On a path where they encountered countless rhododendron trees, yak caravans and coloured prayer flags, Greg Haist and his daughter Trish hiked through the mystical Khumbu region on their way to the world’s tallest mountain.
Haist, a manager at Northwest Territories Power Corporation and a Hay Riverite for the past 30 years, was at the Hay River Centennial Library on Dec. 11 to talk about his adventure to the Mount Everest base camp, at an altitude of 17,650 feet.
“It’s comparable to the highest peak in Canada,” he said, referring to Mount Logan in the Yukon, which has a height of 19,551 feet.
Prior to the trip to Mount Everest, the highest Haist had ever climbed was 9,633 feet when he and Trish tackled Big Sister Mountain, located in the South Banff Range, in 2006.
Leaving from Edmonton on April 20, the duo landed in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, on April 22. The next morning they flew to Lukla and began their journey with 15 others and two guides from gAdventures, a Canadian travel company.
“I was the oldest one in the group by far, but I did better than a few of them,” Haist joked.
Trekking through various villages – Namche Bazaar, Tengboche and Gorakshep, among others – the group hiked five to six kilometres a day over the course of nine days.
“Just about everybody has been to the Rockies, but if you can imagine mountains closer together and twice as high, everything there is just so large,” he said.
To acclimatize climbers, the trek uses a go high, sleep low strategy, which brings the group to a higher altitude before making them spend the night at a lower one.
Haist was able to defeat acute mountain sickness, which can cause headaches and fatigue, by taking a drug which increases the amount of oxygen in the blood.
An engineer by trade, Haist was most impressed by the variety of suspended bridges – ranging from antiquated to modern – and the local labourers who build magnificent structures from hand-cut rock.
The climber pointed out a number of instances where buildings were entirely made by hand, from carved wooden beams to ornate designs on ceilings and walls. A lack of roads means everything has to be hauled in by yak, or on the back of a Sherpa.
Haist noted clothing changed drastically during the trip. People in earlier pictures were wearing shorts and T-shirts, while winter coats and snow pants had to be worn closer to base camp.
When they finally arrived there, after getting mere glimpses of Everest along the way, Haist wasn’t overly impressed.
“It was a bit of an anti-climax,” he said. “We were there for about an hour. A lot of people from our group left after 10 or 15 minutes. I would have stayed there another half day, but people wanted to leave.”
Haist estimated there were 40 to 50 expeditions with tents scattered everywhere, but there weren’t too many people around.
“There isn’t much to see and you can’t see the peak from there,” he added.
Part of a larger trip, Haist and his daughter weren’t done travelling. They flew to Delhi, India, on May 6 to do the Golden Triangle tour, which includes Agra and Jaipur.
His next trip will likely be Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania next fall.
— Myles Dolphin