1. Immerse yourself in Nepalese culture.
Nepal may be one of the poorest countries in the world but it’s one of the richest when it comes to history and culture. Before, or after, a trip to the mountains take some time to explore Kathmandu, or take a visit to Bhaktapur – you will feel like you have just stepped back in time. Paying a small fee to visit these world heritage sites will also help the Nepalese communities get back on their feet after the devastating earthquakes of 2015.
2. You get to take a tiny plane to the world’s most dangerous airport!
The plane has to fly through a narrow mountain pass between Kathmandu and Lukla, a small town at 2,860m which is the gateway for many Himalayan treks. At Lukla airport there is a short and steep runway punctuated by a cliff face. This, combined with often hazardous weather conditions, give it the title of world’s most dangerous airport. With a short window of opportunity to take your flight, a lot of waiting around often culminates in a quick rush to board your plane and a rollercoaster ride.
3. You meet the superhumans.
The Nepalese Sherpa (meaning ‘Eastern people’) are an ethnic group from the Himalayas. It is said they are genetically adapted to operating at high altitudes and that becomes apparent as they hop skip and jump their way up and down the mountains. They regularly risk their lives to install ropes and ladders through the Khumbu Icefall on Mt Everest and they are essential to successful summits.
4. Discover prayer flags.
One of the things that makes hiking in Nepal different to anywhere else in the world is the brightly coloured strings of prayer flags. The five colours represent the five elements; blue for the sky, white for air, red is fire, green is water, and yellow is for the earth. It is believed that health and harmony is achieved through the balance of these five elements. The flags are hung so that they are moved by the wind which carries the mantras over the mountains and purifies the air.
5. Investing in the community.
Life as a Nepali porter is not an easy one, they carry between 60-90% of their body weight with loads weighing 60kg. Most survive on only $10 a day. We couldn’t climb the mountains without them. Getting off the beaten track takes you through remote villages, but you can still stock up on Pringles, Mars Bars and Sprite. Be prepared to pay a premium for them, someone has carried them up on their head for you!
6. Breathtaking views.
Everywhere you look.
7. Extreme camping.
There’s nothing like waking up precariously perched on the edge of a mountain with your tent covered in snow.
8. You feel like you’re on top of the world.
Reaching the summit is one of the greatest feelings, all the pain of the previous few hours (or days) just melts away as euphoria sets in. Even though you can see the actual top of the world, which really doesn’t look that far away (it’s just there, by my elbow!), you still feel like you’re on top of the world. The air is pure (albeit thin) and the views extend into forever.
9. Coming back down.
You climb for 5 hours through the night, in the dark, by the light of your head torch to reach your peak, and you are surrounded by blackness only broken by the twinkling of the snow, ice and stars. After the sun has come up and you begin your descent, that’s when you can really see what you have been surrounded by. Here, on the descent from Mera Peak, you can see Makalu (8,481m) and Chamlang (7,319m) rising up majestically. Of course a successful mountain climb isn’t only reaching the summit, it’s coming back down too.
10. The people.
For me it always comes back to the people. The Sherpa, the locals, the other trekkers…it really is a community spirit when you are in the mountains.