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The Adventure Begins

Two mountaineers navigating a glacier on a Gasherbrum II Expedition
Namche by Alex Treadway.jpg
Matthew Gabriele.jpg

The following post is courtesy of Billi Bierling, Himalayan Experience:

On Thursday morning, the team simply had to roll out of bed, have breakfast on the terrace offering a stupendous view of Boudha, Kathmandu’s famous Buddhist monument, and amble down to the helipad of the Hyatt Hotel to catch their helicopter to the Everest Region. This is the first year, Himalayan Experience is offering this service and several helicopters took the team to Lukla, which at 2,700m is the entrance to the Khumbu where the trek to Everest Base Camp officially begins. “It is certainly a safer option, and the fact that we do not have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to the airport and possibly wait for our flight for a few hours, makes the whole experience a lot more pleasant,” Russell said.

Upon arrival in Lukla, the team was greeted with a cup of tea and after a quick briefing they started heading up the hill to Monjo, where they spent the first night. The following day, they made their way up the notorious Namche hill and arrived in the Sherpa Capital in the early afternoon. Our doctor Monica has just sent a Skype message from a wireless Internet café in Namche Bazaar, saying that everyone had arrived in the village at 3,300m and was doing great. It is still mind boggling that only around ten years ago, there were only a few phone lines in Namche for which trekkers and locals had to queue up for hours on end. Now it is possible to skype, email and phone over a good Café Latte and a delicious apple pie. “Everything is good and we are enjoying coffees and cakes at the bakery,” Monica’s message read.

On Saturday, the trekkers and climbers will walk a little bit further up the hill to Khumjung (3,780m) where they will be staying at the lodge of our Sirdar, Phurba Tashi. For acclimatisation purposes they will have a rest day there and will have the chance to meet Phurba’s family, visit the monastery or walk over to the Hillary school, which was the first school Edmund Hillary built after he and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to set foot on top of Mount Everest in 1953. The school was built in 1960 and was the first major project of Sir Edmund Hillary’s Himalayan Trust. The school started off with two classrooms but now caters for pre-school, primary and secondary sections with over 350 students. Since then, the Himalayan Trust has built over 25 schools and assisted many more within the Solu Khumbu District.

Everest View

Another option is to wander up to the legendary Everest View Hotel, which lies at an altitude of about 3,800m just above Khumjung. In the late 60s, a Japanese tour company had the idea to build a luxury hotel in the region and in 1973 the Everest View opened its doors to the public. The luxury hotel used to capitalise on the nearby Syangboche airstrip, where the guests flew in by plane or helicopter. However, the sudden shift in elevation caused altitude sickness in many people and although the hotel offered oxygen in all the rooms, the amazing views of Everest and Ama Dablam could simply not make up for the guests’ ill feelings. Nowadays, the hotel’s main purpose is to serve trekkers cups of tea or coffee while they are enjoying the breathtaking views of the Himalayan giants from the terrace.

So, there is plenty of history, Sherpa culture and breathtaking sceneries to take in and it is great that the expedition members have time to familiarise themselves with their surroundings. The trek to base camp will take another eight days and the group is due to arrive at their temporary home, which is currently being set up by the Sherpa team, on 10 April.

Over the next 10 days, I will introduce you to the team to give you a better idea what and who this year’s Everest expedition is made of. 

Matthew Gabriele

Matthew is from Perth in Western Australia and works in finance. The 31-year-old successfully climbed Aconcagua in January 2010 and scaled Manaslu (8,156m) in West Nepal with Himalayan Experience on 1 October of the same year.

How did you first come across Everest and who inspired you to climb it?

Two years ago, a friend of mine talked about climbing Everest and I was inspired by the idea. I think Everest is a great challenge, which I can’t wait to face.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

I cannot think of anything at the moment. 

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

It is my fear of failure, and for me failure is not summiting.

How do you think Everest will change your life?

I don’t think it is going to change my life much. Until two months ago, I had not told anyone, except my best friend and my parents, that I was going to Everest. I did not want to make a big deal out of it. Over the past few weeks, I have told more people and most of my friends were surprised but expecting it at the same time. 

How mentally prepared are you for the possibility of not getting to the top?

I haven’t even considered it.

What will you carry to the summit?

I am carrying an Australian flag to the summit and I will definitely pick up a few rocks from the top.