Lisa and Kevin King Trekked to Everest!
Lisa and Kevin joined other cancer survivors on a fourteen day climb to Mt. Everest Base Camp sponsored by EIRMC. The trek, organized by Radiating Hope, raised money to improve cancer care around the globe.
Lisa and Kevin carried traditional Tibetan prayer flags with messages of hope, strength and health submitted by people in our community.
Here’s a photographic catalogue of their amazing journey!
We finished it... more of an accomplishment than expected! We fly Lukla to Kathmandu this morning, if weather cooperates. Looking forward to heading home!
I feel great. Kevin just okay. Long day down today so we should feel like rockstars by tonight. Weather is clear so 5 people flew out this am, down to 3 in our group.
I feel great this am after lots of meds and O2 all night, but now Kevin's on O2 and can't walk straight. Snow forecasted for days, cant take helicopter. have to trek down. 3 went by horse. Kevin gave his horse to someone else in the group who needed it more after several hours. He used O2 most of the way down. Our bags went down with the group again so we still have nothing, a lot of frustration. The guy who was life flighted to Kathmandu is still in hospital.
No one is doing great with the altitude so everyone has to trek back several villages for the night instead of camping at base camp. Rough night of sleep last night.I felt like a rock star until this morning but by the time we made it to base camp, suffering from altitude sickness. Kevin and I are sleeping at base camp, I'll be on oxygen and meds then out in the am either by foot if they can find a Sherpa or helicopter.
Kevin says I'm part yak! Our entire group had O2 sats in high 70's or low 80's (Kevin was 82). I was 97! The only woman who made the fast group! The worst things we've had is a mouse in my bed last night!! We all made it to Gorak Shep (16,983") but two are going back down my horses with sherpa- one with pulmonary edema and one with cerebal edema. Group is considering day trip to base camp tomorrow then down.
Stopped for lunch today at over 15,000 feet and looked up to 24,000 feet mountains. It's unbelievable every direction we look. Just out of curiosity, we checked our oxygen saturation before we started trekking this morning and Kevin's was 84%- he's feeling it! Slow and steady. We realized that the hours trekking each day on the itinerary are for sherpas, not Americans. We're usually walking from about 8am-4pm with a stop for lunch. Some tears were shed today as someone in our group had to turn back at lunch due to altitute sickness. The rest of us made it to Lobuche. Kevin and I still feel great and haven't needed any meds. Tonight, we enjoyed an amazing piece of chocolate cake at the world's highest bakery (16,175') as our reward for making it this far!
We're getting up there now. They're feeding us lots of garlic soup to help acclimatize. Nice that it's delicious! We and the flags were blessed by today. The prohibit sleeping before the sun sets, makes acclimatization harder.
Beautiful and warm morning, then trekked the afternoon in the clouds. Nice to stay cool when hiking straight up. Like every evening, ready for dinner and bed! This is one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen! Suspension bridges have been amazing! Trying to get used to yak milk and warm juice with every meal.
Today was an acclimatizing day with a 5.6 mile day hike to an amazing mountain view, including our first Everest sighting. Our "rest" day was not much of a rest!
Today's update: We've arrived in namche bazar, words cannot describe this place! Spectacular second day on the trail. All of our hours on the stair climber with a weighted backpack and hiking boots paid off, we both feel great after a long strenuous day!
After a safe flight into Lukla, sherpas loaded the yaks, and we officially headed out to the trail. Had a few burro and yak traffic jams! Amazingly beautiful! Waiting to check in to tea house.
Sightseeing in Kathmandu now, more temples and monkeys than we can count! Beautiful weather. Shopped the chaotic streets yesterday and got a great night sleep. Going to the cancer center at the hospital today to see where all our fundraising money is going. Great group of people we're traveling with!
We made it! Waiting in line for visa in Kathmandu, then will be on our way to hotel. So far so good!
We made it to China! It's appx 5:30am. One more 4.5 hr. flight and we'll be in Nepal.
Here we go! 14.5 hours on this flight, then a 4.5 hour. Longest flight for us! See you after! Missing our girls.
Lisa King is a nurse, a wife, and a mother of two beautiful little girls. She’s also a breast cancer survivor… at the age of 43.
When Lisa was 40 years old, she had just welcomed her second child into the world. She needed to get her first mammogram that year, but Lisa also knew that nursing mothers should wait 3 months after they finish nursing to have a mammogram. She waited five months.
Images from her first mammogram concerned the radiologist, so a second mammogram was ordered, followed by a breast biopsy. Lisa and her husband Kevin waited a long holiday weekend to find out the results.
“It wasn’t until 6 a.m. when I was at work that I said to one of the nurses I was working with ‘I find out in 2 hours if I have breast cancer or not.’ I hadn’t really thought about it that much until then. That was the first time I started to get a little bit nervous and think ‘what if I really do have breast cancer,” Lisa said.
When the doctor gave her the news, Lisa remembers thinking “I can’t believe she’s joking. Who would kid about this? I don’t have cancer. Then my next thought was ‘of course she’s not joking. I have cancer? How can I have cancer? I’m young, I’m healthy. I take care of myself, there’s no way.’”
Because Lisa’s mammogram caught her cancer early, Lisa was able to fight it with a lumpectomy and radiation treatment. A mastectomy was not necessary. “It was not invasive, it had not left the duct and it was all because of the mammogram that found it that early,” Lisa said.
Lisa went to radiation treatment five days a week, and for most of them, her daughters, ages 2 and 4, went with her. “The first day I came out, the doctor, the director, the nurse, the secretary, all these people were in the waiting room playing with my kids,” Lisa said. “They loved it.”
Lisa finished her treatment last October, and the team at the EIRMC Cancer Center celebrated with a dance party (complete with a disco ball and bubbles) for her Lisa, Kevin, and her daughters. “I can’t say I’ll never worry. I’ll probably be nervous when I go in for a mammogram. But I consider myself cured.”
The biggest message Lisa has for other women is the importance of getting a mammogram. “When you’re 40, get your mammogram. That’s my biggest takeaway is how important a mammogram at 40 is,” Lisa said. “Even if you don’t have a family history and consider yourself healthy, because I never would have thought that I could possibly have breast cancer.”
- components of this article reprinted with permission of Post Register
Gear and packing list
Gear, this is the fun part. Radiating Hope provided us with a list of things to take, which is very helpful. They also had companies donate equipment or offer us a discount, which is also very nice! Kevin and I have acquired a lot of camping/hiking equipment over the years, but needed to do some upgrading for a trip like this.
We have a lot of polypropylene clothes, but I will admit they stink after one workout. Merino wool does not. We bought two short sleeved shirts each and had two long sleeved shirts each.
We'll each take two pairs of zip-out pants (pants that convert into shorts).
Kevin had a great down coat and I bought one, this is the only "required" item for the trip. They've told us that we'll most likely be wearing them during dinner.
Radiating Hope gave us our primary hiking jackets, and we love them!
Gamma West donated rain jackets to everyone going on the trek. Super light weight and very nice, although hoping we don't need to use it!
Radiation Business Solutions donated all of our backpacks. This is the pack we've been training with:
We bought waterproof/yak-proof duffle bags for up to 33 pounds of our stuff to be carried by a porter or yak.
We also bought new trekking poles, they say these can be a life (or knee!) saver.
They told us to take bandanas to filter the dust on the trail and humidify the air to help minimize the "khumbu cough". We're also taking throat lozenges to help with the cough.
We've also heard that the water tastes bad, so we're taking powder Gatorade and other flavoring packets so it's a little more palatable. We're supposed to be drinking 5 liters/day. They recommend going to bed with a water bottle filled with boiling water to keep us warm and start drinking it as soon as we wake up. We also have to take a steripen and purification tablets to treat the stream water. We'll treat the water in a 1 liter Nalgene bottle and then pour it into our camelback bladders that go into our backpacks.
Snacks are encouraged for those times when food does not sound appealing and when nausea sets in at altitude.
We sleep in tea houses each night and the bedrooms are not heated. We're taking warm sleeping bags, but since I'm ALWAYS cold, I bought a liner that's supposed to add 25 degrees of warmth to my bag.
For warmth, we need long underwear, a knit hat, thin gloves, warm mittens and outdoor soled (for trips to the outhouse) slippers for relaxing evenings.
We're taking sleeping pads and pillow cases to stuff with clothes for a pillow. Also ear plugs because walls in the tea houses are very thin.
The sun is intense at altitude. A sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and lip balm with sunscreen are really important.
I was told by someone who's done this trek multiple times to take more hand sanitizer than you think you could possibly use. Even after washing hands with soap and water we're advised to use sanitizer since the hand washing water is contaminated. He also recommended that we use sanitizer on our utensils before every meal.
We were also given a list of medications to take with us. We have Diamox, Cipro, Zofran, Decadron, Ibuprofen, Melatonin, multivitamins and Imodium ready to go. We're also taking a small first aid kit with lots of band aids.
EIRMC is sending me with a satellite phone so that I can check in with updates along the journey. I'll also take a notebook so that I can keep a daily journal.
And of course we're taking 100 prayer flags for the prayer flag ceremony at base camp.
Baby wipes will be much appreciated since we won't be showering. Also a camp towel and biodegradable toilet paper.
Also on our packing list are rain pants, comfy warm clothes for evenings, socks and underwear, iPod and earbuds, bodyglide, headlamps and extra batteries.
We're taking candy and pens to give to the kids in the villages along the way.
And a camera of course! But we also have to bring a solar charger to recharge batteries since there's no electricity.
Will ALL of this stuff fit into a duffle and a day pack and weigh less than 58 pounds? I sure hope so!
One Month to go!
It's hard to believe that we leave for Kathmandu in 4 weeks! We found out we were going in September, and April seemed so far away. It seemed like plenty of time to get in shape and collect all of the gear we need. The time has gone by quickly, but it has been fun to see how far we've come physically, and it's always fun to have an excuse to buy new gear!
Kevin and I have known each other for 12 years and have done a lot of hikes and adventures (especially pre-kids), but neither of us have ever done anything like this. Trekking in Nepal has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I never dreamed that I would literally be given this amazing opportunity, thanks to EIRMC and Radiating Hope!
Training, oh the training! Two hours a day at the gym is not easy, but I'm hoping it's enough to prepare my body. I do believe variety is the spice of life, and I mix up what I do everyday. I look forward most to yoga a couple of days per week, certainly not because it's the easiest thing I do but because I love the teacher and the challenge. Tammy at Apple Athletic Club is the best and also the hardest!
Another activity I enjoy is walking to City Bagels downtown from our house. It is fun because I go with either Heidi or my family, and it's rewarding to have a delicious bagel sandwich in the middle of the walk. This is also with my backpack weighted and hiking boots on. We cover 6-8 miles through rain, snow or ice.
I have a love/hate relationship with the stair climber. I look forward to it least because it's so painful, but it's probably prepared me for the trek more than any other single thing I've done. It is more tolerable when Heidi joins me, because our conversation is a good distraction. The treadmill at a 20% incline with a weighted backpack and hiking boots is "fun."
And then there's our personal trainer, Lisa at Apple. Something is sore after every session, in a good way.
This weekend we went snowshoeing at Grand Targhee. I had it much easier than Kevin though, he carried our 34 pound, 3-year-old in a backpack. The scenery was much better than at the gym!
Can't wait for the real thing! More to come soon on gear…
Things I've learned about the Everest Base Camp trek:
Here’s some random thoughts I’ve learned about this amazing trek that Kevin and I are preparing for!
We fly into Kathmandu to acclimatize for 2 nights but the elevation of Kathmandu is less than Idaho Falls.
We then fly from Kathmandu to the Lukla airport and start trekking. It is rated the most dangerous airport in the world and only eight pilots in the world are qualified to land there. It’s a STOL (short take-off and landing) airstrip. There’s a mountain at the northern end of the runway and a steeply angled drop at the southern end of the runway into the valley below.
Our guide (Sherpa) has summited Everest 15 times and set the world record for the fastest time to summit, 10 hours and 56 minutes!
We do a prayer flag ceremony at base camp. It is traditionally believed that as the mountain winds blow the flags, the fragile threads drift away into the breeze, that each thread sends off a prayer of hope, strength, and well-being for the people they honor.
Our bags for the porter/yak must be rugged and waterproof because they often fall off into snow/dirt/mud/water.
Bring baby wipes since there will be no showering!
Bring very warm sleeping bag since teahouses in the villages along the trail are not heated. Water bottle will freeze through the night.
I have to wear sunglasses all day to prevent eyes from “sun burning.”
Been told to wear merino wool instead of polypro… so we stink less (remember that no showering problem!)
It’s recommend that we drink at least five liters of water every day, and we need to bring “flavoring” powders for water since the water from the Himalayas tastes bad.
I was told “expect to get some intestinal issue at some point - everyone does”. Bring Imodium!
Alcohol and sleeping pills can kill you at altitude. Most people suffer from altitude insomnia.
Travel above 8,200’ comes with the risks of developing acute mountain sickness, high altitude cerebral edema and high altitude pulmonary edema. We hike from 9,350’ to 18,000’!
There is half the available oxygen at 18,000’ as compared to sea level.
For preparation, the altitude at which one sleeps is more important than the altitude reached during the waking hours.
Sherpas’ blood is chemically more efficient at carrying oxygen then the blood of lowland people.
“Yak traffic” is a real thing and a real danger! They sometimes get ornery and “bump” people off the trail. Always stay on the uphill side when passing a yak. This sounds a little like our advice to Yellowstone visitors!
There have been dozens of “yeti” sightings, also known as “abominable snowman!”
We walk across 7 suspension bridges, some sketchier than others.
FYI - for only $25,000 US dollars you can parachute jump over Everest’s peak!
Interesting fact: the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal moved the entire mountain 3cm to the southwest.
The scenery and the experience are amazing!
The Crazy Effects of Altitude on the Body
As a nurse, I'm fascinated by the physiological affects of altitude on the body. Travel above 8,200' comes with the risks of developing acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude cerebral edema and high altitude pulmonary edema. We hike from 9,350' to 18,000'! There is half the available oxygen at 18,000' compared to sea level, and decreasing air pressure at altitude causes liquid to leak from capillaries into the lungs and brain, which can be fatal. Almost everyone trekking above 13,123' experiences some symptoms of mild altitude sickness. It's difficult to predict who will be affected by high altitude. Olympic athletes have been severely limited by symptoms of AMS while less fit elderly people are hardly touched.
AMS- Acute Mountain Sickness is the most common form of altitude illness. Symptoms include headache, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, dizziness and difficulty sleeping. The best way to prevent AMS is to acclimate properly by ascending slowly once above 9,843'. Less than 1,640' per day sleeping elevation is recommended. The altitude at which one sleeps is more important than the altitude reached during the waking hours. Rest days where there is no increase in sleeping elevation should be every 3-4 days. We only have 1 rest day instead of 3 on our way up, and I am not exactly sure why? My husband looked into buying an elevation training mask to wear when training, but a medical journal that I read stated that short-term exposures to hypoxia (not enough oxygen) are not helpful in pre-acclimatizing. Acetazolamide and Dexamethasone are the most common drugs used prophylactically to prevent AMS. The best treatment for AMS and HACE is descent. Descend until symptoms resolve which is usually after going down 984' to 3281'. If unable to descend, treat with oxygen.
HACE- High Altitude Cerebral Edema is an extreme form of AMS. HACE occurs when the brain swells. It includes the same symptoms as AMS but also includes confusion, altered mental status and problems with movement and balance. The classic "drunk test" can be done on someone suspected of having HAPE. If they cannot walk heel-to-toe in a straight line, they are within hours of unconsciousness. Immediate descent, dexamethasone and oxygen are treatments.
HAPE- High Altitude Pulmonary Edema occurs when fluid accumulates in the lungs because the arteries in the lungs develop high pressure due to low oxygen. Symptoms include shortness of breath at rest, fast and/or shallow breathing, frothy cough, blue lips or fingernails, extreme fatigue/drowsiness and chest tightness. Treatment is immediate descent and oxygen.
Khumbu cough, named after an area in the Everest region- Also known as the high altitude hack. It is caused by low humidity and cold temperatures at altitude and triggered by overexertion. Membranes dry out and causes irritation which results in a violent cough that can tear chest muscles or fracture ribs.
Altitude insomnia- Almost everyone has difficulty sleeping at altitude. Sleeping pills (as well as alcohol) can be dangerous because they slow the respiratory rate. Cheyne Stokes breathing is an odd breathing pattern that consists of cycles of normal breathing, then slow breathing, then breath-holding followed by rapid breathing. This breathing pattern develops due to the build-up of carbon dioxide and lack of oxygen in the blood. Dramatic changes take place in the body's chemistry and fluid balance during acclimatization. Altitude also causes the kidneys to excrete more fluid (making you pee more, especially at night), making the blood more concentrated and able to carry more oxygen.
Our hope is that we're immune to all of this craziness and we feel fantastic!
Day 1: KATHMANDU | 4,383’
Arrive in Kathmandu and spend the night.
Day 2: KATHMANDU | 4,383’
Situated in a bowl shaped valley in central Nepal, Kathmandu is the largest city in Nepal and the cosmopolitan heart of the Himalayan Region. Today is the first chance to explore Kathmandu’s rich and diverse culture with a city tour including the Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupatinath, and Swayambunath - the Monkey Temple. The rest of the day is spent enjoying the city and local cuisine. Overnight in Kathmandu.
Day 3: PHAKDING | 8,700’
Lukla (9,350’) to Phakding (8,700’). Trekking time is approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Fly to Lukla, the village where our trek to Everest Base Camp begins. The airport in Lukla is the Tenzing Norgay Airport, and landing on the STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) runway is an experience in itself. It is usually very busy in Lukla as different expeditions are getting everything organized for the trek. From here on out, there are no more vehicles or roads, just a network of villages connected by footpaths. After the group meets the Sherpa team, they start trekking along the Dudh Kosi River as they travel to Phakding. They spend the night at a small teahouse on the bank of the milky-blue Dudh Kosi. Overnight in lodge.
Day 4 & 5: NAMCHE BAZAAR | 11,300’
Phakding (8,700’) to Namche Bazaar (11,300’). Trekking time is 4 1/2 to 5 hours.
Hike to historic Namche Bazaar, the gateway to the high Himalayas and the Sherpa community’s central meeting place. Namche is where lowland porters bearing supplies meet the highland Sherpa and Tibetan people who have journeyed over high passes from many miles away to trade food and supplies. Namche’s busy shops, delicious bakeries, and jovial feel are a welcome sight after making the long climb up from the valley floor below. Overnight in lodge.
Day 6: DEBOCHE | 12,325’
Namche Bazaar (11,300’) to Deboche (12,325’). Trekking time is approximately 4 to 5 hours.
They leave Namche and climb up the valley to Tengboche, the largest Sherpa monastery in the Khumbu area. From the monastery’s front steps there are excellent views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, and Ama Dablam. They descend from the ridge where the monastery is located into the quiet forest of fir and rhododendron below surrounding our teahouse in Deboche. Overnight in lodge.
Day 7: PHERICHE | 13,950’
Deboche (12,325’) to Pheriche (13,950’). Trekking time is approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
Hike to Pheriche via the small village of Pangboche. They follow the Imja River which flows directly east of the village to Pangboche, a large Sherpa village at the foot of Ama Dablam. In Pangboche they visit Lama Geshe, a renowned spiritual leader of the area, to receive a blessing for their travels in the mountains before continuing along the river to Pheriche. Overnight in lodge.
Day 8: LOBUCHE | 16,175’
Pheriche (13,950’) to Lobuche (16,175’). Trekking time is approximately 4 to 5 hours.
They ascend to the village of Lobuche, tucked below Lobuche Peak. The trail takes them past the memorials for climbers made up of dozens of large rock stupas and strings of prayer flags at the top of Thokla Pass. Along the way, they’ll leave the last of the large vegetation and enter into the alpine zone and the trail may have a covering of snow from here. Overnight in lodge.
Day 9: GORAK SHEP | 16,950’
Lobuche (16,175’) to Gorak Shep (16,950’). Trekking time is approximately 3 hours.
Leaving Lobuche to walk parallel to the lower reaches of the Khumbu Glacier until they cross over the rocky moraine of the Khangri Glacier into Gorak Shep, the final outpost before Everest Base Camp. In the afternoon they climb to the summit Kala Patar, a small peak with stunning views of Everest. Overnight in lodge.
Day 10: EVEREST BASE CAMP | 17,575’
Gorak Shep (16,950’) to Everest Base Camp (17,575’). Trekking time is approximately 3 hours.
They complete the last stretch of our trek, leaving the dirt and grasses of the mountainous valley and setting out across the ice and rock of the Khumbu Glacier into Everest Base Camp. Overnight in tents.
Day 11: PHERICHE | 13,950’
Everest Base Camp (17,575’) to Pheriche (13,950’). Trekking time is approximately 5 to 6 hours.
They make an early departure from Base Camp, leaving the Khumbu Glacier descending back down the valley to Pheriche for some “thick” air and a good night’s sleep. Overnight in lodge.
Day 12: NAMCHE BAZAAR | 11,300’
Pheriche (13,950’)/Phortse (13,000’) to Namche Bazaar (11,300’). Trekking time is approximately 5 to 8 hours.
As they descend the smells of the pine forests and blooming rhododendrons overwhelm the senses after so many days up high. In Namche they treat ourselves to much deserved yak steaks, beer, and pastries. After Everest Base Camp, the narrow streets of Namche feel like a big city! Overnight in lodge.
Day 13: LUKLA | 9,350’
Namche Bazaar (11,300’) to Lukla (9,350’). Trekking time is approximately 5 - 7 hours.
The last day on the trail. They hike down from Namche to Lukla, crossing the eleven swaying suspension bridges over the Dudh Kosi and re-entering the fertile valleys of the lower Khumbu. Overnight in lodge.
Day 14: KATHMANDU | 4,383’
The scenic morning flight back to Kathmandu gives one last chance to say farewell to the mountains. The afternoon in Kathmandu is open for exploring or just relaxing. Overnight in Kathmandu.
Day 15: TRAVEL DAY