“It is not the mountain you conquer, but yourself “– Sir Edmund Hillary
Mount Everest is an epitome of excellence – it is the highest place in the World – 8848 m. For most of us who for many reasons are unable to summit the Everest – it is enough to touch the feet of this mighty summit and pay homage to the spirit of ultimate adventure- that is what this trek to Mt Everest Base Camp is all about.
Let me call it MEBC for short. The big thing is that you have chosen to go-for-it and the rest will be easy. I always derive my inspiration from the methods Indian Army adopts for these high altitude treks – out there, we call them ‘LRPs = Long Range Patrols’. A large chunk of our soldiers stay and survive at altitudes above 15000 ft – as a matter of daily chore. The altitudes of MEBC trek range from 9000-18000 ft above the mean sea level. The fundamentals of high altitude treks have a science and some basics will always remain the same. I have outlined some fundamentals – and based on your current fitness levels and body types – you will have to suit yourself. I am happy to help anytime.
Let me begin by saying that “If you are struggling through the trek, you will not enjoy it”. Success of such a prestigious trek cannot be left to itself. For the best value for time and money that you invest – it is paramount to prepare – to sail smoothly and have the greatest fun of your life. In this series of MEBC blogs, I would take you through the paces of meticulously preparing you for MEBC.
Let us first understand, what would be different. for those 14 days, when you are on this trek. The following will fundamentally change from your usual city life …
- There is less Oxygen to breathe. You would breathe the air that is thin. By this I mean the oxygen content in the air reduces to almost 50% of what your body is used to. So your blood circulates lesser oxygen in the body and that needs attention and adaptation – which your body does well – this varies person to person. Your breathing pattern and your sleep will be affected initially. Lesser oxygen in the blood also induces some headaches. Can you prepare for it here in Delhi ? NO. Can you predict if you would be fit ? NO. This is one thing that can only be known when you are… on the trek! The only way out is to do it slow and steady and don’t rush the trek – Body takes time n days to adjust.
To do. Do aerobics, cardios for preps. While on trek – take it slow n easy, rest often, lots of water /fluids and do not over-reach. Taking Diamox does help many trekkers in making this process smooth.
- You walk a lot. Instead of sitting in air-conditioned environment across the laptop, or in meetings all day, you would be walking on a mountain trail the whole day. There will be climbs, rendezvous with Yaks, up-slopes , down slopes and wonderful views. But no worries – you could easily prepare for this in a little over a month’s time.
To do. You need to gradually start climbing and walking. If you are able to briskly walk about 8 km before the trek – you are fit to go. One suggested plan is to choose a route with climbs and walk/ run to the following prescription –
Week 1 3 km, 3 times a week. (2 repetition of Yoga – Pranayams)
Week 2 Three walks – 3 km, 4 km & 5 km (4 repetition of Pranayams)
Week 3 Three walks- 4 km, 5 km & 6 km (6 repetition of Pranayams)
Week 4 Four walks – 5 km, 6 km, 7 km & 8 km (8 repetition of Pranayams)
Week 5 Four walks – 5 km, 8 km, 6 km & 8 km (8 repetition of Pranayams)
- You carry weight. Even if you have hired a porter – you would still carry your backpack for the day – say about 3-5 kg. That is more than your laptop bag. This could be uncomfortable initially, if you have not practised it. This can be easily prepared and you do get used to it.
To do. The load carrying will have to be simulated in 3rd ,4th ,5th week of your schedule. Gradually you should be able to carry your laptop bag with camera, clothes, pair of shoes and 3 litres of water bottles.
- Different muscles come into action. Goes without saying that the muscles that would be called to action are the ones that for now may be sleeping. The walking muscles, the climbing muscles, the shoulders to carry weight and the ‘core’ to pull this all together. If you are a daily work-out person – you would need little time – but if you are not – a five week program would be required to prepare you. This you can then continue even after trek.
To do. In addition to walking, climbing needs to come into your routine. So no more lifts – take the stairs to – office or apartment. Your daily walking route must have 1-2 km of up-slopes. The carrying of back-pack would need stronger core – shoulders, lower back and abs. Work on them from first week itself. As an alternative – Stepper and 10 degree inclination on tread mill can also help – but as army man – I would always advise outdoors.
- Your body loses water. Due to high activity levels from you usual lifestyle – you need to have a plan to keep your body hydrated. Your body needs to prepare for drinking lots of water on a daily basis. Normally 3 litres of water needs to be consumed daily.
To do. You need to train your body to take in more water. Starting with 1 litre a day, you should be drinking 3 litres of water a day before you land in Kathmandu. And then keep that volume for the whole duration of MEBC trek.
- Tea House stays. Along the trail to Base camp you have these shacks, huts or hotels. These are better than the tents in many ways. So no lugging of tents and food – and the local communities get supported by what you pay for food etc. But it sure is not your comfy bedroom and you do not have the privacy of your sweet home. Cool.. This is what you have opted to experience, so be mentally prepared for a trekker’s lifestyle. It is different.
To do. Just chill – it is supposed to be different. Take care of your hygiene – more on this later. Check out what your guide has given you on the menu, everything else will have to be purchased.
- Equipment. This is yet another thing that would be different from what you are normally used to. Your trekking equipment would include – the trekking shoes, the sleeping bags, the down jackets, fleece jacket, inner pants, water proof pants, under armour shirts, trekking socks, goggles, UV sun-blocks, hat and gloves – they will all need breaking in. Try sleeping in a sleeping-bag.. it’s different ! If you do not have this stuff already – you will have to purchase these. I would deal with this part separately.
To do. Purchase this early. Specially the shoes, socks and your backpack. These will be part of your prep walks from second week onwards.
If you want to maximise your fun on this trek, we must go well prepared. So far what I have said is –
- Decide on your dates of trek – at least 8 weeks ahead to allow for 6 week of prep times.
- Buy the trekking shoes, socks and backpack.
- Have a weekly brisk walking plan – as per schedule suggested above.
- Get working on climbs, shoulders and core strengthening.
- Get used to walking with loads. You should be able to walk about 8 km with 3-4 kg of back pack, before you embark this trek.
- Train to drink 3 litres of water a day.
- If possible have a buddy to train with – it will be so much more fun.
- Now onwards – decide to be as fit as this, for rest of life.
More is coming your way soon. Meanwhile if have any questions please shoot or write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Go get walking .. the Everest is calling …