Sam: This is it.
Frodo: This is what?
Sam: If take one more step, it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been.
Frodo: Come on Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say, "It's a dangerous business Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

Monday, March 31, 2014

Physical and Pharmacological Preparation

Are we there yet?


In my last post I freaked myself out by thinking about the altitude I'll be going to. My only consolation is the fact that I've been going to the gym somewhat regularly over the past two months, running on the treadmill and climbing the Stairmaster. I also went for a couple short hikes. Thankfully my boots are comfortable and waterproof!

But I am just as worried about getting altitude sickness and traveler's diarrhea so I'm also taking some pharmacological preparations. I filled a prescription for Diamox for prevention of acute mountain sickness. Last week I completed my typhoid oral vaccine. I also filled a prescription for ciprofloxacin for treatment of traveler's diarrhea. Finally I'm carrying an assortment of over the counter medications like ibuprofen, Imodium, and first aid supplies.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Less than one week until Nepal!

I AM SO EXCITED to go to Everest Base Camp!

I am also a little bit terrified because of the altitudes on this trek. My high altitude experience is ... thin. I went to Mt. Rainier National Park once for an afternoon and I never left the paved sidewalk. I went to Denver once for an interview. I didn't do any outdoor activities in the two days I was there. I walked around in a suit and heels.

At 9,383 ft (2,860m), the start of this trek in Lukla is already higher than anywhere I have ever been. In fact, I once took a commuter flight from Philadelphia to LaGuardia airport that flew at less than 10,000 ft. I'm going to be walking much higher than that airplane was.

Elevation profile of EBC trek: (click for larger image)
The days on this graphic don't correspond to my trip but the elevation profile is of the same route I'm taking.

For your reference, elevations of some familiar environments:  
  •     751 ft   (229m) - Flint, Michigan where I live
  •   5400 ft (1646m) - Highest elevation I have ever been @ Mt. Rainier National Park
  •   8000 ft (2438m) - Cruising altitude of a commuter flight I took
  •   9383 ft (2860m) - Lukla, where the trek starts. It only gets higher from here. 
  • 14505 ft (4421m) - Highest point in the continental US @ Mt. Whitney, California
  • 17598 ft (5364m) - Elevation of Everest Base Camp
  • 18208 ft (5550m) - Highest point on my trek @ Kala Pattar 
  • 20236 ft (6168m) - Highest point in the US @ Mt. McKinley, Alaska
And it's still a long way if you are heading for the summit at 29,029ft (8,848m)

Monday, March 24, 2014

The way to Everest Base Camp

My trek to Everest Base Camp is for 2 weeks, which is about half the time I'm in Nepal. But I've talked about EBC the most because it's taken up most of my preparation.

Mt. Everest is along the northern border of Nepal. I will fly from Kathmandu to the Everest region and trek on foot to EBC. I will also spend time in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

This is roughly the path of the EBC trek, starting from the bottom of the map working north to EBC.

The trek starts in Lukla, located in the Khumbu region in the northeast of Nepal, because there is an airport there with flights to/from Kathmandu. Beyond it there are no airports and no roads for cars or trucks. The standard EBC trek is 12 to 14 days and my trekking partner and I have decided to go on the longer end of that because we want to enjoy the trip.

My plan is to fly to Lukla. From there, I will start walking: 
Day 1 Fly KTM to Lukla. Trek to Monjo. 
Day 2 Trek to Namche Bazaar
Day 3 Stay in Namche Bazaar
Day 4 Trek to Khumjung
Day 5 Trek to Phortse
Day 6 Trek to Pangboche
Day 7 Trek to Dingboche
Day 8 Stay in Dingboche
Day 9 Trek to Dugla
Day 10 Trek to Lobuche
Day 11 Trek to Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp!
Day 12 Trek to Periche
Day 13 Trek to Tengboche
Day 14 Trek to Namche Bazaar
Day 15 Trek to Lukla
Day 16 Fly Lukla to KTM. April 26

This is Everest Base Camp, where I hope to be April 21, 2014. Actually this is the tourist EBC. The base camp where summit expeditions pitch their tents is a little beyond this and only open to expedition members. But I will be very very happy to even get to this point.

Next post, I'll talk about the altitude of this trek... 

Friday, March 21, 2014

End of one trek and the start of another

The most important reason that I am going on this Everest Base Camp trek is because I believe I can do it. Finishing medical school has given me a kind of confidence in myself that I've never had before because I know that I have made it through a very challenging four years.

What have the past four years been like? Medical school was without a doubt the most demanding thing I have ever done. Maybe other people have been through more trying situations but relative to my experiences, medical school has the most challenging thing I have ever done. I had to learn more information that I ever had to before. I had to give up things that were important to me. I had much less free time to explore my hobbies and interest and to relax than I really wanted to. Many times I was really jealous of my peers who had money AND free time.

What have I learned now at the end of four years? I feel empowered. I feel like I can endure hardships for a greater reward because that's what I did every evening I spent in a basement study carrel. The trek to EBC will be physically demanding, I'm sure. But I know I can get to 18,000 feet because I feel like medical school was a mental challenge at least equivalent to that height.

I am less than 12 hours away from finding out the results of my residency match, where I will training for the next three years. It feels like the end of a long trek. As this trek finishes, it has prepared me to begin another.

Next time I will share with you some of the physical preparation for the trek...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why I'm going to Nepal

Days until I leave for Nepal: 14

It's becoming real to me as my travel plans have firmed up: I'm going to Nepal for four weeks from April 1st-30th.

I'm going to Nepal because I want to see more of Asia. I've never been to any Asian country other than China. This is really embarrassing to admit because I'm very well-traveled in Europe in comparison.

I'm going to Nepal because I want to take a long trip. This might be the last time in a long time that I have five consecutive weeks of vacation. In residency I may have vacations of one or two weeks duration at the most and I'll have little flexibility in scheduling them. It would be pretty difficult to take a transpacific trip like this one that requires two to three days of traveling on each end.

I'm going to Nepal because I want to see Mt. Everest. Once a couple years ago I was really bored. I went on Amazon Prime Instant Video and watched every episode of Everest: Beyond the Limit. That show taught me everything I know about mountaineering in the Himalayas. Before that, I knew a few facts about Everest but nothing about what the summitting was like. That show made me want to see the Himalayas for myself. I knew I had no hope of doing any technical climbing but I'd be happy to see Everest from afar.

I'm going to Nepal because I'm ready to travel solo. I'm going to be by myself for about half my trip. I have a trekking companion for the journey to Everest Base Camp, an Australian woman. Otherwise, I'm on my own. Most of the traveling I've done has been with other friends or I would stay with friends in various cities. The only time I've truly traveled alone was to Istanbul for a few days. Those were baby steps. I'm ready to take the next step.

Tomorrow I'll write about the most important reason I'm going to Nepal...