What I learned Mountaineering in the Himalayas: I take on challenges first and then figure out a way to overcome them, that is my way in business and in life. During my recent Himalayan expedition, I learned a lot of lessons about how to best prepare for an experience when you’re pushed to your limits both physically and psychologically. The trip reinforced my belief that our minds have enormous capacity and that our limits are often self-imposed. But, I’d also like to share some practical advice to help anyone prepare for a similar challenge.
- Do your research
This may seem an obvious one but depending on the time of year, the weather conditions on any given day, and your personal abilities, the clothes you bring and other utilities you choose to carry will have a massive impact on the how your body will react throughout the expedition. It’s difficult to imagine just how bitterly cold it can get as you ascend the mountains, so my advice is to invest in clothing that can sustain you at every stage of the trip. In my experience, not having a jacket that covered my mouth made breathing the thin and icy air over 4,000m extremely challenging. Also, it is highly advisable to consult your GP before any such trip to ensure your physical health is good. Any weakness in your body will expose itself very quickly under extreme conditions.
- Sort your sleep pattern
This is something that will be tested during the trip. During the nights, I found myself too cold to sleep (despite wearing numerous layers of thermals that covered all my body). Also, the constant noise from others in the lodges made it impossible to get much peace. My best advice is to ensure you have adequately warm clothing to be able to relax properly and hopefully get some much-needed shut-eye. Lack of sleep has an extremely negative effect on your mind and your immune system, making it impossible to fight off infections. And because of the altitude, you can’t recover from illness. It’s important to be in the best condition possible.
- Be ready for basic living
If you’re an experienced camper, this may come more easily to you. The living conditions on a trip such as this are entirely basic, from where you rest and the food you eat to personal hygiene and dealing with bodily functions. It was unfortunate that I lost my appetite during my expedition as this contributed to my illness and lack of energy. My advice is to ensure you’re prepared to eat what’s available. When I could eat, I sustained myself on potato soup hoping the temperature would kill any bacteria. Also, getting to the toilet entails heading outside into the freezing air with only a torch to guide you to a hole in the ground… that’s how it is, so prepare.
- Don’t go without support
This is probably the most important lesson: don’t go alone. The psychological strain of this sort of expedition is palpable and shouldn’t be underestimated. Without emotional support around you, it is a lonely and dark journey. Therefore, my advice is to go with family or good friends. Although my team was amazing, I missed having someone there that I was really close to. I think the lack of emotional support made the trip a thousand times more difficult for me. Also, bear in mind that you won’t be able to rely on internet connectivity, phone calls, etc. It is incredibly isolating and challenging, and the nights are long in the mountains.
- Understand that you can never be fully prepared!
While I believe you can prepare your body and help your emotional well-being by following the advice above, there is so much you can’t possibly prepare for ahead of an expedition. The gravity of the mental challenge ahead of you can’t be explained, it can only be experienced. I believe that any physically fit person would be capable of such a challenge, however, without good mental health, patience, and perseverance, physical fitness is meaningless. For me, it was the knowledge of how I would feel once I had accomplished the goal that kept me doing, despite my body and mind persisting past their previous limits.
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