Annapurna Base Camp Trek written by Kate Latham

I am writing this with 24 hours of returning from this trek when ‘the horror, the horror’ and the
episodes of exquisite pleasure of the trip are still viscerally present and hope that my experience
might help you make a decision about whether this trek is for you.
The trek was a 70 th birthday present to myself and would fulfil a life time ambition to see and
experience the high Himalaya up close and personal. I had booked it about 18 months previously and
so it had loomed large in my life and everybody seemed to know I was going. The grandchildren had
used their ‘Granny is going to climb a mountain’ story in their talk and tell and even nursery had had
to check the somewhat garbled story the smallest one had been relating. One dear old friend
seemed to think I was going to some retreat in the home counties called Annapurna Sanctuary which
involved Himalayan rock salt and fluffy dressing gowns and hoped I would find, in the fortnight I
would be away, the ‘detachment’ I sought. As if… The comments from pals were that I would be fine,
after all I was fit for a 5’4” woman who weighed 136lbs. I did Pilates twice a week. Swam half a mile
3 times per week. Cycled at weekends. Had a step box as my desk chair and used it. I walked up the
stairs 2 at a time. I could do all the individual elements on the training guide and did 15 mile walks
on the SW Coast Path carrying my day pack and 2 litres of water and could run 10k, albeit slowly. I
had a test walk in Derbyshire in September and when I managed Jacob’s Ladder in the rain without
stopping or puffing I thought that I would be able, at the very least, to hold my end up. I thought I
was strong enough. It turned out that I was Cornwall fit but not mountain fit meaning that I hadn’t
done any challenging day after day walking for far, too long.
SO- slightly spooked by an ‘ooh-er, what have I done’ feeling and being way, way outside my comfort
zone I embarked on this walk of epic dimensions which I can only describe as ‘brutal’. There might
be slightly shorter days on the trek but there is not an easy day and some of the days are very long
with early starts. Of course, this information is all in the trip notes but on paper it had seemed much
more benign and manageable. It is a walk of relentless ‘up’ followed by relentless ‘down’ and very
little flattish ground. Even when the path followed the river it would involve navigating a safe route
through rock falls and all I could see was ‘broken ankle hazard’. The stone staircases are feats of
vernacular engineering but might go on for 3 hours or more. Having initially loathed the
relentlessness of the staircases I came to see them as my friend for here at least was some
predictability. Without the staircases some of the up or down steps on the track might be more than
I could actually lift my leg. I learned quickly never to look up, because if I did, I would be utterly
daunted by what was ahead. I rarely looked round because my main focus was making the next step
safe and manageable. I trekked at the back of the group who tolerated my total inability to walk and
talk simultaneously.
The guides are vigilant about everyone in the group and I frequently had my day sack adjusted to
make it more comfortable and efficient to carry. I could not have managed any of the trek without
poles which the guides made sure were the correct height to offer maximum help. If the guide says=
do it= they really do know best!
I am sure that everyone feels that ‘their’ group is the Best Trekking Family Ever but I think my group
were extra special in the care and comfort they offered this old girl so obviously at the edge of her
physical capacities and were very tolerant of the amount of guide time I was using and was never,
ever made to feel that I was a pain in the neck .Rather, my actually surviving the day and coming in
last became something to be celebrated, and it usually was, with a raised glass and much cheering

It was the physical walking which was most difficult for me. Other challenges, such as trying to use a
squat loo with a left knee which temporarily wouldn’t bend, the accommodation, the food were all
part of the warp and weft of shared endeavour, was what I had expected and had signed up to. I
simply had not realised and underestimated how demanding the walking would be. In reality I spent
much of the adventure enduring the walking whilst enjoying everything else.
With the benefit of hind sight I should have increased my trekking experience and done a Level 3
trek about 9 months before I confirmed my place on this one. This would have helped with some of
the practical stuff I got wrong- other folk seemed to travel somewhat lighter than me- and for me to
recognise that I might struggle, even on flattish ground, to keep up with the trekking pace.
It was a very demanding and physically challenging+++++ experience but en route I saw sights which
were beyond my wildest expectations. I just wish I had done more basic personal research about my
physical capacities and done the whole thing 15 years earlier.

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