The Walking and Climbing Company has successfully run an expedition in Nepal with Esher College for 27 Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award students.
The group started their adventurous expedition flying out from London and landing in Kathmandu the capital city of Nepal the next day. Here they were met by Kalsang Sherpa one of the Directors of The Walking and Climbing Company and their expedition leader in country. The four teams spent a couple of days acclimatising in Kathmandu, preparing their equipment, shopping for provisions and carrying out the final planning of the route they would take with their teams for their trek in the mountains.
The students stayed in the Thamel area of Kathmandu which is a buzzing city with friendly people and lots of places to visit of cultural interest. This area allowed them to access the equipment shops, sample the local restaurants and ride by Rickshaw as they began to adjust to the Nepalese ways of living.
The area of Nepal the students selected to trek in was the Helambu region, part of the Langtang National Park and a half day drive from Kathmandu. The area is stunningly beautiful with untouched rain forest, remote villages and dramatic waterfalls and rivers. The area allowed for the students to plan their routes from local maps and choose paths to follow that had been worn into the mountains from years of the local people travelling these routes to neighbouring villages on foot. Once in the mountains there would be no roads to follow and all travel would be on foot, carrying their full packs and dealing with being in altitude for the first time. Their planned route would reach heights of over 3000 metres. The students had studied the effects of altitude and what they should and shouldn’t do to deal with it, however this was all theoretical and now the reality of putting the theory into practise was at last beginning. They knew it would get tough however none of them had any actual previous experience of how it would be, how they would fair and how demanding it would be.
Two months before leaving for Nepal the teams had been to Wales for their practise expedition. The Walking and Climbing Company had planned this and purposefully made it demanding to stretch the students and test their resolve and intention as well as their fitness. It worked! A number of the students came away now fully aware they had work to do to increase their fitness if they were going to play their part in their team and successfully complete the Nepal expedition. It would take discipline and commitment to be ready. There were also a number who came away clear that the work they were doing was on track with what was needed to be ready for Nepal.
Two days after arriving in Nepal all were packed and ready to leave, travelling by road out of the city and heading into the Helambu region. Spirits were high and the teams knew they had a job ahead to do and after two years of preparing for this they were determined to complete the challenge ahead.
Kalsang Sherpa and his team together with the Esher college staff were going to be around to provide safety, supervision and assessment. For the Sherpa staff working with this group this was going to be very different for them, their training and years of experience for the usual groups whether trekking or climbing was all about serving their customers, carrying their bags, putting up tents, cooking, showing them the route, being next to them to take care of their safety and watching for their every need. Prior to this trip they had been prepared by Kalsang with different information. This was the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the students were to be assessed so they were to stand back, watch from a distance, let them work it out, don’t interfere, let them set their pace and everyone must stay safe.
Once in the area the three teams set off separately trekking from the village of Sundarijal. The trail began with a fairly steep walk through beautiful forest and then some small villages; when clear the view was of the Kathmandu valley. The trail went through the Shivapuri wild life reserve climbing steadily to an altitude of over 2000 metres before reaching Chisopani village. The pace the students set was slow a smart decision as they still needed to acclimatise properly. Their awareness of team work supported them to look out for their fellow team members, set a pace everyone could manage and keep clearly focussed on the main goal – that everyone would make it.
Each day some time was given over to work on each students’ various research topics for the Other Adventurous Project, these ranged from studying local customs to environmental impacts of tourism and some very interesting research was gathered by all.
Still climbing steadily the teams moved away from the villages along a ridge taking them out of the forests into open meadows. Again there were stunning views from the trail now easier to see having left the forested area. They were now reaching a height of over 2600 metres in altitude. Reaching the village of Kutumsang the teams were trekking for longer days in hot and sometimes wet conditions. Most of the provisions they needed were bought in Kathmandu, immediately prior to the start of the trek.
From here the team then had the big push to Thadepati at 3690 metres.
The trail taken went quite steeply down to reach a river bridge and having made all that height it was tough to drop down because it then took them back up to camp at Melamchigaon at about 2600 metres. The theory of going down before ascending into altitude is all very well and then there is the reality of the effort it takes. The gritty determination of these inspiring 18 year olds showed, they were determined, resilient and well into their stride now.
As they drew towards the end of the trek they trekked through rhododendron forests moving steadily down to their goal destination of Tarke Ghyang village and back to the road to return to Kathmandu. They had all made it and completed the challenge successfully.
If you are interested in participating as an individual or group in an adventurous expedition for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Nepal or Tibet with The Walking and Climbing Company please contact the UK office for further details on
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