D Day! 14 months have passed since we started this epic journey and the day has finally come for us to head off. We have raised £4,500 for Maiti Nepal and £3,500 for the rebuilding of a school library that was damaged in the 2015 earthquake.

What a manic 24hrs! Training completed, finally bags are packed, and boot’s fitted, money in our pockets and passports in hand.  We’re off with a great send off from family, friends and well-wishers.

Team / group photo at Westbury just before departure

The journey started with a 16 hours flying on 2 flights, Heathrow to Doha, then on to Kathmandu. A couple of days in Kathmandu then the roller coaster flight in to Lukla. We then began our 12 days of trekking. Starting with a stopover in Phackding, and our first night stay in a tea house. What an eye opener! The reality of the local toilets, food menus, and how unpredictable the weather was going to be was a shock to most. Sadly we lost 4 of the team on the second morning.

But on we continued to Namche bazaar: This was an 800m climb crossing a number of wired bridges, in rain, snow and strong winds, a big introduction to the effort that would be required to reach our goal of base camp. Finally we got to Namchee around 5pm, very tiered, but still able to take in the beautiful sights of the settlement on the side of a mountain that awaited us. This was the first time that a number of the team had to deal with the effects of AMS. Garlic soup (a local remedy) and lots of fluids with a little help from some paracitamal.  We stayed in Namche for 2 nights as we had an acclimations day. In short we walked up a hill for 2 hrs. Stayed at a tea house for an hour, then headed back down, Climb high – sleep low” is the call. This helps with acilmatation to the altitude. Day 5 and we headed off to Tengboche, this gave us the first actual sighting of Everest and a stunning walk in brilliant sunshine with a 600m climb up to Tengboche. Spirits were high and friendships blossoming as we gel as team.

Most days our routine consisted of; Wake up at 6am, bags outside for loading onto the Yak’s and breakfast at 7am, start walking at 8am. Lunch at 1pm, arrive at the Tea Hose around 4pm or 5pm, find your room, find your bags. Carryout some personal admin, Evening meal at 7pm, followed by a nightly brief on the next day.

The average night time temperatures started at -5c to -15c on average and it got still colder as we gained altitude, getting closer to Everest Base Camp. The weather most days was very cold subject to being in the sun and out of the wind. However the cold was very soon forgotten, when you came across such stunning views on nearly every corner of the path that you walked round.

The morning in Tengboche. Started early as we were invited to visit the Monastry and to see the Monks pray. A very emotional and moving experience as their prayers were sung in a low melodic tone. A quick team photo outside and very soon the day had begun with us walking up hill to pheriche where we would be staying for 2 nights. It was noted on this walk, that we had started to climb above the tree line, less vegetation, less trees and more grassy tufts and very rocky wide open landscape. We had an acclimatization day. Again the walk took on the same process. Walk up hill for 2 hrs, this time there was no Tea house, just a side of a very sunny mountain. Climb high – sleep low” is ever more important in the aid to acclimatize as we get higher.  Sadly at this point we lost Mark and Jane who went back to Namche for health reasons.

The next day on to laboche climbing over 700 meters. Climbing up to a cemetery where families buried the bodies of their loved ones that had been found on Everest.  Personalised plaques and prayers made this sensitive reading. Arriving in laboche the plans for the next 24 hours were key.

We woke up to find that Tracey had succumbed to illness and would have to wait at Laboche for the return journey, sadly missing out on getting to basecamp.  Down to 22 in the team. The journey to Gorak Shep was relatively short compared to what we had been covering. But the altitude had definitely slowed the pace, and the terrain was more rugged, making the going a lot harder. Starting with a 4 hour walk to Gorak Shep, we had to be ready to leave Gorak Shep at 12 midday as it was a 6 hour return journey (3hrs up and 3hrs back) to Everest Base Camp, throw in the altitude, cold and a very windy day, oh and a large Yak train. It took a very extra effort by all of the party, helping each other, to push on to base camp. We final got to base camp 5365M’s, arriving in a snow storm, a quick look around, lots of hugs and congratulations, followed by some quick photos, as the temperature had dropped to around    -15c. We all headed off back to Gorak Shep with very big smiles on our faces. Hot lemon drinks on arrive and then the news that we would be getting up at 3am to climb Kalapathar to watch the sun come up over Everest at first light.

Team / group photo at Everest Base Camp

I thought I knew what it was to be cold, however having to get up and to start climbing Kalapathar at 3.45am was unbelievably cold. It literally took your breath away, instantly your nose, fingers and toes went numb. Climbing in the dark, one foot in front of the other, finally after 2 hours you could see the summit of Kalapathar at 5555M’s (18,200 Ft). Behind you Everest was there in all its glory. The team was exhausted; people sat quietly trying to take the situation in. Breath taking cold with even more breath taking scenery as the sun rose over the Everest mountain range. It looked like something from a film set. Team photos dispensed, slowly the team headed down trying to keep warm, for a well-earned breakfast at Gorak Shep. Over breakfast, Bash our trusted Sherpa said it was -31c. A quick congratulations were passed around then the team head off on a 4 day decent back to Lukla, picking up the team members we had left behind.

Team / group photo at Maiti Nepal school Kathmandu

The start of the return journey took in pheriche with a 9 hour walk, Tengboche and Namche were a little shorter. Finally arriving in Lukla in the dark for a wonderful party. The final meal of the trek, to say goodbye to the Sherpa’s and thank them for helping us to achieve are dreams. Gifts of unwanted kit and personal belongings were shared and handed to the Sherpas as we said our goodbyes and swapped facebook addresses. An early morning flight from Lukla to Kathmandu, taking in a 4 hour delay for fog and we were soon back in the hotel in Kathmandu having our first proper hot shower for 12 days.  No time to stop for long, the next day were back to the airport flying out to Pokhara for a couple of days R & R then back to Kathmandu for a very special visit to the Maiti Nepal school that we have raised £4,500 for. What a lovely morning, hearing such heart felt stores and seeing what great work they do. Oh how we wished we could have given more money to them. Such amazingly selfless people who put their lives at risk to rescue the young girls from the sex trade. A charity well worth ongoing support.

A day to do some souvenirs hunting. A final team meal, hosted by “Ashok”, director of operation from “TANSEN TREK” who looked after us all so fantastically.  Up early the next day for the return flight home to see family & friends we had left behind.

Gareth Karen and Ashok (Kathmandu Lion (Trekking Company Manager)

A big thank you to all that made donations for “Maiti Nepal” and the “school building project”. With special thanks to the following organisations; Hitachi, Sopra Steria, Howdens, Arla and the members of Westbury Lions who supported the “Westbury2 Everest” team in our charity efforts to raise money as part of this expedition.  Finally to “Rab Lundie” Expedition leader who planted the dream of going to Everest base camp and who helped us all achieve that dream – thank you.

Lions Gareth & Karen Hopkins.