By Chia Jeng Yang
For most of my National Service, I was pretty exhausted mentally and needed something fresh to help mark a new start into life. Something simple. I decided to climb Everest Base Camp. I once went on a Scouts hike. Probably the same thing.
Anyway, I was young and I was ready. This is a short window into my experience, how I did it, and what it was like.
I arranged my hike with this local agency, mostly because they had awesome reviews on TripAdvisor, particularly one about how the boss, Puru, helped rearrange the flights for a couple delayed by weather. I thought that if anything happened, he would be the best person to help me deal with problems. This turned out to be one of the better decisions of the trip. When I became hospitalised, Puru visited me every day and helped arrange the insurance coverage details at no extra charge. Awesome props to him, which explains my tiny free publicity!
What I stocked up on:
- Anti altitude pills: Diamox was an altitude sickness pill that I used to good effect. I was particularly sensitive to altitude sickness and taking Diamox twice a day, starting from 2 days before the hike itself, helped me to get up to 5,500m. When the symptoms started getting severe, a Taiwanese biologist also gave me a couple of Viagra pills to help me regulate my bloodflow. As they say, whatever floats your boat. I also feel obligated to point out that altitude sickness affects people randomly and is not dependent on physical fitness at all. On the trek, I met middle-aged novice hikers who showed no symptoms at all and a fit 18-year old guy from Korea who was bedridden for 4 days at 4000m.
- Vitamin C fizzy tablets: With harsh winds and extremely low humidity, it’s easy for a throat to get really dry and painful after a few days. I found those Vitamin C fizzy tablets to be a lifesaver and an excellent way to kickstart the morning!
- Panadol: I used panadol when the altitude sickness headaches started to get a bit severe. It’s not a long-term solution, but it helped me power through to Everest Base Camp. You’re not supposed to be taking a lot of Diamox and Panadol at the same time, so do watch your dosage. I took about 4 panadols a day for 3 days, alongside my daily regiment of Diamox.
- Winter clothes (duh): Try to pack down jackets and athletic heat-tech tights. Don’t forget a Gortex jacket shell!
- Thermal flask: I bought this amazing Elephant (Zojirushi) thermal flask that’s probably one of the best in the market. My boiling water stayed boiling after a harsh cold windy day in the Himalayas. I frequently accidentally burned my tongue because of how well it retained heat. It holds about 1.5l of water and is about 40 USD.
- Portable charger: This might be quite important to some who might want to charge their handphones, cameras, gopros, music players, etc. I did not need to pay to charge my electronics the whole time I was there as I bought a really great Poweradd Apollo 2 10,000 mAh charger that is pretty sturdy and more than lasted the 10 days. It’s relatively cheap too, at around 40 USD. To this day, I’m still using it. It has a solar charging function, though it’s ridiculously slow and to be relied on in emergencies only. (Takes about 1 week to gather enough charge to completely replenish an iPhone)
- Sleeping Bag: Depending on where you live, getting a good one might be extremely expensive (100-200 USD), Teahouses provide blankets for free which you can stock up and make your own blanket fort, but only if you’re British. (That was a joke.)
- Walking stick: Cheap and decent quality for single trip use available for cheap purchase (15 USD) at Kathmandu
What you can expect to experience:
Flying into Lukla, the main air terminal of the Himalayas and the 2nd most dangerous airport in the world. The end of the runway STARTS from the edge of a sharp cliff and climbs upwards. (Flights get cancelled due to weather regularly. A hiker I met mentioned that her flight got repeatedly cancelled 5 days in a row. I would suggest considering a couple days of leeway when booking your return trip to your home country.)
So how does one take off from Lobouche airport?
Hiking in the Himalayas takes place from village to village, with accommodation and food along the way. It’s pretty hard to get lost, though there are very few safety barriers, especially the higher up one goes. You also have to look out for cute squirrels and small rockslides. A good FAQ about when to go/safety issues can be found here. It is quite safe all things considered, there are always people on the trail with you, either as fellow trekkers or locals acting as porters.
Something completely different
Ordinary life at 3,440m
The dustbin at the end of the path
Epic makeshift airports
Love from fellow Singaporeans
Countless card games
What a night with High Altitude Pulmonary Edema can do:
Total basic costs: (Debatable but >~600 USD exc winter gear)
Trip: 1400 USD
(It can certainly be much cheaper than this, if one is to go without a guide and arrange their own accommodation whilst in the Himalayas itself. I talked to a few people who were hiking for about 10 days by themselves and they spent around 500-600 USD. If I’m going again I would probably go without a trip guide, since I now know the pathways around, which are fairly obvious to begin with. I would advise first-timers to go with a guide so save yourself the hassle.)
Uniquely, accommodation is free in the mountains, but you have to purchase at least two meals for every day of stay, which varies wildly from 5 to 20 USD per day. I would budget 15 USD per day to be safe (including tea and some small snacks)
Wifi can vary from 1 to 5 USD per hour.
Water: 50 USD
Water isn’t cheap, and price can rise up to tenfold the further inward one goes into the Himalayas. However, you can save money by purchasing a bottle filter and requesting unboiled water, which is free.
Do you know any awesome adventure tips, tricks or stories?
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