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Everest Base Camp – Call Me Crazy!

I’ve always wondered how people can actually DIE while attempting to summit Mount Everest ‘BASE’ Camp!

Well, now I know. If you missed the blog I wrote about my ‘near death experience’ after conquering Mount Everest Base Camp – you can find it here: My EBC Near Death Experience

Relaxing at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Kathmandu.

What happened to me after I was helicoptered back to Kathmandu? I was taken directly to a large hospital (my 3rd hospital for the day) where I had some tests done; blood tests, chest X-ray etc… I was released at around 6pm and checked into the Crown Plaza hotel for what I thought would be a nice 3-4 days rest before the group had descended the mountain by foot. Unfortunately, I woke up the next morning with a HUGE bump on my neck. I jumped in a cab and went straight back to the hospital. The same doctor who had released me the night before was there ✔

The doctor was concerned and said that I would need to be admitted. He knew my scheduled flight was only 3 sleeps away so his priority was to get me well enough to make that flight. He initially thought I had a swollen lymph node due to fighting infection however he immediately ordered an ultrasound and discovered (thinks) it was actually something else, a salivary gland bacterial infection.

He said that the ENT (ear/nose/throat) specialist wouldn’t be in until 5pm so he advised me to go back to the hotel and pack up all my things, check out of the hotel and come straight back to the hospital.

Interestingly, they didn’t want to bother with doing further tests to ensure they knew exactly what the lump (and infection) was – they just wanted to pump me full of IV antibiotics; 3x a day (for 3 days) until my flight.

Until the morning of my flight we didn’t want to make any decisions on whether I’d actually be well enough to fly. The morning of my flight – my body had started to fight off the infection. I’m still showing signs of infection but I’m on the mend. My face is still swollen like a balloon! The doctor assured me I was well enough for the flight. I’ve just arrived in Belgium and I’m heading straight to see my personal doctor – for some further tests. The flight (even thought it was business class) was unbearable. The pressure in my ears/head on take off and landing was excruciating. My neck (bump/lump) was so sore I just couldn’t get comfortable or sleep. I also had a slight fever.

This will be my last blog on my EBC expedition – my intention is to cover all things good and bad and, to give you as much insight and info as possible, in case you ever decide to attempt Everest Base Camp!

Ugly picture of a HUGE bump on my neck!

Firstly I’d like to share a current thought, as crazy as it might sound! As you know, I achieved a great ambition in reaching Base Camp and as I’ve mentioned, with relative ease. However, I have some unfinished business with Base Camp! I didn’t get the opportunity to descend from Base Camp on foot and I have a burning desire to do that! Descending gives me an adrenalin rush whether it’s on a bike or on foot (or in the air, free falling, driving at speed etc). So, descending from Base Camp is currently on my to do list for 2020. Of course I’ve learnt a lot about staying healthy and managing altitude so next time, I’ll be a lot more wiser, cautious and, I will take a doctor along with me – so we can manage symptoms and signs ‘correctly’ on the spot. My current thought is to ascend to Base Camp at a much slower rate, stopping two nights at each level of altitude rather than just one night. I will take my time to reach Base Camp and then stay there at least a few nights to recover before competing in the famous Everest Marathon, 42km (mostly downhill).

The Marathon starts at Everest Base Camp (5,360m) and finishes 42km’s later at Namche Bazar (3,440m).

So, I’ve never run a Marathon but my first will be the HIGHEST MARATHON IN THE WORLD!

This sounds like something for me. I’m not a runner and I have no (zero) winning ambition, I just know that I will absolutely LOVE the mental concentration required to safely descend from EBC in a relaxed sportive type environment. Foot placement will require 100% focus for around 8hrs and of course, you can’t get too excited at the start – holding back and really pacing/looking after myself well, will be the key to descending 42km safely and successfully.

Call me crazy (I know I am) but I MUST descend that mountain on foot!

Ok, here’s what I’ve learnt and all my tips for attempting Base Camp…..

Admitted to hospital in Kathmandu…. with Chocolates!

Firstly, when we arrived in Kathmandu we spent a couple of days visiting SOS villages, playing with and inspiring children and, visiting some (five) personal homes of SOS supported families. This was a highlight of my trip to Nepal however; if you are going to attempt Everest Base Camp I would strongly advise you to fly in and out of Kathmandu (to Lukla) on the same day, to start your trek. Sightseeing, doing charity work, meeting the locals etc is an absolute MUST when visiting Nepal so, if possible, plan these activities post Everest Base Camp Trek!

I was brushing my teeth with tap water for the first few days of my trek and, I was drinking the water supplied by the sherpa’s and guides (dropping a purifying tablet into it). My advice is to only brush your teeth with bottled water and only drink bottled water – the entire trip. (Plastic guilt’s for sure!) Actually, if you can manage to use a mouth gargle and not even use a toothbrush (for a couple of weeks on the Trek) – it could be even safer. Mouth hygiene is very important on the trek, keep killing any bacteria you might get from the food, plates, cups, cutlery, etc…

Let’s take a step back with the tips. PREPARE yourself physically. This is something I did quite well. I had zero experience with walking, hiking, trekking, trail running etc prior to August this year. I took myself to Livigno and Saint Moritz in August to purchase all my equipment, talk to professionals for advice and, to start my trekking training at altitude. (1800m Base. Climbing to 3000m)

Ice packs for the swelling and pain!

This preparation was crucial in strengthening all my muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments etc…. that I’d use on the Trek. My cycling strengths would never have been enough. I had zero muscle, joint, tendon, ligament soreness during the Trek – because I had prepared myself well.

You need to break in your shoes. Now depending on what time of year you attempt Base Camp (and the strength of your ankles) that will determine if you need trekking ‘shoes’ or ‘boots’. Whilst we trekked through snow on one day – I did NOT need boots at anytime on the trek. My trekking shoes were 100% perfect for me. Many of our group switched from their boots to normal trainers after 2-3 days and only used their boots on the day we knew we’d be walking in/through snow. Break in your shoes well before departing for Kathmandu!

Compeed Plasters; I used new compeed plasters on my heals everyday from day one. I’m not sure if it was necessary but I did it as a precaution. During my initial physical preparation for EBC I damaged my heal bones very badly by trying to break in heavy boots – too much too soon. I did a couple of 20km treks in Livigno wearing my new heavy boots and then my heal bones needed SIX weeks to recover – just in time for the actual expedition. If you use Compeed plasters make sure you change them everyday – I know they’re expensive and it also takes a lot of effort and energy to change them after a long cold day but, early on in our trek I left some on for two days and they were very hard to get off. It felt like they had embedded into my skin and that I was pulling a layer of skin off when removing them. Foot hygiene on the trek needs to remain a high priority everyday – no matter how tired you’re feeling.

Trekking Poles; I did not take mine and not many of our group used them. We were a group of 19 and only 3-4 of our group used poles. I never thought ‘I wish I had poles’. This is something personal.

Backpack; You need to have your backpack fitted by professionals – it needs to feel comfortable and be the right size and shape for your back. I tried on many (weighted) and some really dug into my shoulder blades while others sat too low on my hips and rubbed on my hipbones. You also need to train/prepare with your backpack on, prepare your muscles to be carrying the weight. Learn to balance yourself WITH the weight of your backpack.

Dressed and ready to leave the hospital for my flight, anxiously waiting the doctors decision!

CamelBak; This was an absolute necessity for me because I (need to) drink a lot! The ease of having the mouthpiece clipped on your chest made it effortless to drink a lot and stay hydrated. Most of our group had bottles in the side pockets of their backpacks however I could see that it often required too much energy to reach for it regularly. It’s hard to believe but the Trek is not easy once you start gaining serious altitude – every movement and action is an effort. There were many times that I wanted to take photos but my hands were too cold and it would take too much energy to get my phone out and take a pic! So, my two-litre CamelBak – which fitted inside a sleeve in my backpack was a winner for me. The negative – I’m not sure if you can get these in a model that will hold hot/warm water. I’m going to look into that.

We were served a lot of hot tea during our Trek and whilst I’m hesitant about whether the water is actually bought to boiling point and, if the cups are clean of germs and bacteria, it would be nearly impossible to refuse these offerings of hot tea. This is why I’m not sure if I’d take a thermos next time…. Actually, yes I would. I’d take the risk of asking for boiling water to take to my room at night. I was drinking cold water during the night in a freezing cold room and this couldn’t have been good for my chest. One evening my bottled water froze to ice and I had to break it up to drink it! Poor chest.

Hot water bottle; I didn’t take one but I think I will next time. It’s not a necessity if you have a super warm sleeping bag!

The highest marathon in the WORLD! May 29th 2020!

Sleeping Bag; I purchased a ‘The North Face’ SUMMIT sleeping bag in Kathmandu. It’s my understanding that this bag is designed for people who SUMMIT Mount Everest and it’s sufficient for up to minus 29 degree temperatures. Why not have the warmest possible sleeping bag? I was never cold inside my sleeping bag. I gave my very expensive sleeping bag to Umesh, one of the guys who saved my life but, I’ll definitely be investing in another one!

Thermal Underwear; I was sleeping in some quite thin long tights and long-sleeve tops at night – I was warm inside my sleeping bag however next time – I am going to ensure that my nightwear, base layers and socks for trekking are Merino wool. Apparently Merino wool is superior to any other material when it comes to staying warm. I heard this over and over from all the professional trekkers.

Gloves; I didn’t get this right. My fingers absolutely froze. It has been mentioned that my fingers and toes froze due to the severity of my infection however I’ll be doing some more research to ensure I have the best possible glove options. I’ll take 3 pairs with me next time; two for trekking and one pair for wearing around the lodges and sleeping.

Shopping in Livigno well before my expedition!

Heat Packs; YES!!! I didn’t know anything about these before my first EBC expedition however some of my team loaned them to me and they’re amazing! You can get all different types to go inside your gloves and shoes. They really work and some provide heat for up to 12hrs!

Outer Layers; I think I got this right. It doesn’t require too much investigation because the most important thing is your base layers – and we’ve already agreed Merino wool is the way to go, for sure. For trekking, I took 3 different thickness trousers and 3 different thickness jackets. My biggest tip with the trousers is to ensure you can move freely in them…. do some big high step ups in the shop to ensure they’re not restrictive. Make sure your biggest warmest jacket is down-feather.

Headlamp; It’s an absolute necessity and you’ll not survive in the lodges without one. Many lodges didn’t have lights in the room. I took spare batteries for mine however in the freezing cold, they de-charged themselves so by the end of the trek, my headlamp was not so bright. I’ll need to read up on how to keep your batteries from draining in the freezing temperatures.

More shopping in Livigno well before my EBC expedition!

Electronics: My portable solar-charger (RavPower 15000mAh) was perfect. I was able to charge my Airpods, Garmin and iPhone from it each night – it has three USB outlets. We had great weather and arrived at our lodges by 1pm each day so I just left the solar-charger in the sun for a few hours each afternoon. I didn’t carry it on my trekking backpack – it’s quite heavy. You could pay to charge your electronics at most lodges however sometimes you had to wait for a spare outlet and as it gets dark, the power supply drops off. Most lodges were charging multiple devices for people from a long universal power-board – the two prong euro adapters/outlets were most popular.

Laptop/Ipad: I‘m not sure if this is common practice with all guides/sherpa’s however anyone from our group who had a laptop or ipad was blessed with the Guides offering to carry them in their backpacks for us! They didn’t want us to send them forward each morning in the big duffle-bags.

WIFI/Internet. When I landed in Kathmandu I purchased a Nepalese sim card and directly put it in my phone, using my original phone number on Whatsaap. So, anyone could contact me on Whatsaap until we trekked out of service after a few days. This sim was great when I got back to Lukla and Kathmandu as I was online 24/7. At one of the first lodges you can buy a WiFi card/code that worked in all the lodges we stayed in.

Oximeter – Don’t travel without one. When I took mine (an hour before I passed out) I felt 100% fine. The oximeter read 37% so I knew immediate action needed to be taken. It’s a handy tool to have with you because it may be able to tell you something that you can’t feel.

Preparing for my Everest Base Camp expedition.

Batteries – Again, I took 3 spare AAA batteries to serve my headlamp and oximeter if needed. They were dead flat from the freezing temperatures before I even used them. We need to research the solution to this!

Toiletries; Baby wipes and tissues!!! You’ll need to have both baby-wipes and tissues in your trekking backpack and all the stock

I prepared for EBC with my poles but in the end, I didn’t take them!

you can in fit in your duffle-bag. In saying that, you could buy tissues at all the lodges but not baby-wipes. Although you can pay to have a hot shower at most lodges, I’d strongly not recommend you don’t take the risk. It’s in a dirty shed (outside) and freezing cold, sometimes the water is only just warm (no pressure) and it’s more hassle than it’s worth. Have a good Baby-Wipe scrub in your room and get into dry warm clothes asap. Other toiletries to pack; mouthwash, 2 x micro fibre towels, lip balm (paw paw is the best as you can use it on any cuts/cracked feet etc), deodorant. For women – dry shampoo.

Medications; I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this!! I’m wondering if I would have been completely fine if I had started antibiotics when I first got diarrhea on day two, or at least when I started coughing up green phlegm, I just don’t know.  Medications I would take with you; nose spray decongestant (everyone had BAD sinus pain but it could have just been pressure from the altitude) and Imodium! I took the water purifying tablets with me but after getting diarrhea – I only used bottled water. Diamox – discuss this one with your doctor.

Cash; I ran out 2 stops from the top. Before it got really cold at higher altitudes I was paying for hot showers, renting a towel, buying hot chocolates, paying for laundry, paying for charging my laptop, buying oreo biscuits etc…. I’ll take the equivalent of 400 euro in cash next time. Most lodges have credit card machines UNTIL you’re halfway up the mountain!

Everyday I trained for my EBC expedition, I carried my heavy backpack!

Pacing/Monitoring; I thought I was climbing with relative ease and completely within myself, I never felt like I was pushing myself – anywhere near my limit. To be honest, I don’t think going slower and having more rest stops would have prevented my big physical/medical crash however, next time I am definitely going to take it much slower! Pace yourself, don’t get excited, don’t push yourself. Stay relaxed in the mind too, don’t make any timing predictions, don’t be in a hurry. Take some moments to really analyse how you feel physically – keep checking yourself.

Blogging/Diary/Photos; Ok, we want to get away from technology however I strongly recommend you take the time to write notes on your feelings and experiences – it’s a special mountain to climb and offers some very special sensations that you won’t want to forget.

Booking/Group; I wanted to experience Base Camp with a group of friends, as a team, supporting each other and sharing our challenges each night at the dinner table. On the flight home I got to catch up again with a lot of our group and all I wanted to know was everything about their experience trekking back down. This is the beauty of trekking Base Camp with a group. In saying this, my next expedition for the World’s Highest Marathon – I will do alone (with my support crew). I want to be more in control of my pace, my stops, my rests, taking in the scenery when I want, taking photos when I want, laying in the sun when I want, soldiering on through the cold when I want etc… This is something you need to think about – who you’ll share the experience with.

The BEST sleeping bag! -29 degrees, no problem!

Insurance; I have many different types of health and travel insurances all around the world however I chose to take out a specific insurance to cover any health related issues I might have had on this beast of a mountain. The company I used was called World Nomads. I owe a huge thank you to World Nomads, they did a wonderful job! The two rescue Helicopters were arranged and sent into rescue me from Pheriche and Lukla as soon as requested by local doctors and, I was not out of pocket! The four hospital visits/stays were also covered up front. Worrying about medical expenses is not something you want to be stressing about when you’re so sick so, specific travel insurance for your expedition is a MUST!

The company our group engaged to guide our expedition was called ‘Himalayan Hikers Expedition’ I can’t imagine that having better guides and sherpa’s would ever exist. Our team of management, guides and sherpa’s were truly amazing. The boss of the company, Deven, managed everything like the rescues, flight/hotel changes, pick ups, transfers, hospital visits etc from Kathmandu. Deven was very hands on and was constantly meeting members of our group at Kathmandu airport to take them to hospitals and hotels. Deven spent hours each day visiting me in the hospital, talking to doctors and specialists, keeping the insurance company informed and…. he even went on the hunt one day to find me some nice chocolates and sweets!

The sherpas always left the lodges of a morning at the same time as us – this meant that you had access to your duffle bag right up until starting your daily trek. The sherpas always arrived at the next lodge ahead of us, they carry three duffle bags each (45kg) and they run!

Preparation is key! Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

You’ve heard the story about some of our guides – they are heroes. Our lead guide was called Pasang and he was amazing! He has

Our lead guide Pasang – absolute legend! That summit in the background… he’s done it, several times!

incredibly good management skills and always stayed very calm. He took the time during every trek and also every evening/morning to ask every member of our group how they were feeling. He’s such a professional, I could see him constantly observing people – to ensure he could take the best possible care of them. Pasang is a pro climber too, he has summited Mount Everest (more than once) and has conquered even tougher climbs.

If you want to be inspired by selflessness, re-read how two strangers (two of our guides) literally saved my life. These Nepalese trekkers are not only the kindest hearted people I’ve met, they’re also phenomenal athletes!

Paying guides and sherpa’s tips; of course this is only something you can decide after your trip, if they’ve exceeded your expectations, helped you achieve your goals and/or saved your life….. it would be a very much appreciated (but not expected) gesture. The amount is not something I can advise, it’s too specific to the effort they’ve made to ensure you’ve had the experience of a lifetime and of course, your own financial situation.

Wow, it’s finally starting to sink in….. I’ve climbed to Mount Everest Base Camp!!

10 Days

The boss of Deven was always by my side at the hospital. Quality Heart!

81 Kilometres

28 Hours 45 Minutes

5,661m Elevation Gain

May 29th 2020: I will attempt to complete the famous 42km Everest Marathon!

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