Phil and Leslie: From Belfast to Basecamp
Phil from our Belfast Boucher store tells us how he and Leslie achieved their dream of trekking to Everest Base Camp.
Why Everest Basecamp?
"I had a book as a kid with the famous photo of Tenzing holding aloft his flag-draped ice axe on top of Everest. I knew then, aged 6 or 7, I wanted to go there (I am now 53) - maybe not to the top, but just to be near to the scene. When I met like-minded Les at Cotswold Outdoor I knew my dream was closer, especially since another Cotswold colleague in our store was Sabin, a native of Nepal.
Les was up for it but little did he know he would be the butt of a wind-up. His wife put her foot down and said he could not go, too many family commitments. He was deflated but really his wife was planning it for his 60th birthday, so when his birthday came he was over the moon to tell me. Then reality set in!"
"I am still a bit overweight, but at the start of the year I was 110KG and 5ft 8 - not the proportions of a great mountain athlete! Les was going to get me fit, so I was under strict instructions including no booze. My wife also committed to my lifestyle and she has lost 3 ½ stone to date. Les is a keen Munro Bagger so is pretty fit already. When we started, he was carrying 15kg of dog food in his rucksack to strengthen up."
"We decided that we mainly needed endurance training; this would be either steep mountain walking or long, gradual inclines. Buses to work were banned for me - I had to walk in and walk home. Every Monday or Tuesday (our days off), we headed down to the Mournes, departing Belfast no later than 7:30, or left from Les’ house on a gradual up to 20 km hill climb into the hills that surround Belfast. One of Les’ friends and customer Alan joined us a relative novice in the hills but he really enjoyed it. The word was out, and next to join was Laura-Lee and Patty, our manager and colleague from Boucher store. From there we started a Whatsapp group as colleagues were coming on board, and some had transport problems and needed lifts, so the app was great for organising that. Les planned the routes, sometimes as linear and sometimes as circuits. If the training was just down to me and Les it could have got a bit boring, but every week brought a new collection of club members, so the dynamic was always changing. Most colleagues in Belfast are now signed up to the “Mountain Club” Whatsapp so everyone has a chance to come out or just enjoy the plethora of photos shared on it."
"We found eating on the track quite difficult: a combination of blandness and altitude! I became obsessed with Clif bars. They were great and the porter and guide loved them too."
"My biggest takeaway for long treks? MERINO, MERINO, MERINO! Sometimes you don’t get to wash (I didn’t get to shower for 6 days – yuck!) so merino’s antibacterial properties are super. Also, become a vegetarian on the hill, as everything is brought up by porters and not refrigerated. Finally, when you get the chance, treat yourself in one of the German Bakeries as good coffee is hard to get."
"Everyone had ideas about kit. I felt the most important item would be boots, as we would be walking over 200KM. If you look on the internet, people suggest everything from diving boots to plimsolls! My solution was based on the fact that lots of people do the trek, so the trail would be pretty established. My Salomon Ultra 3 Mid boots were superbly light but supportive: everything I wanted, especially fitted with Superfeet insoles. Les went with Merrell MQM Flex, which he found excellent, also with Superfeet. I packed all my stuff into the Rab 80L duffel bag, which proved to be more than enough."
"This was a trip of a lifetime for me, one I had dreamed of for most of my life. It was nothing like I expected, but life changing all the same. Everyone warned me about Lukla with a knowing gleam in their eye, but the scariest thing was the 4-hour 4X4 trip to get to the bush airport to fly to Lukla - passing lorries on single-track dirt roads, looking out the window to see the thousands of feet below just inches from the wheels. The scenery is breathtaking; the massive vistas that took hours of hard hiking were worth every laboured step. Although the trip of a lifetime has made me want more. Who knows, Patagonia next year?"
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