Editor’s Note: The views expressed here are those of the author’s and don’t necessarily represent or reflect the views of MangoBaaz.
By: Sa’ad Mohamed
Being a mountaineer and a digital content creator I am one of few Pakistanis to have successfully reached the summit of a 7,000m peak in the Karakorum and one of select few to have attempted Mt. Everest, it may not have been a success, yet but I haven’t lost hope. It goes without saying that for climbing Everest or any high altitude technical peak one needs to follow a fitness regime, have wilderness exposure and technical training but other than that if you ever decides to venture towards Everest these are some things to remember:
1. Don’t forget the Gushtaba as your last luxurious meal before you make your difficult trek to the top of the world
I arrived in Kathmandu a few days before Col. Bhatti (my companion, the other Pakistani on Everest this year) and by the time he landed I was already familiar with the streets around our hotel in Thamel. So the first night he arrived I took him out for dinner and we went to the Al Madina Restaurant in the heart of the Muslim Mohalla in Thamel. Col. Bhatti noticed a dish on the menu that he had wanted to try since forever. Thus we had Gushtaba!
Gushtaba turned out to be a traditional Kashmiri dish made out of pulled lamb meat koftas floating in hot white curry rich in cardamom. I don’t know if this could be said about a dish but this one was truly sensational for the taste buds. If you are a desi and a foodie and happen to be in Kathmandu, then this should not be missed.
2. Don’t miss a ride on the cycle rickshaw
I was able to shop for most of my expedition gear in Thamel but for camera accessories I took a cycle-rickshaw to the New Road. This was one of the most exciting things I did in Kathmandu.
3. Don’t forget to arrange your own food if you have religious or dietary restrictions because it won’t be easy to find food of your choice
Halal food is readily available in various quarters of Kathmandu. Heck, KFC and Pizza Hut are also Halal (I personally checked), but getting Halal meat at the base camp or on the trek is a logistical nightmare. On the trek, one can make do with tuna sandwiches and veggie options, on order, at the lodges but for the base camp you’ll need to buy fresh meat, freeze it and get it heli-dropped to the base camp via your tour operator. In addition to that you will also need to coordinate with your respective base camp kitchen to serve you only that meat.
4. Don’t take any selfies on the hanging bridges on the trek
You go across a few really scary hanging bridges, the first two days of the trek to Everest Base Camp. The one in the picture is almost 600 feet above the valley floor and the wind that blows across it is strong and consistent.
The bridge sways and resonates with every step you take. If you still think you can take a selfie without dropping your camera device then do it with a grin.
5. Don’t forget to bring some achaar with you to spice up the bland food you’ll otherwise have to digest
Yup, you read it right, a good bottle of achaar can be a life saver at the base camp. The Nepali food in general is pretty bland. What they call Da’l Bha’t is simply Daal Chaawal to us but sans the mandatory spices. Also the meals are usually tailored to suite the European tastes therefore you can either take refuge in a desi majority mess tent or you can make the meals bearable by carrying along your own achaar … slurrrp!
6. Don’t forget a nose cover because otherwise not only will your nose fry up like a pakora, you might get cancer
I learnt this the hard way while climbing Spantik, a 7,000m peak in the Karakorum Range in Pakistan in 2012. Covering one’s nose is very important; it protrudes in front of the rest of you and because of the intensity of the sun, the high levels of UV radiation and the sunlight reflecting of the snow and ice surface, your complexion will tan and if you do not cover yourself properly, then you are bound to get sun burnt.
Sunblock doesn’t really seem to work up there so your best friends are a pair of good dark glasses, a head scarf and a nose cover.
7. Don’t you dare miss the coffee at Loboche
Laboche is above 4,900m in elevation. It is the second last settlement that has lodges or tea houses before the base camp. In addition to the tea houses there is a café here. Not only is this café the highest on the planet but it also serves outstanding coffee and baked goodies at a very reasonable price given its remoteness. Arguably one of the best lattes I’ve ever had.
8. Don’t take a young, inexperienced Sherpa with you because that could cost you A LOT
The Sherpa can make or break your expedition and his experience and exposure really matters beyond Camp IV. In case of the other Pakistani climber the Sherpa was young; only 20 years old and one small mistake on his part cost him his hands and nearly cost him and Mr. Bhatti their lives. So make sure that you arrange for an experienced Sherpa and be willing to pay extra for it.
9. Don’t forget the Kala Pathar hike
Everest summit is not visible from the base camp. One of the shoulders of Everest towers above the base camp and obstructs the view of the summit. So to get a clear view one needs to go back to Gorak Shep & hike up to Kala Pather or can go for a day hike to the Advance Base Camp of Pamoree, which is opposite Everest.
10. Don’t look down or you might never go up
Well you will need to look down but focus on the ladder alone and nothing below it. Crossing a crevasse with the help of a ladder can freak out even the most experienced of climbers.
But the good thing is that it will be scary as hell only the first couple of times and after that you’ll start enjoying it. Whatever you do, remember to clip into the safety line and try not to fall because it can be a pretty long wait before someone comes along to pull you out.
11. Absolutely don’t ever forget rescue insurance, along with your travel and life insurances
Life insurance is not the same as rescue insurance. Choosing the right sort of insurance is critical to your survival if something is to go wrong on the mountain. For climbing Everest choose an insurance company that covers mountaineering as an activity and is willing and able to carry out a rescue at 7,000m or above. If you are extra cautious then add equipment cover and trip cancellation riders to it. And also beware that rescue insurance is not the same as medical insurance.
This being my first major Himalayan expedition I found a lot of stark differences between it and climbing in the Karakorums. I have seen K2 up close from Concordia and have felt the fear it instills through its sheer presence. Its jaggedness is unforgettable but Everest was huge, not as overwhelming as K2 maybe but it being part of a massif of three peaks of almost 8,000m each gave it a different dimension of grandeur altogether. In comparison to the Karakorums everything seems to happen at a much higher altitude. So much so that up until you reach the base camp of Everest at 5,300m you haven’t actually treaded on the glacier, whereas for K2 you are negotiating crevasses on the Baltoro from the third day onwards.
For me the Everest experience was truly phenomenal. The people of Nepal genuinely love Pakistanis; I have only found this kind of love for us as a nation from Chinese or the Turkish people. Kathmandu is a lovely city that has a very Islamabad, Pindi & Abbottabad feel to it; as if all three cities have been rolled into one. And although I did not make it to the top this time the trekker & adventure community in Pakistan has given me much love & respect for my attempt. And sometimes I do wonder what they would have done if I actually had made it to the summit.
Cover image via: mountainmadness.com
About the Author : Sa’ad is an active mountaineer in Pakistan who dabbles in photography & videography. His work has been published in BBC Urdu & Dawn News. He was shortlisted to speak at TEDx Punjab University in November 2017. He tweets @DesiMountaineer & blogs at SaadMohamed.com