2. Read the text. Choose the correct answer, A, B, C or D.
Most people have heard of Everest. Not so many people have heard of Annapurna 1. Situated in the Himalayas in Nepal, this mountain is 8,091 metres high and ranks as the tenth-highest peak in the world. The base camp for climbers is more or less halfway up the mountain and it boasts some of the most striking scenery in the world. Any trek to Annapurna is likely to start at Pokhara, the second-largest city in Nepal. The south of the city stands at an altitude of over 827 metres and rises to 1,740 metres in the north, which borders the Annapurna mountain range.
If you’re keen to become one of the 70,000 visitors who take on the challenge to reach the base camp every year, make sure you’re prepared for what you’re getting into. We weren’t.
A friend and I decided that we would hire a porter to carry our bags, as we didn’t want the added hindrance of shifting our stuff for ourselves on an already physically demanding trip. Binning stuff we didn’t need before we went was purely out of compassion for the poor guy who would have to carry it. We set off, optimistic that we would manage to get to the base camp without too many problems.
The first thing that struck me on our eight-day trek was not so much the unclear paths, but rather how much we went downhill only to have to go uphill again. This became a major psychological obstacle that we would just have to overcome. This was far from my first mountaineering challenge, but I was naïve to think that this one would be all uphill.
The second problem was altitude sickness. The guest houses along the way were a thriving oasis of international travellers looking for a bed and a good meal in an otherwise remote and unforgiving environment. What I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t actually be hungry. This is coming from a person who never skips a meal. Gradually, food became more and more unappealing, and I didn’t know why. I mean, we were walking for about eight hours a day, and all I was managing to eat was a bowl of soup. In little over a week, I was to lose around 7 kg.
The most serious issue was the ever-present danger. You are a delicate creature in this huge mountain range, especially as you get higher. A few times, we heard the crack of an avalanche, but thankfully they were never close enough to cause a threat to our safety. They were often the result of snow accumulating above us and then melting under the midday sun. Obviously, our guides ensured that we set off early in the morning to minimize the risk, and didn’t burden us with any scary stories en route.
Another more predictable problem was the cold. Our night spent at the base camp was in a wooden hut, and the temperature was ˗15°C, which was fairly typical for that time of year. That wasn’t my main concern though. My sleeping bag barely covered half my body as a result of it getting wet at the bottom earlier in our journey. I don’t recommend that to anyone.
We dug our heels in for the final stretch. I must admit that, although we’d enjoyed it, it was a weight off our shoulders when we succeeded in reaching our destination. Days and even months later, I felt enormously empowered as a result of our achievement. When you’re surrounded by views of 8,000-metre peaks, you feel like you are on top of the world … Well, you actually almost are!