Steps To Heaven

The Steps To Heaven - Everest


Only when the life has a cause, only then life has an effect.

“The light only falls on strangers so they say”.

One tends to value what is afar; never recognising the beauty that surrounds one. I need be mindful to hold the lantern close to me. Be a stranger to myself to let the hidden light illuminate my spirit so I can see the absolute beauty near to and afar from me.

My life’s journey continues to be an awesome jigsaw puzzle, the purpose of which may never be ever revealed. I am not going to wait. I shall be the cause.

Let the journey and dreams near and afar continue to unfold and be discovered.

To trek the Everest circuit was never on my bucket list. Only seven years ago in 2010, it struck me that what a wonderful thing it would be to walk for days up into the amongst the clouds and get up close as I could possibly do to one of the greatest wonders nature has created. I had wanted to do it for two years, and opportunity came and went.

Finally, I could not defer the desire to do it anymore. I signed up in 2013.

This an account of the experience and insight of what when on during the steps to heaven and my own perspective of the new meaning and encounters. I am glad I embarked on heavenly endeavours, and met a group of amazing individuals whom have touched my life immensely in so many ways.

October 9th, 2014.

I left my comfort zone and went in search of my magic kingdom. I have always believe that to live is to be able to be able to taste life’s experience up close. Sitting down and to do nothing, pondering and watching, reading is not living my life. I occasionally need be a pilgrim to experience and live in the unknown. I am borne to be a traveller.

I took steps to take me away with excitement of how this much anticipated journey, which unexpectedly turned out to be even more amazing an adventure that I would imagine.

The trek was supposedly during the best season of the year. The start of October, the beginning of new season.

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”. The trekking experience was so true of the statement.

The steps to heaven had been a very long one (not in terms of days but literary the steps taken), with extreme cold (at its worst at Gorak Shep at minus 20 or more, taking the wind chill factor). Snow, rain, frozen rocky paths, steep climbs for hours, unhygienic cold washrooms, accommodation lodges in darkness, 4 am dark morning trek in cold, cold water and showers throughout the trek would be the experiences encountered. Every morning, waking up to prepare for the climb was 4:45 am. The climb except for 2 mornings was 7 am. The other two mornings, were just half an hour later. For the final morning heading upwards to Gorak Shep it began at 4 am in snow-laddened paths in darkness lit only with the beam from headlamps!

Strange enough there were not a day there was muscle ache. Perhaps, the cold weather could be the balm for the muscles. There was not weariness of the body and muscles.

l recommend that a local Sherpa organiser with highly experienced guide and assistants and porters are used for the sake of safety including avoiding or reducing the possibility of Acute Mountain Sickness which can be a disaster.

Health and uncompromised safety must be the absolute consideration during the trek. Reaching the goal can only be secondary to these factors.

I would also strongly suggest to engage a local organiser (Nepali) with experience in emergency helicopter evacution from any point during the trek as a minute lost could mean reducing the chance of survival. Never compromise on the quality of the Nepalese organiser as well as the Sherpas.

Do the trek as young as one can. The ability to trek steep long paths, withstand the cold gets harder with age.

Get really warm, rain and wind resistant clothings, a pair of waterproof hiking shoes, very good pair of gloves to withstand minus zero extreme cold, several pairs of really good trekking socks, a good buff (headsock), muffler, sunblock, hand sanitiser are all a must.

Forget about Diamox and Panadols as they may not reveal symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Have a very good experienced guide and that’s one of the surest way to avoid AMS as guide will take one through a proper climb high, sleep low acclimatisation process.

Below is the link to why Diamox must not be used to avoid AMS and what are the steps to treat AMS.

Take as long and as much time for the climb. Spend a few dollars more and ensure the best accommodation and ample hygienic food along the way.

Insurance is strictly a must. Never go trekking on Everest Base Camp without an insurance that provides cover for emergency evacuation by helicopter and high acute mountain sickness.

For Malaysians, please seek coverage from AIG Insurance before departing. I speak from experience and I am not an agent of AIG. AIG is thorough and I can vouch for their professionalism when emergency helicopter evacuation (this can be extremely expensive) and hospitalisation are required.

Now having returned to Kuala Lumpur (November 1), reminiscing the trek brings back such pleasant memories. What had been the most pleasurable part of the journey and essentially the most important had been the great comradeship of the 9 of us plus the 7 Sherpas. Great partnership and friendship were what gave spirit to the entire trek. We laughed, we supported each other, we enjoyed ourselves, we paced each other, never hurriedly compete and out paced one another.

At the moment when I needed help the most and urgently, all 15 banded together and attended to me, gave me warmth when they were exposed to the bitter cold and gusty wind and unconcernedly of their own discomfort, took care for me.

Thank you guys! You all were and are incredible and inspiring!

Timelessness is a privilege! If one can leave one’s watch at Kathmandu, that would the best thing one can do. It is an opportunity to be lost without time during the trek. Seize the opportunity to not be controlled by time. Just bring along an alarm clock to wake up for the daily morning treks. Without fail, I had to wake up at 4 : 45 am every single day (except one day at 2 : 45 am to head towards Gorekshep at 4 am) to get ready to proceed to the next destination.

Namaste. This is such a beautiful greeting. Use the greeting as often as possible. Use it to greet everyone along the trek. Greet even the yaks! Make new friends. Talk to strangers at the teahouses, villagers, passing follow hikers, porters, everyone. Make the trekking experience as pleasant and awesome as possible. Do not miss out on the beautiful people, sceneries, the animals, the food and much much more .

Mother nature is indeed such an artist. It paints for each individual a view that is never the same. Even each photo taken differ in some ways from another although taken from similar angle. The interpretation may differ. The weather may change from second to second producing different skies and colours to the mountains, rivers, foliages, shadows, the glaciers, snow, rocks, ecetera. The sceneries along the trek were simply pictureque and magical. I was in awe at the nature, the crisp fresh air (so clean and pristine). The snow was glistening white capping the high mountain tops. Truly it has to be a bucketlist for people to experience how nature has formed such beauty. Even the animals (the yaks, the mountain goats, the crows, the fowls, the horses), the Sherpas, the natives belong and are very much integral parts of this wonderful nature. The night skies were so dark, not illuminated by bulbs but by the moon and the millions of stars; a rare sight to behold for folks from the big concrete cities.

No wonder the Himalayas have held so many in amazement and awe, inspiring, beckoning so many to return time and time again. The Himalayas have also inspired so many novels and books to be written on the feats, the special beauty, folklores, the people, the Sherpas, the lives, stories, defeats, longing and the magic of it all.

I long to return…to see another series of mountains, be with their people, the cultures, and be lost in time again.

Gorak Shep:

Gorak Shep means “dead ravens,” because of the complete lack of any kind of vegetation in this place.

Gorak Shep or Gorakshep (Nepali: गोराशप) is a frozen lakebed covered with sand in Nepal, and also the name of the small village that sits at its edge at 5,164 m (16,942 ft) elevation, near Mount Everest.

Even though trekking lodges at Gorak Shep are basic, in recent times more modern amenities have become available, such as satellite high-speed internet access. There is ample flat open space for the pitching of tents at Gorak Shep

Gorak Shep is inside the Sagarmatha National Park, the homeland of the Sherpa people, famous for their skills as guides and mountaineers. It is the final acclimatization stop on most common treks to Everest Base Camp from Lukla, following what the Dalai Lama dubbed “the steps to heaven.”

This route takes trekkers from Lukla (a small village reputed to have the world’s most dangerous landing strip, pilots having to depend on judgements to land rather than a radar system which is non-existent) to Namche Bazaar, Tengboche, Pangboche, Dingboche, Lobuche and on to Gorak Shep. Most trekkers stay overnight there, as their trekking permits will not allow them to camp at Everest Base Camp.

Also, Gorak Shep provides the best “launching pad” for an ascent of Kala Patthar, which looks like a giant dune looming over the lakebed. For many trekkers, summitting Kala Patthar, with its 5,550 meters (18,209 ft), provides both the best views of Everest and the highest altitude that most will reach without a climbing permit, which must be obtained in Kathmandu, at the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

Climbing starts in the early morning, when the visibility is usually better. It takes four hours to summit and come back. Gorak Shep was the original Everest Base Camp, being used by the Swiss mountain climbers in their attempt to climb the Everest in 1952. Later the camp was moved closer to the mountain, just below the Khumbu Ice Fall. Climbing time from Gorak Shep to the Everest Base Camp ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 hours, depending on the weather, acclimatization and physical conditioning of each individual. At this altitude, few people feel comfortable and many start to suffer symptoms of altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS).

For a good read about Everest the link below provides a enormous insight into the mind of Sir Edmund Hillary and other climbers. Truly a must – read.

The enormous and awesome mountains and people have illuminated my spirit and mind. The learning has been tremendous. I have been preciously touched by the hidden Himalayan lights; my Kingdom for a brief moment in my time.

A dreamer cannot be tamed. I can ever be so ready as I don’t always carry my dreams for long as I tame those dreams by acting on them quickly. Now it is time to dream on and take them on.

The steps to heaven continues on for me…