From almost missing flights and experiencing bad weather to facing altitude sickness, everything that could have gone wrong, did during the trip. But Gurpreet Singh, General Manager-Marketing, United Breweries Ltd, and his friends made it to the Everest Base Camp despite all odds.
Gurpreet Singh scaled Mt Kilimanjaro earlier this year, but when his friends floated the idea of a college reunion amidst the majestic mountains, he couldn’t resist. A trek that ideally takes 13 days was finished in 10, and Singh is back to tell the exhilarating tale.
Recounting the first day of the trip, he said, “Besides picking up Murtu (Sing’s friend) and almost missing the flight from Bangalore to Delhi and then getting upgraded from Delhi to Kathmandu, not much to report about the trip,” he said.
This however was just the beginning. Before the trek could begin, Singh and his four friends learnt that they were stuck in Kathmandu for a few days. “That’s about when the news of the Buddha Air crashing in Nepal hit the news channels. It was bad enough with the recent earthquakes that jolted this region, we now have this plane crash and later in the day a plane skidding off the runaway and a bomb hoax on another flight at the Kathmandu airport to add further excitement.”
The next day didn’t seem much better as bad weather continued. “We waited for six hours at the airport which looked like the Howrah railway station with all the flights delayed due to bad weather. Eventually all flights to Lukla got cancelled and our flights were shifted to the next day,” Singh said.
The group finally boarded a Dornier after a day’s wait and reached Lukla airport, at a height of 2840 metres. The landing itself was an adventure. “We had heard enough about the Lukla airport and its extremely small runaway. The Dornier has to literally go over the mountains and drop down on a runaway that starts from the edge of a cliff and ends in a wall, an extremely short distance away. The airport is not really an airport as anyone can walk in and out,” Singh explained.
Finally, the trek to Phakding (2610 mtrs) started. Comparing the trek to the one in Kilimanjaro, Singh said. “When I did Mt Kilimajaro, I did not know what to expect. This time I was better prepared and I knew what equipments I had to carry. The biggest hassle one faces during treks is the mental exhaustion. No matter how fit you are, doing the same thing day after day can cause mind fatigue,” he explained.
The trek to Namche proved to be an uphill task. “It was a constant uphill climb. After some time I decided not to keep up with the group and set my own pace. The first hour or so was tough; tough on the legs, tough on the lungs and tough on the mined. After 90 minds it seemed liked an impossible climb. With the body already beaten and seeing a girl throw up due to exhaustion, I decided to take a 15 minute break for water and chocolate bars to build up enough energy for the balance hour which remained as tough on the body but no longer on the mind,” he recalled.
Another setback that the group faced was altitude sickness. Singh’s friend, Jeetu started experiencing breathlessness and headaches after making it to Tengboche at 3867 metres. “We discounted it thinking it was more to do with five of us staying in the small closed room. In the morning next day, he seemed charged up and ready to go, but during breakfast he seemed to have lost his appetite. After about 30 min of walk, Jeetu started feeling dizzy as well. We decided that it was time for him to turn back with one of the porters. It was sad to bid him goodbye as he was the catalyst that got us together, planned and put the whole trip together.” Singh adds that is demotivating and sad to see people turn back, after they’ve almost made it to the top. “I have seen extremely fit people turn back. It’s disheartening. But then you also meet people who are coming back after making it to their destination. It encourages you to move on,” he said.
So the group moved on minus one member. After battling extreme cold, exhaustion, lack of sleep and decreasing oxygen levels for the next two days, Singh and his friends trek to Kala Pathar. Now the group consists of three members as Murtu falls sick and decides to turn back. “The steep climb to Kala Pathar is really tough and half way up, my body completely gave up. But the sighting of Mt Everest and the mountain ranges kept me going. The last 10 minutes was a bit of a scramble on all fours and finally, I made it to the top of Kala Pathar at 5550 metres, the highest point of the trek. We took a couple of pictures before starting our descent.” Singh said.
“Back in Kathmandu after a couple of days, the heat and the hustle bustle of the city served as a reality check. Back in Bangalore, I couldn’t believe that I had to go back to the corporate routine again. I can’t wait for the next break,” Singh pointed out.
And he has already planned similar excursions for the next five years. “I have not yet tried out sky diving and I want to do that soon. The reason I have planned what I want to do for the next five years is because I might not have the stamina to do these things after a few years,” he signs off.