My Transformative Journey to Everest Base Camp
Why would a 69 year old want to trek to Mount Everest Base Camp? I’ve been asked that question many times since I returned. I also asked myself that question about half way through our trip when the going got tough. I’m not sure I have a good answer. The simple answer is that I always wanted to do it. I love traveling and wanted to go to a place and a country that is unique. Nepal. Kathmandu. Mount Everest. They are all names that get my blood stirred up. After all Shangri-La is somewhere up there lost in the clouds, isn’t it?
I wasn’t trying to conquer the universe but had the desire to take on the challenge before I was too old. The trip brochure said very clearly on almost every page that they ranked the difficulty of the trek as the “ultimate challenge.” Frankly, I glossed over those words and thought – it can’t be that bad. The words didn’t mean much to me until we walked 10 hours a day for 15 days at high altitude and I was constantly out of breath.
The trip was transformative for me. It put the world in perspective. We met people who live in what most of us would call primitive conditions but they are happy and healthy, have families, build houses all with meager incomes and few worldly possessions. And they walk everywhere. There are no motorized vehicles. Distances in the Himalaya region are measured in how many days or half days it takes to walk there. One of our porters, Bhin, lives in a village a two-day walk south of Lukla. He had no idea how many miles away it was. Everything in the Himalaya region moves on either two feet or four feet. We saw porters carrying unbelievably heavy loads of building materials on their backs. We saw Dzo, donkeys and yaks carrying loads of food, building materials and fuel.
Plus, in preparation for the trip I got in better physical shape than I’ve been in for years. I lost weight on the trip from the strenuous walking that got me in even better shape. After living at high altitude for almost 3 weeks I found the altitude acclimatization lasted for almost 4 weeks after I returned. I was able to ride my bike around Lake Geneva without even breaking a sweat. I was physically transformed and realized my physical abilities are limitless, if you put your mind to it. Get up and keep moving is my new mantra.
My only wish for this trip is that I had gone earlier in my life so I could return again and again. I often visualize the fabulous scenery we saw and think of the sheer joy of standing on Kala Patthar at 18,500 feet with my son Jim. I had never been closer to my son: at that moment we were one. I would have like to have all five of my sons on the Trek. Since our return our hectic lives keep Jim and his family from seeing much of each other as much as I would like. Jim and Rosie had a daughter, Isabella. If I am physically fit by the time she’s a teenager I’d like to take her on the Base Camp Trek and stand with my granddaughter on Kala Patthar with our arms raised in salute to our families.
Frank Manfredi, MT Sobek Guest
MT Sobek Trip: Everest Base Camp, 2013