Tan Sri Dr Salleh waving Malaysian flag at Everest Base Camp.

Mount Everest 8848 meters above sea level or 17600 feet asl, is the highest mountain in the world. It draws thousand of climbing and enthusiasts to Katmandu, Nepal every year. Many climb to the peak, some fail to return but the majority hike to Everest Base camp at 53674 meters to enjoy the scenery, the view of the mountain ranges and plain hiking.

I took the trip leaving Kuala Lumpur on the 2nd November for Katmandu which is a bussling metropolis with narrow streets, full on taxis, trishaws and pedestrians. The bleating of the horn is charactersitiv of Katmandu traffic. After preparations and purchase of hiking gear, we left Katmandu on the 4th November for a half an hour flight on a 18 seater twin propeller engine plane, a Dorsier 228-200 belonging to Tara Airlines, to Lukla, purportedly the most dangerous airport in the world. If one is lucky to have a seat on the left side of the plane, which I did, one could see the magnificient snow capped mountain ranges of the Himalayas, including Mount Everest in the background. The view was spectacular!

We landed in Lukla airport along a slopping narrow runaway. Upon reaching Lukla, we met our Sherpa guides who would take us to Everest Base camp (EBC). From there onwards, it was journey on foot, the longest hike in my life.

From Lukla, we headed due north along narrow stone and rock covered paths that has shown widespread and intense use over the years. The path was uneven, rocky but full of traffic with hikers going in both direction and punctuated by teams of black hairy yaks laden with all sorts of baggage from hiker’s gear to gas tanks, food and drinks. The shouting of the Sherpa herder persuading his Yak team, broke the silence of the afternoon.

Tan Sri Dr Salleh and Sabri at Everest Base Camp.

After a 6.5 hour hike, we reached Phakding at 7.50pm.  We spent the night at Budha Lodge Restaurant and Bar.  Early next morning we were off again. We passed numerous Yak packs again and beautiful stands of Pinus patula forests. The well trodden path was steep, rocky with jagged rocks on the floor, with a steep 90 degree slope down to a fast flowing Clearwater river way down to the left and steep slope to the right.  The occasional stop for a drink and a piece of chocolate gave relief to the body that is beginning to tire. After a short lunch stop at Mount Kailash Lodge, MOZU, we were off again, entering the Sagamartha National Park at 2865 meters asl. A military check point with a clear sign “No Photography” and two stern looking Gurkha soldiers welcomed us.

From then onwards, it was a daily 6 to 7 hour trek every day along narrow tracks that is rocky and dusty with crowds of hikers, Yaks and Sherpas laden with all sorts of goods. We passed Somare, Dingboche Khumbu Resort, Champa, Thukle, and finally reached Gora Shep (5180meters asl) on Sunday 11th November. The days were cold with temperatures hovering around 5 to 10 degrees C, while night temperatures fell below freezing and as low as -11 degrees C. I had begun losing my appetite and felt like vomiting every morning. I resorted to eating green apples and salt.

At 7.25am on Monday the 12th November, we left for the final assault to Everest Base camp (EBC). I still did not have any appetite but the Shepa guide insisted that I finish my bowl of porridge for the energy, and that I did forcing every spoonful down my throat! The temperature was about 4 degrees C and my fingers felt numb and frostbitten. The Shepas had to massage them to get the blood flowing! It was a steep rocky climb and thanks to my Sherpa guide and Sabri Ahmad, who both helped and encouraged, we finally reached EBC at 10.50am. The elevation was 5364 meters or 17,600 feet above sea level. It was a relief and I cried uncontrollably for the success of this endeavor and said a prayer of thanks to Allah and all who had prayed for my safety. It was a small achievement but hard earned. On record at the age of 72 years, I had become the oldest Malaysian to have reached EBC that was later verified by the Malaysian Embassy in Katmandu.

The weather was cold with glaciers around us. I was persuaded to try the clamptons and pose along the steep icy escarpment. Azim managed to call home and inform my family that we made it and that we were safe.

Every climb to Everest peak must pass EBC and the support teams for the climb are based at EBC. It takes at least two months for the climb to Everest peak (8848 meters as) and climbers must acclimatize at every few hundred meters for their safety.

After recording our achievement on photography, we left at 12.50pm for the slow walk back, past all the lodges before. My nose had begun to bleed regularly and was still having problems with my appetite. We finally reached Lukla on Sunday 18th where I resorted to eating vegetable fried rice and raw green chili.

We finally managed to get a flight out to Katmandu where Furi met us and put us in Hotel Holy Malaya. We converged on Anatalya Halal Restaurant where we had our first real meal of Beriani rice and chicken tandoori after nearly 18days. This was later followed by the first hot shower and it was really great to feel refreshed again. His Excellency Encik Fadli Adilah, the Malaysian Consul at Katmandu entertained us for dinner that evening at a beautiful garden restaurant called the “The Garden of Dreams”. That was the icing on the cake of the whole journey!

The experience was memorable. It was exhaustive, tiring but very satisfying. My legs still feel the burden of 18days of continuous hiking, I lost 8 kilograms in weight but the memory of the hike will always remain fresh in my memory. I am glad I was healthy throughout the journey but upon return home, I fell sick with fever and flu and had to visit the doctor twice! I wish to put on record my most sincere appreciation to the Board of Trustees of University Technology Malaysia for their approval and support for my trip, to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Dato’ Ir. Dr Zaini Ujang for his personal encouragement and support, to Sabri Ahmad, the Deputy Registrar of UTM and Puan Siti Salamah, for their companionship and encouragement during the trip, and finally to the Sherpa guides, Deep (Hasta) Bahadur Tharpa Magar, Pasang Nuru Sherpa and Da Nurbu Sherpa for their support that made it all possible, and to Azim and the UTM Everest team who planted the idea in me in the first place. It was truly a test of endurance for me and I am grateful that I passed the test!

 

Tan Sri Dr. Salleh Mohd. Nor