A retired nurse has just returned home to Cranbrook after hiking to Mount Everest Base Camp at 17,500 feet.
Maxine Adshead, 64, flew to Kathmandu in May to take part in a 13-day trek through the Himalayas.
Learning about and experiencing Nepalese culture was the highlight of the trip, Maxine told the Townsman.
“It was an absolutely amazing experience. We had so many cultural opportunities,” Maxine said.
“I can’t say enough about it. It was much more than I expected.”
Arriving in Kathmandu on May 10, Maxine met up with friends she made two years ago when she hiked Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with Nevada-based Tusker Trails.
The group came from all over the world to meet in Nepal before the trip. From Kathmandu, they boarded a plane to the world’s most dangerous airport, Lukla at 9,383 feet in elevation. Thankfully, the group’s scheduled fly-in and fly-out days were clear.
The trek began from there, and the group began the climb to Namche Bazar, famous for its marketplace.
“When we went up to Namche Bazar, it just seemed to go on forever and ever and ever,” Maxine said.
“It’s steep – it’s a lot steeper than you would expect. You look at the elevation changes and they don’t look like that much but you go down and then you go up and then you go down and then you go up.”
After two days in that village, Maxine said they continued on to Khumjung, where Edmund Hillary formed Nepal’s first school.
“(Italian mountaineer) Reinhold Messner was there creating a documentary to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary’s climb. We actually got to talk to Reinhold Messner and we were filmed while we were talking to him. We probably won’t see it here, but some place in the world we will be seen talking to Reinhold Messner!” Maxine said.
The trek then carried on to Pheriche and, after two days of acclimatization, on to Lobuche.
“That’s when we really started to get into a lot of cloud. The second day, when we left, we pretty much walked through cloud that day until we got to Lobuche,” Maxine said.
The group’s Nepalese guides were fantastic, she said, making sure the group went slow enough to handle the elevation.
“They looked after us very well. We really couldn’t say enough about them. They were just so great,” Maxine said.
Leaving Lobuche, the group faced a steep hill that required determination to conquer, Maxine said.
“I remember when we left Lobuche, I looked up at this hill and I thought, ‘Oh God, I can’t do that.’ Then I just said to myself, ‘One step at a time, Max, one step at a time.’ So I just did it one step at a time and I got there.”
Providing her with inspiration was one member of her group, named Robert, who did the trek despite having cerebral palsy and not learning to walk until he was 11 years old.
With one person on either side of him for support, Robert made it to Gorak Shep at 16,942 feet in elevation.
“To me, it was extremely inspirational. For people who do things and complain, I just think, just look at Robert and use him as a guide to how you can do things, just don’t let things get in your way,” Maxine said.
“Part of it is sheer determination. That’s what it took for him. So much energy had to be expended to take steps compared to the rest of us.”
The group arrived at Gorak Shep having already hiked five hours that day. Still, most of the group decided to carry on to base camp at 17,500 feet in elevation, another two and a half hours each way.
“It was challenging because it was such a long day. If it hadn’t been quite so long, it wouldn’t have been quite as exhausting,” Maxine said. “Part of it is the terrain. The terrain is really rough.”
She compared the hike from Gorak Shep to base camp to the boulder field on Fisher Peak.
“You are going over that at twice the elevation of Fisher Peak, only it isn’t just up, it’s up and down. And that’s the last two and a half hours, getting to base camp, and then two and a half hours getting back,” Maxine said.
Base camp was a busy place when Maxine visited in prime season for summiting Everest.
“It’s just a huge sea of tents,” she said.
The place was abuzz with the news of a Japanese man in his 80s who had just returned from reaching Everest’s peak.
But for every inspiring story, there was one of tragedy — Maxine lost count of the number of people she heard had died on Everest during her time in Nepal. Some were hit by falling boulders, others by avalanches. Some got lost in the fog, while others ran out of oxygen on the way down from the summit.
“And I only heard about some of them, I’m sure. Some things I just don’t want to hear; it just makes me too sad,” Maxine said.
Now back in Cranbrook, the active grandmother, who is a member of a Cranbrook retirees hiking group and has a black belt in karate, hasn’t given much thought of where she will next travel to.
“I haven’t anything that I’ve thought of, but you never know with me what’s going to happen next,” Maxine said.