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The trail goes down slightly the first two days before climbing more or less steadily all the way up to the Everest Base Camp at 5,300 metres. The expedition stayed in Nepalese villages and coffee houses along the route. Not having to carry tents lightened their load, but the freezing temperatures and thin air made it difficult to sleep and get comfortable.
Not that anyone complained. There were only two days of low clouds to contend with early in the trip, followed by two weeks of sun — unheard of in the mountain at that time of year, and well worth the colder temperatures.
The total distance to base camp and back is around 200 km, but the altitude, cold and steepness of the stairways, and Pippa’s limitations meant they could only travel eight to 10 km a day.
No doubt that gave members of the group more time to acclimatize to the altitude, and ensured that everyone made it there and back again safely.
However, it was also tougher than they expected.
“It was really tough, I don’t think anybody anticipated how tough it would be — which is a good thing or we might not have started or, once we started, kept going,” said Pippa.
“We went slowly and just took it one day at a time. We didn’t even think ahead too much, which was a good thing. The team dynamics were quite overwhelming, the people were so into it and so respectful of each other.”
Pippa also credits their guides for keeping the group on the move. Although one experienced North American guide told them they would never make it to base camp — providing more motivation for the expedition to succeed — the decision to go with local guides meant they had the guides’ family, friends and other forms of support the entire way.
“Everybody contributed something,” said Pippa. “Even the older ladies at the back had an important job, because they talked to the other groups that we passed that had been to base camp and were on the way down. Once they knew about it, people were very keen.”
A few of the groups even assumed that Pippa was a wealthy woman who was paying to be carried to Base Camp, until others members of the expedition explained the purpose of the journey.
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