Totally true story

To celebrate 20,000 view I figure I’ll post a little bit about myself. But since I’m paranoid about my info on the internet, instead of details I’m going to share a story from my childhood. So here goes.

This is the completely true account of a single day of my life. Specifically a day when I was thirteen years old. Now, since I am no longer thirteen, you might expect some embellishments or exaggerations, but I can assure you everything is completely true and actually happened. I should note before I start that while this is an account of a single day, I’m actually going to start the night before, just to give the proper context. Also, for the sake of context, I’m going to talk about the specifics of a certain medical condition, specifically Altitude sickness, aka that thing that kills people, when they try to climb everest.

According to Wikipedia the primary symptoms of Altitude Sickness (AMS) are as follows:

Lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting

Fatigue or weakness

Dizziness or lightheadedness

Insomnia

Pins and needles

Shortness of breath upon exertion

Nosebleed

Persistent rapid pulse

Drowsiness

Excessive flatulence

General malaise

Peripheral edema (swelling of hands, feet, and face)

Also headaches, but since those are symptoms of all sorts of other shit as well, they are only considered symptoms if combined with anything else on the list. Most people will not suffer from AMS until at least 2,800m (I’m using metric because fuck imperial, deal). The severe symptoms listed on Wikipedia are pretty fucking scary, and make one question why anyone would climb fucking mountains in the first place.

Anyways, lets get on with some of the backstory and context, so the actual day makes sense. The setting is Annapurna Circuit a relatively popular path through the Annapurna mountain range in Nepal. The trek takes 15-20 days depending on whether or not you fly out on day 15 or drive out on day 15. We chose to fly. The biggest day of the trek is clearly the Thorong La pass at 5416m; this shit be high. Just a little bit more context of the day before the day I’m going to talk about. The safest way to do the circuit is from east to west. The day before Throng La pass while going in that direction you can either stay at Thorung Phedi (at 4420 m) or at Thorong High Camp (4800m). We stayed at Thorong High Camp.

That night I was sick. Full on AMS, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, drowsiness, pins, and needles. But this was high camp, we would be a lot lower the next night. Also being high camp means that we would have a very long day the next morning, so we would need carbs. Carbs came in the form of pasta with a truly massive amount of rosemary on it (still not a fan of rosemary), the nausea kicked in and I didn’t eat. I opted instead to go to sleep. That’s when I discovered the insomnia. I did eventually get to sleep, but all in all it was a pretty shittty night.

Now that the context is out of the way, let’s talk about the day in question.

We got up around five in the morning because we needed to get started walking by six. Now since I had barely any sleep the night before, and hadn’t eaten dinner, I was tired, and hungry that morning. Nothing I could do about being tired, and thanks to the persistent nausea there wasn’t much I could do about being hungry either. At least there was nothing I could do without wanting to throw up. So yeah, by the time we started walking, I was already in the pretty bad shape. I should note that we were doing this as a family thing, so it was, my sister, my parents, and me. My sister and I only had experience with much smaller things. My parents were experienced trekkers, my dad even use to be a trekking guide in Nepal.

Now onto event number one. Since I spent my entire childhood in places without snow, and mostly the tropic to boot, I wasn’t very experienced with it. We hadn’t even walked across any on this trek so far. ‘So far’ being the operative words here, today we were going to cross snow. Specifically snow on a slope, a rather steep slope, that ended after several hundred meters on lots of jagged rocks. I didn’t handle it well. In fact, I handled pretty fucking badly. Really, really badly. Curled up in a ball hyperventilating at 4850m above sea level bad. It took my family twenty minutes to get me across that patch of snow; I did it with my eyes closed. This wasn’t a height thing, I’m good with heights, this was a snow thing.

Flat snow wasn’t an issue, which was a good thing since the majority of the day was spent walking across it. It truly was a beautiful day, I might have even enjoyed it if I wasn’t so tired, hungry, and having trouble breathing. Also cold, clear sunny days are colder than overcast days unless it’s raining or snowing. It was quite cold and this might have been a saving grace; I like the cold. I  mean, I really like it; I function better in the cold, I’m practically allergic to the heat. So yeah, clear day, good.

We eventually made it to the top of the pass around five, in the afternoon. To be clear I still hadn’t eaten: I had milk tea. Milk tea is an interesting drink made with some kind of black tea that doesn’t matter much, whole yak milk, and a butt-load of sugar. Pure energy really, but doesn’t help much with the whole “filling the stomach” thing. So at the top of the pass at 5416 m, my dad insisted I eat something. Something happened to be a Snickers bar. This was a stupid idea; I managed one bite. I then vomited up that one bite, and some stomach acid for good measure. I still cannot eat Snickers bars without feeling nauseous; I use to like them too.

I needed off that pass, by off we meant go down 1700 m to the town at the base. So naturally we started walking down, and what do we experience? Fucking snow on a slope with rocks at the bottom, basically a clone of what we encountered that morning. Fuck that, I was tired, hungry, nauseous, light headed, I couldn’t catch my breath and, my hand and feet were swollen. I powered past that fucking patch of snow and three more after it. I went down almost 1000 m in less than an hour.

Once we made it to the base of the pass, we stopped to eat. My dad once again tried to get me to consume. This time it was instant noodles without any of the spice packets. Hah, fuck that, my body wasn’t having any of that food stuff. Once I was done dry heaving, we decided not to try that again for awhile. We also tried to keep me hydrated, and that’s when we discovered my body wasn’t too big a fan of water either. Oh, and we were still two hours of walking away from where we were staying that night.

I’d tell you about those two hours but they put me on a horse, and I was kind of out of it. Fortunately the insomnia was gone that night, or it was just impossible for my body to keep going. I spent the next day in bed with a fever and only managed to start eating that evening.

So that’s the story of one of the most memorable days of my life. Admittedly it isn’t as funny as the time I was trapped in the mountain village and the USSR helicopter, but that’s a story for another time.

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