Ascending to the Bounds of Physiology

Mount Everest is a place of history, culture, and community. For those who want to scale the highest point on the planet, the Base Camp is a starting station. Life at camp has unique challenges in and of itself, but it is a rewarding experience that stays with you for a lifetime. 

The following essay recounts the highlights of the Everest Base Camp expedition undertaken by 12-year-old Vedikka Ramesh.

A trekker’s dream is not complete without the SUMMIT, but I was convinced that I needed time for the pinnacle. My dad and I had been eyeing an Everest Base Camp trek for two years, yet as destiny would have it, we were able to take it up in April 2021 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vedikka with her father and fellow trekker

This is how our days unfolded:

Day 1: LUKLA (2860m) & PHAKDING (2610m) 

We kick-started our trek with the ‘World’s Scariest Airport’ at Lukla. It was a rather turbulent flight amidst the fascinating display of nature. Then came an easy, 6-hour trek to Phakding where we sauntered through the hanging bridges, reaching our destination for the day. The bottom line of the trek was to start as early as 7 in the morning and call it a day by 4 in the evening. 

Day 2 & 3: NAMCHE BAZAR (3440m)

This was an acclimatisation day for adapting our bodies with the thin air and high altitude. It was very chirpy, buzzing with local goodies. We feasted on brownies and coke, often considered a luxury uphill. My eyes were gleaming at the first glance of the Everest peak. Thereafter, we crossed the famous Hillary Bridge, which was another enriching experience.

Day 4: DEBOCHE (3820m)

We met an old gentleman who has been involved in building and maintaining a 3-kilometre long path for hikers’ comfort along with his family for generations. The surrounding view of the monasteries was vivid and calming. That day was also my first day in a sleeping bag! 

Day 5 and 6: DINGBOCHE (4410m) 

This was another acclimatisation day, where after a mini-trek, I was in for a surprise: Hot chocolate, Jenga, and a dance party against the backdrop of a snowfall. The thrill, just like the elevation, was rising by the day!

Day 7: LOBUCHE (4960m) 

It was a steep hike with no vegetation around, dripping oxygen levels, and a temperature of minus degrees. It called for a sumptuous Dal Bhath and loads of rest.

Day 8: GORAK SHEP (5100m) & EBC (5550m) 

The D Day was here and I was all geared up. My boots had saved me from frost bites and my mind and body had performed well despite the odds we faced at every elevation. The moment of reality came at 17900 feet where it was minus 12 degree celsius. 

I was in awe of the spectacular scenes of nature that I soaked up during the 20-minute break at Everest Base Camp. We congratulated each other, refuelled ourselves with joy and some rest, and began our journey back to Gorak Shep and downwards.

   At Everest Base Camp

I felt exhausted  and ecstatic at the same time. But most of all, I was proud that I pushed past my fear and anxiety. I also learnt how people in the mountains respect animals by allowing them to move first. I was grateful to the sherpas and my fellow trekkers who made this a lifetime experience. I run short on vocabulary while describing this part of the journey. 

Moreover, the trek demands both physical and mental preparation. Climbing to the top requires vigour and tenacity, which come with physical training and breathing exercises. As the altitudes can get challenging to scale, the key is to carry light, stay hydrated, and eat nutritious foods at short intervals. There would be days when you would have to go without a bath. For some, acclimatisation and the famous ‘Khumbu’ cough can be taxing. I kept up the routine of taking a few steps and deep breaths to counter the winds at soaring altitudes. A positive frame of mind and focus on the goal are also critical for success. It is easy to fall prey to negativity but my dad remained my pillar of strength and constant encouragement throughout. 

The trek was my chance to aim at something big and prove my potential to myself. As Sir Edmund Hillary said, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”. I am definitely going to apply the lessons to other parts of my life! 

This story was originally featured in The Reader’s Pen section of The Plus magazine. Read it here