Monday, January 19, 2009

Beam me up Scotty

January on the Isle of Tiree.  Every year at this time I wish I could be whisked off to Australia or New Zealand.  Like in Star Trek, where you get beamed from the ship to wherever you like, in the twinkling of an eye.  If I had the choice I'd rather be anywhere dry and calm at the moment.

A strange thing for me to say, you may think.  After all, I've signed up to go to Everest Base Camp in April.  It's not exactly tropical weather there either.  But that's different.

Here, the main thing that's getting me down is the lack of opportunity to go out and get some training.  I need to start doing some exercise on Ben Hough or Ben Hynish, anything that involves going up.  At the moment, however, our Tiree 'hills' are a quagmire.

In the meantime, I've been getting more gear together.  The jacket featured today is my latest purchase, a Mountain Hard Wear Sub-Zero jacket.  This was recommended to me by my friend Jon Miller of The Rest of Everest Video Podcast.  He's been to the area, oh, twice now I reckon and he's heading out there again in May leading a party of photographers on a trek to - yes, you guessed it - Everest Base Camp.  (Sadly, we're going to miss each other by only about a week.)  I wrote to him and told him I was dismayed to see that most down jackets - essential for getting through the night in the cold of high altitude - seemed to cost somewhere between £200 - £300.  Jon soon put me right: the Sub-Zero is the jacket he's been using for years and it's nowhere as expensive as the ones I'd been looking at.

Other recent purchases have included a 4-Season sleeping bag.  This should keep me warm in my tent at night.  It is effective to temperatures of -12 centigrade (about 10.4 degrees fahrenheit).  I read an interesting BBC blog a little while ago about a lady who went to Everest Base Camp. She spoke about going into her sleeping bag at night with all her clothes on.

I may not have mentioned it before but almost all the overnight stops on the trip will be spent in tents.  I'll be sharing with another single male.

In case you're interested, here's the itinerary for my trip, lifted from KE Travel's brochure:

Day 1. Rendezvous at the group hotel in Kathmandu. Complimentary airport transfers are provided. KE group package services begin with the evening meal.

Day 2. An early start for the dramatic flight through the mountains to Lukla. After lunch we have a short trek to our first night's halt at Phakding (2610m. / 8563ft.). Camp.

Day 3. Following the Dudh Kosi valley upstream we cross and re-cross the river before making a final steep climb to the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar (340m. / 11,155ft.). Camp.

Day 4. A rest day at Namche for acclimatisation. There is the option of a day hike to the Sherpa villages of Khumjung and Kunde for views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. Camp.

Day 5. Our trail now follows the Imja Khola (river) to reach Thyangboche (3860m. /12,665ft.), located on a ridge below the impressive north ridge of Kang Taiga . Camp.

Day 6. We trek via the last permanent habitation of Pangboche to the seasonal settlement of Dingboche (4410m. / 14,470ft.) at the entrance to the Khumbu Valley. Camp.

Day 7. We make a day hike into the upper Imja Valley, to Chukkung (4730m. / 15,518ft.) below the tremendous 3,000 metre south face of Lhotse. After lunch we return to Dingboche. Camp.

Day 8. Continuing on the main trail we trek via Dugla and then beside the Khumbu Glacier to Lobuche (4910m. / 16,110ft.). Camp.

Day 9. We walk beside the Khumbu glacier and cross a tributory dry glacier to reach the Yak pastures at Gorak Shep. (5140m. / 16,865ft.) Camp.

Day 10. The big day as we trek to Everest Basecamp following first the moraine then the Khumbu Glacier itself. We then retrace our steps to Gorak Shep. Camp.

Day 11. Our camp is at the foot of Kala Patar and we make an early morning ascent of this classic Everest viewpoint to around 5500m. / 18,000ft. Afterwards we descend to Pheriche (4270m. / 14,000ft.). Camp.

Day 12. Our return trek follows the main base camp trail via Pangboche to Thyangboche (3860m. / 12,664ft.). Camp.

Day 13. We return to Namche Bazaar and continue to the village of Monjo close to the entrance of the Sagamatha National Park. Camp.

Day 14. Mostly downhill today following the fall of the Dudh Kosi river, but there's a sting in the tail as we make the final short climb to Lukla. Camp.

Day 15. Taking a morning flight to Kathmandu, we will have plenty of time after lunch for further sightseeing or shopping. Hotel.

Day 16. KE group package services end after lunch. Complimentary airport transfers are provided.

I can't wait.  There's so much to be done between now and then but even so I'm looking forward to it so much!


Lesley said...

Sounds absolutely wonderful (Everest base camp expedition that is, not the weather on Tiree at the moment). I went on a trek in Nepal a few years ago - one of the gentler ones though, just up to 3500m — it was one of my best experiences ever.

Jonathan said...

I'm going to venture a guess and say that most people in your trekking group will be sleeping in their clothes by the end of the trip (if not right away).

At least once you achieve some altitude. My experience at altitude is that I'm usually (happily) exhausted at the end of the day and don't care to bother with the effort it takes to remove one's clothing inside of a tent. In 2003 at Everest (I was above 17,000 feet for over 40 days) I would sleep in everything but my shoes and my down jacket. When folded, wrapped in a fleece jacket and placed over my daypack, the down jacket makes a wonderful pillow for sleeping. Also, by sleeping in socks, long underwear, fleece pants, long underwear shirt, fleece shirt, fleece vest and fleece jacket, you effectively increase the warmth of your sleeping back by an additional 10 or 20 degrees (F). It may seem like overkill, but at the higher altitudes of the trek your body just isn't acclimated enough to have the right amount of oxygen to burn calories at full efficiency. In simpler terms; it's easier to be cold and stay cold.

Depending on your tolerance to the cold, you may also find yourself filling your water bottle with hot water and sticking it inside of your sleeping bag at night. Trust me, after a week or so of trekking in the HImalayas you'll discover that sleeping next to a nice, warm water bottle is the next best thing to sleeping next to a nice, warm spouse...


Gordon Scott said...

Lesley and Jon: thank you for your comments. Lesley: I'd love to hear more about your trek. Did you write about it on your blog? Jon: you reminded me about fleece trousers ('pants' as you guys call them). Must get a pair. I had expected to sleep in my clothes at night. I expect everyone on the trek will be quite smelly after a few days! Gordon

Jonathan said...

Yes, sorry about that. Trousers, of course. Pants are something entirely different...but fleece pants actually sound kind of nice, don't they?..

You may be surprised by how little odor there may be emanating from everyone. See, if you don't take off most of your clothes at night--especially any windproof layers--you pretty much seal everything in.

Ah, technology!


nepalwriter said...

To learn more about the Sherpas of the Mt. Everest region, read Beyond the Summit by Linda LeBlanc. Sherpas are the true heroes of Everest. Without their assistance, very few would reach the summit. Details of Sherpa culture and religion are interwoven in a tale of romance and high adventure. The story has something for everyone: a love affair between an American journalist and Sherpa guide, conflict between generations as the modern world challenges centuries of tradition, an expedition from the porter’s point of view.

Below are selections from reviews. To read the complete ones and excerpts go to

Beyond the Summit, is the rare gem that shows us the triumphs and challenges of a major climb from the porter’s point of view. The love of two people from diverse cultures is the fiery centerpiece of a novel that leads its readers through harshly beautiful and highly dangerous territory to the roof of the world. Malcolm Campbell, book reviewer

Conflict and dialog keep this gripping story of destiny, romance and adventure moving from the first page to the last paragraph. LeBlanc has a genius for bonding her readers and her characters. I found I was empathizing in turn with each character as they faced their own personal crisis or trauma.
Richard Blake for Readers Views.

A gripping, gut-twisting expedition through the eyes of a porter reveals the heart and soul of Sherpas living in the shadows of Everest.

A hard-hitting blend of adventure and romance which deserves a spot in any serious fiction collection. Midwest Book Review

LeBlanc is equally adept at describing complex, elusive emotions and the beautiful, terrifying aspect of the Himalayan Mountains. Boulder Daily Camera

LeBlanc’s vivid description of the Himalayas and the climbing culture makes this a powerful read. Rocky Mt News Pick of the Week

A rich adventure into the heart of the Himalayan Kingdom. Fantastic story-telling from one who has been there.

This is the book to read before you embark on your pilgrimage to Nepal. The author knows and loves the people and the country, and makes you feel the cold thin air, the hard rocks of the mountains, the tough life of the Sherpa guides, and you learn to love them too. This is a higly literate, but also very readable book. Highly recommended.”
– John (college professor)

Memorable characters and harrowing encounters with the mountains keep the action moving with a vibrant balance of vivid description and dialog. Literary Cafe Host, Healdsburg, CA

This superbly-crafted novel will land you in a world of unimaginable beauty, adventure, and romance. The love story will keep you awake at night with its vibrant tension and deep rich longing. Wick Downing, author of nine novels

Such vividly depicted images of the Everest region and the Sherpa people are the perfect scenario for the romance and adventure feats narrated. It’s a page-turner, so engrossing you end up wanting to visit Nepal! Not just novel, but perfect for those seeking to get acquainted with the culture of this country.
By Claudia Fournier (América, Bs. As., Argentina)

Available through Barnes and Noble, Borders,,, and the web site