Altitude Sickness and Other Irrational Fears

It’s Wednesday afternoon and we are hanging out in quite possibly the nicest tea house since we started the trek.  I am feeling tired today, which is a little surprising because we really haven’t done too much today compared to previous days.  We hiked from Mukinath to Jomsom which was about 11.5 miles.  We got into Jomson pretty early which has allowed time to process the last two day.

Yesterday (Tuesday, April 4th) was the big day of crossing the Thorong La pass sitting at approximately 17,800 feet.  We successfully made the crossing and it was honestly one of the best experiences I have had in my life.  (More about that here!)

Leading up to this trip, I was honestly not worried about crossing the pass.  In the days leading up to the crossing, we kept hearing others talk about altitude sickness, their concerns and fears and their acclimation plans. People sharing stories about friends they know or heard of getting helivac rescue near high camp, and then I was remembering the Discovery show called “Everest Rescue” I watched a few months ago (not the wisest show to watch with this trip planned…haha!) and I started to get nervous.  Their anxieties seeped into my head and the night before the crossing it’s safe to say I was a bit of a mental head case. A lot of unnecessary worry prior to the pass, but valuable lessons were learned, so I am thinking it was something I needed to experience.

We had been averaging about 10-14 miles each day prior to our rest/acclimation day in Manang.  Erin and I felt good. Each day we were hiking well and arriving at our destination hours ahead of schedule.  From Manang, we hiked up to Ledar which was 4200 meters.  The original plan was to hike to Throng Phedi the next morning, however we made the decision to go to High Camp because we were feeling good and honestly, the elevation gain from Throng Phedi to High Camp is not something you want to do at 4:00am.  (Throng Phedi is at 4450 meters, and High Camp is at 4600 meters)

We were one of the first people up at High Camp, and so we got our pick for our room.  Kumar has a knack for picking the best rooms for exactly what Erin and I love and need for that night. Our room looked out to the Himalayas and Erin and I kept asking each other if this was real life.  The view was stunning and we were starting to form a little community with some other trekkers who we had seen along the trails on the way.  The rooms were all in a row with the doors opening up to the picturesque view. The kind French couple were to our left, then it was the loud Danish man (who, mind you, didn’t appreciate the fact that females were stronger hikers than he), then the 2 Germans, Sebastian and Thomas, who we bonded with and thoroughly enjoyed talking to, followed by the fierce little French female hiker and Sam from Amsterdam.   We all arrived first up at high camp and settled in and watched as other trekkers made their way up the steep trail.

We probably had a little too much time up at High Camp.  We meaning Erin and I… too much time to be in our heads.  A major theme on this trip has been learning to truly surrender and give up control.  Erin and I both struggle with this… a lot.  I have worked on this for the past few years, but this trip highlighted how far I have yet to go.  Erin and I were legitimately concerned that we might die. There was no basis for this.  Kumar kept checking in with us, asking how we were doing.  Do you have a headache?  How is your breathing? Are you feeling okay? We did not have a headache, our breathing was fine, we were not nauseous. We hiked totally fine that day.  He said we seemed just fine, we were strong, we looked good and said if we were going to be sick, we probably would have already been sick at one of the lower camps.  Do you see the recurring point here?  We were totally fine.  Healthy, strong and totally fine.

But we weren’t.  We were riddled with anxiety.  This lead to one of my favorite moments on the trip thus far.  It was 1:00pm and were literally just sitting in our sleeping bags in our beds, in our little room, bundled up, freezing, just staring straight ahead in silence. We then decided to pray and talk about the realities of our fears.  We prayed. We listened to worship music.  We may have cried a little. We read bible verses.  We talked some more.  We did this for like two hours…

Soon we realized  and remembered that God was in control.  We had a guide who was experienced and fantastic, a community of trekkers that were in this together, and a God that was with us and already on the other side.  Fear was taking us out of the present moment that God wanted us to be a part of.  Crazy how fear can do that….rob us of experiences, opportunities, relationships, growth or change.  Fear is often an illusion and it’s amazing how much power we give it.  Fear gains strength and power when it’s kept a secret and locked in our heads. I realized that talking with Erin about my irrational concerns stopped them from growing.  It did the same for her.

We decided to get up and go to the community room where we huddled by the fire and listened to the other trekkers from all over the world, talk, laugh and connect and suddenly we were excited about this experience that we were fortunate to be a part of.

We had an early dinner because the alarm was set for 3:30am to hit the top of the pass at sunrise. Everyone turned in early and High Camp was silent by 8:00pm.  Tomorrow would be there before we knew it.


2 thoughts on “Altitude Sickness and Other Irrational Fears

Add yours

  1. There will be plenty of Throrong La Pass challenges in our lives. When we borrow worry, we fail to realize God is working in our lives and bringing us closer to him.

    He has blessed you far more than you can imagine. Enjoy his presence and thank him for the abilities and strength he has given you.

    Smile much and laugh often

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