Category: Nepal

Notes from on high – reaching Everest Base Camp

Above about 4000m an altitude headache seems to lurk perpetually at the edges of your brain, the pain almost-present even if it’s not quite making itself known at any particular momement. In the piercing cold of the lodges, this can drag you down. Yet out on the trail, the captivating vistas eclipse any discomfort. As we approached our goal, Everest Base Camp, the landscape changed from an almost Alpine scenery, albeit on a larger scale, to a barren, violent moonscape. (more…)

Natural High

The trekking group, Team Epic, seems to have unburied my penchant for cocktails, despite the fact that my alcoholic consumption on this trip has been limited to a beer in Club Namche. Lab manager Monty Mythen, Smiths Medical Professor of Anaesthesia and Critical Care and Director for the Centre of Anaesthesia at UCL, insists that the cold, cavernous basement beneath the Xtreme Everest lab in Namche Bazaar (3500m) is ‘the world’s highest nightclub’. I suspect it may have a couple of rivals, but it does have a bar, a pool table, a disco ball and a warm vibe to make up for the chilly temperatures: I don’t think I’ve ever been in a ‘club’ where the dress code is down jacket! In the thin air, a single can of San Miguel did make me feel a little giddy. But that’s nothing compared with the euphoria and exhilaration that trekking in this magnificent landscape can bring. (more…)

Take the High Road

The trail from Lukla airport to Everest Base Camp climbs from an altitude of 2840m to a head-spinning, lung-grasping 5364m. Yet this is no wilderness trek. The route is flecked with hikers kitted out in expensive outdoor gear; porters bent under impossible loads; fleets of furry yaks ferrying local supplies and trekkers’ kit up and down the hills; and local Nepalese going about their business. This might be the Himalayas, but the Khumbu region of eastern Nepal is home to over 150,000 Sherpas and the bustle of daily life is much in evidence. As well as the local colour there is plenty of camaraderie among the walkers, as we wish each other luck and enquire anxiously about conditions higher up. We meet other Xtreme Everest groups coming back down from Base Camp, a group of doctors and a group of Sherpas participating in the same medical research as us. They tell us that night-time temperatures are as low as -20 degrees Celsius. My bone marrow shivers at the thought. (more…)

Flying into the roof of the world

The Twin Otter’s propellors whirred like giant bees, its conical nose tilted upward and then we were surging upwards into a propitiously blue sky. After the delay we’d experienced in getting to Kathmandu and a tense few hours milling around the airport check-in zone as our baggage was checked against the strict weight limits, it was a relief to be airborne. We knew though that the mountain weather was capricious, so taking off was no guarantee that we’d be able to land at Lukla, our destination. The city shrank below us and was soon left behind as we flew over the lush green plain at the bottom of the deep gash of the Kathmandu Valley. Vertiginous agricultural terraces clung to its sides and the bottom was patched with jewel green rice fields strewn alongside the lazily winding Dudh Koshi river. (more…)

Vacuum packed to Delhi airport (and back!)

The first time we landed in Delhi after our long-haul leg from London I felt the pull of exotic India and wished I was going out into the traffic-filled, smog-drenched yet endlessly intriguing streets of the city. The second time, more than eight hours later, it was the last place I wanted to be. Our short-hop two-hour flight to Kathmandu had turned into a working day’s worth of aimless circling and to-ing and fro-ing, only to end up right back where we’d started, in Delhi’s terminal 3, with its sweeps of dull orange, geometric-patterned carpet, like an Escher painting gone wrong. (more…)