I’m a sailor,an ex-golfer and longtime dreamer. The diary of a pretend mountaineer. My particular journey to Everest all started with a map of Everest and the surrounding valleys in the Shebeen pub in Westport, which had hand written dotted lines and dates of an Everest attempt by one of the owners relations. It’s relocated to a different part of the bar now, but it was directly opposite the door to the gent’s toilet! It randomly caught my eye and I muttered that phrase that sends me off on tangents – “I can do that…..”. With that simple phrase, research and training began for what turned out to be the most amazing holiday/experience/adventure I have ever been on.
I hope whoever is reading this is researching or getting ready to visit Nepal or head off to a different destination with Ian. I am a pretend mountaineer but I hope whatever nuggets I can pass on here can be of some help. Ian has my contact details and I am very happy to chat with anyone. In any event, here are some pointers from what I learned!
1 – Your guide
I can’t talk about anywhere else but I can most definitely talk about Nepal. There are a myriad of local guides, doing solo work or contracted into big name adventure brands. I don’t want to over-generalise but let me state simply that Ian’s
are professional to a level far beyond his competition. I came across many groups of young and old and watched them being herded up the trail at speeds that were between reckless and dangerous. Ian adds extra days into his trip because he knows it greatly increases the chances of success for trekkers and climbers, whereas most guides don’t actually care if you make it or not, they only want to ensure that they are back to pick up the next group on time. Ian has proper climbing sherpas for the mountains and his trekking sherpas are truly fantastic. They simply cannot do enough for you from morning till night.
2 – Your itinerary
Wherever you are going with Ian, it’s in the wilds somewhere. There are varying levels of comfort in the lodges on the trail and Ian has a great handle on where can maximise the relative comforts when you’re roughing it. Now be under no illusion, the facilities on the trail in Nepal get more basic as you go higher and higher but Ian books the best in each village months in advance to keep it as comfortable as possible. The trekking is brilliant with ever-changing views and some breathtaking scenes but you will be tired at the end of each day, so the lodges can equally make or break your holiday.
3 – Extra days
At the risk of repetition, Ian adds in extra days for your benefit, not his. they make a huge difference to your chances of success. Don’t scrimp if it means you might fail to achieve your own particular goal. Wherever you are going, it’s along way from home, so make sure it’s a successful trip!
4 – Your fitness
On our trip, it was pretty obvious who had done the training and who really shouldn’t have been there. All I can say is that your fitness level really impacts on other people in your group, but more importantly, impacts on your safety and how much you’ll enjoy yourself. It is supposed to be a holiday! Ian hands out training programs and you need to do them, otherwise you’re fooling yourself as well as placing yourself in danger. Altitude and lack of fitness is a dangerous cocktail in my humble opinion.
5 – Be aware of your surroundings
Nepal is stunningly beautiful from Lukla all the way up. It starts off very sub-tropically in many respects, then the trees become sparse and the ground becomes brown and then you enter into the barren upper altitudes. It’s like three different holidays. In may respects, it’s like a Disneyland but you have to stay aware of your surroundings. There are real health and safety risks from rockfalls, yaks, porters and other trekkers. I saw some great advice on a poster in the museum at Namche – if your eyes look up, then your feet should stop.
Anyway, in summary,it’s a stunning holiday with a brilliant guide and I completely recommend it to everyone. Lukla, Namche, Tengbouche, Dingbouche, Lobuche are all amazing places. Many other companies market Island Peak as a tag on to your trek. It is a different animal to the trek and your fitness needs to be much higher. I did a winter skills weekend to prepare and it made a huge difference to my confidence and capabilities. Be honest with Ian on your skillset. However, the mountain does not forgive easily and Ian will quite rightly not let you put yourself and the group in danger on any climb if you haven’t done the preparation.
I hope all reading this have a fantastic adventure wherever you are heading!
By Paul Colton