Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The sun was shining in Lukla yesterday morning and Asti caught her flight to Kathmandu and settled in to her hotel there for a couple days of well deserved rest, sightseeing, and shopping.
Her return to the UK is scheduled for Thursday 1 Sept. Alan & I will meet her at Terminal 4, Heathrow.

Monday, 29 August 2011

After a spot of early morning shopping in Namche Bazaar, today was the last day of steady trekking. They left Namche Bazaar and  on down to Lukla,; crossing 2 suspension bridges along the way.
I spoke with Asti in the evening after she'd arrived in Lukla (although we exchanged text messages earlier in the day while she rested on a cigarette break). She was exhausted, it was raining, and she was waiting for some people to meet up with her and go to dinner.
Tomorrow morning, assuming the weather cooperates and there's a clear window, Asti's flight will take her from Lukla airport back to Kathmandu.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Heard from Asti today when she reached Namche Bazaar on the way down-mountain and finally had a phone signal again. She's exhausted and looking forward to a night's sleep and a real breakfast in the morning at the German Konditorei. Tomorrow after a spot of shopping in Namche Bazaar around 7am, she'll head out to Lukla and the airport and with any luck, her flight back to Kathmandu.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Everest Base Camp!


(OK, that was yesterday but she had no connectivity)

Just spoke with Astrid who is in Everest Base Camp today!
She's lucked out and the weather is startlingly clear and the views are amazing. Lots of photos for us to anticipate.
More native species spotting even at the high altitude; she was charmed to see Himalayan Pika - small tailless furry mammals related to hares & rabbits.

To celebrate her birthday yesterday, her guide organised a birthday cake for her - I can't imagine how they managed to bake it at that altitude and with their supply restrictions but they did.

And of course from the sublime to the absurd...
She had just arrived at Everest Base Camp after 3 days of no connectivity when suddenly her phone rang. She imagined it was me or some family member calling, frantic after 3 days of silence but no. Who was it calling?

 - A RECRUITER - Hi there, is this Astrid, is this a good time to talk about a project manager role ...
Astrid's reply, "No it <censored> well isn't. I'm on Mt Everest climbing. Call me back next week.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

No connection again today so no news for now.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

No update today because I couldn't get through to either Astrid or her Guide's mobile phone. However she's supposed to be in Dingboche tonight and tomorrow (acclimatisation day) so hopefully we can get a connection tomorrow.

Monday, 22 August 2011

No views today, cloudy and rainy; but the climb was so steep and demanding it would have been a nightmare in the sun. On the other hand, Asti reports she spotted native wildlife today, a Himalayan Tahr - a relative of the wild goat and Musk Deer, a species more primitive and possibly ancestral to deer, most notable for their enlarged upper canine teeth, forming sabre-like tusks. Hopefully her photos will come out well. (The photo below is just for show because those sabre tusks have to be seen.)

Reaching Thyangboche earlier in the day, she discovered that the famous monastery there was closed to the public until mid-Sept for some sort of Buddhist monk retreat. She peeped in the entrance.
Tonight she's in a tea house at 3750m/12,303ft altitude. When we spoke she was waiting for dinner - 2 boiled eggs and roasted potatoes - no yak butter need be applied.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Namche Bazaar

Having dragged my sorry ass to Namche Bazaar, of course my hotel is at the very top of the town. I gratefully dropped my bags in my room, took advantage of a western toilet (!!!) and then did some exploring.

Namche is gearing up for the high season by building more guesthouses but right now it's quiet as we are still in the monsoon. It's quite the thriving place because basically and expedition or trek involves passing through it twice and almost everyone stops off for a day to rest.

So I wandered around for a bit and stumbled on something almost unbelievable. A konditorei. And it was open!

You know I got up those stairs with the swiftness. I managed to get a proper cup of coffee with milk made from powder (not from a bloody nak) and raisin bread. Shangri La indeed!

When I got back to my hotel, I'm having a quick smoke outside when who do I bump into but Guy and Emma from the computer room at the school in Lukla! I told them about the bakery and when they didn't believe me produced the bag with the other half of the loaf and invited them to have some. The poor things were in bliss having not had western bread in months. We quickly agreed to have dinner together and also to meet up at the bakery for a naughty cup of western coffee in the morning. I also passed them a few goodies - 3 snickers bars, some Tesco mixed nuts with raisins, Cadbury chocolate covered raisins and a packet of pork scratchings. They were astonished at my food preparedness with him dropping to his knees at sight of the pork scratchings.

Having had a ghastly dinner (I really detest all nak-related products now) my guide gave me the bad news. Although the next day was scheduled for rest, he was encouraging me to go on an acclimitisation hike - 5 hours and 500 metres altitude! ::faint:: To encourage me he pointed out that if the weather was nice I would be able to see Everest. I begrudgingly agreed "if the weather is nice" as my plans for a massage went out the window.

Well, don't you know today dawned with crystal clear skies.

Bloody unheard of during monsoon. ::grumble::

So right after breakfast I dashed to the shops to get a new backpack - one more suitable to trekking. The one from voltaic is fine for commuting but not at all appropriate to trekking. Then back to the hotel to pack the new backpack and grab my walking sticks.

I was still in so much pain from the previous days so didn't do the full 5 hour insanity, just to the top of the ridge (which still took me an hour in my condition). And it was worth it. I have now actually seen Everest with my naked eyes.

I just wish I'd gotten a decent shot of both me and the mountain. ::sigh:: Here's the best of a bad bunch.

And you see that valley behind me? I trekked that mother!

Then tottered down the hill, checked out a sherpa museum, then collapsed.

Mongju to Namche Bazaar

The hike from Mongju to Namche Bazaar is the most gruelling of the trip I am told. It's basically all up and down until you get to the banks of the Dudh Kosi River (Milky River), at which point it's all up. And up. And up. Just switchback after switchback so you can't even see how much farther there is to go. There were times when I wanted to just fall to my knees and say "Jesus, take me now!" and other times when I thought it might be more expedient to just rip my guts out and fashion a noose. Honestly.

Five. Bloody. Hours.

Along the way we crossed the worlds highest suspension bridge. Those of you who know me know that I'm terribly afraid of heights but I was so utterly exhausted and without hope that I honestly couldn't have cared less if it had broken with me on it.

I can understand why Namche was mistaken for Shangri La as it was heaven to finally arrive.

Lukla Part Deux and walk to Mongju

So, after my last post I explored Lukla bit further, checking out the market (even I was challenged to find anything I wanted to buy), the local lama school and the primary school. There I met Guy and Emma from Bath who were setting up a computer room for the kiddiewinks but challenged to get the PCs up and running with all the moisture.

I also sent off postcards which, if they arrive at all, will take several months. ::grin::

Finally back to the lodge for a dhal bhat dinner and thence to bed. Which was awful and freaky. I was the only trekker so the only person in the guest lodge. After a certain time the electrics ae turned off so if you want to pee or have a crafty cig in the middle of the night you have to do it by flashlight. Which attracts the bugs. Ugh.

I was ready on time for our 9am kick-off. What followed was utter utter misery. It was chuckking down with rain and I had on way too manu layers covered with bloody waterproof salopettes AND a blooming poncho. Yeah it kept the rain off but I was still soaked through from my sweat! I just could not shed my heat so finally I said screw it and took off the poncho. Then that wasn't enough so I took off my jacket and then further my top layer so I was down to bra and under shirt on top. Which scandalised my guide but I told him it would be a bigger scandal if his client died from the heat.

After 3 hours of gruelling labour we stopped for lunch in Phakding (no sniggering in the back!). Blessed relief! To tell the truth, it's not the climbing/trekking so much (although that IS pretty tough) but the backpack that's the killer. After lunch they took pity on me and relieved me of said bastard backpack and I was able to complete the final 3 hours of torture. The only thing that got me through it was teh thought of a cigarette at the end. And, of course, Bletchley. ;-)

So we spent the night in Mongju (2850m alt.) where I had a warm shower. Bliss! But I couldn't eat any dinner. I was feeling out of sorts and felt a headache coming on. Although I went to bed, I just couldn't shake the pain and at 10:30pm I finally admitted to myself that I had mountain sickness so took a Diamox and a few hours later the pain was manageable enough that I could sleep.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Namche Bazaar

Astrid reached Namche Bazaar this morning and will be spending the rest of today and tomorrow thee acclimating to the altitude and resting.

(More details shortly)

Friday, 19 August 2011

Off on the Road to Everest (wasn't that a Bob Hope movie?)

Of course not but it should have been.

First day's trek.
Hours of strenuous walking uphill (not backwards, not in high heels; that's next trip with corporate support). The summer temperatures on the lower slopes combined with exertions of walking uphill left Asti broiling and she had to shed layers of outerwear for relief. No worries, temps will rapidly drop with the rise in altitude.

When I spoke with Asti a few minutes ago they had reached shelter for the night and were relaxing before bed. Since they try to get a very early start to each day and the trek is so exhausting, bedtime is usually around 7:30pm. The home-made cookies (oatmeal peanut butter with rum soaked raisins and dark choc chips) carefully carried from London were a hit with the Guide and Porter as well as Asti.

Asti said the most striking scenery of the day's trek were the many waterfalls; they were particularly dramatic due to the continuous heavy rain the past week. However, the rain had other sadder consequences - landslides. Reportedly 6 people died in the landslides and as they climbed they had to walk past the crushed houses still covered with tons of dirt and boulders.

On a happier note, Asti said they're taking lots of photos and will reach Namche Bazaar tomorrow where she should get her first clear, close up view of Everest.

Asti sends her love to family and friends.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Dispatch from the Himalayas

Spoke to Asti in Lukla on a daily phone-in at 2pm UK time (7pm Everest time). She's still looking for a sim but no joy so far. She sounds great. It's raining in Lukla so she bought a poncho large enough to cover her and her backpack.
Tomorrow morning they'll head out on foot to Namche Bazaar - a 2 day hike, I'm told.

Greetings from Sunny Lukla!

Everything has been smooth so far. Was met at the airport and transported to the Hotel Manaslu to dump my fear then went walking through the Thamel district. I'm gonna have to do a load of shopping there on the way back. Jewels, pashminas, yak wool shawls, it's all gorgeous. Had a fab dinner at the Nepali Chola with lots of singing and dancing but called it an early night and was tucked up by 9pm for my 4am wakeup.

Good thing too! We got to the airport and were checked in before 6am for a 6:45 flight BUT they don't stick to scheduled like that here. They had a full complement and a weather window so at 6:15 we were in the air in a tiny little twin otter plane. Apparently there have been no flights to or from Lukla for the last 5 days and ours was the only flight that has made it so far today.

So, the flight was actuially pretty good. Amazing glimpses of the landscape betwixt the clouds. I didn't whimper or gasp even once and didn't tale any xanax. ;-)

I've dropped my bags at the lodge run by my guides family, made lifelong friends with their dog (who is the cutest little thing - like  a mini-house-yak). I called him a little booboo in the baby talk that I reserve for cute little doggies and have now learned that booboo is the local word for breast. ::blush::

Downer in that I have zero connection on phone or wifi/kindle. I'm going to send the phone number for my guide (who is on a different network) to my mother so that she can take my daily blog updates when I'm away from the internet.

Toodle Pip!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Astrid's flight arrived at Kathmandu Airport today. Apparently it's raining there so waiting for word if her flight to Lukla is delayed due to weather. Apparently Lukla is rated the "most challenging" airport in the world. The airport's runway is only accessible to helicopters and small fixed-wing short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) aircraft. The single runway is 1,500 feet (very short) and has a 12% gradient.  There's mountainside immediately next to one end of the runway and a steeply angled drop of about 2,000 feet at the other end of the runway into the valley below. Add thin air, high winds, cloud cover and changing visibility. Niiice.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

And so it begins...

Astrid at Terminal 4 departures, Heathrow airport, on her way to Everest.

Chocks Away!

Right then, I've ha my hair cornrowed so I don't have to deal with washing and drying it while I'm away and I've put all of my stuff into compression sacks and repacked. Now I'm at my mother's place having a drink before I head over to Heathrow which is only a short drive away.

This is it folks!

Monday, 15 August 2011


This blog post title is dedicated to my little bro' Andrew. Love ya kiddo!

Well I've been running around like a blue-arsed fly today. Apart from doing handover to my team so that, hopefully, everyone knows what they're supposed to be doing while I'm away, I've also run to the dentist to get my teeth checked, got my snacks for the trip, got my watch, and repacked the rucksack.

WRT yesterday's post, I give you the list of food supplies...

1. 3 tubes of homemade cookies
2. 20 sachets - instant arizona iced green tea w/ginseng  for boring old water
3. 18 Eat Natural GORP Bars
4. 250g - marrons glace
5. 14 sachets - instant hot chocolate mix
6. 1 bag mini-marchmallows
7. 20 sachets instant oatmeal
8. 2x450g - squeezy condensed milk for tea and oatmeal (to avoid yak milk)
9. 1 kilo GORP
10. 800g chocolate covered raisins
11. 500g dried apricots
12. 20 snack size snickers

I've also switched over from my regular jewelry to inexpensive jewelry. AND learned how to run my new watch with altimeter. 88 bloody pages of reference manual that was!

I also invested in 2 dynamo flashlights and a few more pairs of socks.

And my honey-bunny brought home a going away gift for me. A lovely little passport cover from Aspinal. Squee!

Right then, now to organise the daypack.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Trekking Nutrition

First of all, thanks to everyone who came out last night for the last drinks of the condemned woman. ;-)

As the departure draws closer, I've been considering what to bring along in the way of foodstuffs. While my meals are covered by the travel package, a bit of research has revealed that my nutritional and caloric (or should that be calorific?) needs will be altered for the duration of the trek.

For one thing, there's going to be a lot of exercise. Based on my height, weight, and the steepness fo the terrain plus the fact that I will be carrying a day pack and using walking poles, it is not unreasonable to estimate that I will burn 500-550 calories per hour while actively trekking. If we then extrapolate based on an average 6 hours trekking per day we get a conservative increase of ~3000 calories per day needed to maintain my weight in addition to normal caloric needs.

If you're eyes haven't glazed over yet, that means I will need ~5000 calories per day. I honestly don't see how it is physically possible for me to eat more than about half that amount but that's ok as I'm looking forward to a trimmer figure when this is done. ;-)

In addition, altitude does strange things to digestion. The higher I get the less appetite I'll have and it also becomes more difficult to digest things like proteins. People who actually summit come down flabby because it's easier for their bodies to live off of their muscle than to either digest food or to burn fat! I, sadly, will not be attempting to summit but the point is that I need to make sure that not only do I have enough calories to function but also must ensure that the calories that I do consume are digestible.

To complicate matters, I don't like chocolate -or- mint (so no kendal mint cake for me!). So to supplement the endless dal bhat I will be bringing instant hot chocolate sachets, instant oatmeal sachets, instant miso soup sachets (for when I get to the point where I totally don't want to eat at least it will help to keep me hydrated), fun-size snickers bars and homemade cookies from my mother. :-). I've asked for her Neiman Marcus Million Dollar cookies (which she really ought to post the recipe for on the family cooking blog - hint, hint) and her oatmeal raisin cookies (with raisins soaked in brandy.

You can see that oatmeal features heavily in my plans and this is for several reasons:

1. I really like it
2. It's a more complex carbohydrate and so will release it's energy slowly instead of as a sugar rush.
3. Apparently carbs should comprise 60% of my diet during the trek (sorry Dr. Atkins!)

If anyone else has suggestions that are polite and do not include chocolate or mint, I'd be VERY happy to receive advice!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Weather in Nepal - Mid August

I've just realised that the trip is close enough that the weather reports will cover he beginning of my trip. Yay! So I've checked the forecast and it looks like, as I predicted \o/ , the monsoon will be tapering off when I arrive. It will be down to only 50% chance for rain and I'll take those odds. 

Really. If it rains for an hour or two or three, do I care? Nah. I'll just pull up my big girlie nickers, slap on my rain hat, and carry on.

I'll tell you the truth my friends, I actually look forward to it. How neat will it be to walk through the streets of Kathmandu in the monsoon?

The interesting thing is that it's the very north of the monsoon so while it rains a great deal, it's not actually hot. The forecast says it will run about 76F (which I think is a bit over 24C) which isn't bad at all. Of course the temperature will drop as I gain altitude so what I'm really interested in is the weather in Lukla (where I will land in the mountains), Namche Bazaar (last certain internet connection) and of course Everest Base Camp. 

Base Camp at the moment is running -24C, snowing, and 35cm of snow is expected between now and Friday. Glad I bought those foot warmers to put in my boots!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

T-7 Days and counting!

It's the final week of countdown before I head off to do this thing!  And I now have my new passport thanks to a miserable day at the Passport office. At least I was able to bring my laptop and work from the St. George Tavern and the charming barman was kind enough to produce an impromptu ale tasting so I could decide what I would like to drink. I reccommend The Young Rev.

And on the topic of beer, there' a change to the plans for the leaving drinks as I have learned that The George is closed for renovations. ::sigh::  So instead we will be convening at The Mayflower !!! I suppose that it's appropriate as it's the place where the pilgrim fathers convened before they so rashly threw themselves at a foreign land. I just hope that I'm a bit more prepared than they were.

Anyway so it's the same date and time (August 13th from 6pm onwards) but at the new location. All sponsors are very welcome to come and raise a glass. And if you haven't sponsored me yet, it's not too late! http://www.justgiving.com/Astrid-Byro

Monday, 8 August 2011

First Aid Kit for Trekking

So I have finished assembling my first aid kit.

In addition t the medications that I listed the other day, I also have:

latex gloves
blister pads
pressure bandages
a pressure tube for knee or ankle
small surgical scissors
needle & suture thread
antiseptic wipes

When I went to the doctor today (£187!!!) to get the prescriptions, he was surprised and pleased with my medications list. Apparently, with an office out at Canary Wharf, he gets people who climb fairly often but they usually just want a scrip for Diamox. He felt that the assembly of this medical kit was a really good idea and that he wished more people would do this. He said that if more people were this well prepared than a lot of misery could be avoided.

So you might think that I'm a bit of a nutter with the planning and preparation BUT this trek will take me far from normal infrastructure and I'd rather have a little bag of self-help with me.

Another thing that I've been careful to do is to retain the packaging for all prescription medications as well as all instructions for them in case there's any problem with customs. I also have a small booklet on emergency first aid.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

First Aid Kit

My next task is to make sure that my first aid kit is complete. I'll need an array of plasters and blister things and bandages and gauze and the like of course. Far more interesting though is the recommended list of medications. Don't forget that at altitude water boils at a lower temperature so more bacteria will be in it. Offsetting this slightly is that there are generally less bacteria in colder/harsher climates.

The following is generally from the Lonely Planet Guide to Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya...

antibiotic eyedrops
azithromycin 500mg. - broad spectrum antibiotic
clotrimazole 1% or miconazole 2% cream - antifungal cream
pseudophedrine - 10 tablets
Benadryl - 10/20 tablets
hydrocortisone cream 1%
loperamide (immodium) - I'll want plenty of this, what with the high altitude flatulence and all
fluconazole - 1 tablet - for yeast infections - almost inevitable given the hygiene facilities
ciproflaxin - 10 tablets  - good for urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, etc.
aspirin - helps with headaches particularly to thin the blood due to high altitude
vicodin - for real. If I'm in acute pain, i don't want to have to wait for rescue before I get pain relief
tinidazole - anti-parasitic for protozoan infections
diamox - helps to prevent altitude sickness

Now I just have to find a doctor to prescribe them for me!

Friday, 5 August 2011

First Corporate Sponsor!

Muchas Gracias to Green Man Gaming - the first official corporate sponsor for this insanity! Green Man Gaming are a digital retailer for PC games. From their website:

"Unlike any other digital retailer, our customers can trade-in their digitally downloaded games for credit in their account and this credit can then be used for new purchases. We have some very clever patent-protected technology that allows only us to do this."

Plus they're a good bunch of folks (but I may be slightly biased) so the next time you're thinking about buying a game, consider giving them a go and save yourself some dosh!

Also, the good people at Green Man have designed a special one-off t-shirt with an amazing logo that I will wear at Base camp. :-)