We sat down with a friend, Melissa Bixler, to hear all about her experience trekking to Everest Base Camp. Here's what she had to say!
When were you there and did you book the trip through a company? Did you go with a friend?
“I was there September 8-21, 2018 and signed up through Ian Taylor Trekking. I went alone and ended up with a very diverse team. Ages ranged from 26-69 with people from America, Dubai, Singapore and South Africa. We were all first timers to Everest but overall, a very well traveled group.”
Why did you want to trek to base camp?
"My dads favorite book as a kid was called ‘The Epics of Everest” and he would talk about the book when I was growing up and I remember him telling me stories about his college buddies visiting Kathmandu and I guess that started it, or at least brought that area to my attention. I am however, a mountain person, and for me, Everest is THE peak. So for as long as I can remember it's just been something I have wanted to do. I actually took his old book with me and read it in cafes in Kathmandu- thought that was pretty cool."
What did you physically have to do to prepare for the trek?
“The company gave ideas of how to train and places to go to train. It included going to the gym several days a week, using the treadmill on an incline, stairmaster with your backpack on. Luckily I lived in Colorado and had great access to mountains, which also helped with high altitude training. A lot of training hikes with a full pack, making sure it was really heavy for the practice hikes. I also ate a high carb diet while training which was very helpful, as almost every meal on the trek was rice and carbs.”
What scared you the most before leaving?
“I was really concerned about the weather. You can do all of this training and prep as much as you want but if the weather doesn’t allow the flights to Lukla, you’re out of luck.”
What was your favorite part of the whole experience?
“There’s no way to pick. The first time seeing Everest. I actually broke down in tears the first time I saw her, a truly magnificent mountain! We had the amazing opportunity to spend the night at base camp, so having dinner and watching the stars and moon rise over the Himalayas was extraordinary. Also, waking up and coming out of the tent and starring at the Khumbu icefall and Nuptse while sharing tea with my tent mates was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. There really isn’t a specific part, the entire trip was life changing. Because of the weather grounding all flights in and out of Lukla for 4 days after we landed not many people were on the trail and we often had the tea houses and trails to ourselves which I think gave us a very unique experience. The team I was a part of was like family by the end and the relationships I formed with some of them was also a huge part of why it was so great.”
“Having a mild anxiety attack at 16,000 ft with low oxygen was rough and definitely a low point. We also spent day after day walking without seeing the mountains which made it mentally tough. You know you’re surrounded by mountains but you’re in such crappy weather you can’t see them and you just have to keep trekking. When your physically worn out, it makes it a lot harder mentally when you can’t see what you came there to see.”
How about the hardest part?
“One of the hardest parts was when we submitted Kala Patthar. I’ve never had to dig so deep into myself to keep moving forward. There was low oxygen, I hadn’t eaten enough food and very cold temps. This was supposed to be the best view to watch the sunset on Everest and we couldn’t see anything. We had trekked all day before doing the summit push so we were exhausted. No one wanted to be the one to bring the team down so you just had to dig deep and keep going. But we all made it and huddled around each other in the snow drinking the hot tea that our Sherpas brought up for us. Now I can say I have summited a mountain in the Himalayas, which I think is kinda badass.”
What type of conversations did you have with your team?
“At night we played a lot of cards. While trekking, we talked a lot about people’s next adventures, what led them here and what they do back home. With certain people the conversations got very deep and personal. We talked a lot about each other’s cultures. It was interesting to compare the various lifestyles and learn about how people from different backgrounds live their life.”
Was there ever a moment you regretted being there?
What was the biggest thing you learned?
“I learned how to be more authentic and I became a lot more self aware. I learned I don’t need to try so hard and I can be myself with others. The owner of the company we trekked with said a lot of people do the trek and go back to their normal lives, but for some, it becomes a life punctuating event. They might not realize it right away but a month later, they start seeing changes in who they are and taking the lessons they learned during the trek into everyday life. I am one of those people. This experience has changed my outlook and how I want to live my day to day life. As time goes on, different things keep coming up from the trek that affect how I go through each day.”
“Just do it. Don’t leave it on your “want to do someday” list. It seems daunting but if you take the time to physically and mentally prepare, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. Make sure you take the time to train and know your abilities. This isn’t something for the casual tourist to tackle but if you’re committed, you are in for a life changing experience.”
Would you go back?
“Yes and no. Yes, because I miss that part of the world so much! I am dying to return to Kathmandu and see the Himalayas again, maybe attempt to climb some peaks. As for Everest Base Camp? No, because my experience was so phenomenal and it could never be replicated or topped. Because of the weather, my team had the trail to ourselves. It was bad weather for a large portion but when it cleared one morning in Gorak Shep and we ran back up for the view, it was indescribable. Most other people see that view the whole trek which I think would change the whole experience. We had to push through a lot of crap for that moment of incredible glory. We had the tea houses to ourselves and the only “traffic” we had was a yak jam. The team was a perfect group that you would never be able to recreate. I wouldn’t want to compare another trip to this one.”