In Ever­est’s shadow

Spa­niard’s Bay teen vis­its world-fa­mous moun­tain

The Compass - - OPINION - BYANDREWROBINSON

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.”

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