoother. As we hugged and kissed good-bye we knew that we’d had a very special 3 weeks’ together that we would remember fondly for years to come.
I would like to congratulate first of all Summit Trekking and then our wonderful Sirdar and his team of Sherpas and porters for making the trip such a success. However the real stars of the trips were the individual team members listed above who pushed themselves to the limit to trek up and to be tested on a daily basis. They should be rightly proud of their achievements, and we shouldn’t forget their selfless donation of time and effort to advance medical science. And they were great fun to be with to boot!