With only 100 meters from the Everest Base Camp we found ourselves suddenly in the middle of a blizzard. It was tough, you could hardly see the person right beside you, let alone the path we had to trek on. We had to walk slow and steady as not only was it slippery, with severely affected visibility but we were at a point where one misstep risked us falling into the nooks and crannies of nothingness below.
Well, coming close to the heels of our 1-year anniversary of having completed the Everest Base Camp Trek; I cannot help reminiscing the experience. Around this time last year, my husband Kiran and I gave ourselves the challenge to complete the Everest Base Camp Trek. We trained long and hard for 4 long months ahead and it sure helped that we maintained an active lifestyle otherwise. Our preparation was focused and grueling but let me tell you it truly helped us strengthen our endurance, and cardiovascular abilities. Mixed workouts in the gym, swimming, walking and eating healthy was what laid the foundation.
We are PADI certified scuba divers and while we have dived to ship wrecks sitting at 100 – 115 feet below sea level, never have we embarked on a trek 14 days long to scale a height of 5364 meters/ 17598 feet. Anyone who has been up there on the Himalayas will tell you, one barely returns unchanged from an experience such as this. It’s truly different and like nothing we’d ever done. It wasn’t just a physical challenge we set ourselves up for but equally a mental and emotional one. Also, no matter the preparations, nothing truly prepares you for what the mountains have in store for you.
Despite being conscientious and not undervaluing the preparation required, I wouldn’t say it was cake-walk; if anything, that is farther from the truth. The low temperatures, rapidly shifting weather conditions, extreme altitude and quite simply the soreness you feel in your body becomes the norm of each day. We start off pumped with adrenaline and feeling invincible; but as you enter day 3, you will admit the humbling affect the experience has on you will throw every ounce of over confidence and arrogance out; We were ready, raring and determined but know that at every step we were tested. Sometimes. Especially for me; the pain I was feeling barely allowed me the flexibility to walk or climb.
There were multiple moments I thought I would pass out from the pain, I cross questioned myself every time some other trekker called it quits mid-way, every single time at the end of the day when someone lay in the tea houses crying, sick with altitude illness or hurt in crutches, I’d ask myself why am I even doing this. What worked is getting through those weak moments to wake up in the morning fresh and ready to make another day count. Before reaching Lukla in Nepal, my personal goal was just reaching Base Camp but once there my personal goal shifted to being able to complete each day on the 14-day long trek.
On Day 2, I vividly still remember we were at a point in the trek where you get over a boulder like path, I stopped to catch my breath as I let trekkers-on- return pass me by. One fellow trekker looked at us and said, “Don’t you forget, every step forward in a blessing!”. With these words ringing in my head like a mantra, I eventually made it to Base Camp. We are often asked why do we do it? My response why not? Not all good things necessarily come easy. We do this because we learn more about ourselves, we push our perceived limits, we make discipline a way of life and we cherish the sense of accomplishment.
Our reward at the end of it was waiting in the form of the ‘best views’ one can ever lay their eyes on, it lies in the form of people you meet along this adventure, in comes in heaps through the trials each one of us face embarking on a journey that strips you bare of all that is familiar and the lack of luxury makes you stronger as a person. I can speak for anyone who has ever done this trek route; the reward you go chasing comes second to the rewards you collect enroute’ because at each step you are taught a lesson. You cannot miss the signs, it’s glaring right at you and you learn to admit, acknowledge, absorb and grow.
Don’t let my narrative confuse you, it wasn’t all trials and tribulations; well yes it was but after the first few days, this kind of becomes muscle memory, after that you turn a poet, a philosopher, an intellect, sensitive, more connected to yourself and if I may take the liberty of calling it “just a better person”. I learnt a bunch of things that I personally feel were life changing.
- Mind over matter : No amount of pain can stop you unless you give up. Your mind is the strongest muscle you have. Yes, I realized I was stronger than I thought. Every time my feet refused to take another step, my mind stepped in to remind me of what I was going to see and to achieve. It might seem unrealistic but that was my driver. I let my mind move my tired body to the finish.
- You are limitless : I did push the envelope not once or twice but every single day on that trek route. You can push your perceived limits once you set your mind to it. There were no boundaries, none of the naysayer’s words or disheartening comments impacted us; we were on a mission and our mind and body felt limitless.
- Finishing first vs finishing : Not every single challenge, personally or professionally is about finishing first. We are often caught up in this so-called rat race. Who did what, why and how is irrelevant. Each of our journey is different, it’s meant to be unique and special. Sometimes it only about being a finisher. You are only in competition with the better version of you and nobody else.
- You can never prepare enough: Every piece of information you can find, research or advise you can seek from someone who has done it only serves to help. Scaling the Everest Base Camp is only an example that the more I learned of it ahead, the more I was ready to be successful in completing it. There’s no shame in having a thirsty brain, in being curious and in preparing.
- There are no shortcuts : You know when you want the best but hope it can come easy? I learnt that the best things always come with a challenge. If the view is worth it, the climb is that much harder. If the path to meeting a goal seems impossible, realizing it after a struggle makes it that much more special. So yeah, we learnt to look at challenges as opportunities.
- The world is better when we have each other’s back : When you are close to 18,000 feet and a stranger offers you a sip of water because you’ve run out, or when you share words of encouragement as you see someone about to give up or you meet people very different from you and you celebrate this diversity- language, race, ethnicity, political or sexual preferences don’t matter. It’s all about survival and having each other’s back because that’s what makes us human.
Celebrating the accomplishment
Yes, I cried as I walked the last few steps to touch the Everest Base Camp point. I cried not because I was in pain, or tired or scared but because at that very moment “I found me”. A much stronger person than the one that embarked on this adventure. I cried tears of joy, the atmosphere was filled with victory chants and screams. Cameras were clicking non-stop and it was like one cold, wet, dress down and no alcohol party at 18000 feet. (Remember we were in the middle of a blizzard, clothed in 6 layers and high on adrenaline)
I am thrilled I got to accomplish this feat with my partner in life, in adventure and in soul. Today, we are less afraid of things that are unfamiliar, we take more risks, don’t easily call it quits when there’s a big challenge ahead and just push harder each day. It was magical, and a life lesson learnt in nature’s most beautiful painting. Will we do it again? Absolutely! As I write this, we are preparing for our next adventure. This one might ask a little more of us physically and mentally, so we are keeping no stone unturned to ensure WE ARE READY & WE GOT THIS TOO!
Have you ever done something that pushed your limits? Did you overcome a challenge and turned it into an opportunity to move ahead? What learning has an adventure taught you? Do you, perhaps sometimes feel the pangs of anxiety because you are fearless? Drop me a note in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.