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Climbing Mount Everest

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For many people, an idea of a holiday away from their work and regular life is sitting on the beach by a resort, or relaxing by the lake. For others, it means exploring the beauty and wonder of human civilization, or the natural world.
This might mean jumping on a bus tour or a cruise ship in a faraway land, but for the more adventurous, it could mean two weeks of hiking in some of the tallest and most majestic geological structures on Planet Earth. And what better person to go on that adventure with than with your significant other?
Ali Maidy and Mike Shaw had the privilege in early January of travelling to Nepal to make the famous trek through the Himalayas to Mount Everest Base Camp.
“(This trip) has been on my bucket list, and it’s always been mine and my boyfriend’s dream to go to base camp,” said Maidy, adding that the journey was just for the two of them, with their only companions on the trail being the porters and sherpas that guided them along the way.
“It was a really good experience, but a lot harder than I thought.”
Maidy made sure that she hit the gym for a few months, climbing plenty of stairs and going on hikes through Pretty Valley, particularly on cold days.
While the name ‘base camp’ often brings to mind the idea that it is but a mere starting line for the trek up to the summit of the world’s tallest peak, the path to base camp is long and arduous. Accessible to most with proper training, but not to be underestimated.
South Base Camp on the Nepal side of the mountain still sits at an altitude of 5,363 metres, or 17,598 feet, which is still somewhat lower than Canada’s peak – Mount Logan at 5,959 metres – but naturally dwarfs Manitoba’s tallest point – Baldy Mountain at 832 metres.
“The cold and the altitude was the biggest struggle for sure,” said Maidy. “I lost my appetite for about six days – I would get sick if I tried to force any food down – so I had really low energy and difficulty breathing made it hard to sleep. I kept waking up thinking I had stopped breathing and was gasping for air.”
The temperatures were also not kind, with Maidy and Shaw camping in the middle of a Himalayan winter, with temperatures dipping down to -30C.
“There is no insulation or heat, and the hardest part is trying to stay warm when you are sleeping,” said Maidy. “When you are walking, it was okay because you are moving, but as soon as you stop, it got cold right away.”
The entire trek on foot took Maidy and Shaw 10 days to hike up the mountain, and three days to return.
“When you go up, you have to acclimatize, so we would climb up, and then come back to spend the night at a lower altitude during rest days,” said Maidy. “And, one day, it did snow really bad, which made the trail treacherous, so we spent an extra night somewhere.”
Maidy added that, in addition to taking in some of the amazing views at that point in the world, one of the biggest highlights of the trip is the sense of accomplishment in making it to a destination after experiencing the turmoil of the climb.
“We could push past those moments when you want to turn around and give up, but you keep going,” she said, adding that when they finally made it to base camp, she had no wish or desire to keep going farther on the mountain that often represents the literal peak of climbing accomplishment.
“If I knew I could handle the altitude, I would, but my body just wasn’t handling it great, and I was pretty tired,” said Maidy. “It was all I could do to get to base camp, but kudos to anyone who can.”
Mount Everest was first summited in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, and since then has been the target of world records and numerous climbers seeking to stand at the top of the world, at a height of 8,848 metres – or 29,029 feet. Approximately 300 people have died on the notoriously dangerous journey.
“I don’t have that kind of risk tolerance either,” said Maidy, joking that her parents would probably disown her if she tried.
Maidy was equally impressed by the abilities of the local people that would help them along the way.
“There are no motorized vehicles, so they haul everything themselves, or by yak or mule,” she said. “The loads these people were carrying were insane. Some of the loads on their backs were three times the size of them.
“I’m not sure what that does to their bodies. I was struggling just getting up with my own body weight, never mind having the rest.
“And, they were going faster than me,” Maidy continued. “Sometimes, we were walking so slow it felt like we were in a cartoon. It was weird not being able to walk at your normal pace because you would be out of breath right away.”
Despite the difficulty, Maidy feels that if somebody is aspiring to make the trip to Everest’s base camp, it is a trek that is accessible to most people at a moderate fitness level.
“It helps to train for it, but you never know how you are going to respond to that altitude,” she said. “You can’t ignore the symptoms. If you have serious symptoms, you have to turn around and not push it.”
At any age, if someone still has a spring in their step and the ambition and ability of physical accomplishment, it’s never too late to take on the world’s tallest mountain, or at least the base of it.

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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