DREAM BIG – Climb Mount Everest
If I ask someone for an interview, it must be for a good reason. They must have done something spectacularly awesome. Something that highly impresses me or that I always wished to do myself. And if I even have to do the interview in English, the guy must have climbed Mount Everest or something HIGHER!
My friend Alex G. is such a guy. He climbed freakin‘ Everest, a dream of mine, something I most probably will never achieve, because I´m fat and lazy and I would apparently freeze to death, because I hate the cold. But he is young, fit and awesome, so I had to leave this experience to him. All together good reasons to let him share his experience on my blog as I´m pretty sure many of us travel enthusiasts would love to climb up a mountain once in a lifetime. Let´s dream big, let´s go for
And that’s all you need to know. 13 facts to get you started, preparing your trip of a life time. If I forgot to ask anything, please make use of the comments.
1. Alex, you did something, everybody of us is dreaming of and scared about at the same time. You climbed Mount Everest! Not only that, you even planned to reach the base camp exactly on your birthday. When did you come up with the idea and why?!
I had 6 weeks of vacation in between finishing my spring semester of my MBA program in Singapore and starting my summer internship for an investment bank in Hong Kong. I wanted to do something memorable, knowing full well it could be my last opportunity for such a lengthy break.
I got lucky because the beginning of May is an excellent time to trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC), which takes about 2 weeks. The weather is mild and the Himalayan Rhododendrons are in full bloom. I searched Tripadvisor for well-rated guided tours and found one (I didn’t use a sherpa) within my budget… and off I went.
I got lucky again that the highlight of the trek, which is climbing Kala Pattar peak above base camp in the early morning to watch the sun rise over Mt. Everest, just happened to be the morning of my 28th birthday.
I’m a pretty lucky guy, in general.
2. So if anyone of my readers would like to climb the Mount Everest as well, how to prepare for this adventure? How fit do they have to be? Do you generally do a lot of sports, or…? What if I am a lazy butt? (I am! Did I mention it already?)
You should consider yourself somewhat athletic to complete the trek. There is significant vertical covered each day (up, down, up, down) and the terrain can be rugged.
What you can’t prepare for is the altitude, and many trekkers, myself included, suffered some form of altitude sickness. You can take medicine, but there are risks. The best advice is to take your time going up, not only taking the recommended rest days but to also walk slower than you might be physically capable of, so that your body can adapt.
That said, there were trekkers of all ages completing the tour. Hiring a sherpa to carry your bags can help. Having appropriate footwear and gear goes a long way. Eat well and drink lots of water.
Once you get to Lukla, which is the base of most EBC expeditions and is accessed via plane from Kathmandu, the trek is 12 days round-trip if all goes well. 9 days up (including 2 rest/acclimatization days) and 3 days down. You can expect between 4-9 hours of trekking each day.
4. How big was the group and how did you get started?
I went solo, with one guide. I stayed in tea-houses along the way, however, and got to know fellow trekkers in different groups.
5. Did you feel safe all the time? Was there any moment you thought it could be dangerous?
I felt safe. I’m afraid of heights and some of the suspension bridges crossing the river valleys could be a bit harrowing (especially with all the yak cross-traffic). In general, however, it’s a well-traveled expedition and help is never too far away, as evidenced by the somewhat constant rescue helicopters coming to get trekkers who experienced severe symptoms of altitude sickness.
The day of the Kala Pattar summit trek was definitely tough. I had difficulty sleeping and eating at that high altitude, and had a severe headache. Overcoming those difficulties and watching the sunrise over Everest, however, was just that much more satisfying.
7. Tell us more about the altitude sickness. Is it really as difficult to breath as everybody says?
The air at EBC is about 50% as dense as at sea level, so you only draw in about 50% oxygen for every breath, which can be quite draining considering that you are exercising.
Most trekkers experience some form of mild altitude sickness symptoms such as tiredness and/or headaches. My guide said about 10-20% of trekkers don’t complete the trek. The guides are well trained and and have medicine/access to resources should you need them.
Lots of walking up and down steep and rugged trails.
9. What about the nights? You had to overnight in the camp, right? How was that?
I stayed in tea-houses which are basically a small kitchen and dining room based around a heater with attached basic bedrooms for guests.
Because sherpas and yaks manually transport all goods to each of the lodgings, the quality degrades as your progress. The tea-house near EBC was very basic, and was without electricity or heating (sub-zero temperatures at night) for most of the time.
10. And exactly on your birthday you reached the top, respectively the Kala Pattar peak, how was the feeling? And actually…what do you do, once you reach the top?
Yep. May 4th, on the morning of my 28th birthday I reached the peak of Kala Pattar at 5550 meters to watch the sunrise. I was the first one up there. I got some amazing pictures and witnessed a beautiful sunrise on a beautiful spring day over Mt. Everest peak.
Going downhill is actually quite difficult as you cover twice as much ground per day than going up, and it can be quite rough on your knees. Regaining lower elevation, however, is a relief for altitude symptoms.
12. Would you do it again and what is your recommendation to those guys, thinking about climbing Mount Everest?
There are many amazing treks in the Himalayas… If I had another opportunity I might do a different route/destination. To those considering it, DO IT!
13. I´m wondering what comes next, if you have climbed the highest mountain on this planet? Any plans for your future travels?
Nothing specific. The job starts soon. So, just try to keep being awesome and taking advantage of the opportunities when I get them.
Thanks for the interview Alex.
My 5 cents
The story of Alex Gilbert inspires me again to DREAM BIG! While some people don’t even give a thought to climbing Mount Everest, being the highest on Earth and the most daunting, even being afraid of heights didn’t stop him! So while there’s smaller, less challenging mountains, what’s your excuse?
Or what is your mountain? This applies for any challenge you are facing in your life right now, any fears, anything that is holding you back from doing what you always wanted to do, since you are young.
Some people, afraid to leave their comfort zones set out for the short, easy path, forgetting that we as human beings should challenge ourselves every day. While others who believe there are no limits, set out to do the unimaginable, the goals most would consider impossible, those that make you look fear in the eye. Forcing you to step out “into the waters”, make you test your faith in either yourself, or god. These people, the ones who may fail but still continue on to see a magnificent journey will grow. There is no growth in dreaming small.
At one time in my life, I learned the smart way was setting attainable goals only, so I could always see the finish line. Although this may be easier, and getting a constant feeling of satisfaction is alright, it is totally bullshit in my opinion. I can’t remember what loser told me this and how I believed it to be motivating at the time. Since I’ve learned as a person we should all strive to grow, I don’t follow this method anymore. I reach more, I yearn for more, and I exploit more of my potential now. If you have never left your comfort zone, you do not know how high you can jump. And we as human beings have incredible potential to do great things, beyond our highest expectations. Yes, and expensive so called life-coaching books keep telling you to set attainable goals, so you may consider to buy the next book, because…it did work out so well. Ok, you just did not reach that much and you did not grow at all. No, even worse, you still have time reading those books.
Never allow these lies that limit to be planted in your beautiful mind. “I can’t do this” or “I can’t do that” or always comparing ourselves to the fitter, younger, more awesome person than ourselves. These thoughts and negativity prevent you from seeing the beauty in life, and always comparing to what you believe to be better. Instead of doing this, we should all have an optimistic mentality of “if HE can do it, I can do it” which is so important, especially while travelling. This help you face challenges, overcome fears, experience more, and watch your self confidence grow. This confidence is needed when you face difficult situations, which you WILL face, if you travel to certain countries or choose a life of backpacking over a 5-star vacation package.
I recently heard the story of a couple, who climbed Kilimanjaro. No one can say it was easy, and admit we would never do it because sometimes fear rules over desire. This person talked about having regular panic attacks, and talks of all the challenges while climbing the great Kilimanjaro, and in the end she did it! It’s not about getting to the top easily, it’s about overcoming fears and showing fear your best middle finger when you look down after climbing or look back after crossing that finish line and being able to say
“WHATUP, I MADE IT!!! “
…then putting forth your biggest smile for the greatest picture of your life, all after your amazing achievement and being able to look forward for the next challenge.
COURAGE IS RESISTANCE TO FEAR
MASTERY OF FEAR
NOT ABSENCE OF FEAR!