An introduction ….

A little scene-setting is in order.

It is late September 2012 and I am 44 years old. I think it’s fair to say that over the last couple of years, I have been more acquainted with curry and red wine than exercise and physical hardship. I live in West Sussex with my wife and kids and apart from the odd leisure walk in the surrounding countryside, I have not done much to get my heart rate going, since a 2 or 3 month regular gym stint at the back end of 2010.

Up on the South Downs on a training walk.

My brother, Dan, is 39 and lives in Hong Kong with his family. We meet up 3 or 4 times a year – usually when he’s over in London on business. It was on such a trip that we found ourselves having a few drinks in the City. Before, we got too tipsy, Dan leaned over to me conspiratorially and asked me if I could get 2-3 weeks off in November so that he could take me on a trek to Everest basecamp. He told me not to give him an answer then but to think about it. The evening progressed and it wasn’t until the next day that I remembered the proposition. Being self-employed, I didn’t think getting time away would be too hard. But there was still a lot of thinking to do ….

Over the course of the next few weeks, plans firmed up and I put myself on a training regime of sorts. A decent walk (varying in length from 8 to 18 miles) each weekend and a nod to healthy eating and less beer, formed the basis of this campaign. Not exactly commando training, but the best I could do whilst also juggling my family and my business.

I think it’s fair to say that as the departure date approached, I had no idea what to expect.

This blog is largely written using extracts from a journal that I wrote whilst I was away, so hopefully it does reflect my feelings at the time. I wanted to avoid the potential for the passing of time to mellow my memories.

Read on … enjoy … and hopefully, you might even find a little bit of inspiration in there somewhere!

Leaving … on a jet plane!

8th November 2012.

The time had come to head off to Kathmandu. The adventure was starting. There was a long plane journey ahead and I still had no concept of what the trek would be like. My wife took me to the airport (it happened to be our 5th wedding anniversary) and I think it’s fair to say that she was very anxious about the trip. I, personally, had no feeling of trepidation.

As I was sitting on my Emirates flight to Dubai, I wrote in my journal for the first time. “I don’t know how I feel about the trip yet. Almost more than any other travelling I have done, I really don’t know what to expect. But I know that my traits of being mentally tough (I prefer that to stubborn!) and sensible are going to really help me. Like the best rugby teams, I am going to take this one step at a time. First step – get to Kathmandu!”

The flight to Dubai was fairly uneventful. My flight to Kathmandu was not for a number of hours and I had to transfer to Terminal 2 – the poor relation to the opulent Terminal 3. “It’s too uncomfortable to sleep, so I’ve taken to reading Bear Grylls’ ‘Facing Up’. It’s now 5.20am local time and they’re playing the call to prayer over the PA. Been in Dubai for nearly 5 hours and still almost 3 hours to go!”

“The flight to Kathmandu is with Emirates’ budget airline – Fly Dubai. The plane is full and the sun is up as we take off. I manage to grab

The lovely Nepali family I met on the plane

The lovely Nepali family I met on the plane

about 2 hours kip. When I wake up, my window seat gives me a clear view of the ground below. This is Pakistan and it looks like the moon, with no sign of life at all. I strike up a conversation with a couple next to me who have a baby with them. They are Nepali, but live in Dundee. It is their first time back home in 3 years and they are coming to introduce their 7-month old son to their families.”

“In stark contrast to the earlier views, Nepal looks stunningly beautiful from the air. Verdant and hilly, with fabulous paddy terraces. And of course, I get my first view of the Himalaya, with Everest obvious by both its shape and size.

“Kathmandu is very spread out across a small plain and we land in bright sunshine. The airport is small and much calmer than I had expected. Getting a visa was a painless and civilised process compared to some other places I’ve been.”

I then exited the airport and found Kapil – the owner of Swan Valley Treks. We bundled into a bashed-up  car – our ride to the hotel. “We head through town, which is a combination of tooting, people and dust. My first impression of the place is that people are working hard to scratch a living. I didn’t see anything that struck me as the horrific poverty that people describe in India. But the roads are terrible, buildings are in various states of disrepair and there are lots of people everywhere.”

“After about half an hour (and several hundred horn beeps!), we arrive at the hotel in Thamel (where all the Europeans congregate).”

Street life in Kathmanda

Street life in Kathmanda

Commerce, Kathmandu-style

Commerce, Kathmandu-style


The hotel in Thamel was a little oasis of calm amongst the hustle and bustle of this touristy district. The room is perfectly adequate with two clean (if rather hard) beds and an en-suite bathroom. Little did I know that this was the closest to luxury that I was going to get for 2 weeks.

“I go down into the courtyard to meet Kapil and his brother, Shankar, for Nepali tea (a little sweet for my liking, as I suspect it contains condensed milk) and a chat about the trek. The plan is to get to Lukla tomorrow as the weather looks good. Our guide is to be their cousin, Prakash.”

Prakash diving into a pile of clothes in the hire shop.

Prakash diving into a pile of clothes in the hire shop.

I was introduced to Prakash and he and I wandered around Thamel, picking up last minute items. We went to a hire shop, where we rummaged through a mountain of down jackets and down sleeping bags, trying to spot candidates that were the right size, were still filled with plenty of feathers and smelt fairly fresh. It was like sorting through a jumble sale!

I needed some Nepali rupees, so we sourced a money changer, followed by the last ‘essentials’ – toilet paper and water bottles. All done, I headed back to the hotel for a short nap, after arranging to meet at 9.30pm to go and collect Dan from the airport.

“So we found Dan. He seems to have brought a lot more stuff than me. makes me wonder whether I’ve got everything. And then, when I tell Dan that our porter has to carry my stuff AND his stuff on his head, he gets a massive guilt trip and offloads items to leave at the hotel. After a quick beer and a catch-up, we go to the room to do a final pack before turning in – only 4 hours before we need to get up to go the airport.”

And we’re off!

Prakash and me at Kathmandu airport

Prakash and me at Kathmandu airport

Dan, ready for the off!

Dan, ready for the off!

10th November 2012

Everyone talks about the flight to Lukla, dubbed the scariest runway in the world. Today it was our turn. My journal picks up the story ….. “We are woken up at about 5.15am and throw some clothes on. Prakash is waiting for us in the hotel lobby. We barrel along in an old jalopy to the airport, where, this time, we’re at the domestic terminal. It’s really busy, with trekkers, tourists and traders all off on early morning flights.” 

P1010022“We head out onto the apron in an ancient Tata bus. Our plane is an old Dornier and Dan and I jostle for seats near the front. I’m sitting just behind the pilot and it’s fascinating seeing him go through his pre-flight checks. It’s still a bit hazy in Kathmandu as we hurtle noisily down the runway and head skywards. Out of the left-hand side of the plane, we can see the snow-capped mountains, poking through the clouds.The pilot has a SatNav in the cockpit (an after-market option, I think!) and I can see the waypoints being checked off. The cloud clears beneath us and we can see the terraced hills below. After turning towards the mountains, we fly down a narrow corridor, with ridges just a couple of hundred feet below us.”


2 minutes before landing in Lukla, this flashed up!!

“Then we see the runway in front of us. The pilot has to have the height to get over the ridge, but then drop the aircraft down suddenly and there is a bang as he hits the runway hard. This is followed by the scream of the engines as they are put into reverse. That was an amazing experience and the skill of those pilots is unbelievable.”

The first thing we noticed was how much colder it was in Lukla compared to Kathmandu. We were at about 2800m above sea level and I would guess that the temperature was about 5 degrees Celsius. We grabbed some breakfast at a hotel that we would get to know a lot better later in the trip. It is here that we first meet our porter.

“Our porter, who is a young lad of maybe 16 years old, ties our bags together, adding his own pack and attaches a strap to his head.”

And so it was, that we started our trek, in hazy sunshine.

“We wander out along the main street through Lukla. The Nepali people up here are much more Mongolian-looking and the children are simply adorable. We trek, mostly downhill, following a rocky path, along the right-hand side of the valley. The views are stunning, with a fast, turquoise river running between two forested valley walls. We pass a number of horse and cow caravans – largely empty after dropping their cargoes at Namche Bazar. We also cross our first suspension bridge.”


Adorable Sherpa children

“It is important to look at the path at all times as it is very uneven. We walk along, sometimes Dan with the porter and me with Prakash. And sometimes swapping round. In the sun, it feels quite warm, so we shed a layer.”

“Having mostly walked downhill, there is a bit of an uphill stretch, mostly in the form of steps. We spin the prayer wheels (always clockwise) at Nurning, before the final push up to our place for the night in Phakding.”

“Lunch is mixed noodles. When it arrives, I suddenly wonder where the smell of dung is coming from. But then I notice that the noodles are covered in yak cheese. Mystery solved! Needless to say, we devour the platefuls!


On a suspension bridge


Between Lukla and Phakding


So in Phakding, we had our first experience of a mountain lodge. It’s probably worth spending a moment describing this form of accommodation. It’s important to bear in mind that EVERYTHING from Lukla upwards needs to be carried. There are no roads and no vehicles. So all building materials, fuel, food and drink needs to be heaved up the mountain – either by humans, mules, cows or yaks.

Our room in the lodge in Phakding

Our room in the lodge in Phakding

The layout of most lodges is the same. A number of bedrooms, with two single beds in each and a dining area. The dining area typically has seating around the perimeter and a stove in the centre of the room. A kitchen turns out the food for all the guests, while the guides double-up as waiters – part of the deal for them getting free food. You may have noticed that I have not mentioned anything about washing facilities. That is because, by and large, they are non-existent. All lodges will have some form of toilet, but finding somewhere to wash hands afterwards is hard. If a barrel of water does exist for this purpose, it is usually frozen up by the morning. It’s important to keep some alcohol gel handy!

A group of Malaysians keep warm in the dining room

A group of Malaysians keep warm in the dining room

The stoves are used very sparingly. They are fed with yak pats, which do appear to give off quite a lot of heat. But you would be lucky if the stove is lit for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. Other than that, there is no heating whatsoever.

The walls in the lodges are made of plywood, so, pretty much, it’s the same temperature inside as out. And of course you can hear everything, from snoring (more of which later) to the constant coughing and hawking which goes with life in the mountains.

But for now, it’s time to continue with the story, picking up from just after lunch on our first day of trekking – 10th November 2012.

“Dan and I then retire to the room. The room is, err, basic. It has unpainted plywood walls and two rock-hard beds with sheets and pillows. And that’s it. We decide to get some kip and climb, fully clothed, into our down sleeping bags. We are cold and this is the lowest we are going to be on the entire trip. We manage to get a couple of hours sleep. When I wake up, I ask Dan if he talks in his sleep. He laughs and tells me that that was him telling me to stop snoring. Oh, dear!”

[This was Dan’s first experience of my terrible snoring – a problem that was to frustrate both of us on the trip. It would wake him up and his shouting at me would wake me up. We ended up getting little sleep between us. But that’s enough of that ….]

We got up and met Prakash in the dining room. “There are a number of routes that we could take on this trek. I’m keeping my council, while Dan is being ambitious. We’ll see …”

“After a hearty dinner of chicken curry, we play cards for a bit. Like most of the others in the lodge that night, we are in bed by 8pm.”

Phakding lodge

Now we get serious …

11th November 2012

After a fairly poor night’s sleep in a freezing room, we got up just after 6am.

“The dining room is full of a large party of Malaysians. They are on the last leg of the Everest basecamp trip and were friendly and chatty. Their leader said the worst bit of the trip was the cold – -25 degrees one night!”

Although I didn’t write it down at the time, I now remember how dreadful they all looked. Coughing and wheezing, they were not a great advertisement. In retrospect, I think they were glad to be on the homeward stretch.

“This morning, I start off in my down jacket, with gloves and hat. Before the sun hits the valley, it can’t be much above freezing. As we were leaving the lodge, a young man was trying to ride a horse down the street. The horse was not playing ball and the man lashed out, meeting out a vicious beating with a whip. Not nice ….”

“So we set off and follow the river. I lose count of the number of suspension bridges we go across – maybe

Dan, contemplating the suspension bridge he just traversed

Dan, contemplating the suspension bridge he just traversed

5 0r 6. Steep forested hills flank the river and every so often you get a glimpse of a big snow-capped peak. After two or three hours of lovely walking, we start the steep ascent to Namche. The going is tough and relentless. Dan marches on ahead while I stay with Prakash. Just over half way up, I get my first glimpse of Everest through a valley.”

The trekking region has a system of checkpoints, at which each trekker’s arrival is logged. These checkpoints are mostly manned by the army and I did find it odd that at lower levels (where, to be honest there is a not a high chance of getting lost, injured or ill) the checkpoints are numerous. From memory, they stopped after about 4,000m, which is where they would be much more useful, but, I guess, where they are more difficult to staff. At one checkpoint, a rather formal looking soldier, soon had a childish grin on his face when Dan offered him a few sweets!

“We catch up with Dan at the next checkpoint. I find the climb up to Namche tough. The last bit is the worst. I struggle with my legs turning to jelly. That, plus the fact we are nearing 3,400m!”

“Namche is not exactly what I was expecting. I thought it was set on a plateau, but it’s actually in a semi-circular bowl. Of course, our stop for the night is at the top of the bowl! Moonlight Lodge is definitely nicer than last night’s accommodation, with a fabulous view over the town and over to the mountains opposite. After a particularly garlicky stir-fry, it was time to relax a bit.”

Dan had discovered that one of the bars down in town was showing ‘Into Thin Air’ – the story of a disastrous commercial trip to the summit of Everest. So we wandered down, grabbed some tea (sticking to our pledge of no beer until we were coming back down) and settled in. I am struggling to think of a worse film I have ever seen! The acting was beyond hammy and the accompanying music was so melodramatic, that we laughed all the way through – attracting some strange glances from locals and trekkers alike!

“We eat at about 7pm. Macaroni cheese for me, which is actually rather nice. There is a pepper-grinder on the table, which turns out to be more a dispenser than a grinder. Still …. spices it up a bit!”

We played a few hands of cards with Prakash and headed to bed at about 9pm. We picked up the tip of getting our 1 litre water bottles filled with hot water, using them as hot water bottles. By the morning, they’re ready to be used as drinking water. Nice!

The spectacular view from our room in Namche

The spectacular view from our room in Namche


12th November 2012

From the lowest point on our trek to the highest was a climb of almost 3,000m. To put that into perspective, it’s about 3 Mount Snowdon’s stacked on top of each other. But the fact is that our lowest point is already 2,300m, so whichever way you look at it, altitude is going to play a part in an Everest basecamp trek.

Altitude sickness (or acute mountain syndrome, to give it its proper name) is the effect that less dense air (and therefore, less oxygen per breath) has on the body. You have to take altitude sickness seriously, as the effects can be life-threatening. But the main way to prevent it, is to ascend slowly.

Looking down on the beautiful town of Namche

Looking down on the beautiful town of Namche

And so we had the first of our acclimatisation days in Namche. The best way to approach an acclimatisation day is not to treat it as a rest day – rather to use it to do an ascending walk (i.e. rise a few hundred metres) and then come back down to sleep.

“I sleep much better, partly because the room is warmer (despite frozen condensation on the inside of the window). The view from here is absolutely stunning. Yesterday, we cursed having to walk up to the back of the village, but today the views definitely make up for it.”

“After breakfast (an enormous, inch thick apple pancake), we get ready to do this morning’s acclimatisation trek up to the Everest View Hotel. I was concerned that I was going to feel really stiff after yesterday’s climb, but actually, I’m fine.”

“We start off by visiting the modest, but informative museum about the Khumbu region. We then walk past a small army base to the steps that mark our trek – straight out of the back of the town. As yesterday, Dan sped off, whilst Prakash and I take a more leisurely pace – although we

Imagine going to this school!

Imagine going to this school!

did overtake a number of groups of elderly Japanese. It is a steep climb up the steps until we reach a plateau, where there is a landing strip. Apparently, the government felt it would be good for the local people if they had greater access to air travel. However, the locals turned down the idea because of the negative impact on trade (a lot of the tourism trade between Lukla and Namche would disappear, as well as most of the portering business).”

“The walk then flattens out and we follow the contours (with a MASSIVE drop down to the right that made me feel a bit wobbly) to the Everest View Hotel. Developed by a Japanese businessman, it is a touch of luxury in this area. Tea here is 280 rupees (about £2), as opposed to 60 rupees (about 40p) in the lodge in Namche, but the views of Everest and her sisters are well worth it.”

As we stayed in the lodge for 2 nights, we got to know some of the other trekkers. Dan and I took an instant dislike to an Englishman travelling on his own. However, he recounted a story about having a shower, which is housed in a shed-like building behind the lodge. He took his towel and fresh clothes and locked the door behind him. He stripped off and turned the tap, which promptly came off in his hand. Cold water gushed out, drenching him and his clothes. He managed to pull on some underwear before calling for help. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer chap!

In contrast, we met a lovely Swiss couple. Although the man was originally from England, he had lived abroad so long that he couldn’t remember the right English word on occasions. We talked about the use of walking poles (I had noticed that more than half the trekkers we saw were using them). So I resolved to get a pair and give them a try. We walked into town and for the equivalent of about £9, I picked up a pair.

And then the weather changed.

“It snowed all afternoon and it settled on dry surfaces. By the time we were eating dinner (I decided to try the yak curry – not bad at all!), the sky was clear. After more cards and packing, it was bed at 9.30pm.”

Chilling, with Everest behind us

Chilling, with Everest behind us

Pressing on

13th November 2012

So after a day of acclimatisation, it was time to push on. The destination for the day was Tengboche.

“We are up at 6.30am. We pack and I have a breakfast of cheese and tomato omelette. The lodge in Namche has been great and I suspect the accommodation may go downhill from here.”

D&N in snow” There is snow all around as we head off. We saw most of today’s route when we were at the Everest View Hotel yesterday, so we’ve got a pretty good idea what to expect. We start by following the contours, so given it was relatively flat, I persuaded Dan to stay with us for a bit.”

“We meet an old fellow along the route, who, for the last 20 or 30 years has got up early to collect money for the upkeep of a Buddhist shrine situated on one of the bends. Who knows how old he is? Maybe 80? He has also built (single-handedly) a beautiful set of stone steps leading up to the shrine. We give him 1,500 rupees and his face and his milky eyes light up. We receive a very deep bow, which we return. A real character of the mountains – with, I suspect, a million stories.”

“After a couple of miles, the path starts dropping down towards the river. This is always disheartening, when you know that your destination is higher up! I haven’t been feeling 100% today, but it’s heard to put my finger on what’s not right. I have a slight, dull headache and feel slightly nauseous. Is this the start of altitude sickness?”

“I was very glad of my new, red poles as we start the big climb up from the bridge. It is slow, hard work, punctuated by stops to let cows and yaks (yes, my first encounter with the fabled yaks!) get past. The yaks look like very stocky, long-haired cows. They have a look that gives you the strong impression they are not to be meddled with.”

Prakash always fussed about me when these caravans are approaching – particularly the cows and yaks. He would find me a suitable, mountain-side-of-the-path spot to shelter in and usher me into it. Apparently, the animals are pretty temperamental and you really don’t want to be the wrong side of the path, for fear of being pushed over the edge.

“We finally reach the top of the climb (it’s been a vertical gain of about 600m – similar to the climb up into Namche) right outside the hotel. I say hotel, because that’s what it’s called – the Himalayan Hotel. but it’s basically a lodge with 2 stories. We arrive at 12.50pm, exactly 5 hours

Tengboche, from the bakery

Tengboche, from the bakery

after leaving Namche and pretty much average for trekkers. Dan had arrived at 10.30am. Prakash had never heard of anyone doing it in that time.”

“I feel a light lunch is appropriate, as I’m still not feeling great. So I have a bowl of chicken soup. We go up to our room which looks directly down the valley towards Everest. Quite a view!”

“Having been blisteringly sunny all day, it begins to cloud over. We wander down to the Tengboche bakery and put away some apple crumble pie, which is very welcome. At 3pm, the daily Buddhist ceremony starts in the monastery, so we poke our nose in. The ceremonial room is fantastically ornate, with a 5m high statue of Buddha at the front. The ceremony, to our uninitiated eyes, seems to consist of alternating tea-drinking with chanting.”

“Dan has admitted defeat with my snoring and puts forward the suggestion of separate rooms. To be honest, I would get a better night’s sleep on my own too. So we enquire and they have a spare room. The price for the night – 200 rupees (about £1.50!). Dan nearly bites the girl’s arm off!!”

The pricing of everything in the mountain takes a bit of getting used to. The lodges effectively give free rooms (based on 2 sharing) IF you eat at the lodge. And, unsurprisingly, the price of food and drink edges up with altitude.

“I manage a plateful of macaroni cheese (it’s just not the same with yak cheese!) and we have a lovely chat with a Polish married couple who are both lawyers. They are on their way down, but had only got as far as Loboche, before the woman had got a panic attack about not being able to breath. They were clearly a bit disappointed, but it was the right decision for them.”

“We also have a chat with one of the other guides about the political situation in Nepal. It appears that they had a king who everybody liked, who was ousted by his brother. Maoists then took over and the government now is a bit of a mess. I must look into it more when I get home.”

It ended up being a bit of a late one, as they ushered us out of the dining room – gone 9pm!

Pie from Tengboche bakery

Pie from Tengboche bakery

The entrance to Tengboche monastery

The entrance to Tengboche monastery

Getting higher, baby!

14th November 2012

Tengboche is at 3,860m and this was to be the day that we broke through the 4,000m barrier. At this (seemingly arbitrary) level, a couple of things happen. It is said that it is above this height that altitude sickness routinely starts kicking in. It also happens to be pretty much where the treeline is. Therefore, there is a fairly marked change in the landscape.

“I wake up to a beautiful clear morning after the best sleep so far. Separate rooms is a definite winner!”

The view as we leave Tengboche

The view as we leave Tengboche

“After a breakfast of french toast and black tea, we set off down the valley through the woods. The river now is quite a torrent after the snow of a couple of days ago. Gauging the right clothes has been tricky as it is very cold in the mornings but gets quite warm as the sun hits the mountain paths. So I have been wearing the down jacket and then stuffing it in my daypack at about 9.30am.”

“We go through a couple of villages and just after Pangboche, Prakash and I are walking along a contour on the west side of the river, when we hear a call. Dan was down by the river. We stop and he traverses his way up the mountainside to us. He had taken a wrong path at Pangboche and crossed to the east of the river before heading up a trail where he saw some trekkers in the distance. He eventually asked someone and they pointed him back to the river and over to our path. About one and a half hours of hard work for nothing ….”

“After Pangboche, we are above the treeline. The path is fairly flat and we trek through a desolate landscape – just rocks and shrubs, a sharp contract to the lush forests down in the valleys. We round a corner to see Dingboche on a plateau in front of us. It’s much bigger than Tengboche, with maybe 20 lodges. Ours – the Sherpaland Hotel – is towards the rear of the village. It’s definitely even colder up here, but we are provided with a thin duvet to go over our sleeping bags.”

Above the treeline

looking up the valley towards Dingboche

“After a quick trip to a cyber café (yes, such things exist up here, thanks to a satellite dish and a set of car batteries), we get to know some of our fellow guests in the lodge’s dining room. There is a tiny Japanese lady called Sakaya, who is a designer by profession and is travelling on her own; Chris, a German Swiss who is taking a 6-month sabbatical from a job teaching children with very severe learning difficulties and Manoj and Abrahim who are professionals from Mumbai. We teach everyone to play Dan’s favourite card game (Shithead – I know … try explaining that to non-native English speakers!!). We play cards, laugh and share stories all afternoon. And in the evening, the group is enlarged when a British couple – Chris and Gemma – join us.”

Those 5 or 6 hours were a real highlight of the trip thus far. Fantastic people.

“The room is absolutely freezing when we get back to it (we are now at about 4,300m). But with our hot water bottles, we soon warm up.”

A Yak caravan

A Yak caravan


Playing cards with a great bunch of people

Playing cards with a great bunch of people


At this point, I just wanted to write a little interlude to explain a bit more about guides. I have been talking about our guide, Prakash, who we got to know really well over the two weeks that we spent together. But we were exposed to a number of different guides – chatting in the lodges, stopping for breaks en route, etc. One guide that I got to know quite well  was Manu – more of him later in the story.

I suppose guides have a number of key jobs. We were on a pre-paid package, so Prakash handled the budget, paying for all of our food and drink along the way. He determined where we stayed and guided us (well, me mostly – Dan was always forging ahead) along the route. But I suppose, ultimately, it’s a bit like air stewardesses. They are predominantly there to ensure our safety, but if they can do things to increase our enjoyment of the trek, they will do that.

One thing Dan and I noticed is that all of the guides take a slightly different approach and they all seemed to have a ‘party piece’. Manoj and Abrahim’s guide was a little older and had a really good grasp on Nepali politics and history. The Swiss couple’s guide brought a bowl of hot water to their room each morning, for washing. Prakash’s speciality was food. His pack was filled with Snickers bars for the day (and on one day, I was particularly pleased about that – but you’ll have to wait for that story) and each evening he would prepare Dan and I a plate of fresh apple slices and pomegranate seeds. Every time he produced this plate, we would be the envy of the dining room. To say that fresh fruit up in the mountains is uncommon is an understatement and we hoovered it up, offering some only to our best trekking buddies. It was extremely kind of him to carry two week’s worth of fruit and chocolate bars for us.

The relationship between guides and the porters is interesting and I am at pains to point out that I am making no judgements as I write this paragraph – it’s just the way it is. Most guides were formerly porters and so it’s a bit like the way that 2nd years don’t speak to 1st years at school. Our guide freely admitted that he didn’t know the name of our porter – he just called him Babu, which means ‘boy’. The guides sleep in the lodges, whilst the porters sleep ‘somewhere else’. The guides eat in the lodges (although they have no choice – it’s always Dall Bhat, a lentil curry and rice (“What are you having tonight, Prakash?” He grins, “You know what I’m having!”)), whilst the porters eat ‘somewhere else’.

Guides are an essential part of the mountain economy and, in my experience, they do a really good job.

Prakash and me enjoying a break

Prakash and me enjoying a break

Our porter, "Babu"

Our porter, “Babu”