Thursday 13th November 2008 by C. Freeman
Sixth Former Jamie Partridge trekked to the Everest base camp during an expedition to Nepal. As well as experiencing the culture and amazing scenery he also helped out at a school community project during the trip, which was organised by the Army Cadet Corps.
The party arrived in the Nepalese capital where they spent the first couple of days. Jamie said: 'We drove into Kathmandu at night and it was still buzzing; there were people everywhere. The first sights of the city were really interesting and the food was nice consisting mainly of rice, noodles and potatoes. I even had vegetable curry for breakfast!'
The trekkers then flew over the Himalayan foothills to Lukla where the airstrip was built into the side of the mountain. They stayed in wooden tea-houses and walked for between four and six hours a day, firstly through land teeming with vegetation but once past the tree line there was just rocks, ice and a few hardy plants.
When the team reached the town of Namche Bazar halfway through the trek, they had to walk up the trail during the day and descend again before night-time to allow their bodies to get used to the high altitude and reduced oxygen levels. Jamie said: 'We didn't cover any distance towards our goal apart from acclimatisation up and down the hillside. It was so steep it was like walking up a 100-storey building. It was slightly demoralising as it felt like we weren't getting anywhere.'
The importance of constant monitoring was emphasised as trekkers can suffer high altitude edemas where fluid can build up in either the brain or lungs. If the sufferer is untreated or continues at high altitude then both conditions can prove fatal. Several members of the expedition had to descend due to acute mountain sickness and even a Sherpa was struck down by it, collapsing on the trail.
Jamie himself suffered symptoms during the final push towards base camp. He said: 'I started feeling quite dizzy, people's faces started to wobble and my hands looked like they were shaking. We were going down the next day so I kept an eye on it but I knew that I wanted to get to base camp so I pushed on.' The conditions were so tiring that one member of the expedition turned back just 20 minutes away from the goal of reaching Everest base camp at an altitude of 5,600m.
Jamie said: 'When I got to base camp it was completely different to what I thought it would be. You walk along the ridge of a hill with mountains either side of you. Then you got into the moraines and glacier. We couldn't actually see Everest from the base camp. You had to actually climb up a glacier and then through a V-shape through the mountains to see it although we got great views earlier in the trek from the Everest View hotel.'
When they returned to Kathmandu the team then painted classrooms at a school in a neighbouring valley as part of a community project. They were treated to a special welcoming ceremony where the children danced in traditional costume. The expedition, which lasted for 17 days, will count towards Jamie's Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award.
Jamie said: 'It was really a fantastic trip and the scenery was breathtaking. All the Sherpas and the Nepalese were so friendly and everyone on the expedition all pulled together as a team. It was hard when people kept having to turn back due to mountain sickness, but the feeling of actually getting to base camp and reaching our goal meant that all the hard work and effort really paid off.'