In 2007 I trekked to Everest Base Camp and climbed to the top of Kala Patthar, some 5,500m above sea level. I spent 15 days in Nepal, a beautiful country with incredibly friendly people, stunning scenery and the most incredible mountains I have ever seen. It was an experience of a lifetime and one I will never forget. The last 10 minutes of the climb to Kala Patthar was the hardest thing I have ever done and was worth every heaving breath and aching muscle.
It was such a fantastic experience that I went again earlier this year. At the risk of running out of superlatives, this time was even better than the last. We had a fantastic group of people, a great leader and we had a mix of weather that made the trek into a real adventure. Another trip of a lifetime. I am so fortunate to have been able to do them.
Now I have the trekking bug. I have some regrets that I didn’t start trekking sooner – what a waste. But now I am lucky enough to be able to see these wonderful places. On the last trek, the leader said ‘There are those who dream of such adventure, and there are those, like you, who go and do them.’
So in that spirit, and taking advantage of my health, I’m planning my next trek. It’s a double – Mount Kenya and then Mount Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro – the highest free standing mountain in the world – is a very popular destination for trekkers and fund raisers. Chances are you know, or know of, someone who has done it. Because it’s so popular, many people see it as an easy challenge. If you know people who have done it, they will tell you it most certainly is not easy. Some groups have a success rate of as low as 30%. Much of this is down to lack of preparation but a significant proportion fail due to poor acclimatisation.
The key to acclimatising properly is to limit the ascent each day and take the pace slowly. Unfortunately, tight schedules mean that an ascent that should really take 9 or 10 days takes only 5 or 6. We took 9 days to reach Kala Patthar and that was 400m lower than Kilimanjaro’s summit – and more than half our group didn’t get to the top.
The beauty of the twin peaks version of this trek is that climbing mount Kenya first acclimatises us to 5,000m before tackling Kilimanjaro. Clever.
My plan is to complete this trek in September 2012, although as I write there is some doubt as the Mount Kenya part of the trek isn’t as popular and there is a minimum number needed to run the trip. I’m really hoping that some of my Base Camp trek colleagues will be able to join me, as their company was a great moral booster last time. There’s a lot of preparation to undertake as the total ascent will be about twice that of the Base Camp trek. I’ve even joined the gym at work (I don’t really like gyms as I find it hard to motivate myself, but needs must and the instructor is a Kilimanjaro veteran, so he can help me with some specific preparation).
Watch this space, as they say, for further updates.