My parents questioned my sanity when I told them I was going to trek to Everest Base Camp; it was as if I had announced I wanted to climb Everest itself. I had just completed my 2nd Dan testing, something I five years ago I hadn’t imagined possible, and now I wanted to take a stab at another lofty goal of mine.
I’ve been to Nepal before, climbing a couple of 6000m peaks along the stunning Annapurna trek, so I understood the physical demands, the confronting nature of squat toilets, and the unimaginative, carbo-repetitive mountain food.
Not wanting to go alone I talked a friend into it; talking up the breathtaking scenery aspect and brushing over the negatives; and booked us with Intrepid Travel on their 15 day tour. As we flew over lush green farmland, eerily blue glacier fed rivers, and colourful little houses, music drummed in my ear. I looked over at my friend and her wonderstruck expression said it all; this was a good decision and no matter how hard it was going to be this trip was going to be an epic adventure.
After we safely landed in Lukla - the most dangerous airport in the world - we left fancy stuff like vehicles and airports behind as we headed into Sagaramatha National Park (the locals name for Everest). Every day we woke with the sun in our basic teahouse room, and began the process of guessing what to wear for the ever-changing mountain weather. For 12 days we walked through Australia-like heat, rain, mud and snow. One afternoon, as a huge uphill loomed ahead, I came to a full stop on the valley floor as the skies turned pale grey and a flurries of snow stung my eyes. I quit, just for maybe a minute, before summoning myself uphill like a belligerent mule.
I could say it was one of the hardest physical and mental challenges of my life, but it wasn’t. Sure, it is demanding, but so is every squad I’ve ever attended. And it might challenge you mentally, but so does stepping into the sparring ring. Taekwondo prepared me not just with superior quad strength, but making me tough enough to find something like trekking 120KM uphill fun. I remember one of the Sherpas going to grab my arm to hold me up as we passed through an area of loose rocks, but I kept my balance, years of Taekwondo coming to the rescue, and before I knew it; the top of the world was standing right before me, behind clouds, and a stunning three thousand meters vertical. The vastness of base camp is an immense grey place of rock and rubble, with a backdrop of ice covered giants, littered with banana peel dome tents, and busy souls preparing for the upcoming summit attempt in May. It is hard enough to imagine climbing Everest, let alone living here in this thin freezing air, without hot showers, Netflix and zero Dojang’s in sight.
On our way down the locals are amused as I strain my tired legs into a decent side kick to pose for a photo, Everest, now behind us. They aren’t used to seeing women mucking around with Martial Arts, and our tour leader challenges me light heartedly for a spar, it’s no contest.
If you ever come to Nepal, it’s a country where you don’t need to be concerned about being ripped off or mugged, as the people are lovely and happiness is more valued here than wealth. All you need is some decent shoes, strong legs and most important, your indomitable spirit.
See you at Squad!