FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
Sixty years since it was first summited, Exodus pays tribute to Mount Everest and its Himalayan home, and we wonder why of a world so wide, rich and varied as our own, these mountains remain the pinnacle of trekking nirvana.
Everest holds a unique place in the hearts of trekkers. It must be one of the most documented peaks on the globe, revelling in a dream-like, esoteric status only enhanced by the Buddhist mantras, pilgrimages and holy monks that inhabit this sometimes harsh realm. Prayer flags dance in the dreams of amateur trekkers longing for that intangible sense of being far, far away from home. Everest is a peak that exists twice over: once in the tangible world of rock and ice, and once again in our imaginations.
It was 60 years ago that Hilary and Tenzing Norgay’s now-famous expedition finally found success. And yet, the allure has never dulled. The poignant legacy and the history of this region left by these early adventurers still fascinate the armchair traveller. But for the sure-footed trekker, these mountains somehow tap into something indisputably human: they sneak into us and leave a small hook which tugs at us as we sit at our desks, drink our tea, pay our bills and take care of all the little mundane details of our uneventful daily lives.
The pull becomes stronger, more insistent, until eventually we all succumb. For some, it is the taunting call of the highest, altitude-raw peaks – the exhaustion and elation of summit day. Others, it is the need to feel surrounded and so small, so fragile, amongst the raw power of nature all around. The purity of walking, undisturbed and interrupted, compounded with the uncomplicated joys of splendid scenery, draws as many back as it initially seduces.
Valerie Parkinson is just one such trekker. One of Exodus’ most legendary leaders, she made it to South Summit of Everest (8,761m) in 2009 as her 50th birthday present to herself, was the first British woman to climb Manaslu without oxygen and has spent more Christmases trekking to Everest Base Camp than you’ve had turkey dinners. Her reputation precedes her; everyone at Adventure HQ London offices knows her name and speaks it with respect. She spends most of her life surrounded by these mountains, and dedicates much of her free time to the various responsible tourism projects Exodus supports in the area, and has been instrumental in setting up new ones.
The iconic and irreplaceable Everest Base Camp trek is impossible to describe without superlatives, and demands the very best leaders. Lakpa Lama, one of our most popular and experienced Nepali guides, was born in these mountains and grew up here, beginning his trekking and mountaineering career whilst he was still at school. His passion for these peaks has never died, and he’s been leading here for many, many years.
With the 60th anniversary coming up some special departures have been set up to celebrate, which include the chance to dine with Ang Phurba, the only surviving Nepali from the 1953 expedition. But to be truthful, this is a misnomer.
Every trek in this part of the world is special, often life changing. Upon her reluctant return to England, Walking & Trekking Product Manager Chloe Knott couldn’t stop enthusing. She fell in love “as soon as I stepped off the plane. As soon as my trek finished I wanted to go and do it all again – it’s not often that you can say that.”
Valerie Parkinson will soon be heading back to the Himalaya on the first departure of our Everest North Col Expedition in April. Follow her blog during this epic trekking adventure.