Edmund Hillary was the first to climb Mount Everest in 1953. It was a Herculean feat changing Hillary’s life in many ways. His name became synonymous with mountaineering, polar exploration and philanthropy, but he remained humble. Despite his success he always remembered his days as a “small, lonely child.” Future adventure travelers share his need to conquer the fear of venturing into the unknown. Hillary did it and so can you.
“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things. You can be an ordinary chap, but be sufficiently motivated to reach certain challenging goals,” he understated. “With practice and focus you can extend yourself far more than you ever believed was possible.” Hillary was a New Zealand beekeeper, but wanted something more. He achieved it through a desire to climb the world’s highest mountains and help those who live in the shadow of the giant peaks.
We all need mentors, someone to inspire us to escape our narrow confines to reach our inner greatness. If you have never traveled outside your country, here’s a suggestion. Nepal was Hillary’s catalyst for a life of exploration and it could be yours as well.
We’re not suggesting you quit your daily life and attempt to climb the world’s highest peak. Here’s a compromise that could be equally exciting, but way less perilous. Consider a trek to Everest Base Camp for your first overseas adventure – a life changing experience.
Nepal is a relatively small country about the size of New York State, but has limitless cultural and environmental diversity. Since being discovered by adventure travelers in the 1960s, Nepal remains an iconic destination. Its combination of the world’s most spectacular mountain scenery, (there are 90 peaks over 23,000 feet) with high altitude Sherpa-Buddhist villages along the trekking routes making it one of the few trips where the journey is just as important as the destination. The scenery alone makes it a bucket list destination, but when you throw in the Hindu-Buddhist cultural cross currents it’s a must-experience place.
Tusker runs an 18-day trek to Everest Base Camp in April and October. The trip requires you to hike between Lukla (9,400 feet) to Everest Base Camp at 17,585 but you will go as high as 18,513 feet on the journey. You will be on your feet 12 solid days on varying terrain covering 75 miles and will trek alongside well trained Tusker guides who monitor your health daily to make sure you are acclimatizing and staying healthy. Altitude sickness is your biggest issue, but Tusker’s team is highly trained in proven techniques to both monitor and treat any altitude emergencies. Tusker also brings its own chef and hygiene systems along to insure you don’t get food poisoning which is a major concern in the Nepal backcountry.
As a first time adventure traveler this is a chance for you to embrace your physicality as well as open your mind to a different culture and way of looking at the world. To get to Everest Base Camp you need to shake off the rust and get in good shape. This requires you be mentally disciplined to shed the extra pounds to hike up and down the Khumbu Valley that leads to the Everest massif. It also requires opening your mind to an Eastern Buddhist way of experiencing the world to fully appreciate your experience.
The Sherpa within you
Hiking in the Himalaya is far different from hiking on Kilimanjaro, or in Patagonia or Mongolia, Tusker’s other destinations. Here in the Himalaya you will share the trail not just with other tourists, but everyday local people—yak herders, school kids, farmers and Buddhist monks as well as Sherpa guides and porters. In addition to our lead Sherpa guide Mingma, you will be accompanied by our medical guiding team comprising of two of our most highly trained and experienced Kilimanjaro guides, Shabane and Kombe – Kilimanjaro’s best.
All the Sherpa crew have a physical advantage; they are the winners of the genetic high altitude lottery. Through centuries of evolution, their cardiovascular systems have adapted to high altitude. They have another advantage, their Buddhist mindset which helps make them mountain tough. Their approach to high altitude hiking is less ego – more calm. Their approach to traveling these paths is in many ways better than our Western ego driven power-through-it approach to conquering mountains. You can’t develop Sherpa lungs, but you can practice and develop a Buddhist mentality that could help you on your journey.
On your conditioning hikes in your local mountains before heading for Nepal practice meditative hiking. Force yourself to go slowly and embrace the big picture as you travel through nature. Develop an affinity for being in nature. Notice the flights of butterflies, birds and bees seeing yourself as part of the bigger picture – and slow it down. You too are a voyager through and part of something much bigger than yourself.
This is not a camping trip, you will stay in small lodges each night and this makes it easier for the adventure traveler who is new at this game. This is the only Tusker trip that treks through several villages leading to Everest Base Camp. There are local lodges where you can meet fellow travelers from around the world as well as Buddhist monasteries where you can sit and soak in the meditative peace of the mountains and the monks. In short, Nepal provides the most opportunity to experience a foreign culture of all the Tusker destinations.
We doubt you will get homesick. Homesickness for many first time overseas travelers can be an issue, but you will be traveling with other travelers in your group so if you absolutely need the cultural comfort of home its close by. But to truly embrace the trip it’s advisable to resist continually checking your IPad for stateside news. Leave all the good and bad from home in the rear view. Open yourself to Nepal and all it has to offer. In short be in the moment and that moment is your first walk across one of the world’s great stages—the Himalaya.
Hillary, Norgay and you
Hillary’s ascent of Everest was greatly assisted by Tenzing Norgay a local Sherpa. Without Norgay, it’s likely Hillary may not have made it into the history books. We all need a helping hand, including nowadays adventure travelers. Hillary joined an outdoors club in college and found inspiration and mentorship. For you, embrace Tusker’s guides and engage them. Show your curiosity about Nepal and its culture and learn from them. This will develop the trailside confidence you need to conquer your fear.
Nepal in many ways is one of the best places to start your adventure travels. Although the snow-capped Himalaya appear daunting, Nepal has a welcoming tourist infrastructure and culture. The only thing stopping you is yourself.
If fear didn’t stop Hillary, why should it stop you? Besides, you’re not hiking to the top of Everest at over 29,000 feet. You’re only going to Everest base camp. It is achievable and will lead to many higher adventures.