Once I signed up for Everest Base Camp I set myself the task of preparing for it – not just physical preparation but metal preparation. I’ve done lots of long hikes, from the Overland Track, South Coast Track, Routeburn, Milford Track and Mount Tongariro, I’ve been to the Wall of Jerusalem many times – but I haven’t done a single hike since the kids were born. So how to get mentally tough for Everest Base Camp? I took it all in my stride when I was younger, but now I’m 46 (34 in Aqua years) and my body is not as forgiving as it used to be! So how do you get mentally tough – what’s this even look like?
When I signed up for the Everest Base Camp trek with Wild Women on Top issued me with a handbook – all about physical training, but it also included a chapter on mental preparation. From this I saw the following tips as key to toughening up the mind:
1) get comfortable in the uncomfortable – I heard this at yoga and have applied it to working out in a 40 degree room – now I have to apply it to the outdoors – trek in the cold, wind, wind, dark, when I’m tired – develop a steely determination to complete training even when its environmentally unpleasant
2) Don’t feel like training? Feeling tired or just plain lazy? Such it up princess and train anyway – in fact relish the opportunity (I’ve stuck to this completely (almost))
3) train when you don’t feel well – that’s tough for me as I’m pretty healthy – I’ve felt a little dehydrated at times after yoga – so I’ve hiked with a headache – but I really can’t imagine trekking with gastro or some such nasty – but the guide makes it clear I probably will have to
4) banish the ‘later’ attitude, the “Greg can do that” attitude – if I think of it I do it
5) button the lip – and let others be in charge. If you don’t know me, I’m a little “A” type. I am pretty direct, I have a strong opinion – I tend to fill in the silence. So I’m trying to button the lip. Harmony in the group is vital to everyone enjoying the Everest Base Camp trek – so if someone is hurting, whingeing, or just plain annoying I’m going to button the lip. Yeah, I know, not easy. I’ll start with my family.
6) and most of all – if I think “I don’t want to” I have to!
So to date what have I done in preparation for this – here’s some examples
The hiking in bad weather. This has actually been the easiest – it’s made me realise how many opportunities we miss for being outdoors when there’s a little drizzle around.
I’ve been out with my son’s Scout group and I slept outside in a cold tent rather than in a perfectly warm hut. I became really confident in my hiking gear – my new sleeping bag did indeed give me enough warmth, but I desperately need a better sleeping mattress – my hips prefer a more padded bed mat.
With the Scouts I went on a great walk behind Lake St Claire into Lake Marion – the track was over grown, there were creeks to cross, my son was not overly well and we had under estimated the length of the journey and were under pressure to complete it as the daylight hours were short. It was great to deal with the unexpected and I noticed as we forded creeks I was very nervous going over the first time but on the return trip I was not concerned at all. The experience had given me confidence.
Training when I don’t feel like it – mostly I’m self motivated enough to stick to it – what really drives me is as fit as I am, and trek ready as I will be – I’ll have to do it all with 50% less oxygen than I have at sea level. That scares me enough to stay vigilant, train hard and consistently.
The ‘later’ attitude or the “Greg can do that” I’m a shocker for that but I’ve done a lot more of the irritating little jobs around the house lately.
Dealing with “I don’t want to” has been a really enabling experience. Two examples that come to mind are the sleeping in the tent (and finding my gear was adequate for very cold situations) and peeing in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Yes, you read that correctly. Have you ever been in bed and needed to go to the toilet and wished yourself back to sleep? Well in the middle of the night I thought “I don’t want to go to the loo”. Sigh – now I have to. So I get out of my toasty warm sleeping bag and outside it’s freezing – but actually clear, and starry, peaceful and totally moonlit and beautiful. I’m so glad I did it because I was dreading it and it was not hard at all, in fact it was memorable. Why is this important? Read on:
Susie my friend has been on the Everest Base Camp trek and gave me the following advice:
1) take lots of anti inflammatories with you
2) you will need to pee often during your time at altitude – so get that in your mind now
3) when you finally get to Everest Base Camp you will be wanting to leave – glad to leave – you won’t have slept much for the last few nights and you’ll need to pee all the time – it’s very uncomfortable stuff
4) If you can trek Tassie you can do this – and get lots of practise on scree
So I’m listening to Susie, and reading my manual from Wild Women on Top and I am very much looking forward to my Everest BAse Camp trek 🙂