Everest Base Camp - How I trained for and trekked to the bottom of the highest mountain in the world.
Everest Base Camp - How I trained for and trekked to the bottom of the highest mountain in the world.
All royalties will be donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust #TCT
For quotes from the book go towards the bottom of the page.
Have you ever wondered what it is like to walk to Everest Base Camp?
Have you ever wondered what it takes to train for such an epic trip?
This memoir will help you plan, train for and undertake a journey to the bottom of the top of the world.
Everest Base Camp is over 5,300m above sea level and to get there involves an 11 day, 109km round trip from Lukla - on foot. It is one of the most dreamed of treks, and the author describes his journey in great detail over 300 fully illustrated pages.
Told in a diary format, it starts by detailing the last 13 weeks of training before flying to Kathmandu - the kit he bought, the research he did (including book reviews) and most importantly, the walks he went on in the UK to train for such an epic adventure.
As part of his training, he describes his 11 day-long treks - one each week - exploring the great landscapes of Britain, including some of the biggest physical challenges in the UK. These include the Edale Skyline in the Derbyshire Peak District, the Yorkshire Three Peaks 12 hour challenge, the Brecon Beacons four peaks and then some of the highest peaks in Britain - Scafell Pike in the Lake District, Snowdon in Wales and Ben Lomond in Scotland. There are also more walks around the beauty that is the Peak District, including Dovedale, Chrome Hill and the Tissington Trail.
Once he gets to Nepal, the author meets up for the first time with Indra and Anton, his guide and travelling companion. The relationship between them develops throughout the book creating a great sense of shared experience by the end.
The book goes into a day-by-day description of the sights, sounds, characters and jaw-dropping scenery that they encountered along the way - from the flight to Lukla, to the tea houses and the food; the porters and the guides, the weather, the fellow trekkers and the locals. Each day, he gives an update on how he (and Anton) are feeling physically, both with the walking and the altitude and how many steps he has taken (from Fitbit).
With the aim of getting to EBC and then climbing Kala Patthar for dawn views of Everest, the author talks about the acclimatisation hikes, the different terrains encountered along the way and how he overcame his fear of heights to cross the many metal suspension bridges high above the raging Dudh Koshi (milk river).
He finishes off by giving his reflections and advice on the trek, as well as some of the sights and experiences in Kathmandu including Thamel, Durbar Square, the Monkey Temple, a blind massage and even a round of golf.
It is a journey of new experiences as well as literal and metaphorical ups and downs, but it is also a tale of humour, preparation and perseverence.
It is not a classic guide to the trek with full kit lists, visa details and history of Nepal but there is some detail about the insurance and vaccinations he took and some tips on kit. If you wanted a pure guidebook then this is not for you, but if you want an honest account of the good times and the tough times of getting to the bottom of the top of the world, then this is definitely for you.
Enjoy the colour of Nepal and the majesty of the landscapes through the eyes of a 52 year old Englishman. But did he make it?
It is a book about the love of the countryside and a love of walking - and now a love of one of the greatest landscapes on earth.
With royalties going to the Teenage Cancer Trust, it has over 300 colour pictures, including daily Strava Maps of the route, time spent walking, distance covered and terrain changes. All of which show where the hard parts are!
About the Author
Steve Caron is the Managing Director of DB Publishing. He also lectures in business at Loughborough University and mentors students at Nottingham Trent University
Hear Steve talking about himself and the book in the East Midlands
Radio Leicester - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0fq9qy3
You’ll just need to move the cursor ahead to 10.45 to hear your interview.
ISBN - 9781780916453
eISBN - 9781781563427 (available at Amazon)
Extent: 352 full colour pages
Published: May 2023
Quotes from the Book
Quotes from the training walks:
13 weeks to go – Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire Border
“A right turn onto the canal, and I started on a six mile stretch through the old industrial heartland of south Derbyshire. This is one of my favourite walks in the locality. Taking you off the roads, you can see some real examples of how the past would have looked at its height, when factories had extra tall chimneys to make sure the smoke from the furnaces cleared the Erewash Valley basin.”
12 weeks to go – The Edale Skyline. Hope Valley, Derbyshire
“I came to a fork in the path. Hope (and the car) was only 30 minutes away downhill, or up to Win Hill and another 90 mins. My resolve nearly cracked and I considered going right to Hope, but then I remembered why I was here. If I took the easy option at the end of a seven hour day in the relatively low hills of Derbyshire, how would I cope at the end of the eighth day in Nepal whilst walking at the top of the world. So despite some aching limbs, I chose left.”
11 weeks to go – Brecon Beacons
“As we approached the top of Cribyn, a group of younger walkers (aged 20-40) congratulated us on our climb. They must have seen a couple of old, grey-haired blokes panting their way to the top and thought we’d done well. We got chatting and when Boggie mentioned that I was going to EBC, they changed from being congratulatory to a little awestruck.”
10 weeks to go – Tissington Trail, Derbyshire
“Four hours and five albums later, the time flew by….and as the path was quiet, I took the opportunity to belt the songs out at the top of my voice – after all I wasn’t on the bus or tram. Nice weather, a downhill walk, the English countryside and a mini, one-man karaoke and I was like a pig in muck.”
9 weeks to go – Dovedale – Derbyshire
“This was the hairiest part of the whole day for me. The path was more an accumulation of footmarks rather than anything defined, and I slightly strayed off it onto a rocky part which was slippery. With three hundred feet of steepish rocky terrain below, one false move could have been hazardous. One slip later and I was six feet further down the hillside than I intended with much more to slip into, but I managed to dig my boots into the hillside, get my balance and scramble to safer ground.”
8 weeks to go – The Yorkshire Three Peaks 12–hour challenge
“The downhill was tough, lots of steep steps and some loose rocks. My knees were being battered with the impact but they were holding up well. I am trying not to walk with a pole. Not sure why. Maybe I am worried I will lose my balance by overstretching with the pole or out of sheer middle-age bloody-mindedness (surely I don’t need one yet). I think it is the latter, so logically, I may need one in Nepal, and I should train with one. Maybe next week.”
“One of the unexpected pleasures of walking is the chance to talk to complete strangers and have something in common. You are both doing what you are doing for different reasons, but there is this common purpose. The camaraderie amongst walkers is always great, and this is one of the things I am looking forward to most in Nepal.”
7 weeks to go – Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill, Derbyshire
“Parkhouse Hill was like a Cornish pasty, sticking out of the ground, with Chrome Hill behind it. One of the articles I read described it like walking across the back of a stegosaurus, and from this angle, I could see what they meant. Being wary of heights the peaks looked very narrow and although very photogenic, scary at the same time. It makes me sound like a real baby here I know, but I was on my own, it was drizzling rain by now, and very windy. Not a great set of conditions for this particular phobia.”
6 weeks to go – Mount Snowdon, Wales
“I don’t know if it because I am getting older (52 and all that), but I was pointing at two peaks on the ridge ahead of us, and saying that the one on the left was Snowdon. The large peak further to the right of them was just an optical illusion because it was closer. Dan wasn’t convinced at all, he even said he could see people on the top, but as I’d been up there six times, and Dan only once, it was obvious that I was right. In the words of Yoda, a bit too big-headed I was, and after another five minutes of walking, I was eating humble pie.”
“As we approached Glaslyn, we saw that there were already people in the lake. …I had never had the time or inclination to have a dip before. I wasn’t going to miss out this time. ….. It was very cold - we were at 600 meters above sea level after all - but so refreshing…. As the water was so clear, I dived under and opened my eyes to see the sunbeams driving through the water towards the depths. With a little bit of turbulence caused by some frantic arm waving, the bubbles also caught the luminescence of the sun. It was magical.”
5 weeks to go – Scafell Pike, Lake District
“I remember the last time I climbed it, and the final time I said ‘never again’ after three other times saying ‘never again’. It just dragged on and on, and just when you think you’re at the end, there is another uphill section. I vaguely remembered there being a plateau for some respite, but I knew that the first hour was a slog – uphill and relentless.”
“We ended up on the high path! Not sure how, I think the boggy ground meant we just looked for a way to get to a path, any path. I do admit I was nervous, then I saw a 10 yr-old girl coming the other way with her dad and that gave me the kick up the backside I needed. Like any fear, the prospect was far worse than the reality and it was a gentle walk back to Wasdale Head and the promise of the pub.”
4 weeks to go – Ben Lomond, Scotland
“I have often wondered whether we are programmed by society to love the natural scenery of the world, or whether it is inherent within us. TV shows, parents, friends – even Microsoft windows screensavers - constantly bombard us with images of nature and we are told that they are fantastic. Are we programmed? I don’t think so. I think we are just awestruck by the beauty, purity and simplicity of the natural world and we seek out things to enable this emotion – whether it is a small stream, a baby rabbit in the hedgerow, a mighty canyon, the sky at night or the longest lake in Scotland surrounded by hills. Simple pleasures passed down through society for thousands of years. Maybe that is what is really driving my desire to go to the Himalayas.”
“Another good lesson for me here - to not judge others by how I am feeling. I was okay going up and down, but not at the top. None of the others had the same experience. We all have different highs and lows in mood, fitness and resilience and it is important to remember that in groups someone will always be in a better mood, or will want to go faster, or will be the least prepared. It is easy to think that everyone should be like you, but what if it is you who are the slowest, or in the worst mood or the least prepared? You would want understanding and empathy. I got it at the top from the others when I was scared and I gave it to Jane going up and then Pete coming down, despite me wanting to go faster.”
3 weeks to go – Final training walk around the local area
“I took it a lot slower, with more breaks. In all I did 30 miles, with about 400 metres of elevation, and it took me 9.5 hours, with an hour break across a number of stops. It would have been a strange sight for passers-by as I sat on park benches to rest, whilst whipping off my socks and shoes to allow the air to cool them down….I would normally not have these small breaks, but I found them really valuable. When time isn’t an issue, as it won’t be in Nepal, then the usual desire to go quickly is not only not needed over there but actively discouraged. Luckily, my feet meant I followed this to a tee.”
One week to go – a trip to the local Nepali restaurant in Nottingham
“On the wall was a picture of Everest taken from the top of Kala Patthar. It was incredible. Of all the books I have read, certainly the personal accounts, not one of the authors made it to the top. I had started to feel despondent about ever getting there after reading these accounts, but just seeing this picture invigorated me. When I am waking up in Gorakshep, and the choice is stepping into the freezing cold for an optional climb at 4am or staying in bed,……..I will think of this picture and get out of bed and clamber up the hill. It could be the best view I have ever seen, and ever likely to see, and I don’t want to miss it.”
The trip itself
Days One and Two – The journey to Nepal
“The highlight of the flight, and possibly of any flight I've ever taken was as dawn broke. I had deliberately picked the left side of the plane as I assumed we'd fly directly west to east and it paid off. We were flying at 40,000 feet, just to make sure we were above the Himalayas, and as we passed alongside the mountain range, Dhaulagiri thrust out of the clouds like Poseidon (or Godzilla if you're into monsters) rising from the depths of the oceans. It wasn't just Dhaulagiri though, Annapurna 1, Manaslu and a few others showed their majesty. Truly stunning. “
Day Three – Kathmandu to Phakding via Lukla
“We passed many prayer wheels, spinning them clockwise for good luck (always with your right hand, with the wheel on your right), and numerous Buddhist stone memorials to the dead, all ornately decorated with prayers. The daily Nepali life was going on around us. Donkeys carrying produce (mainly potatoes it seemed) were driven on by increasingly younger herdsmen. Farmers in the fields were tending their crops, and we even saw a young calf suckling on its mum in a field next to the path. “
Day Four – Phakding to Namche Bazaar
“We followed the milk river again, and before the hour mark, a dark, menacing peak loomed across the river. I didn't fancy climbing that. A few more metres and a second peak appeared on the same hill. Imagine getting to that point and finding another higher one. Then there was a third, then a fourth, and then it appeared. At just over 6,600 metres high, Thamserku’s white topped peak sparkled in the morning sun. It was magnificent and could well have taken 'highlight of the day' there and then.”
“After seeing the snowy peaks earlier, the next real excitement for me was crossing the Hillary bridge, suspended high above the river. Surely the scariest one yet. There was another steep climb to reach it, so at the top, as an excuse for a rest we waited for about 20 donkeys to cross. They weren't scared, or at least they never let on. They raise them tough in the mountains.”
Day Five – Acclimatisation Hike around Namche to the Everest View Hotel (EVH)
“Expecting a relatively easy day, we started a straight walk up a few hundred steps to the very top of the village. With no warm up and having finished breakfast only ten minutes earlier, I needed a rest after about five minutes. It was embarrassing. “
“As we passed down a dirt path, we saw our first yak, chilling on the grass. He then rolled over and started to scratch his back on the rocks. It was comical as he was so massive.”
Day Six. Namche Bazaar to Tengboche.
“I was psyching myself up for the last stretch. A 600 metre (in altitude) climb to Tengboche. At the bottom we saw a British lady smoking a cigarette wishing us good luck. She had pity in her eyes, eek, was it that bad? After the walk up to the EVH yesterday which was really tough, would I be able to perform like Namche, or EVH?”
“All the tourists sat around the wall whilst the monks chanted their incantations on raised platforms in the middle. They had the most fantastic, thick red robes and a lot of them had ski socks on. It clearly gets chilly up here. One of the junior monks, who wasn't part of the prayers was going round with a thermos topping up the monks' bowls with hot water. The lead monk was chanting really fast, I don’t think he had a prompt, but I wouldn't have blamed him if he had.”
Day Seven. Tengboche to Dingboche
“We passed a lot of people coming back the other way having completed their trip to EBC already. One lady was on a horse and had multiple layers on. It wasn't cold. She looked really ill. Her companions all had that concerned look on their faces which showed they could do nothing about it as they were completely beyond their expertise and were relying totally on their guide who led the horse.”
“The floodplain of the river started to widen and you could see the confluence up ahead as two tributaries cascaded down their respective trajectories, either side of a hill, to join up with almighty force. The sound from under the bridge as they met was incredible. We all took in the moment.”
Day Eight. Dingboche acclimatisation hike.
“We were pleased we'd set off as soon as we did as the cloud started to swirl. First one mountain, then the next became engulfed. Visibility on most of the vista was still fine, but we knew it could disappear in a flash. We continued upwards for an hour and I was blowing. Not fitness but oxygen. Every hundred steps I needed to stop and take 20 or so really deep breaths. We were higher than I'd ever been before and my body just needed to get the precious gas in my lungs.”
“I was getting emotional. The significance of the day was hitting me hard. It was three years coming, with many false dawns and I was over 5,000m. The views were fantastic and I had my Teenage Cancer Trust t-shirt on. I reflected on why I was wearing it and tears started rolling down my cheeks. I had my sunglasses on and sat facing away from the others pretending to need a rest. It was a deeply personal moment, and I didn't want to share it with relative strangers.”
Day Nine. Dingboche to Lobuche
“It was obviously a route used by the locals, and not just those in the trekking business. The heavy lifting is done by the men but it isn't uncommon to see women carrying loads too. The load of choice today seemed to be yak dung. It was everywhere. Being carried, being collected, or being produced.”
“I'd read about the memorial park to people who died on Everest, but the scale of it surprised me. It is a seriously dangerous mountain. The entrance at the top of the incline was adorned with prayer flags, the colour a contrast to the bleakness of the conditions they’d have encountered. It was a fitting tribute to those who had taken on and not survived the ultimate challenge on earth.”
Day Ten - Lobuche to Gorakshep
“As soon as we rounded the corner past this stretch, Indra got very excitable again. Was this it, the big moment? It was. After many chances of seeing Everest scuppered because of the cloud, there was nothing getting in the way this time as the highest peak in the world poked its head from behind Nuptse.”
"The walk took us once again along the edge of the Khumbu Glacier. Dramatic evidence of the power of the ice mass was all around. Great scars had been ripped into the surrounding mountains. Rocks and stones had been tossed onto the top of the ice giving it a grey veneer but underneath you just knew what it's constitution was. Small pools had formed, and the crashing of more rock onto its top was more prevalent. All the while, the white giants, blue sky and wispy clouds formed a film set backdrop. It was a remarkable contrast of imagery.”
Day Eleven – Gorakshep to Pangboche
“It had been less than 24 hours since we had been coming the other way but I couldn't remember some of the route. In the excitement of heading on the final leg to EBC, I must have been walking on auto, with my head firmly fixed on the skyline and not the terrain.”
“The weather dropped too and it was getting cold. I had my bandana round my ears, Indra style and this really helped keep the chill away. The scenery started to mist over. One saving grace in my otherwise tough day was seeing the mountains, still gracing the sky. Now with even that gone, I couldn't wait to get back.”
Day Twelve - Pangboche to Namche
“Finally we reached Tengboche and the weather was glorious. Looking back we saw Everest for the last time, standing majestic and determined in the distance amongst the other lesser peaks. Last time we'd been in Tengboche we'd barely seen the other side of the monastery, such was the cloud cover.”
“We passed Buddha eye stupas, and marvelled at the changing scenery. Deep valleys, lush vegetation and the ever present milk river dominated the eyeline. Not knowing what views we'd had on the way, we both stopped and made many photo breaks. …. The cloud cover now obscured the big ones as it did on the outward leg. But it didn't matter, It was a stunning view.”
Day Thirteen – Namche to Lukla
“I love this little town, full of surprises on the curved alleys that wind around the hills and with a smile from everyone you meet. It was sunny as we started the walk, giving us our first glimpse of the size of the mountains behind the foothills. It had been cloudy on all three days we'd been there earlier in the journey, now the weather gave us one final hurrah for our last chapter in the hills. It seemed a perfect way to exit my new favourite place in Nepal. “
“The whole journey since the bridge had been generally downhill, but with some uphill parts which we now barely noticed. On earlier parts of the walk, I'd remember my training walks and think 'if I can do Scafell Pike, or Ben Lomond or..., then I can do this'. Now it was 'if I can do Tengboche, or the Everest View Hotel, then I can do this'. My terms of reference had completely changed.”
“Lukla appeared on the horizon and within minutes, the archway to the town was 30 metres away. I started running, shouting 'race' like a five year old. Anton raised an eyebrow and Indra shrugged so I stopped. It was a trick, they started sprinting to the line and in all things 'good team spirit' we crossed the line together. It was a fitting end. We'd started together, we ended together. It was perfect.”
If you are looking for a charity to support, then please consider Teenage Cancer Trust. Teenage Cancer Trust | UK Cancer Charity
If you are looking to trek to the Himalayas, or other parts of Nepal and you need a great company to organise your trip, try Outfitter Nepal and ask for Raj. Mention Steve Caron and make his day. Best Trekking Company in Nepal | Group and Private Trek in Nepal (outfitternepal.com)
If you are interested in hiking around the world and you need some help in choosing your route then try the Hiiker app.