March 26, 2010
This is the first in a series of articles Stephen Regenold will write on his experience as a member of Expedition Hanesbrands, a Mount Everest climbing expedition this spring. Regenold will blog live from Nepal beginning next week.
As the crow flies — or in this case, perhaps the Himalayan condor — Base Camp at Mount Everest is about 40 miles from the airstrip in Lukla, Nepal, where my flight lands in early April, and where I start the long trek to Mount Everest with the Expedition Hanesbrands team. But from that small village at about 9,000 feet above sea level, the trek to Base Camp is scheduled to take almost nine days. Indeed, the route is an “ultimate trekking experience,” according to Berg Adventures International, the Canadian guiding company that Hanesbrands has hired to support its expedition to the tallest mountain in the world.
Jamie Clarke, leader of Expedition Hanesbrands, agrees. “To walk through the Khumbu Valley to Everest Base Camp is to witness what is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most impressive displays of geographic beauty.”
While the trek is just the start of the adventure for Clarke — he has plans to stand atop Mount Everest sometime in May! — for most people, just trekking to Base Camp would be a once-in-a-lifetime feat. Though that aforementioned Himalayan condor could ostensibly straight-line the 40-mile trip in a few hours, for trekkers the Lukla to Base Camp route is a bit more complex. You hike each day for more than a week, heading uphill on trails, along rivers, over high Himalayan passes, across swinging bridges, and through Sherpa villages toward Everest’s tent city at 17,000 feet.
To be sure, altitude — not distance — is the main crux. You start the trek at 9,000 feet — this is where many mountains top out in North America! The air gets thinner each day as you hike up and up along the trail, from Lukla, past Sagarmartha National Park, and up valley to Pheriche, Lobuche, and higher still to thin air beyond.
“It’s easy to want to go fast,” said Scott Simper, Expedition Hanesbrands’ videographer and a veteran skier and mountaineer. “But you have to pace yourself and take it slow.” Simper, who has trekked in the Khumbu region multiple times, said people as well as nature make the trek special. “The culture is amazing up there,” he said.
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