Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp – Day 5

Some of the strongest personal growth we experience is by getting back up after falling

🎵 Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved

Meditation is to control your mind and not let your mind control you. I have been meditating every morning before trekking. When life becomes hard that is when you can see how your meditation practice can help you. Can you apply what you have learned on the meditation cushion when problem arise?

This is the day that I fell. Hard. But this is also the day that will define who I am and who I want to be.

because what you do today will define who you are tomorrow.

Here is my journey for day 5 in the Himalaya’s:

We left Tengboche early morning with a little fur ball following us.

While ascending yaks were coming down the hill with equipment being carried from Base Camp.

After being followed by a little doggy seems like this horse is now trekking with us. 

Sandesh is on fire today. He is walking ahead of me. You know when you just have so much energy! Lucky him I thought! The smoker is kicking the crossfitter ass today!

I kept my pace. A girlfriend of mine, Chantale, had advise me that whatever happened to keep my pace and to never feel rush. It’s like I could hear her voice in my mind as a wisdom advise whenever my ego wanted to go faster to catch up with Sandesh. I decided to pull my earbuds and trek with music. I was feeling a little off and music as this power of changing your inner energy and bringing you to a different head space. 
 
Despite the music I felt my energy level was low and the sunlight was starting to get to me. Grumpy Val was slowly showing up haha. I decided to stop and went inside a little restaurant and order a masala tea and some peanut. She brought me that:

Well it’s not the peanuts I had in mind but I can’t say she was wrong. The owner’s little girl came to see me a few times. She would open and close her hand like if she was doing a funny waving motion. She was wearing clothing that did not look that clean but not usual for this area. Her big smile and her big eyes just made my grumpiness go away.

This 30-45 minutes stopped help me. I felt more energize and my happy self was starting to come around. I went to the washroom (haha one of the worse washroom ever but with the best view ever). EBC tip: Always carry toilet paper with you!

Are you ready to see what toilet looks like 😀😮!! A toilet without a toilet! 

After walking for a bit my negative mood was slowly coming back despite me trying to fight it. A good friend of mine, Jordan, had told me that in his trekking experiences day 3 was always really challenging. The adrenaline comes down he had told me and the real work as started. I appreciated people who were real and had given me realistic things that are likely to come up. There would be ups and down in this trekking adventure and I felt lucky to have friends that told me about their ups but mostly their down while trekking. Knowing that similar down happen to them would help my ego to accept the challenges that would come.

Life had thought me on several occasion that if things could happen to my friends they could also happen to me. 

TO BE HUMBLE

So when people give me advise I NOW LISTEN and try to not let my ego come in the way. If it happened to them it could also happen to me. 
 
I found myself thinking about what my friend had told me and admitting to myself that day 5 may be that day where things are more mentally and physically challenging. 
As I felt my body getting more tired and my mind wanting to be negative we came across a group of people that was sitting down and chatting and laughing loudly. We walked beside them and ran into two more people that belong to that group. The energy was palpable and very high.
They were a group of indian army. The entire group had just made it to Everest Summit and the energy they had was just phenomenal.
(lol that picture does not do it justice! Not sure why they looked so serious on that picture haha!)
As energy is contagious I found myself on a high after walking away from them. I was so happy to feel good again. Meditation courses thought me to not hold on to the positive or negative energy but instead to be an observer and let them come and go. But I was holding on to that positive energy and wanted to desperately keep it. 
 
We than came across this open space where I felt just alone in this world. A flat section that was opening up to huge mountains in all directions. Surrounded by the Himalaya’s I was!

We shortly after ran into two ‘lazy’ dudes that were sunbathing on a rock. haha I am just teasing them! (love you guys!)

I did not know at that time that these 2 guys would become good friends! One of the guy had lost his wallet and their guide went back to hopefully find it at their last stop (about 1 hour away from where they were right now). The two guys kept ascending while sharing the guide’s backpack. Just crazy! I guess they are not lazy after all! haha

That guy is like my size and is a total machine! (I will later on find out that he is a kickboxer in Japan! So strong and so humble!)

What's worse than carrying 1 backpack to Everest? Carrying 2 backpacks!

We arrived to Pangboche and we all booked to the same hotel. At this time of the year, mid May, you don’t have to bok in advance you can just show up at a place. 
 
I took what would be my last hot shower for a few days.
What I did not know is that at higher elevation you have to be careful when taking a shower. The combination of decrease oxygen level in the air, the fuel being use to warm up the water and the decrease air circulation within a small space like a shower is a good combination for… passing out. I was told to not take a shower longer than five minutes or the risk may increase of feeling hypoxic (less oxygen available for my brain) and having a syncope. Well that’s reassuring! There was a little space at the shower ceiling to let steam evaporate and oxygen flow in and out but I did not have much faith in it when I was asked to keep the shower door unlock in case I pass out. So a very quick shower I took! (Being claustrophobic a bit I actually did not mind leaving the door unlock). 
 
I than went to a coffee shop. During the ascent I had ran into some European trekker coming down that told me to go check out coffee 4410 (The name comes from Dingboche altitude which sits at 4410 meters). I sat down and order a tea and a brownie! Oh yeah!!! There was quite a few people hanging out there.

I wanted to write on my blog but instead I decided to watch the movie they had playing about Everest. How cool is that? A movie about Everest while I am here! But what seemed like a good idea rapidly became a bad one as people in the movie started dying. All of a sudden things took a different turn…

This morning, May 25th, had not started like any other morning. While walking in the dining area for breakfast another guide informed us that a Nepali climber guide had lost his life yesterday while climbing the summit. A long pause was felt after he told us the news. The guiding community is quite a tight community. Although money at times comes in the way of that community since everyone is trying to do a living there is a strong bond felt as they all share this mountain life. But when acts of nature happens in a place like this and takes a local person’s life it is a reminder that life here is vulnerable and you just never know. That despite one’s experience you are still at the mercy of mother nature and can only control so much. 

This guide, who had announce us the bad news, had reach Everest Base Camp (EBC) over 100 times. He knew this place like the back of his hand. We met him a few days ago. He was with a big group of people. He had share some tips with Sandesh knowing this was his first guiding experience at EBC. But this morning he had a different energy. Sipping his tea he was facing the window over looking one of the white peaks and for one of the first time he was quiet.

On May 24th 2019 Nepali climbing guide Dhruba Bista fell ill on the mountain and was transported by helicopter to the base camp, where he died Friday

Watching this movie about Everest and being told this morning that this year, 2019, was one of the deadliest for climbing suddenly hit me. We had been told that the weather had been bad for climbers to go up so when mother nature became more compliant lots of people attempted the summit making it one of the busiest time on Everest summit. A famous picture of climbers waiting in line to reach the summit made the news across the globe. Twenty eight rescues were performed in two days during that time. As per the time this blog is written the total number of death is now at 9 for the 2019 season reaching a higher number than the last few years (2018 – 5 climbers lost their life, 2017 six deaths, 2016 six deaths). 

It was like suddenly reality hit me: People do die here. I suddenly felt vulnerable, alone and small.  My mind, who was already not in a great place today, started to spin.

WHAT WAS I DOING HERE?

I had just completed a 10 day meditation course and had learn the importance of motivation. I had learn that once you can connect to your true motivation for doing something than you become more resilient at overcoming obstacles because that motivation is anchoring you down. Grounding you. While I was unaware that my mind was going into the down spiral of anxiety I started doubting why I was here and my mind was getting to cloudy to think about my motivation for being here. 

I had considered hiking EBC one month ago. I had very little hiking experience and had never done any over night camping trekking. What was I doing here and most of all did I had the skills and experience to be here considering the danger that was around me? What the hell Val? What were you thinking? You think you can face this environment with no experience and with no knowledge? 

My mind started to do what it does best: Overthink everything and injecting doubt into my decisions and confidence. Not sure why but the mind will bring you in the negative side of things quickly. I was physically tired and did not have the inner strength to bring back the facts and re-balance myself with some positive thinking. Instead I found myself going down the dark hole of self-doubt.

I decided to head back to the hotel. While walking to the hotel thick clouds had form around the village obstructing the mountain view. I felt suddenly claustrophobic like if walls were closing on me and giving me this sensation that I was losing control. Losing control of my mind that kept worrying and losing control of my environment like if I was at the mercy of these mountains and clouds. Moreover I felt I could not escape this place even if I wanted too. I was starting to feel trap. 

THE MORE I WAS LOSING CONTROL
THE MORE FEARFUL I BECAME

I had stopped my anxiety medication 10 days prior and knew really well of the possible withdrawal effect that I could encounter; headache, anxiety, feeling unwell. Ironically they were similar to altitude sickness signs and symptoms. So far only insomnia had been present. But now the anxiety was now kicking in at a fast pace as I was focusing my eyesight on the hotel and trying to avoid any contact with those thick white clouds that were making my breath short and my chest tight. I was walking and could feel my body getting stiffer but could not help it.

I went to the room and once I close the door I felt the anxiety rising like a rocket. 

NO… NOT HERE. I CAN’T HAVE AN ANXIETY ATTACK HERE.

Give me pain I will deal with it.

Give me a mountain and I will hike it.

Give me anxiety and I become this little girl who is scare and doesn’t believe in herself anymore.

I knew from previous experiences that having someone at my side would help me overcome this (and mostly could help me avoid going into a full anxiety attack). 

I went downstair and asked Sandesh to follow me. The poor guy had no idea what had been happening in my mind since the beginning of the day. He was not aware of my ups an down. (A mistake a lot of trekkers do. They keep things for themselves until things get out a hand).

It’s at that moment that Sandesh became a guide not only on the path to the mountain but a guide on my personal journey.

I told him I was having anxiety and he asked me:

WHAT IS ANXIETY?

Oh wow can we do research on Nepal and see what they do so they don’t get the mental health issues that we have in Western countries? This funny thought cross my mind for a millisecond.

So having to explain what is anxiety to him actually helped me calm down a bit and have my mind focusing on something else for a short period.

But rapidly my mind got back into that down spiral.

I started to get mad at myself. Why did I stop that medication a week and half ago? What is wrong with me? Why do I have to make things harder for myself all the time? ‘Good job Val I thought; here you are doing the trekking of your life with no trekking experience and on top of that stopping your medication a few days before to make it even more challenging’? Why can’t I just make my life easy sometimes? Why do I have this constant need to push myself?

Deep down I knew that stopping the medication was the right thing to do. I had felt it was the right thing to do at the Buddhism Monastery. I also knew things would probably come up after stopping it but the last 10 days had been uneventful in regards to anxiety other than the insomnia. I also believed that whatever would come up I now had the tools and resiliency within me to face it. 

But there I was at 4000 meters in the mountains regretting my choice and hating myself for it.

Sandesh put a stop to my self destructive self talk. Stop saying that Val it is not helping. I knew that but it’s like I could not stop myself. My body than started shaking. A deep to the core shake.

The anxiety attack had now fully kicked in. I felt like I was losing all control of my self.

My mind was thinking all kinds of weird things I had not think about for a while: friendship problems, grief, family issues, work stuff, romantic relationship problems… it’s like all the unresolved things in my life was going through my mind like a fast forward movie. Things I thought were resolve were actually not healed like I thought. Things that had hurt me profoundly were coming to the surface and I could feel the emotional pain as my body was shaking more. 

I tried to remind myself of what my psychologist had told me: Ride the wave Val. Ride the anxiety wave and it will pass. This time I could hear my own inner voice telling me; Ride the wave Val – Ride the wave Val. Despite my best effort I was still not trusting that I had within me what I needed to overcome this wave. I did not expect that much stuff to come up.

For a brief moment I remembered when I started to take the anxiety medication 5 months ago it was because I could not cope anymore. I knew my medication had been covering some residual pain but wow I did not realize there was that much still there. It was like a tornado of so many different things. 

Sandesh was now looking at me with worry. His first experience as a guide at Everest and there he was dealing with this ‘western girl mental health issues’. He touch my arm and said that tomorrow we will turn around and head back down. You cannot do this Val he said. 

Since my mind was already going at a thousand miles an hour I told him okay but could we discuss it further tomorrow. He said okay. He asked if I needed evacuation and was worry of maybe me having a fever due to the shakes. I told him no that this was not a medical emergency (even if mentally it felt like one). I could see he was worried about me. I could see his concern. In the last year I learn to listen to people more. To take their advise despite my inner resistance. So in a calmer voice I felt myself surrendering and said okay we will go back down tomorrow. I knew I could do it but what was the point if this would follow me up. I wanted this ascent to be fun and this was far from it. More than everything I did not want this anxiety to stop me from doing things but I had to admit that right now it was. Maybe this was too early for me. Maybe I had miss read things and came here too early. He looked at me sad and said okay tomorrow Val… tomorrow we will go down. 

I told him I was feeling so alone facing this. He told me that it was not true. That he was here with me. He than put his hand instinctively on my forehead. He sat beside me as I was lying in bed and with the palm of his hand he applied a firm pressure on my forehead. Very slowly I started to settle. Just like I had learned at the Buddhism meditation course I started to focus my attention on the physical sensation. I focus my mind on the sensation of his hand on my forehead. Slowly I was trying to gain control of my mind and directing it where I wanted it to go. The shake become intermittent spasm and slowly my body became less stiff and I could feel the curvature of the mattress under me. I was than able to think further of my meditation classes and started doing what we did every morning which is to bring my mind to my breath and focus on my lungs expanding and retracting. Slowly slowly less thoughts were coming through my mind and my mind and body were able to relax.

 

What did you do? I asked him.

He said in a voice with so much empathy and so caring: I asked Buddha to help you.

 

Lying in bed I felt the anxiety was not far from me but at least for now I was feeling better. Before leaving Canada I chatted with a doctor at the medical clinic about stopping my medication while on my trip. He said to me; you will be your best judge for when it is time to do so. Cut the dose in half for a week and if that goes well stop it entirely. If not continue taking it. My health was in my own hands and I had great respect for that doctor who encourage patient to take care of their own health. He had written me a prescription for 3 pills of clonazepam (fast acting pills to calm you down). He said take that with you in case you need it and good luck. Although I was hoping not to use any I had actually taken one of those pill on my first day upon arrival in Nepal. Total culture shock I was. 

I was feeling better now but felt exhausted. I felt drained and empty. I needed to sleep. I had had insomnia for a good week now and I felt tired. I felt so tired but my body was still in a state of alertness. Sleeping pills are not recommended while doing high altitude trekking but again it felt right to do so. So I took one and fell asleep rapidly after. A very deep sleep I finally found myself in after this crazy roller coaster ride that was day 5.  

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