Today is Day 0.
Alex and I began the countdown to our departure for Nepal more than three months ago, back when the number was still in the 90s. For me – and for both of us – it feels like it has been much longer. That’s because we’ve both looked forward to this trip for far longer.
I’ve dreamed of traveling to Everest since I was a kid, and those dreams kicked into overdrive after returning from Tanzania where I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in June 2010. I spent a fair amount of time during the next two years looking into treks to Everest Base Camp, comparing guiding services and prices, and then being demoralized upon researching the cost of airfare from Kansas City. Suffice to say the trip was cost-prohibitive at the time, especially given the limitations of a sportswriter’s salary and a three-leg flight requirement from the Heartland.
In the end, an EBC trek never happened – but the dream never died.
Upon moving to Boston in 2015, however, a journey to Nepal became much more realistic. A three-leg flight was reduced to two, bringing with it major cost and time savings. Plus, leaving the newspaper industry meant I finally had a healthier budget to work with. What really made a trip to Nepal and a trek to Everest Base Camp a reality again was something else, however. Specifically, someone else. When Alex and I got engaged last year, she mentioned Everest as a honeymoon destination before we’d considered anywhere else. My eyes lit up at her suggestion. She’s a mountain-lover, too, and had previously talked about wanting to do an EBC trek. The idea of making the trip of a lifetime – and the trek of a lifetime – something that would also commemorate such a big moment for us was enticing. Her motion was promptly seconded; we would have a Honeymoon in the Himalayas.
Planning got serious following our mountain-themed wedding back in Kansas in May. I spent a few weeks researching guiding services again, studying various routes to Everest Base Camp (the traditional route is an out-and-back, and we wanted options that would allow us to see more of the region), and in June we ultimately decided on a longer trek that would take us through the Gokyo Lakes region and across Cho La Pass (17,782 feet) before ultimately arriving at Base Camp (17,602 feet) while reaching a high point of 18,514 feet at Kala Patthar before returning via the traditional EBC route.
With the trip booked, we got an early start on rounding up any new gear we needed. We had most of it already, thanks in part to prior camping and trekking excursions and upgrading our rain gear and poles before running the CCC in 2017. New hiking boots were needed; the soles on mine peeled off days before we booked the trip, capping eight years of wear and tear that began with Kilimanjaro. As far as training plans are concerned, we’re trail- and ultrarunners, so our regular routines were already sufficient.
The greatest challenge we faced was the waiting. That’s where the countdown came into play. Both of us needed to stockpile vacation time in order to take three weeks off from work. That meant neither of us could take a day off from work between the wedding and departure for Nepal.
The past 90-plus days since we started counting passed slowly at first, but they’ve gone quickly since reaching single digits. We did most of our packing early, rounded up final items and loaded our suitcase and packs last night, and then tried to get a few final hours of quality sleep.
Today is Day 0. We leave tonight for Doha, then on to Kathmandu. On Monday morning we fly to Lukla and begin the long trek up to the bottom of the world’s highest mountain. The mountains are calling; it’s time to go.