Tom Wrigglesworth - feel on top of the world, without leaving Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 June 2016
A rough guide to faking your trip to the Everest Base Camp, Yorkshire style.
I’m a world record holder. The most reassuring thing about being a world record holder is not necessarily the sense of pride, nor the fact that I know if I put my mind to it, anything is possible. It’s not even that I could look at Usian Bolt through a certain lens and consider him a sort of equal, the best thing about being a world record holder is that with my ever growing stable of nephews and nieces, Christmas presents to them are already sorted.
In a nutshell, the record I hold is for the highest altitude stand up gig, at Base Camp on the Nepalese side of Mount Everest. Understanding that most comedy gigs take place in cellars make me hopeful that it’s not a record that should be threatened anytime soon. Save of course if a group of Sherpas invest in a microphone, a joke book and a slightly higher stage.
Trekking through the Himalayas reminded me in part of when I first when to London after living for 20-odd years in Yorkshire. All the shops and buildings looked kind of similar, but they were eight or nine storeys taller than their northern counterparts. Much of the Khumbu valley is comparable to the Pennines, save for the backdrop of colossal snow-topped mountains that move the horizon from just ‘over there’ up to ‘Good God do we really have to climb that?’
With that in mind, and in a bid to save you hundreds of pounds and 15 days of walking, here is a rough guide to faking your trip to Base Camp, Yorkshire style.
The trip begins with a terrifying flight into the world’s most dangerous airport at Lukla. This is a practical, fairly large town that in recent years has seen a decline in its once bustling industry revolving around goats and sheep. Substituting this for the terrifyingly perilous Snake Pass and the receding steel works, it’s comparable to Sheffield.
From here you walk for two days and reach the settlement known as Namche Bazaar. Sitting at a challenging altitude of 3440 metres and with weather conditions that swing from freezing cold to monsoon, it manages to be both fairly remote and very populated. Its solidly built tea houses and lively market stalls give the impression that it was somehow built elsewhere then air-dropped into its final location. The impeccably kept tea rooms and overall wow factor of Harrogate will offer an experience that’s close enough.
As your hike continues up and down the valleys and over the occasional Indiana Jones-type rope bridge, you are frequently interrupted by herds of yak who signal their proximity with a bell. These muscle-heavy beasts are generally benign in manner but can be stubborn and have been known to shove walkers off the edge of the cliff if they are unlucky enough to get in their way. Anyone who’s visited Leeds city centre on a Friday night will have already experienced this as realistically as one would ever need to.
As you climb further up, at some point you will stop off at the village of Khumjung which offers a monastery that houses the skull of a Yeti, offering a strangely macabre note to a otherwise peaceful and reflective settlement. In fact, the atmosphere is spoilt only by the number of tourists queuing up to visit this place which is fairly comparable to Whitby with its marvellous abbey and horror story connotations.
A hop, step and a puffed out jump from here will see you arrive at Gorak Shep which puts you within striking distance of Mount Everest Base Camp. Here the air becomes so thin you will certainly start to feel peculiar as you realise this is simply no place for animal or vegetable. Its name actually means ‘Dead Raven’ and its bleak, inhospitable climate leaves you in no doubt as to why. Being there makes you very aware of the need for personal preservation, and it’s for that exact reason that I will stop short of suggesting a Yorkshire place that offers a similar experience.
So even though base camp wasn’t really on my bucket list, I’m delighted to have ticked it off, although next time I feel the need to scale such heights, I’ll probably stick to Whernside or Ingleborough.