Five must haves for trekking in Nepal

Below are five things I was most grateful to have in Nepal. There were dozens of other necessities that I was happy to have along the way, but these stood out most upon reflection.

  1. CLIF bars. When I got sick, they were the only thing I could eat without the risk of getting sicker. They were my breakfast and lunch. For dinner, I’d opt for steaming hot, well-boiled plain soup or French fries when available.
  2. iPhone 7 plus. I know it seems a little counter to trekking culture to have a piece of technology like an iPhone on the trail, but it was my camera and when on airplane mode, the battery was solid even in the freezing temperatures. It was lightweight, convenient to store in a jacket or pants pocket, and access quickly even with frozen fingers. When I happened to have wifi coverage in a village, it was easy enough to connect, send short texts to friends and family to let them know where I was, how things were going, etc. It also had a wealth of other uses, weather and temperature forecasts, access to social media, compass, calculator for currency conversion, a place to capture thoughts or ideas in an instant, and much more.
  3. Moleskine notebook. Most of the time I was too cold to write. I had to bury myself into my sleeping bag and position a flashlight just right so I could see the pen hit the page. Even then, my writing was barely legible because I’d be shivering and shaking so violently. Regardless, I was happy to have a journal, albeit mostly abridged, of my travels, my thoughts and feelings at the time, and descriptions of what happened along the trek.
  4. Antibiotics. Enough said. Word to the wise, do not go to Nepal without them and a lightweight, yet respectable first aid kit.
  5. Hard candy. These came in handy many times on the trek. They helped ease some of the mild altitude sickness and relieved dry mouth that comes with all the dirt along the lower part of the trek. Hard candy was also optimal treats to share with your sherpa, guide, porter, or other trekkers on the path. In addition, I often left a couple of them as small tokens of appreciation to the women who brought me a hot water bag for my sleeping bag.

I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve trekked in the mountains, what was on your must have list?


A day in Kathmandu

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A mass of motorcycles whiz by as I try to make my way across the street in the heart of Kathmandu. The sun is warm and the air smells of emissions and gasoline fumes. It’s hard to tell if there are any traffic rules as everyone seems to go their own way, when they want, and in whichever direction suits them. This could explain why forty percent of all traffic deaths are pedestrians.

My plan is to pick up a pair of trekking poles, visit the ATM for local currency (Nepali Rupee), and after chatting with Steve Webster, the architect of my trip, a dust mask. He said the trail can get unexpectedly dusty and dirty if you end up hiking behind a donkey or yak. Come to think of it, I could have used a dust mask for the entirety of the Kathmandu walk as well. It is some of the dirtiest, smoggiest, dustiest air I’ve ever experienced. This coming from a woman who has taken a run in the heart of Shanghai.

The Diamox is kicking in and my head is achy, fingers and toes tingling, and appetite waning. After chatting with my guide this morning, I might consider reducing the dosage by half. I’ll play it by ear.

In many places I visited, the city was in shambles after the earthquake that hit in April 2015. Buildings and temples that stood for hundreds of years reduced to brick and mortar. Many others have wooden support beams simply holding them up for the time being or quite possibly forever,  it’s tough to tell. With all of the destruction and ruin, I was surprised not to see a single crane or cement truck, even a couple of construction guys standing around a hole appearing to talk about it. Nothing that indicated any rebuilding was on the horizon. Except for a sign that said, “Let’s Rebuild Together,” and showed a picture of the once beautiful temple now a pile of dirt and dust. Sohan said it was likely five years, but he reminded me, five Nepali years can mean closer to twenty-five or never.

Eventually, we made our way to Thamel, the heart of the shopping and tourist district. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Hundreds of shopkeepers selling their wares lined a narrow cobblestone road used by motorcycles, pedestrians, school children, and cows alike. All moving in different directions, different speed, and with different levels of urgency. The heel of my shoe was stepped on twice, and twice I received a “sorry,” from a Nepali man with a hand raised in apology.

The trekking pole shop was full of knock-offs. I was warned that the poles might break if I screwed them too tightly. “They might crack,” Sohan said. “So should I go somewhere else?” I asked. “Everywhere is the same,” he responded smiling. Not exactly what I read about, but I figured I’d give it a go. I picked up a nice knock-off set of trekking sticks for about $15. I’m willing to forego using them going up, but they better work coming down.

The ATM offered little success, but I’ll exchange USD for Nepali rupees at the hotel. The dust masks were around three bucks. Come six am tomorrow, I’ll be ready for my flight to Lukla, and the journey up to Monjo.


Packing list for trekking the Himalayas

cubshat

The Chicago Cubs have won the 2016 World Series. What a delight to be alive right now.

While the ticker tape parade was assembled, five million fans gathered in the streets of Chicago for the celebration. I only wish I could have been there. Instead I spent that time packing for the trek in the Himalayas. But rest assured, my Cubs hats and hoody will accompany me to Nepal.

Packing for a twenty-two day trip is a bit of a tricky thing. It warrants a lot of thought, research, and a little intuition. Who knows exactly what you’ll be encountering at 18,000 feet, be it weather, altitude sickness or a blistered foot. It might, perhaps, be all three. There are weight limits and space limits, not to mention my own physical limits for how much I can conceptually carry while trekking on the highest mountain on the planet for sixteen days.

Things find a way of working out. Hopefully, this is enough and not too much. For anyone curious about what I packed, I assembled it below.

  • soft duffle bag (for trek) and carryon to leave in Kathmandu
  • daypack
  • 3 padlocks and keys
  • insurance info
  • 2 sets of passport photos (visa and trekking pass)
  • passport
  • US cash in smaller bills
  • coloring books, pencils, stickers, markets for children
  • ibuprofen, Imodium
  • ziplock with toilet paper and hand sanitizer
  • toothbrush, floss and paste
  • Acetazolamide(altitude) and Z-pack (antibiotics)
  • jolly ranchers and cough drops
  • sunscreen and insect repellent
  • wet/dry shower wipes
  • hand/feet warmers
  • waterproof matches, rope and iodine tablets
  • 1 liter water bottle and camelback bladder
  • moleskin, bandaids, first aid kit
  • swiss army knife and whistle/thermometer/compass
  • emergenC
  • rugged camera + batteries + memory card
  • international plug
  • extra ziplock bags
  • 5 packets of laundry detergent
  • body soap and shampoo
  • quick dry towel and washcloth
  • rubber ring band
  • sunglasses
  • sleeping bag, liner, and stuff sacks
  • Cubs baseball cap
  • gaiters
  • raincoat and pants
  • beanie hat
  • fleece jacket and pants
  • balaclava and buff
  • down jacket
  • thermal under layers (2 sets)
  • 20 pairs of underwear
  • 5 warm wool socks; 6 lighter wool socks
  • 3 long sleeve smart wool shirts
  • 2 pairs of hiking pants
  • jeans
  • hiking boots, sneakers and sandals
  • light and warm gloves
  • Cubs hoody for sleeping

While in Kathmandu I will pick up trekking poles and anything else I’ve forgotten before departing for Lukla.


Two days and counting

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In two days I depart to Kathmandu, Nepal. The training has been, how should I say, less than ideal. But my spirit is up to the challenge. As many of you know, I’ve been struggling for the past year with hip, leg, and back issues. This has hindered my walking, running, and undoubtedly trekking activities. However, for the past couple of weeks I’ve really felt an improvement in part due to reading and following the doctor’s orders detailed in the book Healing Back Pain by John Sarno. It talks about how pain, the kind I had, can be caused by repressed emotions. It’s not a fluffy, new age book either. This is a western medical doctor with over twenty years of experience seeing back, hip, and leg patients. It’s not a sales pitch, but if you’re suffering with pain in those areas and you can’t seem to shake or figure out, it’s worth the read.

Besides my lack of consistent training, I’m still figuring out what to pack so I don’t freeze or starve on my way up to Everest base camp. I’ve checked out dozens of blogs and consulted with a handful of incredible people who have done this or a similar trek, and opinions all vary. It really boils down to what do I think I need. Mind you, there are the basics, sleeping bag, warm jacket, boots, backpack that can hold water. These things everyone agrees on. But the rest is kind of up to me. It’s perfectly terrifying. All on me.

The reason I resurrected this blog is to be able to share photos of the trek along with contextual information like location or the story behind the picture. Opinions will likely make their way out here too. But, mostly I wanted to journal the experience. It’s rare someone gets to do this once in a lifetime, if at all, and I want to share with those who may never get the chance. Hope you enjoy it.