A moment of pride and glory
By Chithranga Edirisooriya
Climbing to the summit of the world is a dream of any hiker. It's only a handful that are lucky to reach it. A group of young hikers had such a dream to reach the base camp of the Everest trek.
The team comprised of ten members, eight boys and two girls. They had one thing in common, the thirst and passion for adventure. The overall coordination was done by Dilum and Thimira, the co-founders of Awidinno group. There were three main training programmes which prepared us for the long trek, building strength and endurance.
With the leadership of Thimira, we left Sri Lanka on 29 November 2016. We didn't even know what awaited us at the other end. The only thing that we had was the determination to somehow reach our destination. At Kathmandu we were greeted by Mukthi of our travel company, Himalayas on Foot.
Having acquired the remaining equipment, clothing and experiencing Nepal culture, we left from Kathmandu to Lukla with our guide Raj.
The flight to Lukla was one of the scariest flights full of adrenaline. Lukla was 2,800 m above sea level which was higher than Piduruthalagala. It was cold and was about 10oC. Day 1 was relatively a short day and we walked downhill mostly and reached Phakding which was 2,652 m above sea level. We walked for about five hours on the first day covering a distance of about 9 km.
Day 2 was from Lukla to Namche Bazar which was situated at an altitude of 3,340 m covering a distance of about 13 km. This was one of the longest days and the hardest days but where we passed several suspension bridges crossing the river Dudhkosi.
Day 3 was the acclimation day. We visited the Sagarmatha National Park and climbed the Everest view point which was about another 500 m above Namche Bazar to Shangbouche Hill. Although cold, Namche Bazar was one of the spectacular places we visited. The view of the city from above was breath-taking. We could get the first glimpse of Mount Everest from Sagarmatha National Park. The view gave us a boost to continue the journey forward. The view of the river flowing down rapidly gave us another breath-taking experience.
On day 4 we reached Tengbouche, at an altitude of 3,900 m. The total trek took us about seven hours where we covered about 12 km. The hard, tiresome journey came to end and we were really rewarded by a good view of Mount Everest. The sun was about to set and we could see the mountain tops turning gold.
From Tengbouche onwards the effect of altitude was beginning to affect everyone. From Tengbouche up to Dingbouche the total distance is about 12 km and we reached a height of about 4,400 m. The trail started down-hill and continued very gradually up and down hills before crossing the river and gradually heading up hill towards Pangbouche for lunch. From there it was a gradual up-hill trek towards the Imja Valley looking towards Island Peak. About two hour later we arrived in Dingbouche after walking for about seven hours.
The following day was a rest day where we had our last acclimatization. We climbed to the flag point at an altitude of about 4,600 m. Early next morning we headed towards Lobouche to a height of 4,900 m. We trekked for about six hours covering a distance of 12 km. We were so excited as the following day we were to travel to Gorak Shep and try to reach the Everest Base Camp. The trek was very beautiful and unique, and we crossed a lot of loose rock and Glacier moraine. The up and down trail into Gorak Shep took approximately 4.5 hours and by about 2.00 p.m. we were ready.
After a quick lunch we headed towards the base camp which was about 4.5 km from Gorak Shep. So with determination we continued towards the base camp. Finally, when we could see the base camp our hearts and legs worked faster. From the up road, we descended down and finally reached what we have been waiting for. This was the moment where we reached 5,356 m above sea level.
It was a moment of happiness and glory. We were hugging each other with tears. We all were proud Sri Lankans. When we held the Sri Lankan flag our hearts almost burst. Towards the latter part of the journey the air began to get colder and we were beginning to feel difficulties. That night was the coldest night we experienced. It was about -12oC outside.
The journey back
From Gorek Shep we were headed towards Pangboche via Pheriche. As we went further down we began to feel better as we were losing altitude. Towards the latter part we met the other Sri Lankan team of Summit Madness who were attempting the base camp led by Dayan. It was a great moment to meet a Sri Lankan team even though we were heading in different directions. We reached Pangboche after about seven hours of walking.
The next day we headed to Namche Bazar. It was quite a difficult trek towards the middle of the day just before lunch as we were to climb uphill. But after lunch we were back to normal and we reached Namche Bazar at around 5.00 p.m. where we celebrated our victory.
11 December 2016 was our final day. It was also a long day from Namche Bazar to Lukla which was about 21 km. Up to Phakding the path was easier and we walked lightly. We were so relieved as it was the final day and all we wanted was to reach Lukla as soon as possible. As we saw the landmarks of Lukla, all our weary faces were beginning to shine. We were hugging each other, almost overwhelmed, congratulating each other for our success.
We had a long celebration at Lukla. Most of us had our first hot bath after many days. It was indeed a night for celebration. We had our flight to Katmandu early the next morning and we were in our hotel by about 8.00 a.m. longing for the comfortable beds to doze off on.
It took us 11 days, the longest, the most enduring and the most unforgettable days of my life. We went as a team. The journey tested us in many ways. As Sri Lankans the biggest challenges were the high altitude and the cold. Moving slow and drinking plenty of water helped us to complete this successfully.
We passed many who were carrying extremely heavy loads along the trek. These were mainly the goods needed to keep the guest houses running. It was sad to see them carrying those loads but it was their only means of livelihood. Our porters carried most of our luggage. For me they were not merely porters but friends who treated us as their own. I never forget the kindness and support they showed us. It was hard to say goodbye to them.
The ten of us, Thimira, Mahesh, Amila, Thuwan, Kasun, Rumesh, Dilhara, Sudheera, Sajeewanie and I, became a family, helping each other and finally reaching our goal together. We proved ourselves true Sri Lankans by showing our love and kindness to both the locals and fellow travellers making them delighted.
Traveling to Everest Base Camp is not uncommon in the rest of the world. Being the off season there were many hikers from every part of the world. As Sri Lankans this was something special.
But the journey gave us a new perspective of life. We faced many difficulties and obstacles on the way, both individually and as a team. We had to survive with minimum resources and facilities. I was awed at the simplicity that the locals have embraced. Their faces expressed innocence. They were humble and always smiling that cheered all our hearts. There were no vehicles with limited connection with the outside, a world where there's only little room for corruption and violence. It was a world that is moulded by Mother Nature herself. The pictures were captured by my team during the journey.
The journey took us to a point of pride and glory, made us new friends and developed a bond that tied us together. A big thank you to all our families, friends, the Awidinno Team, our Nepal agent Himalayas on Foot, our guide Raj, our porters and all our well-wishers for all the support, encouragement and love shown throughout the journey. I invite all Sri Lankans who have a passion for hiking, trekking and mountaineering to pursue your dreams like we did so that we all can imprint the name of Sri Lanka around the world.
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