Crushing comfort zones, exceeding capabilities and staring death in the face were far from my original plan when I attempted to complete the 10-16-day Annapurna circuit in the Himalayas of Nepal in late 2016.
Physical injury, illness, mental battles, deep emotions, altitude sickness, desperation and dangerous situations were all soon to be part of my reality. Coming out of the other side was not only life-changing but my local guide who met these extremities with me made for a great life-long friendship.
It all started with an impulsive decision to leave the remote Aboriginal Community of Lajamanu in the remote desert of Australia that I was working in to then challenge myself with the mammoth 10-16-day Annapurna circuit trek.
The reasons for this were purely fuelled from deep emotions, heartache, loss, bullying, victimisation and an overall mindset which pushed me to my limit. This left me with one decision which was to smash through my emotions by doing something epic or carry on eating myself up with my desperate frame of mind. The actual reasons that made me decide to do this trek in a spontaneous last-minute decision will be detailed in my third novel and will be a truly hard-hitting read that’s for certain.
I never imagined for a second that I would test everything I had by completing the 10-16-day trek in 4 days and 7 hours but that is precisely what happened. After travelling for several hours on one of the world’s most dangerous roads whilst being huddled together with other people in jeeps, we arrived at the start of the trek with just a night’s sleep left before starting our climb.
On day 1 of this huge trek and after a few heavy nights of drinking, I woke up in a small place called Tharapani. I was hungover and not feeling my best whatsoever as I gripped my 22kg backpack before lifting it onto my back. With my 8kg bag on my front and despite the crisp alpine weather, I was sweating so much. We headed on our 18km trek to a mountain village called Chame. With just myself and Ram (my mountain guide) climbing on our first day, I never could have imagined what was to come next as we sat down for lunch a few hours later.
The views were simply stunning, and I was soon kicking around one of the two small footballs I had brought along with me. I wanted to break a total of at least four world records which included certain props such as a football as well as a spare one (just in case). I also wanted to play football with local village kids along the way.
However, my upbeat mood soon changed as I was soon left with agonising pain in my stomach. It was clear that I now had food poisoning from the local and national dish called dahl baht. The pain was crippling, and I was also dizzy, as unfortunately for me I was now also getting altitude sickness. I could feel my left heel digging into my shoe as I had left everything last minute, so I just had my Nike shoes I wear for the gym. I wanted light footwear which was to prove a very stupid mistake indeed and there was no going back now unless I wanted to give up.
The trek after lunch was a further assent to the small village of Chame which was so incredibly difficult as my head was pounding, stomach in agony and I just wanted to lie down. Stood at an altitude of 2,650 metres, we finally got to the mountain village of Chame, so I sat in the small cooking area with the host family, so I could warm up as I was not in a good way. The little girl hiding behind her mummy playing hide and seek with me was so sweet and it briefly took my mind off how I felt.
I couldn’t eat anything as it just made me feel sick, so I forced myself to drink hot lemon, honey and ginger. The last thing I wanted to do was have an ice-cold bucket wash, but it had to be done and more importantly I had an open blister to clean on my left heal. Originally, I wanted to surpass Chame that evening, but this was before my food poisoning, blister, altitude sickness and throbbing headaches.
I never forget this night. I went to bed early as I could hardly move as I just laid in bed. I tried to drink the locally recommended rice whisky but it just made everything so much worse. I was having severe hot and cold sweats, muscle cramps, shooting pains through my stomach and at times I felt the pressure on my head that bad it was penetrating every part of me. Ram was checking up on me and was severely worried as I couldn’t even talk clearly, move properly, eat or drink and I was also shaking. I tried eating as the local Nepalese cooked up a nice meal but I just couldn’t.
There were many times during this trek I had moments where I questioned giving up but something very deep down inside of me was so incredibly stubborn, defiant and fearless to the fact that I can overcome it. This was the very first instance of such an occurrence.
The truth behind my defiance was a lot deeper than I first thought. My determination to complete this trek regardless of any potential challenge was relentless. My emotional state was that bad due to some severely personal matters that crushed me that I was just not going to stop. It was like I had to walk it out of my head, push myself to the extreme and more importantly – I felt that coming out of the other side would be the only way.
I could only really describe my sleep that night as utterly horrid as I was constantly forgetting where I was, dripping with sweat and overall, I felt like I was in a small confined bubble to which I could not escape. I kept telling myself that this was just my body adjusting to such altitudes and that it will somehow pass. I also felt that this was my challenge and that this was meant to be this way. The depth inside of me that drove me to be positive was just like I knew deep down inside of me that I would be ok.
So, it was soon time to get up on day 2. I had to use ice cold water again to clean my wound as it was quite deep. I made myself eat half a bowl of muesli with hot milk as I knew I had to eat. Once we were set to leave, I put my 22kg backpack on and felt my left shoulder tear. I dropped my bag instantly as I felt the agonising pain of a ripped muscle in my shoulder. This really was fight or flight, sink or swim, fail or succeed but I still just would not budge.
I went to the local clinic and paid to privately see a nurse, so I could continue as soon as possible. She checked my wound, my shoulder as well as how I was feeling and said to me that I should not continue this trek. I knew she had a point and climbing up to 5,416 metres altitude was a test for anyone, so I would be pushing it for sure.
I am a firm believer that if you start something then you need to finish and that if you set your mind to achieve this you will achieve it regardless of hurdles. This nurse soon cleaned and bandaged my open wound. I then asked for iodine, spare bandages, cream and a heat pack and I will sort the rest, no worries so we were soon on our way again.
Ram was concerned and was constantly asking me questions, but I just kept saying I am fine and that I will do the walk with no problems at all. From this very point, I decided that I will keep completely ahead of the game with taking meds, vitamins, electrolytes, rest when necessary and prevent infection or further injury.
This day in particular was a very emotional day for me which felt like a huge combination of lack of sleep, personal emotions and also physical pain. One thing about this trek though was the ever-changing views that were so unbelievably breathtaking that it was making my emotions become so much more intense. It was like walking through postcard after postcard which felt so surreal. We had the occasional stop as my energy was so depleted, but the stops were relatively short as I could feel we could skip the next two scheduled stopovers to which we did. Ram was determined not to continue but I convinced him otherwise as I just couldn’t see the point of stopping when it is still sunlight.
I soon had a moment to myself where I laid down, shut my eyes and told myself that I was going to do this.
We had covered massive distances and arrived at our next mountain village called Humde in the late hours of the afternoon. There was something so addictive about not stopping that I felt possessed with such deep determination to keep pushing myself.
I now had an open wound on both heels, so I was certainly ready for a rest for the night. The mountain tea houses that we stayed at were all nice, cosy and offered great food and drinks. They were obviously basic though, so it was soon another ice cold full body wash, a clean up of my wounds, heat pack on my shoulder before sitting down for a fresh ginger, honey and lemon drink. The walls in the bedrooms were always so thin, so my sleep was not good at all as I could hear every footstep, every voice and all the other noises kept me awake or even vibrated through my room.
Day 3 was another big day. It started with sheer agony as I put my shoes on after another ice bucket wash. We were scheduled to spend 2 nights in Manang (altitude of 3,519 metres) to acclimatize but again, I just didn’t want to stop. This took a lot of convincing as Ram strongly suggested stopping but it was like 2pm so I wanted to carry on going until dark. Ram reluctantly agreed, and he appeared to understand my passion, so we continued. This was the day I got my appetite back, so I sat having lunch with yet another breathtaking view.
Again, we just kept going and going but this time we arrived at our new destination of Yak Kharka in the early hours of the evening, so it was almost dark. I was severely tired, but I felt like I had broken through a barrier which was great.
Now, day 4 was the ultimate day that both myself and Ram will never ever forget and for good reasons. It may sound crazy paying so much money for a trek just to rush it but for me, trekking for a whole day rather than just several hours just to spend overextended time in each village seemed pointless. Not only did I want the biggest challenge of my life but to maximise the trek scenically too by resting along the way, leaving early and arriving to villages late. Through word of mouth, I knew that none of the guides had heard of anyone completing the 10-16-day trek in half the time let alone less so I could feel this challenge overpower me with adrenalin, focus and determination.
I was up at 5am but despite the tiredness, I felt the most overwhelming of emotions that we should leave early and continue as far as we physically can. Little did I realise that this would be the most powerful, testing and extreme day I have yet to live through.
As I got up, I realised that both my heels were in a bad way. I knew it was going to be a long day so having an ice cold full body wash in freezing temperatures was not ideal, but it was incredibly necessary. The rashes on my inner thighs felt like they were on fire as the freezing water penetrated my sore red skin. It took me nearly 2 hours just to wash, rebandage my heels and sort myself ready to continue. It was as if I was in slow motion as everything I done was plagued with fatigue, aching muscles, pain and feeling light headed due to the high altitude. I have had bad circulation in my fingers and toes for several years now so even the gloves I had on didn’t stop the numbness which slowed me down more.
Another make or break moment for me was when it was time to put my Nike shoes on as both my feet were badly swollen. This was unbelievably agonising. I just had to suck up the pain and get on with it. My theory was – no pain, no gain. I had already made it to the point which is recommended day 7-10 and this was the early hours of day 4 so as hard as it felt, progress was certainly being made.
The views were simply amazing but the feeling when I put pressure on either foot was so excruciating as was lifting my 30kg of baggage as my shoulder was still hurting bad. As we set off after my muesli and hot milk, we made our way very slowly as I kept stopping as the pain was becoming too much for me. I was very emotional, teary and passionate all at once as I took each step slowly but surely. The mix of emotions was like nothing I had ever felt before and being alone, away from friends and family under these conditions in such remoteness was weighing my mind down so much.
The views were just so spectacular that I had wave after wave of emotions I didn’t know I had inside of me. I was flowing through waves of excitement, pain, happiness, reluctance, intrigue, but also being proud of myself. A challenge soon popped up where I was offered a horse and a donkey by locals as either the horse or donkey could carry me the rest of the way. As much as I considered it, it was so hard walking away from such an opportunity. I would have been a massive failure if I decided to take the easy option.
Then – breaking point, just like that. I became incredibly emotional with the tears running down my face as I questioned everything. This was the moment that changed it all for me. I asked Ram to please go ahead as I needed time to myself. I took my bags off before standing on this rope bridge. I asked Ram to please give me 10 minutes alone, so Ram stood a little way behind me as I stood on the rope bridge. I stood looking out at the dramatic views and just burst into tears with the thought of giving up, failing and not doing what I set out to do. My deep sadness of my personal life at present was also literally crushing me on that bridge but man it felt good to just let it all out. I cried so hard and my mind was just going from one emotion to the next and so on. It was like flicking through a book with each page holding different emotions and they just filled me with tears that were now pouring so hard as I wept more and more.
Then, it happened, the defining moment. This was the moment where I had serious words with myself about not giving up. The pain in both feet, left shoulder, severe cramp in my right foot, emotional hurt regarding my life and the power to not give up was relentless and so powerful that it had gripped every atom in my body and mind. The sheer determination I had from this very point was unstoppable. Every tear, emotion, thought and feeling I let out on that bridge was the start of a surge of ruthless intent to not only complete this trek but I was determined to push through any limits with maximum conviction.
There were soon some seriously tough parts where we had to trek through and the pressure on my feet, back, shoulders and legs were unbelievable as was seeing the huge trek and mountains we had yet to come. We eventually got to a stop off where others had stopped on a mountain side shop which was just beautiful as well as being amazing for me to feel the weight of 30kg be released from my back.
When I tried cleaning my wounds, I was approached by a nurse from the UK who expressed her concerns with me continuing. When I said I want to get to high camp today, she advised against it but as stubborn as I am combined with my determination there was no way anyone would stop me. We did have a great chat and she cleaned up my two open heal wounds very well before we continued again.
After a gruelling climb to Thorong Phedi (altitude of 4,450 metres), I felt completely done in. We soon sat with a group of trekkers who were on day 11 from Tharapani, so they were completely amazed that I was on day 4 after leaving from the same place. They honestly thought I was a professional athlete to which I explained that I just want to push myself to the limit. They soon wished me luck as I wanted to push on further and get up to high camp which was another gruelling 2-3 hour hike up to the last point before reaching the high altitude pass of Thorong – La Pass at a massive 5,416 metres altitude.
This whole experience was epic as was the views, tranquillity, solitude and natural beauty but my body, mind and determination to get up and over the 5,416 metres pass was extremely powerful.
After the 2-3 hour trek up to high camp (the last stop before the 5,416 pass) Ram was adamant that we should stay here and continue in the morning. The reality was that everyone who treks here wakes up in the extreme early hours of the morning, so they can reach the pass at sunset. This is known as the only safe way to do it as the wind is calmer, the visibility at the pass is better and you also need the full day to ensure you get over the pass and have plenty of daylight hours to reach the next village called Muktinath.
I knew the incredibly morbid stats of attempting the pass as there have been so many deaths, rescues, lost limbs, injury, illnesses and many other horrific stories of altitude sickness but I just didn’t seem bothered. It was like I knew deep down that this was my chance to push myself to the absolute extreme and that no matter how far I push myself, I just knew I would be ok. This was soon to change as this theory was soon to be tested in the harshest of ways.
With the time being around 2:15pm and the hardest part of the walk yet – we were still looking at an excruciating 3 hour climb to the pass. There had been nothing easy today in regard to altitude, steepness, vast distance and injury but I just wanted more. When I mentioned to Ram that I wanted to get to the pass today and to get to Muktinath he just laughed at me and looked at me as if I was crazy. I was totally crazy, but I just needed to push myself so bad and get to the other side of all that was hurting me – it was like I was addicted to not stopping.
Ram did not want to accept anything from me, but I just became more and more desperate, convincing and determined. He asked for advice from the locals there but they all agreed that we should not be attempting it now. The feedback I got was that I am not a professional climber or athlete, I already looked tired, I had been trekking at high and rising altitudes with no breaks or days to acclimatize the overall suggestion was that I could die up there.
I took this on board but the burning desire to continue had gripped me stronger than any drug could. I wanted to do this trek in record time, have more rest days after due to the speed of this trek and I could live in the know that I pushed myself beyond any limits. This was very, very stupid but I just knew I could do it. Ram was ok with attempting it himself as he had done this trek hundreds of times but never as quick as I wanted to do it, so he worried about me. The more I found out from locals that nobody had ever done it this quick, the more I wanted to do it.
We were soon on our way and this is where it all got so intense, but the burning determination made me focus on mind over matter. I had been taking regular medicine, vitamins, adequate water and electrolytes so I was taking this very seriously but man, I was so hungry with doing what I set out to do.
As we continued up, it slowly started to feel like I was in this strange dream which had slowed down time so much that is was totally surreal. The temperature was in the minuses, I was wrapped up with so many layers, my water was partially frozen, and my fingers and toes numb. I slumped a few times as just feeling the 30kg weight off my back even for several seconds was enough to give me more courage to continue. I remember at this point seeing these tiny blue dots in front of me which kind of let me know that I need to be climbing back down the other side as soon as possible. My altitude sickness was now in its prime with my head throbbing, my vision blurred and in general I was feeling exhausted. I kept repeating to myself – one foot in front of the other and step by step. I couldn’t stop too much as we would already be reaching the pass near sunset so getting there at dark was an absolute no. I also had my Guinness World Records to do at the pass, so I needed sunlight.
The mental and physical fatigue by this point was also relentless but it was completely my fault as I still just wanted to get to the other side of such extremities and I was certainly doing that. In my head, I could not really imagine or visualise anything apart from reaching the 5,416-metre pass, get my records done at the top and then it would just be an easy cruise back down the other side. These overly eager, naive and light-headed thoughts would certainly help get me to the top but also prove to be such a deep learning curve with understanding the severity of the situation I was in.
Ram was also struggling but not too much. He was concerned about me. We slowly but surely kept taking each step as they come and when we eventually reached the pass I could feel my iced cold tears run down my face. It is almost impossible to explain such emotions as they are fueled so powerfully with joy, pain, achievement and in general, emotions that I didn’t even know could go through me.
The photo to the left just represents me thinking so much about so much. At the top, I slumped on a small wooden bench and the feeling of sheer elation as I took both bags off was hard to describe but despite my internal and external issues, I just felt such great happiness. It was getting dark, so I needed to prepare my head torch as did Ram, so we were set for the journey back down such high levels of altitude. I then stood up, tried sucking the water from the ice that it mainly consisted of and prepared for the world record attempts. The items I had was a kite, a football and just myself for potentially another two records which involved certain exercises at such a high altitude.
This was a test in itself. There was now a snow storm. Trying to take my gloves off, configure my phone, make the attempts, be interviewed on camera by Ram and ensure I had comfortably got the correct evidence for each record was beyond tough. Knowing that we would then be climbing back down was what drove me as coming back down from this altitude and right now was a must. Before I put my bags and gear back on I wanted to do something a little different. I didn’t need the second football anymore, so I kicked it off the nearest edge I could see, and it actually felt great.
Once my bags and gear were back on and Ram was ready, we set off to finally descend after nearly four days of ascending. The snow storm was much more intense now too which we were both praying would pass but it wasn’t. We both just continued whilst being fully covered from head to toe with just our eyes showing.
As we continued, the sky became dark and the overpowering sense of loneliness, surviving and getting safe we firmly in my reality. I could slowly feel my throbbing head settle slightly but I soon had another problem that I never even thought of. My knees were taking so much pressure from no now hiking downhill. The combination of the 30kg weight, downhill force and physical fatigue were getting extremely difficult. About an hour and a half in, I slumped again over a rock and soon laid down just to give my body a brief break. Ram agreed that he would take my 22kg back pack, so I continued with my smaller 8 kg back pack. I was so grateful to Ram and still promised him that we will get to the next village. He predicted another 2 – 4 hours which was so hard to hear.
ALL OTHER PHOTOS WILL FOLLOW FROM MY EXPLANATION OF THIS MEMORABLE NIGHT.
The amount of times I spoke to myself was also far from expected but I needed to push myself, so I kept telling myself that this would be ok. It is just a very intense learning curve. I also felt so lucky to have Ram who had not only experienced this trail so many times, but I knew he could do it fine, so I just had to keep up.
Rams head torch had already broken so we were now relying on mine to guide us down the extremely narrow terrain with sheer drops either side of us. Thinking back and as terrible as it sounds, I wanted a test and man did I just have the biggest test of my life with the goal now just to survive.
I soon had my head torch stop working and at this point we were both panicked. Ram was having to concentrate on staying on the correct route as the darkness, fallen snow and ruthless snow and hail made the path extremely difficult to see. When my head torch went out, I soon realised that it would be impossible to navigate in the dark. In panic mode with my brain somehow spinning with option to survive I had an idea. The only option was to use our phones as light and both of us were not at a high battery level.
My phone was a nightmare, so we had to film from Ram’s phone whilst using the camera light as our guidance light. Not only was it still hard to see, keep close together and stay safe but the video recording light would go off after every 40-50 seconds. This was so dangerous with the tight bends, long drops, slippery parts and darkness as using total vigilance was now a life or death tool.
I can only explain the next 2 and a half hours of penetrating hell as every single part of my physical, emotional, mental and survival instinct was under the most ultimate of resistance. We were now taking each step so carefully and preparing for when the light would go out as one false move could be game over.
The ice-cold winds were excruciatingly painful on all parts of my body especially my face, hands and feet. The biggest test was soon upon me as my knees began to give way. I started sliding on my backside for some time as I could not bare to walk. I had many occasions where I asked Ram to leave me here as I can’t continue. Ram made it clear that I would be dead, frozen and buried under snow in just a few hours if I don’t keep moving.
The mental and physical battles were beyond any of the stupidly naïve extremities I had perceived I may go through. Questioning whether to lie down and die was a very real thought and one that I could not think around if I tried. I soon became angry, frustrated, emotional and my life was flashing passed me as I began to convince myself that I will die right here on this mountain. People have died just doing the day route over the pass during the day and with none of the adverse conditions we were facing so what gave me the right to survive? Doing this well known and intense one day trek at night and as part of a 3-day trek which should take 3 days but attempting it in just 1 day was kind of crazy.
Me and Ram began arguing as he kept pushing me to go faster due to the time. I found it so hard to go faster but also to understand why he was pushing me to do so when I felt I had nothing left. My theory was to take it slow – get to Muktinath alive rather than rushing it and not being able to continue so we certainly had some raised words between one another.
I soon had to stop so I did. I took my bag off, laid on a rock and just went into this surreal zone where I went so deep into my head I convinced myself I could and will do this. I was crying, emotional and desperate for anything rather than being in this freezing, dark and terrifying place.
With both my phone and Ram’s phone being so temperamental, we realised that the pressure and realisation of survival was being lessened. I remember thinking that I asked for this, so I got what I deserved, yet at the back of my mind I kept holding onto the positive thoughts that I know myself, my mind and my body and I will live to not only tell the story but to learn from it.
With my face, hands and feet painfully numb, I was worrying about hyperthermia so despite how much it hurt I tried desperately not to stop. It was now 7:30pm and Ram said he thinks that we are not far from a small homestay just before Muktinath. From this point on we were shouting out for help on regular occasions in the hope that someone may hear us. He was unsure whether they would be open. I made it clear that we would need to break in. Ram warned me of being arrested in the morning. In a life and death situation I know the choice that I firmly made, and Ram soon understood this.
We continued to follow each other closely whilst preparing for when the light regularly went out, so we didn’t step off the edge and just slowly made progress. I am not usually one to pray but I looked up to the dark skies and prayed many times that evening. I always know that so many people would just think I asked for it and that I am crazy. I cannot express highly enough how that deep down somewhere inside of me, it was like I knew that regardless of my doubts (which are only natural) that I will survive. I also knew that Ram was struggling. I had no doubt in Ram making it but by this point we were really pushing each other with every step. I was telling him how it will feel when we are in the warm and how we will laugh about this one day. He was also motivating me by making me laugh. He said in all his years of guiding people on mountains he had never pushed himself to such extremes and that I am far too stubborn. I knew this but these little breaks via humour, optimism and regular shouting out for help were probably helping us a lot more than we realised.
At 8:30pm – the desperation was quite severe but one of the most amazing things was about to happen. We could see a tiny light in the distance. By now I could feel this warm fuzzy feeling penetrate through my body. It was a bit like we were stranded in the middle of the ocean and had then seen a boat – it was the best feeling ever. However, this light did not mean safety, but we continued to yell but it was much further in the distance than we thought.
As we got closer to the light and had continued shouting I saw another light move so we both yelled so loud with our voices that could hardly speak let alone shout. Then – we heard a voice shout back. This felt like heaven on earth. We still had a steep slope to our left and had to follow the slope around to what looked like a small group of houses. There was a local man and woman calling out to us whilst slowly walking around to us in the distance. As they neared, I had such emotional, yet happy tears and I can only really explain it as feeling like a spiritual moment as I knew that we were going to be safe. By this point, I could hardly walk and was so desperate for warmth. The man soon grabbed my arm and put it around him as he guided me with him. Ram walked with the woman and we slowly walked to their small hut.
They spoke little English, so Ram translated everything back to me. They were so shocked that we had trekked from Yak Kharka to here in one day. They soon had the fire going as me and Ram sat on a small wooden bench talking about what we had just done. We were so happy. We hugged, shook hands and made it clear that we were friends for life. I thanked him for putting up with me and he thanked me for not giving up.
My face was blue, I couldn’t bare to take any clothing, shoes or gloves off. My body was in the worst state I think it has ever been in. Now, I hadn’t exactly eaten much for a few days, but my body was craven something. The nice local Nepalese lady said she can cook me anything I wanted but I didn’t want anything at all. For some unknown reason I suddenly had a huge craving for cheesy mashed potato. I asked if this was possible to which it was, so she began peeling potatoes, grating cheese and began cooking this for me. I soon sat fully layered including an undercoat and main coat with also a blanket around me as I was cold, shaking and numb. I asked for a large beer and I have to say that despite the circumstances, that beer tasted absolutely amazing and went to my head immediately. I asked Ram the altitude firstly as I had not been drinking at high altitude as I had already experienced how it can negatively affect your head at such altitudes. We were at around 3,700 metres altitude which was a good 1,700 metres lower than the pass, so I decided to have the one beer before going to bed.
I had soon drunk that beer, so I ordered one more. Sitting there with my steaming cheesy mashed potato and iced cold beer was probably not the most sensible of scenarios but it felt perfect to me. It was such celebratory moment with massive reflection taking place with both me and Ram. We celebrated life, intense challenges, survival and ultimate determination. I felt like I could and would achieve anything now. I have always believed that if you put your mind to anything then you can get it and this kind of proved that with the greatest of intensity.
We had been trekking for around 16 hours that day with it either being an excruciating uphill challenge or at times, an even worse downhill challenge. The Nepalese couple knew all the statistics of people that had been killed, rescued, injured or had amputations and the statistics shocked me massively. The main stats were that in the past year there had been over 43 deaths from trekkers attempting the pass in the one day, hundreds of rescues and plenty of lost limbs due to frostbite as well as countless accounts of hyperthermia. I was generally worried about hyperthermia which is exactly why I was not willing to take off any layers of clothing. I soon went to bed fully clothed in the 3 plus layers I was in as well as being fully zipped up in my sleeping bag. The room was a tiny box room with a concrete bed. I just needed rest, so I didn’t care one bit. I thanked the lovely couple for helping us and tipped them very well before giving Ram a huge and meaningful hug.
I slept terrible that night but did not care. Ram suggested a lay in, but I wanted to be up and out by 7am so that we could reach the end of the trek within 4 and a half days in total. Again, this was just me wanting to push myself to the extreme, do something that others hadn’t done and have memories for life. During the night I tried to take my Nike shoes off put the pain was just agonising, so I kept them on all night.
The remaining day would be a good 8-hour trek to Jomsom which would be a test but to me, it was like the finishing path after a truly unforgettable few days. That morning was tough getting up but I forced myself out of bed by 6:30am, packed my bags before attempting what I was worried about.
I knew that taking my shoes off would be tough and that then washing, cleaning and rebandaging my wounds would be even worse but an iced cold bucket shower it was. Wow – did that wake me up.
I could not bare to put my shoes back on so decided to do the next 25 – 30 kilometres in flip flops. The sunrise was beautiful as we walked through the open valleys with a mix of greenery, iced capped mountains with a misty yet beautifully stunning morning. Many times, did I have tears in my eyes just with admiration of such beauty. The dramatic scenery I had witness in the last few days was so eye catching it was just surreal and something I never expected to be just so utterly incredible and mind blowing. That’s why I didn’t care to stop so often as just walking through it was enough for me. Being so close and amongst such pristine nature really does blow you away with such severity that I could feel my soul heightened to such a level that all my emotions were constantly being touched throughout.
In the next main town, I went to hospital to get properly cleaned up with my heals now being that bad the I thought I would be seeing the bone in my heels. I played football with a young Nepalese boy and his Dad and soon enjoyed my first proper meal in days – Dahl Baht.
We sat in a small remote bar which was full of locals all eating Dahl Baht with their hands (as is tradition in Nepal) so I joined in myself. After 2 large beers and some sneaking some photos of these traditional eating habits, it was time to hit the dusty road through the vast valleys that led to Jomsom.
We finally arrived at Jomsom later that afternoon and as soon as we arrived at our hotel, I just raised my 22kg backpack above my head and the feeling of elation that flew through my body was unbelievable. We had completed the 10-16-day trek in 4 days and 7 hours. The evening was spent drinking, eating and going through all the different aspects of a life changing few days. Due to me paying Ram for the scheduled 10-16 days, Ram now had some extra time to spend with his family in Kathmandu, Nepal so all was good. I got to have more time in the third biggest city in Nepal where I planned to learn to ride a manual 250cc motorbike through the mountains of Nepal but mainly – rest was needed.
There was still to be a scare though as Jomsom airport is very well known for being the most dangerous airport in the world. Jomsom airport is right up in the mountains of the Himalayas and sits up at an altitude of 2,682 metres. The shockingly scary thing about this airport is than the runway is short. The reason why it is so short is that the runway ends at a sheer drop off that is basically a huge cliff edge. The planes that depart from here lift off just before the drop which to me is unbelievably scary but also something I have always known and wanted to do.
At the airport my football was confiscated for no apparent reason. I then saw all the airport staff kicking the ball around in the airport so maybe they just wanted a game with it. I wasn’t bothered as both my footballs had done what I wanted which was to play football with local village children and also for one of the Guinness Worlds Record attempts.
There was still one more terrifying thing to happen though and something that I have always been petrified of happening to me.
The plane was a tiny 20 – 30 passenger plane and seeing us lift off the ground just before the sheer cliff faced drop of was adrenalin fuelled in itself but it got worse. Around 15 minutes into the flight we were in line with the tops of the mountains either side of us which was utterly beautiful but what happened next made me feel as if my heart was in my mouth.
The turbulence was a bit bad, but I could just about handle that but when the engine appeared to stop, I was not ready for that. The pilots were two young males who were clearly seen several seats in front of this tiny aircraft. Some alarm Was going off and the body language, confusion and looks on the pilots faces as well as the stewardess and passengers was penetrating. I recall just thinking “no way, have I seriously just been through all that yesterday just to die today”. I was absolutely scared and though that this was it. I thought about my family, my friends and my life in general. I looked out the window and realised that due to the mountainous landscape, surely, they could not safely crash land. Me and Ram had gone from pulling funny selfie photos to one another to just being silent.
It appeared we were gliding as it was hard to feel or see if we were going down and you could tell the pilots were not highly trained in keeping composure as their panicked body language had us all worried. I then noticed a bit of pressure on my head and my ears popped. I could also see that we were not as high as we previously were as the mountains were not quite in line with us as they were now above us slightly.
Then, that sweet sound of the engine kicking in again made me feel a bit better but I was still scared and certainly not convinced. The pilots soon appeared more confident and it wasn’t too long until we landed. Man – it felt great to touch ground and I soon had lunch and a beer with Ram at my hotel before saying an emotional farewell to him.
I feel that there are many morals to this story. Knowing or feeling you know your limits can be vital. Having a though can be totally different to the actions that perceive that thought. Never ever, ever underestimate mother nature. Success, reward and achievement is on the other side of fear. You can do anything you put your mind to and when your body and mind is truly tested you can go into overdrive. Thinking things through rather than being stupidly impulsive in a naive way can kill you. Going through something like this with someone makes you friends for life with something never being able to touch what you experienced together. Appreciating your limits can help you in any life situation imaginable be it sport, work family or travelling.
At the end of the day, all I can do or know was that this was a deep learning curve but just feeling that deep feeling of survival and then surviving whilst exceeding so many personal and natural boundaries will always live with me. I learnt a hell of a lot on them mountains, have a friend for life and will never push such extremities. We only apparently live once in my eye and it was my life I gambled with as I knew Ram’s experience would never jeopardize him but the experience of this ticked off unbelievable expectations beyond any belief.
Here is my ABC News radio interview: My actual name is Mat Broster which is clear in the interview as Max Coltrane is my author name for libel purposes: Long story 🙂
Never do what I done but I know many may appreciate, learn from or even never touch what I done purely from what I went through so I firmly confirm that this should never be done but please just enjoy and take in my story as what it is – a true story.