Into the Unknown: Hike to the Everest Base Camp

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Do I stop walking in the middle of nowhere because I just cannot take any more step or do I keep pushing, even though it’s becoming physically impossible? Is it my mind that’s giving up or my legs?

What will my parents say if I fell down from a 400 feet see-through suspended bridge in the Himalaya? How will this make sense to them? They know I’m very adventurous but wouldn’t this be a little too much?

Why am I here? What is it about mountains and the outdoors that I cannot get enough of?

Don’t forget to be on the mountain side when Yaks (long-haired domesticated bovid)  pass by.

I wish I was on my couch.

Oh God, get me to safety!

These and many more were some of the thoughts that were going through my mind when I was experiencing physical and mental exhaustion as I have never had before during my Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal.

My trek started out with an exhilarating flight from the capital Kathmandu to Lukla. Lukla airport is one of the most dangerous airport in the world because of its short, treacherous runway on a steep cliff. So, the first relief of the multi-day journey starts with landing safely at Lukla airport. Then begins the grueling, 90 miles (154 km) round-trip trek to Base Camp at a very high altitude, where the air gets thinner with each elevation gain .

Everything started out great. I was feeling strong, great pace, enjoying the extraordinary view, making new friends, counting my blessing, and just soaking it all in until half way through the trek where I got the flu because of the extremely cold temperatures at night (-20 to -10) and sanitary conditions at the tea houses. (Tea houses provide accommodations for trekkers. They are run by locals and all trekkers basically have to stay there at different stations along the route).

At the Everest Base Camp

I do relatively ok at higher altitudes so I wasn’t having altitude sickness but was suffering from cough, sore throat, headache, lost my appetite, and had no energy to keep on (lost 10lbs (4.5kgs) on the trek, I can’t really complain about that).

I observed that the trekking industry in Nepal is so unregulated that it’s actually dangerous for the many tourists that visit the region. Many of them get sick, some lose their lives, and many feel drained so much so that they vow not to ever go back again.

I remember thinking, I cannot return without accomplishing my goal. Turning back was not an option I wanted to consider. I thought I will be so disappointed at myself that I decided to push through the difficulty. Happy to say, I made it!

Himalayan mountain range is the highest mountain range in the world. In this range, Mountain Everest is the tallest mountain. Therefore the Himalayas is a range of mountains while Sagarmatha (the “mountain that touches the sky”) or, Mt. Everest, is one mountain.

Everest Base Camp at 17, 600 feet (5,365 meters) is the gateway to Mt. Everest. It’s one of the most surreal and unique places I have ever been. It felt remote, dangerous, but exciting and beautiful at the same time. I was lucky to get there early before other trekkers so I had Base Camp for myself for 2:30 hrs before the crowd. I wanted to stay longer but I needed to get to a lower altitude for me to feel better. Despite the physical exhaustion, I realized that the only way I was able to make it was because of an unexplainable desire and determination to fulfill my goal.  

I have had so many favorite moments throughout my journey. Seeing Mt. Everest for the first time in a clear sky and wonder what it would mean to be up there, looking at the stars at night over  Everest from Kala Patthar, being able to cross those insane, see-through, wobbly, suspended bridges (personal goal), and so on.

This experience meant so much. Each day was filled with a reality, story, thoughts, and imagination that I still need time to process. It pushed me to my limit, but it did not break me. It’s a tremendous opportunity and a self-discovery journey.

I promised myself that I will never go back to the Himalaya for any kind of trekking but that seemed to quickly fade away even during my flight back home. Save me from myself!

*Selam Mesfin is an Ethiopian-American adventurer. She lives California and has traveled to over 67 countries and 42/50 US States.

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