Hiking the Himalayas

One Alumnus shares his experience of what it’s like to hike to the Mount Everest Base Camp.

Fifty is one of those big birthdays that you don’t just breeze past with a cake and some balloons. That’s why I started planning right around the time I turned 49.

From the beginning, I knew I didn’t want a party or more stuff. I wanted a once-in-a-lifetime experience—which is how I ended up hiking the Himalayas and climbing up to Mount Everest base camp this past spring.

First I booked a guided trip and recruited my friend Scott to come with me. We trained for almost a year leading up to the trip, hiking a couple times a week with full backpacks. I also walked every day, everywhere I could.

People kept asking how my training was going and I’d tell them I had no idea. There’s just no way to simulate the Himalayas when you live in New Jersey.

This past March, Scott and I flew to Kathmandu, then hopped on a little propeller plane to Lukla and started our adventure. Over the next three weeks, we covered about 60 miles on foot.

Every day we’d trek through the mountains—it was like climbing stairs for eight hours straight. Eventually the trees would thin out and we’d spot a little hamlet. That’s where we spent our nights: in villagers’ homes sleeping on plywood beds with no heat or running water.

On April 6, the day I officially turned 50, we made it up to Everest base camp. It’s 17,590 feet above sea level, and after we passed the tree line, there was nothing. No shrubs or moss, no bugs, no animals. No life at all.

When I show people my pictures, they ask if I took them in black and white. Nope. That’s what it looks like up there. It’s like visiting the moon.

Even with the intense altitude, I was feeling pretty good at base camp. So the next morning, my guide and I decided to summit Kala Patthar—another 600 feet straight up from the Everest camp. That was the only time I wanted to quit. I could barely breathe and I was practically crawling my way forward. But when I looked up and saw people already there, I just kept telling myself that if they could do it, I could too. And I did.

The whole thing felt more like an endurance event than a vacation. I didn’t come back talking about the amazing food I tried or the museums I visited. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad I went. I loved challenging myself and seeing that part of the world.

But now I’m thinking about other adventures: the fjords of Norway, the volcanoes in Iceland, Mexico’s underwater caves. I know I can’t see everything out there, but I’m going to try.