When I started to get real about launching this world wide walk-about, I decided that Everest would have to be first. It just makes sense: I live at 9000 feet, would be able to do training hikes at altitude throughout the summer, and October - November is an optimal time to check out the tallest peak in the world. Now, trekking in Nepal can be a tricky business, friends. Solo hiking is inadvisable for a variety of reasons, leaving two options for tackling Natural Wonder Numero Uno.
~ The first option, hiring a porter/ guide, can be expensive (for my budget, anyway), and runs its own risks - there is always the possibility that I would inadvertently hire an inexperienced guide or porter that lacked knowledge or know-how.
~ The second option? Convincing a friend or two into going with me, and talking them into it with only a few months to prepare.
Enter Team Nepal - three amazing women that stepped up to the plate to trek on the other side of the world with me. Mid-summer, I acquired my first travel buddy - Shay: my most trusted and reliable backpacking and hiking partner, fellow yogi, and best friend. A few weeks later, I locked in Hannah: my roommate, avid hiker and traveler, and one of the most fun and level-headed people I know. And just last month our little posse turned into a foursome with the addition of Molly: a Gaelic footballer born and raised in Boston, this girl is sweet, capable and tough as nails. How I was lucky enough to gain three inspiring, trustworthy and badass trekking partners in such a short time with even shorter notice is beyond me, but we're all scheduled to meet right here at Elbus Home Hostel today (October 17) - I'm the first to arrive.
When putting this trip together, Shay shared with me that a hike on her bucket list, the Annapurna Circut, just so happens to be in Nepal. She agreed to trek the Khumbu Region to see Everest with me if we made time for the Circut as well. After finalizing timelines, we decided to put the Annapurna trek first. Shay and I journey on to the Khumbu after completing the Circut, with the other ladies joining if their schedules allow. Trekking one of the most iconic hikes on earth as an intro for a Natural Wonder of the World? Not a bad way to start a tour like this... not bad at all.
Circling the Annapurna Range is considered a world-class hiking opportunity due to it's varying landscapes, diverse climate, and the beautiful local culture. The trail is 130 miles of Himalayan majesty located northwest of Kathmandu that we'll access via bus to Pokhara. We'll hike the Circut in a counter-clockwise direction, topping out at over 17,700 feet on Thorong-La Pass. Trekking options include, but are not limited to, checking out Tilicho Lake, one of the highest lakes in the world, finding some hot springs and visiting the monasteries in the Annapurna Sanctuary. Depending on weather, health, side trips, and acclimatization, the Annapurna Circut will take anywhere from 16-21 days total, including travel to and from Kathmandu.
Should everyone arrive on schedule, we'll spend tomorrow getting permits and last minute supplies, and hope to be on a bus to Pokhara on Saturday, October 19th!
After returning to Kathmandu from the Annapurnas, it's on to the main event: Everest. Mount Everest is located in the Khumbu Region of the Himalayas, northeast of Kathmandu. Lukla, our gateway to the Khumbu, is a short plane ride from Kathmandu. We'll be en route to Lukla, (hopefully!) by early-ish November; giving us a solid two to three weeks to explore the area.
From Lukla, we hike approximately 12 miles north to Ama Dablam Lodge in Khumjung, run by our Sherpa friends Tashi and Lhakpa. This kind and generous couple travel to Winter Park each June to sell Nepalese jewelry and wares throughout the busy summer tourist season, and head back to Nepal each September. On any given summer day in our little mountain town, you'll find Tashi laughing with friends, refusing payment for bracelets she readily ties around wrists of locals, or Lhakpa, ever-smiling, biking precious inventory back and forth between their two stands. They are a staple of our community, and I'm honored to be able to visit their home.
Though the mountainous Natural Wonder is visible from their lodge, Lhakpa has offered to bring us up to Base Camp I, just east of Gorakshep. I'm not sure how many days we'll take to get to Base Camp, or how many days we'll rest in Khumjung. But I do know that from Base Camp, we'll be able to gain a closer view of that beast of a mountain, Everest, and check out the launching point for summit hopefuls approaching from the South.
So there you have it, friends! The tentative plan for my six weeks in Nepal :) My flight for Natural Wonder Dos, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, leaves Kathmandu on December 2. On various dates prior to my departure, my traveling companions continue their own travels back home or to other destinations.
I've never done hikes at such a high altitude or of this caliber, and hope my Rocky Mountains have prepped me well for Himalayan trekking *fingers crossed* I've got no delusions about the difficulty of trekking in Nepal - this certainly will be no walk in the park.
But this one simple truth brings me comfort as I approach Phase 1: in life, important, necessary and humbling insights often ride the coattails of most of the difficulties we face. That challenges, pain and hardships, once overcome, leave us with a greater awareness of our own strength and resiliency. That if I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, with a smile on my face and a spirit full of gratitude, I've already completed the hardest part of the journey.
I hope I can remember that when the going gets tough both on and off the trail. I eagerly await being able to drink in the environment, beauty, people, and entire experience of the Annapurnas and the Khumbu. So I move into this journey with cautious enthusiasm, a heart full of hope and excitement, and a great deal of resolve. I'll post again in Pokhara or before - until then, happy trails!