Teens learned they have more grit than they thought
Nine days into a trek through the Himalayan mountains, 16-year-old Elias Bobechko was really feeling the effects of high altitude, where oxygen is sparse.
“I started coughing up blood, my nose was constantly bleeding, I really wasn’t doing well,” he told CBC Kids News about his recent trip.
In April, he and his sister Claire, who is 14, hiked for 12 days and nearly 200 kilometers to the base of Mount Everest and back.
Mount Everest, which lies on the border between Nepal and China, is the tallest mountain in the world.
Along the way, the teens from Barrie, Ontario, battled through altitude sickness, a flu and extreme hunger but said they were so glad they did it.
“It really opened my eyes to my limits. A lot of us don’t realize what we’re capable of.” – Claire Bobechko, age 14
The first challenge was getting there
When Claire and Elias’ mom was asked by her trekking friends if she’d want to join them on a 12-day expedition to Everest base camp and back, she asked her kids if they’d join her.
Mount Everest is nearly nine kilometers high. (Image credit: Everest training/Facebook)
“I was just like, sure, why not, it’s an adventure!” said Claire.
For Elias — who is an avid hiker and rock climber — it was also a no-brainer.
But even getting to Everest was its own journey.
In early April, they took an eight-hour flight to London, England, and then another seven-hour flight to Qatar, and then a five-hour flight to Kathmandu, Nepal.
Once in Nepal, they took a four-hour bus ride to Manthali airport, before a final 30 minute flight in a 10-seater plane to Lukla airport, to begin their hike.
En route to base camp
Once they landed, they met up with a larger group of 17, which included other trekkers, a doctor, and a group of guides.
(Graphic design by Krishen Persad/CBC)
They began what would be an eight-day, 85-kilometre journey to the base of Mount Everest, a 5,364 metre-high camp located in Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park.
About 60,000 people visit the park each year, according to Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.
A smaller portion choose to climb to the summit of Mount Everest, which is nearly 9,000 metres high.
According to her family, Claire was the youngest person that their guides had ever brought to base camp.
To survive the journey, they brought a few bags with warm clothing, food, medicine, and sleeping bags, all of which were carried by bison-like animals called Yaks.
Yaks carried the belongings of everyone trekking in Elias’ and Claires’ group. (Image credit Prakash Mathema/Getty Images)
To get to base camp, they had to hike up and down a series of different mountains, scaling bridges and taking in incredible views along the way.
“We went from shorts and a T-shirt weather to full winter jacket weather, depending on the day, with the lower altitudes (heights) a lot warmer and the higher altitudes a lot colder,” said Elias.
They covered roughly 10 to 15 kilometers per day, staying in tiny lodges called teahouses where they’d spend the nights.
On certain days, they would have to do things called acclimatization hikes — hikes that were meant to get their lungs used to the sparse oxygen at high altitudes in order to reduce the chances of something called altitude sickness.
Claire said that hiking to Everest base camp taught her that her limits were far greater than she thought. (Image submitted by Deb Bobechko)
Altitude sickness happens when you travel to a high elevation too quickly, depriving your body of oxygen and leading to things like headaches, nausea and loss of appetite.
Each day, they’d try to spot Everest among breathtaking views of cascading peaks that would fill their entire field of sight.
“I kept asking, is that one Everest? And they were like, no it’s bigger. Then I’d be like, is that one Everest? And they’d again say, no it’s bigger,” Claire laughed.
Just a few days from base camp, both Elias and Claire started to feel the effects of altitude, and Elias came down with the flu.
“I could only eat like 300 to 400 calories a day, and I had to shove it down, and I was gagging because I felt so full. It would take me like an hour to eat a little bit of food,” said Elias.
Despite that, they pushed through the pain.
Base camp was ‘so surreal’
Once they reached base camp, Elias said the effects of altitude sickness made it all feel like a dream.
“It was so surreal. I was kind of out of it, and was like, I don’t know why I came here, but I’m here!”
Claire, her brother, and mom all said they felt delirious once they finally reached base camp. (Image submitted by Deb Bobechko)
Claire was just thankful to be alive.
“I was like, I survived! I didn’t get thrown off by a yak or something!”
They said that base camp was loaded with cool views, including the Khumbu glacier.
“It was so amazing to see it, it was breathtaking,” said Claire.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
After reaching base camp, the group had to travel another 85 kilometers back to the airport.
Claire and her mom, who were exhausted and sick from the altitude, took a helicopter to skip about 20 kilometers of that journey back.
Claire and Elias said the fight to Everest base camp was more mental than physical. (Image submitted by Deb Bobechko)
Elias, who had barely eaten in days and was still fighting a flu, was determined to hike the entire way back.
“I really wanted to do it, to do the whole thing, to push through,” he said.
With constant checks from a doctor, he battled through nosebleeds and forcing down food before he eventually met up with his sister and mom.
When they finally returned to Canada, Elias had lost nine kilograms (20 pounds) and Claire had lost almost five kilograms (10 pounds), and took a while to recover.
Despite that, they both said it was all worth it.
“It really opened my eyes to my limits. A lot of us don’t realize what we’re capable of,” said Claire.
“Because it’s hard, because it’s difficult, because I’ve accomplished something really awesome, it just makes me want to do more of it,” said Elias.
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