Malaysian hiker goes to great heights in Everest before 40th birthday

The writer at the base of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest.— JWAN HEAH

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In life we go through many different phases, and at each of these phases I believe we are a different person. “Different” because our accumulated life experiences continuously shape us and drive the decisions and choices we make in life.

Up until a few years back, I took my health for granted and lived a life devoid of proper exercise, and was fuelled by a diet of instant coffee and fast food. Significant events marked a turn, and to commemorate one year of my lifestyle change, I decided that before my 40th birthday I would mark this phase of my life. I would step out of my comfort zone and do something personally remarkable, which will be etched as an achievement and personal milestone.

But I actually didn’t just step out of my comfort zone, I went a mile further and did something I would have never thought of doing: I went to Mount Everest in Nepal.

I joined a group of adventure seekers, flew to the world’s most dangerous airport, hiked for 12 days, covered over 130km, and climbed up to an elevation of 5,364m above sea level to reach the Everest Base Camp.

The base camp is the last stop that’s physiologically safe for long-term human habitation (nothing really survives beyond this height for a prolonged duration, except maybe the Yeti!). We endured long hikes each day under the scorching sun, freezing cold, strong winds, rain, snow, and yak dung, just to reach our lodgings. Lodgings which are, by most standards, very basic.

“Sleeping in an ice box” is how I would describe the accommodations higher up the Himalayas. With four walls and a roof covered in snow, coupled with the fact that there was no electricity so high up in the mountains, we were literally sleeping in a refrigerator.

This, however, did make for exciting late night toilet runs!

Some of the toilets by the way, were outhouses... I won’t even attempt to describe them.

Speaking of toilets, I suffered a tummy upset caused by yak cheese on one of the nights, while hiking up a steep section dotted with switchbacks and had to make a “deposit” in the mountain.

Taking a dump in a snow-covered mountain is a daunting task indeed. What made it difficult wasn’t the tummy ache or having to drop your pants in the middle of nowhere, but the amount of energy expensed to go off-track and back to find a spot where you are shielded from other hikers from almost all directions. Definitely one of the most memorable moments for me.

Our daily hikes lasted between three and 10 hours, and they rewarded us with magnificent views all along the way. We experienced changes in the landscape from thick green forests to dry barren empty spaces as we climbed higher and higher. And with every 100m up, the temperature and oxygen levels dropped dramatically, too.

There were parts of the trek where I tried to snap some pictures with my phone but couldn’t because my fingers were frozen and I couldn’t move them.

The low oxygen levels caused many hikers to experience high altitude sickness, and at some pit stops you would hear the sounds of bad coughing. We were blessed that our expedition leaders had a good safety policy in place and were well equipped with oxygen tanks and heart rate monitors, as well as a complete first aid kit.

Our expedition leader Shariman checked and recorded our oxygen levels and heart rates every morning and evening to ensure everyone was in good shape. I had a massive drop in oxygen levels above the 5,000m mark. It was scary but Shariman kept a close eye on me at all times to make sure I was OK to continue.

Tiring and long vertical hikes aside, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking and the company was perfect. From long deep valleys and gushing glacier rivers to cloud-covered peaks and white flat lands, the Everest Base Camp trek was unlike anything on this Earth. Standing at the edge of a mountain and looking out to magnificent views, all while breathing in crisp fresh air will forever be etched in my memory.

If you are planning on such an adventure, be sure to choose the right people to go with. For a trek up to the base of the world’s highest mountain and like life itself, the company you keep determines how high you can go.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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