I am not long back from Kala Patthar, Everest Base Camp and Island Peak with 360 Expeditions. It was an awesome experience in so many different ways – so much so that I immediately signed up for their Mera Peak expedition! I go Himalaya-side in a few months. Can’t wait.
So, how to blog about my experience in a way that helps readers get a measure of 360 Expeditions as potential adventure buddies of choice?
I don’t know where to start really. So, I will just riff through some vignettes that touch on stuff not readily apparent from, but which complement the accompanying photos.
- The 0600 chaos at Kathmandu airport getting our bags checked in for the flight to Lukla; and then the shout of “follow me, NOW” from Rolfe; then through a small door and out into the cool of the morning; the short bus ride to the plane; and then we were on board, rucsacs on laps, cotton wool in ears, boiled sweet in mouth; and then….a really uneventful trip, and an equally uneventful landing on an awesome airstrip. We had really arrived. The trek has begun!
- Our Sherpas! Simply wonderful. Unassuming, polite, endlesslessly willing and always smiling. Knowledgeable and so skilful. And so full of stories – of their own personal ascents of Everest and other amazing mountains. How humbling to have these people in our service.
- Our porters! Amazing too. Like our Sherpas – hard working and always smiling. Carrying big weights, and almost always at our destination before us!
- Of course the quality of support is testimony to the reputation of leaders like Rolfe, and the way 360 Expeditions treats its partners. Getting the “people thing” right means they get the best people. I mean being fed cups of lemon tea by a 27 year old who has been up Everest three times is just nuts! And then having another Sherpa with sixteen Everest ascents drop in past the tea-lodge one evening for a blether. That is just double-nuts!
- Lemon tea, lemon tea, lemon tea…..!!!
- “Dahl bat power; twenty-four hour”. Indeed!
- Island Peak base camp: “And the good news is the temperature inside the tents is -18 degrees Celsius. The less good news is that the temperature outside the tent is -28 degrees Celsius!” Top tip – if the joining pack advises you to get a sleeping bag rated at such-and-such a temperature, then do as suggested. You wont be sorry!!
- The laughter. So much laughter! On the trail, and in the evening in the dimly lit tea-lodges. The laughing banter of new friendships and the mortal belly-aching combat of “shit-head” – a card game known to trekkers across the world, and practiced with dubious honesty on our trip by the sharpest of our Sherpas!
- Our 360 Expedition leader Rolfe, and his climbing Sherpas – Boleh, Pourbah, and Mingma. These people are incredibly accomplished in their fields. They have serious big mountain experience and, in Rolfe’s case, global expedition experience. Their capacity to lead our trek was unquestionable. Moreover they had really big and really real adventure stories to share with us all. I would have paid the money just to sit on a grassy bank and listen to these. The trek was a bonus! In fact the whole experience was one huge privilege.
- And then there were the quiet times, really quiet times, when people had to dig really deep. Steep slopes, thin air – four little words, but a world of personal challenge. But not private challenge as everyone was incredibly supportive and understanding. Even Rolfe. He has a great way of motivating people who find steep slopes and thin air a bit tough. “Come on baby, this cock wont suck itself. Get on up. Yeeehahhh…..!!!”
- And yet the surprises: the home-counties housewife who found her forte at altitude, and the experienced climber who slowed right down.
- And the food surprises. Menus at every overnight stop, and industrious kitchens that provided a hugely impressive range of dishes from Lukla to Gorak Shep. And always the availability – at an increasing price – of beer, mineral water, choccy bars, Pringles and bog roll!
- And the “electric” surprises. Recharging facilities using UK 3-pin plugs all the way up. Mobile telephone coverage just about everywhere, and wifi too! No escape. I even received a test text alert from work in Farnborough somewhere around Namche Bazaar. Really bizarre.
- And finally some words to try and capture what it is like to trek in the Khumbu region: a quite different scale, huge mountains, bright white snow, deep clear blue vapour-trail-less skies; the chit-chat of trekkers, poles knocking on stone, the soft melody of yak bells, the “ting” of a prayer wheel, the smiling “Namastes” from trackside-playing children; the soft thud of boot on rocky path, cool breeze on cheeks, gentle weight of rucsac, and a throatiness that demands regular sips of water; and an overpowering sense that you are walking the paths of an ancient culture, paths only recently trodden on by “historic” western climbers like Hunt and Hillary and now you. Simply awesome!
By Dave Stewart