Everest, synonymous with global adventure, exploration and danger. A place only few dare to venture and even fewer return. This is the kind of reaction I receive, reliving my trials to anyone who'll listen, or those who've no choice but to listen. In reality, the most enduring events of my trip were being a bit out of breath, working our way around a village that had been washed down a mountain and the mistake of smoking a cigar at 18,000ft.
I will say this now, everyone can and should visit this part of the globe. I am mostly fuelled on gin for goodness sake, and I managed it, until the cigar that is, but I'll get on to that.
So there I was boarding a twin prop Yeti Air, which can only be described as a flying kitchen appliance. As transportation goes this did have me edgier than usual, although I did feel safer than the time I rode a Camel in a sandstorm, the blasted thing bolted. But really I was more concerned about the landing, the runway is on the edge of a cliff, Lukla Airport is supposedly the most dangerous airport in the world. So I was off to a good start.
I should stress if you have at all a fear of heights, probably best to take deep breathes here. The bridges are terrifying. Suspended across vast ravines several hundred metres high. It was bad enough that you can see through them, but for my mother, who has a lot of experience up here, summiting mountains in their entirety, crazy woman, to tell me her cook was washed away on one when she last came up here, does encourage adrenaline to start racing.
Being late August, it was still the dreaded monsoon season blowing up from the sub-continent of India, which I had the pleasure of visiting only days before. However, and our Sherpa agreed, it was the most glorious weather we could have hoped for. In fact, in all of his treks up to Everest he said he'd never seen better conditions. Most impressively he's been to Everest base Camp 67 times. He's only about four feet tall and yet until recently, was a porter carrying loads of up to 100kg all the way up. Unbelievable.
Ok, so you've probably figured out that the way up is by means of my most hated form of transport. Walking. However you can take my favorite form, a helicopter, but really I came away from London to be adventurous not lazy. So walking, it really was rather pleasant, as I recall we were doing about 5 hours a day and bearing in mind I had done no training, it was a breeze. Well until we practically ran out of air somewhere near Everest Base Camp when I felt like we had practically left the atmosphere.
So there we were, rambling through one of the most sparsely populated regions on the planet, however you still come across an overwhelming amount of culture. The beautiful stupas adorn routes in all directions encasing Buddhist relics. Soon we found ourselves at our first point of rest. Namche Bazaar, which is essentially the world’s highest shopping centre, I say that loosely, but I did see an iPhone for sale, quite convenient at 12,000ft.
As culture goes, Nepal has one of the richest. But of course like any ancient kingdom it is usually focused around two things, Religion and Royals. Unfortunately, and more so frustrating for me being a monarchist, Nepal lost its royal family in 2005 after a long civil war. So I had the pleasure of exploring the culture of religion found across Nepal. From meeting a close relation to the Dalai Lama, to witnessing the cremation of bodies at one of the 7 most sacred places in Hinduism, it really is a master-class in adventure and travel, so a strong bench mark for any global traveller.
As I have previously told, it is rather hard to breath at altitude. Now me being, well me, I assumed this was nonsense created by those serious environmental types. The only way I could describe them is if Bear Grylls and that woman from Countryfile had a child. That would be the demographic I'm talking about.
Anyway, I digress. Now I enjoy a delightful Cuban as much as the next jet-setter, but please for your own sake, the highest I would recommend smoking one is Courchevel 1850. I was at the equivalent of Courchevel bloody 6050. It was honestly one of the most unpleasant things. I don't think we could breathe properly for over a day I won't go into the details of how ill it made me, but rest assured it is not a classy way of consuming luxuries.
After this tragically poor decision, we continued up. Crossing the world’s highest glacier, still in melt from the summer, the entire body of ice, an entire landscape, creaked, groaned and was essentially breaking beneath our feet. There are huge crater like crevasses, some large enough to consume Sloane Square in its entirety. It is a staggering landscape which we were indeed treading carefully upon. Base Camp itself is nothing that exciting, just a collection of very smart tents with patrons preparing coffee and acclimatizing to summit. So we did it, well what we set out to do, I'm not crazy so just above base camp, summiting it seemed a bit too keen for me. Although reflecting I would actually love to summit Everest.
In essence it is a remarkable place, filled with delightful places and people. It just oozes culture and stories, which people do find fascinating back in London. Here the most enduring trek is the walk from the Jubilee to the Piccadilly Line at Green Park. If you have a keen hunger for exploration I urge you all to go, just do it. Simple to organize and knowing the right people you can access hidden gems and relations to religious leaders.
Until then, keep on jet-setting!
Freddie Ardley is a travel blogger and photographer.
To see more of his work and see more photographs by this Jet-setter, visit:
" It just oozes culture and stories, which people do find fascinating back in London. Here the most enduring trek is the walk from the Jubilee to the Piccadilly Line at Green Park. "
" Namche Bazaar, which is essentially the world’s highest shopping centre, I say that loosely, but I did see an iPhone for sale, quite convenient at 12,000ft. "