Monday, October 6, 2014

EBC: Key Learnings

As I typed the title, I realised that my blog is following a corporate presentation flow - Overview, Learnings, may be next one will be titled "Approach" and I will wrap up this blog with "Next Steps" :)

As expected we were all very worried about our first big trek. Some of us had trekked before but none of us had attempted something like EBC. As I had shared earlier, some of us knew folks who had done it and rest of us knew friends of friends who had completed EBC and more. So advice started pouring in and slowly this drizzle of information became a downpour. At some point when the depth and breadth of this advice started to scare me, I decided to close my eyes and ears to any new bit of information and even refused to talk about things like altitude sickness. I decided that I will stop midway if I have to because of health issues but for now I wont think anymore except just dive in. (However in reality, I reacted very differently when just 2-3 hours away from the final destination I wasn't sure if I would make it to the base camp)

And as it happened, all of us were over-prepared and over packed for the trek. After I finished the trek I realized lots of things could have been done differently to make the trek easier and smoother for all of us:

  1. Get into Kathmandu sooner by Indigo flight (arrives at 13:00). Gives half day in Kathmandu for last minute shopping or sightseeing.
  2. Do Kathmandu sightseeing in return, fly to Lukla very next day. Weather is a big spoilsport. After our flight landed in Lukla, no other flight landed for 4 days due to bad weather, so my advice - leave for Lukla ASAP!
  3. Add an acclimatisation day at Lobuche. Or start taking Diamox at least from Dingboche. Most of us suffered from some form of AMS after 16,000 ft.
  4. Pack less. I carried far more than I needed. For instance, all 5 of us were walking pharmacies, about 80 percent of medicines we carried were common and hence we could have had only one medical kit amongst us. 
  5. Sleeping bag was not needed. You can carry just sleeping bag liner so that you don't have to sleep on the "not-so-clean" linen directly. All lodges had decent beds with blankets. A liner or two bedsheets (one for bottom and one between you and blanket) is enough. The sleeping bag added 1.5 kilos to the overall weight. We ended up paying extra baggage cost between Kathmandu and Lukla (total weight limit including handbag is 15 kg)
  6. We all carried chocolates and other stuff that could have been easily bought on the way, as needed. Honestly all the chocolate I consumed was because I love chocolates - my body didn't need it and it's all stored in my hips now :( . The only thing that one needs to eat in between meals and while climbing is dry fruits or energy bars. Create your own trail mix with almonds, walnuts & raisins and carry that. If you crave for Mars and Pringles, you can always buy them.
  7. As one goes up bottled water gets expensive, so we had tendency to buy more than we needed and haul it up in our backpacks. Bad idea because while it saves money on one hand it makes the climb harder on another. You don't need more than 1.5 litres as there are enough places en route to buy water.
  8. Keep the back pack light. Don't add that extra item because you MIGHT need it. My essentials list for backpack:

  • Clothes: rain jacket, rain pants (it drizzles a lot and usually rains in afternoons and evenings). A fleece or down jacket based on your warmth needs.
  • First aid: Diamox, paracetamol and band aid.
  • Toiletries: Sunscreen, Chapstick
  • Hygiene products: A toilet roll, 2-3 individually packed wet wipes, small sanitizer and a hand towel (I used to wash my face and hands wherever we stopped for tea or lunch)
  • Food: trail mix/ energy bars, water
  • Electronics: Camera and phone. Include Power bank or solar panel if using your phone as camera and/or for music.
  • Finally, sunglasses with UV 4 protection are a must especially if encountering snow.  Carry your prescription glasses in backpack if you wear contact lenses. I accidentally rubbed my eyes and lenses fell out middle of the trek. Would have been in trouble if not for my glasses.

Since we are already on subject of packing, let me share what I ended up using on the trek (as I said I packed far more than needed)

  1. Backpack: ~32 Litre day backpack with 3 Litre hydration pack. Hydration pack is not needed, one can carry 2 one-litre water bottles. 
  2. Hiking wear: 2 Quick dry hiking pants, 4 quick dry t-shirts (preferably full sleeves- helps both against sun and cold)
  3. Outer wear: One fleece, one wind and rain proof jacket, skull cap/ warm hat, fleece gloves
  4. Inner wear: 8 underpants, 3 sports bras, One pair of moisture wicking thermals
  5. Footwear: Four pairs of moisture wicking socks, one pair hiking boots, one pair sandals
  6. Sleep/lounge wear: 2 Cotton T-shirts, 1 pair cotton track pants. After wearing quick dry polyester clothes for the trek, I would usually change into cotton clothes to relax in the dining area and would sleep in same clothes.
  7. Toiletries: One hand towel, one quick dry bath towel, 4 toilet rolls, ~40 wet wipes, two 1 oz sanitizer bottles, 100 ml body wash, 100 ml moisturiser, 100 ml sunscreen, 1 oz perfume, 1 Chapstick, 2 small travel size toothpastes, 1 toothbrush, 1 dental floss, 3 shampoo sachets
  8. Sleeping bag: used occasionally - should have carried liner instead
  9. Medicines & First Aid: Diamox, Paracetamol, Bandaids, Moleskin, Norflox TZ for gastrointestinal infection and my daily consumption prescription drugs. However I would recommend that your first aid kit should also include Azithromycin, Soframycin ointment, sterlized cotton/bandages and plaster.
  10. Electronics and electrical: Phone, power bank, head lamp
I did not use trekking poles expect for two short 15 minute windows but rest of the group used it. So have them on you - you never know when you might need them. 

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