In Everest’s shadow
Spaniard’s Bay teen visits world-famous mountain
Kelsey Barrett already got a taste of adventure through the cadets program, having travelled to Germany in 2008. But this fall she managed to reach some extra-high peaks.
The 17-year-old Level III student at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts recently returned home from a 25-day trip to Nepal, where she managed to visit what’s commonly regarded as the most famed mountain in the world — Mount Everest.
“It’s so beautiful,” says Barrett. “ You can see mountains for miles and miles away. Sometimes you were above the clouds.”
Barrett was one of the 14 cadets from Canada who went on the trip. She is a member of 2372 Avalon North, where she serves as a warrant officer.
Her journey started with a stop in Toronto, where Barrett was required to pass a fitness test to ensure she could physically handle the long hikes involved with travelling through the mountainous regions of Nepal, a country located in Southern Asia.
“If you failed the fitness test, they’d send you back home,” says Barrett.
The cadets then flew from Toronto to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, a place that did not seem to impress Barrett.
“ There’s so much pollution and garbage around,” she says, adding the city contrasted greatly with her first impressions of the area leading to Everest.
“ It’s so beautiful. It’s like two different places,” she says of her arrival to Lukla, Nepal.
Once arriving in Lukla, it was an eight-day journey to the Everest Base Camp, which took the cadets to an altitude of 5,360 metres. They were above the base camp when climbing Kala Pattar at a peak of 5,545 metres. The climb of that mountain involved four hours of straight, uphill hiking for almost three-kilometres.
“It was brutal,” says Barrett. “Once you actually reach the top, it’s so hard to breathe, because No. 1, you’re tired, and No. 2, the oxygen is so thin up there. When you look around at what you just accomplished, it’s amazing.”
Upon her first sighting of Mount Everest, Barrett was astounded.
“ There’s something that makes you feel good on the inside knowing that it’s actually real, that it’s there, and that you’re actually going to base camp. Reality strikes you, and it’s crazy.”
The view from the Everest Base Camp was also a sight to behold for Barrett.
“ When you’re there and you look around at the mountains around you, there’s avalanches and glaciers cracking. You just look at where you were, and I could’ve cried.”
Upon arrival in Kathmandu, Barrett says the weather was in the 20 C range, but once they began climbing the mountain, things cooled down considerably.
“At base camp, it was probably -10 C or -15 C,” says Barrett, who hiked for as long as eight10 hours each day.
“ You get up early and have breakfast at 6 or 7 a.m., take down the tents, then hike, stop along the way and have dinner, and then hike some more. We’d get (to a destination) at about 4:30 p.m., setup our tents, have supper and then go to bed.”
Along the way, Barrett was able to stop in villages where people lived a bare-bones lifestyle based on what the land can provide them and what supplies they obtain from air cargo flights.
“It’s a different culture, that’s for sure,” she says. “ They have to carry everything up to the mountain, however high they live. The little airport at the bottom, that’s how they get everything.”
Known as Sherpas, the residents of such villages introduced her to the taste of local yak products — steak, cheese, and milk.
“Cows are sacred up there. First of all, the milk up there is always warm. That in itself kind of turned most people away from it. But it had a different flavour, that’s for sure,” says Barrett, who adds she probably will not be making attempts to import yak products to Canada anytime soon.
With a taste for adventure solidly implanted in her psyche, Barrett hopes to someday experience similar destinations.
“ When I first came home, I was like, “No, I need to take a break.” But certainly, definitely within a year or two, I’d like to do something like that again. But it just takes a toll on your body.”
For anybody who might like to try and go on the same journey she did, Barrett has practical advice to offer.
“Drink lots of water. Eat, even when you don’t feel like eating, and don’t take any moment for granted. Take it all in.”