The Reserve Forces and Cadets Association for Yorkshire and The Humber organises a bi-annual expedition to the Himalayas for the cadet forces of all three Services. The expeditions are sponsored and supported by the Yorkshire Cadet Trust, in particular for fund raising. In 2012, the expedition was a repeat of the expedition of 2008, a 200 kilometre trek from Jiri to Kala Patthar in Nepal. Kala Patthar, at an altitude of 5550 meters, overlooks the Mount Everest Base Camp and offers views of the Everest Massif. The aim of the expedition was to challenge cadets and their adult instructors on an arduous trek, and to instil in them teamwork, self-reliance and leadership skills. 19 cadets and 5 adult leaders took part in the expedition and departed from Manchester Airport on Sunday 22 July 2012.
The flight to Nepal was delayed by one day due to a technical fault with the aircraft causing a overnight stay in Doha, Qatar, and eventually the team arrived in Kathmandu 24 hours later than planned. The team then spent a day in Kathmandu taking in some of the local culture and cuisine and sorted out their kit ready for departure on the 25 July for Jiri and the start of the trek.
The twenty-three day trek began on the following day, 26 July 2012, and included three days of acclimatisation as greater altitude was attained. “Makalu Adventure” and “Pilgrim Expeditions” were the trekking companies that provided excellent support to the expedition, providing, guides, sherpas, accommodation and yaks to carry supplies. All accommodation was in lodges on the route, because the expedition was conducted in the monsoon season. Initially the cadets found the going tough and some were surprised by the steepness of slopes and the depth of valleys. The trek has been described as being similar to walking from Fort William to the top of Ben Nevis and back every day for three weeks and at high altitude. In all the expedition members carried out a total ascent of 12,000 metres.
The team were challenged by the terrain, minor inconveniences such as leeches, and several cases of diarrhoea and/or vomiting. The latter is a common complaint if water hygiene is overlooked during the cooking process or water supply. Unfortunately, 5 team members had to be evacuated by helicopter, on two separate occasions, due to altitude sickness and the debilitating effects of the diarrhoea and vomiting. Two of the evacuees were the two female adult leaders, leaving three males plus Roy Francis (Pilgrim Expeditions Guide) to manage the remainder of the expedition. All the evacuees made full recoveries after time spent in the clinic and the hotel in Kathmandu.
On arrival at Lobuche, near to the expedition’s objective, it was discovered that access to Gorak Shep was not possible because a bridge had been washed away. The guides carried out reconnaissance during an acclimatisation day and found a viewpoint on a ridge west of Lobuche, at 5200 metres, from which the team could view Mount Everest before descending to Lukla for the flight to Kathmandu.
After three days’ walk from Lobuche, the party arrived in Lukla, where mist and fog prevented flying for a day and thus delayed the team’s return to Kathmandu. The party finally arrived in Kathmandu early on 16 August 2012, enjoying the chance to relax for the remainder of that day, including having a hot shower!
A programme of cultural visits was arranged for the following day including a visit to a hand-made carpet factory, the “Monkey Temple”, and to the old Patan Royal Palace. Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 August offered free time to cadets and staff to explore the Thamel area of Kathmandu, and dinner was provided on the Saturday evening at the nearby famous “Rum Doodle” restaurant. The flight back to Manchester was completed as planned on 20 August 2012.
Despite the various health-related difficulties, the expedition was successful in challenging the cadets and adult leaders, broadening their horizons and developing them as individuals. All those who completed the expedition were rewarded with excellent views of Everest and other high peaks and all those with ailments made full recoveries in time for the return to Britain.