The toughest yet humbling journey to 5545m up

It was in 2016 when I agreed to join in the adventure. Rob and I immediately gave our stern yes to our dear friend Gabby T, the amaze balls organiser. Thank you Gabby for inviting us and thank you for your patience. We appreciate it very much. 
How hard could it be right? I mean, some videos that I’ve watched since, seems easy. If they can do it, then so do we, right? Well, the only way to find out, I would say. 

Let the journey begin…

Day 1 

On the 20th April 2017, all 5 of us arrived at Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu, feeling pumped, excited and nervous. I remember having the same conversation with Gabby. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling as I did. But, I know I am all packed and ready to take on the challenge of a lifetime. I can’t wait! So, this is when our early nights begin. 

Photo by Gabby T.

Day 2

On the 21st April 2017, we boarded one of the most dangerous flight in the world heading to Lukla. After seeing so many videos and hearing too many stories, no doubt it will be such an amazing experience. Those pilots man! They’re good! Really good! Hats off to them. And of course the flight itself is a great warm up before the trek to Phakding at 2600m. Nervous? No. Instead I was freaking out deep down inside. What’s in store ahead of us? Guess we shall find out. Being introduced to honey ginger lemon tea that became part of my diet instantly. Didn’t realize it will stick around till the end. Recommended by Raju, the guide. 

Photo by James Tee

Day 3

On the 22nd April 2017, one of the toughest trek up to Namche Bazaar at 3535m. This will give you a taste to what’s coming in the next 5 days. You’ll be mentally and physically challenged throughout this one. If you are afraid of heights, my goodness I have no idea how are you going to cross all those bridges, And the cold, strong wind that keeps slapping against you, almost making you slipped off your track if you do not keep your balance. Exaggerating? No. Our guide told us that just a week before a tourist have slipped and fell to its death. So, being focused is the key. My legs were shaking as we hiked up that steep narrow path. I keep telling myself, “One step at a time”. I don’t have to rush. If i follow the rhythm of the sherpas, I will be okay. It was tiring but the view. My goodness! Absolutely stunning! In my head, chocolate donuts keep appearing. And I mumbled it all the way up. Whatever motivates me to move, I did it. I will scream it out loud if I need to. Oh, speaking of donuts, if you happen to be there, find yourself the Hermans Bakery. You will not regret it. Makes me wonder why Malaysia with lots of opportunities and possibilities can’t even bake bloody great bread! And there they are, up high above, where most things that are built must be carried on the sherpas back or by yaks. And not to forget, are all of the stories from other hikers regarding Diamox, the pill for altitude sickness. The only pill to cure that sickness. We decided to follow our guide Raju’s advice. “If you’re not sick, then why take it.”

Day 4

The 23rd of April 2017, was indeed one of my favourite days where we got to visit the statue of the man himself, Tenzing Norgay. In that damn cold weather, my tears of proud, humbled happiness dried out instantly. Tenzing and Edmund Hillary became the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest at 8848m on the 29th May 1953. Just below the statue, it’s written…

“Life is full of accidents, and among them are many accidental heroes – small and ordinary men who happened to be in the right place at the right time and whom circumstances has spotlighted on the world’s stage. But the Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay is not one of these… it was no accident that it was he, rather than someone else, who achieved what he did. It was William Blake, long ago who wrote of his tiger, tiger burning bright, but his imagined king of the forest burned no more brightly than does this latter-day, flesh-and-blood tiger of the snows. There’s is a flame in Tenzing, a marvelously strong and pure flame that no storm of a man or nature can extinguish. It is compounded of dream and desire, will and struggle, pride and humility; and in the end, with the deed done, the victory gained, it is the man’s humility that stands out above all his other qualities in his moment of triumph what he felt in his heart was gratitude to Everest.” – James Ramsey Ullman. 

To all who dare to dream and to all those who walk this path, “Be great, make others great.” – Tenzing Norgay.  

Thank you for being such an inspirational role model to mankind. I salute you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. As my tears flow, I made a promise to myself. Greatness is to be shared. I will make myself proud, I will be the strength to others and I will be great. I remember seeing positive faces that day. All five of us were inspired. I went to bed with a huge smile. Massive. Everest here I come!

Photo by Gabby T.

Day 5

On the 24th April 2017, we’re off to Tengboche at 3850m. Our first sight of the mother of all mountains. What a sight! What a view! Again, I’m in tears. It was a tiring and worrying journey as you slowly and painfully willed yourself to stay as strong. That biting cold breeze even in the striking hot sun hurt, especially in the evening. And all I can tell myself is, “Not long now. It will be worth it.” That view, just energized us. For most of us, it will be our last shower till we descend again. And toilet break, you’re better off to do it in nature. Trust me. Unless you don’t mind to take a shit, in the pile of shit, as high as mount Kinabalu from who knows when. 

Day 6

On the 25th April 2017, up to Dingboche at 4350m we go. It’s a long way up. You can see helicopters in and out throughout the day. We know what that means. Stories of failure, sickness or deaths seems like nothing new up there in the mountains. I certainly learned this, always listen to your guide. They know better and they know best. Their advice is crucial. The temperature dropped drastically. The air gets thinner. We felt it. I can feel it in my bones. For someone who is born and bred in country such as Malaysia, that was the most worrying battle against nature physically and mentally. But I have everything to protect myself. I shouldn’t be worried. I will be fine. Two of our friends have been affected by the altitude but luckily Diamox helped. I’m so glad they’re okay. I believed they will be better. I wish hard for them to be better. Thank gosh! But then, the Diamox contemplation begin with the rest. Should we? Or shouldn’t we? Should we trust our guide? Or should we trust the other hikers that have successfully made it up and down?

Photo by James Tee.

Day 7

26th April 2017 was an acclimatization day. Yes, in Dingboche still. We need it. We deserved it! This rest day was designed by the company for a reason. As much as an athlete you think you are, you still need to listen to your body. And to be this high up from the sea level, you have challenged your self, testing the limits of human endurance. I took it easy that day. Whatever left of me will be the strength to keep myself and the rest of the gang going. We’re in good spirits. I have a great feeling. And also the best part of being here was this special bakery called Mama’s bakery. We found it by its smell. That sweet yummylicious smell. We had a chance to meet the great Tibetan owner, baker and a story teller. His life story had me in tears. What a journey he has gone through, from his childhood till now! Simply incredible. I remember at that moment, I felt sad, truly sad with what China has done. “Concentrated political power is the most dangerous thing on earth.” “Power kills, absolute power kills absolutely.” – Rudolph Rummel. Why China? Why? And I wonder. Thank you mister baker. You will be truly missed. I wish you and your family the best. And may your business bloom so that that your wife will be forever happy. 

Day 8

27th April 2017 we trek to Lobuche at 4910m. Painful. But not as painful watching our both sherpas who have been with us since day 2 carrying our luggages on their backs all the way up wearing sandals. That’s right, sandals!! Between both of them, I reckon they carried at least 30-40kgs each easily. Tigers of the snow indeed. I will never forget the smiles on their face. Always with a smile. And they are fast too. Simply amazing. Oh! How I envied them. Dhanyabad (it means thank you) Sir and Dikbadoo. I hope I spelled their name correctly. Without you guys, our journey would have been impossible. I salute you. Both of you. 

Day 9

On the 28th April 2017, this will mark as the day of my historic victory. We first trekked to Gorakshep at 5160m before 3 hours trek to Everest base camp. It was one of the longest hikes we had to go through. My whole body was aching. All I remembered was being in a zombie like state of mind. When I asked Raju, our guide what it’s like to get there, his response was amusing. “A little bit up, a little bit down. Nepalese flat.” 

The long dangerous trail to Everest base camp feels forever. A couple of time, I panicked when we had to crossed over by relying on one rock to another. You just don’t know which will moves. One wrong step can be harmful or even deadly. I can feel the stress on my ankles. Where is it? When it’s gonna end? I asked myself repetitively. Our victorious march finally comes to an end when we saw the sight of piling rocks covered with prayer flags. Oh what a feeling! There were tears flowing. There were scream of joy echoes around us. We did it! I’ve made it to the base camp. Not just any base camp. Fucking Everest base camp man! The best feeling ever! As I hugged the rock which had the hand written words “Everest Base Camp” I took a few seconds of silence to pay respect to those who have passed away getting to where I am. It’s unfortunate we can’t stay longer as the weather did not permit. As the cold wind was getting stronger, and the snow falling harder, we had to trek 3 hours back to Gorakshep for a night in. As we headed there, Rob seemed to be wobbling away from side to side. Unlike him to do that. Especially when next to you is a drop of 20-30m deep down straight to hell. Could it be the altitude? I don’t know. All I know is I have to get him back to Gorakshep quickly. I use my voice to lead him the way. Certainly one of the scariest moments in my life. All sort of things crossed my mind at that time. But I can’t panic. It will affect my breathing. Not now. Not here. I remain calm as much as I can. Thankfully after Raju’s advice and a night rest in, he recovered. Such a relief. 

Day 10

29th April 2017 is when our journey down the mountain began. Wheehooo! We made it to Pherige just before the blizzard. What a beautiful sight really. I remember how cold it was. My fingers and toes had been getting cramps now and then. So annoying! I’m so looking forward to head down to the warmth and hot shower. 

Day 11

30th April 2017 and we’re off to Namche. It will be long hours of trekking but Hermans Bakery is calling. That sweet warm bread. I can almost taste it. I can almost smell it. It feels like you are back to civilization even though it was only Namche. The best hot shower ever! My hair is soft again. Oh my gosh! Indescribable feeling. I can’t even start to describe Gabby’s and my face at that time. Just pure joy. 

Photo by James Tee.

Day 12

1st May 2017, off to Lukla we go! It was indeed a long hike back. James were on a horse ride down. Smart guy! By now, my knees and my spirit were at 30%. After giving all I’ve got since day 1, I can feel the pain slowly sneaking in. But I know I’ve got to get through this. And it’s the only way home. Rob walked with me all the way down. One step at a time. The rain doesn’t help either. The slippery path gets me. Slow and steady till the end. After the long hours in the rain, finally the sun appears. We’ve been lucky the whole trip with the brightest blue sky every morning. Puts a smile to my face. I miss you sun. 

Day 13

2nd May 2017, we’re back in Kathmandu. We’ve chosen to stay a night at Yak & Yeti hotel. Oh! I can’t wait to have that glass of wine to celebrate. The boys were already excited to pay a visit at the casino. Thanks to Raju for arranging it a day earlier for us. As we head back, we bid our farewells to our dear sherpas. It was quite a moving moment for me. I wish them well. Will I ever get to cross the same path with them again? I don’t know. 

Day 14

On the 3rd May 2017, we’re off to Gokarna Forest Resort for just pure relaxation. Food, shopping, massage and chill. Yes!!!!!! 

Day 15

4th May 2017. Food, sleep, repeat. 

Day 16

5th May 2017. I’m looking forward to get home. But there’s something about leaving this place. The mountains. The animals. The people. The air. The view. The hardship. The simplicity. The sadness. The liveliness. The emptiness. The happiness. I was too afraid I might forget. Puts me to tears every time I think of it. Well, I certainly do not miss the cold that’s for sure. It was a liberating journey discovering new places, people, cultures and scenery. It has open my mind of how tiny we are. It is exciting, humbling, empowering, liberating and rewarding. I would certainly recommend to anyone to go for this journey. Go out and discover nature. Feel the dust in your face. Feel the ground as you walk. Touch the frizzy fury yaks. Give the dogs a pat. Pee in the mountains. Let the wind push you away. Look down the cliffs. Look up around you. And don’t forget to smile. 


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