On top of the world... nearly!

Written by Suzannah Brown DfI- Highway Structures Unit 


Sitting in the heart of the Himalayas on the border of Tibet and Nepal lies a mountain called Everest. In April 2019 I set out with friends to climb to Everest Base Camp (EBC) at 5380m above sea level. This was an amazing adventure and one which tests not only physical strength but mental toughness. 

We were a group of 11 ranging from 17 to 53 and from Ireland to Australia trekking with Dolma Foundation – a charity that provides rural Nepalese children with education.

Flying into Lukla’s Tenzing-Hillary Aiport (2845m) was such an exhilarating experience, witnessing the surreal beauty of the Himalayas up close far outweighed the risks associated with the most dangerous airport in the world. 

We set off from Lukla, the gateway for all goods and people in and out of the Everest region. It’s hard to imagine but all supplies are carried up the mountains by yaks, Himalayan horses or most commonly – people. 

Trekking from Thado Koshi to Namche Bazaar was difficult - eight hours over steep terrain, the last 2 in heavy rain. Reaching the haven of the teahouse soaked, exhausted and to find one of the Sherpas had succumbed to the refuge of an establishment selling alcohol during the rain and would not be bringing the bags until morning. I was one of the 2 left with no dry clothes, no sleeping bag yet somehow the feeling of being together, borrowing clothes from a Nepalese woman showed me it’s how we deal with unforeseen events that matters – all part of the adventure.

Continuing higher we got our first glimpse of Everest – a surprisingly unimpressive looking peak nestled amongst others but it didn’t matter as I had laid eyes on Everest. 

As the days went on, we got higher and the air got thinner and colder. Surrounded by monuments to dead hikers and Buddhist artefacts added to the severity of the landscape. Altitude takes its toll on the appetite, the normal desire to eat is replaced by a knowledge that even if I don’t want to, I need to eat. 

Evenings were filled with card games, sharing stories, playing Yahtzee and getting to know people better. A complete cut off from civilisation except for the group and our Nepalese hosts each night.

Reaching EBC is to date my most invigorating experience. To have walked towards the yellow tents in the footsteps of so many great climbers made me feel so alive. 

Interesting fact - you cannot see the summit of Everest from base camp, so 5 of us got up at 4am and climbed another peak called Kala Patthar to see Everest’s summit. Tough at -13°C, and higher than base camp at 5643m but to witness the sun rising over Everest was impressive and beautiful.

The EBC trek was an experience of a lifetime having made new friends, memories and knowing I had the mental strength to overcome problems has made me a more resilient person with an increased hunger to travel. Enormous, sky-piercing mountains, kind and humble people – I have nothing but respect for Nepal. (External Link)