This past summer, Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech (ORGT) organized an expedition for a group of 11 students to trek from Kathamandu, Nepal to the Everest Base Camp. Led by the president of ORGT, Sid Agarwal, the trek was meant to last eleven days. Among the group of students were Dillon Roseen, current Student Government Association (SGA) president and Nick Picon, the 2013-2014 SGA president.
“For me, the trip was about taking some time before the school year to think about what I hope to achieve in a place that’s absolutely beautiful,” Roseen said. “[Going to Everest] has always been on my bucket list.”
In preparation for the trek, the group of students had to train extensively to acclimate themselves to hiking in high-altitude areas. “We wore these masks that made us look like Bane,” Picon joked. “It felt like someone was preventing me from breathing, but that’s really what it’s like.”
The students approached the CRC in order to develop an intense exercise plan and worked together to keep each other on track.
Though the group members each had unique experiences with backpacking and hiking, all of them trained extensively for months leading up to the backpacking expedition.
“It started out with a lot of resistance training, cardio and stair climbs,” Roseen said. “If I ever have to do a lunge again, I’ll know how to do it, but I won’t be happy.”
The group also held meetings to take care of logistics like food, water and risk management plans, and spent time learning about different cultural customs.
“The people over there are amazing,” Roseen said. “There are a lot of cultural differences that we had to keep track of. For example, traditionally, whenever you accept something like money or food, you have to use your right hand.”
The group also had to plan to use porters and guides to help them along the trek, since they would need help from more experienced hikers.
After preparation was complete, the group left to Nepal. They flew from Kathamandu to Lukla Airport, which is commonly ranked as one of the most dangerous airports in the world.
The runway at Lukla Airport is extremely steep and short, and the airport usually reports at least one crash per year. Landing on the strip assumes that the slope will be enough to stop an airplane, and taking off assumes that the slope will be enough to give the airplane the thrust and lift that it needs.
“Honestly, that was the most nervous I felt over the entire trip,” Picon said.
The original plan was to spend eight days getting to Everest Base Camp and three more days coming back.
However, after five days, the group had to deal with unexpected sickness.
“About halfway into the trip, a few of us started getting sick,” Picon explained. “People started displaying flu-like symptoms, and they were eventually diagnosed with altitude sickness.”
Over three days, the group persevered despite having sick members, and they called two helicopters to airlift the most ill members back to Kathamandu.
Finally, after there were only five members left, Agarwal decided to call off the trek and bring the rest of the group back to Kathamandu. In total, eight out of the 11 members of the group succumbed to altitude sickness.
“When I was getting airlifted back to Kathamandu, the sky was absolutely clear,” Roseen said. “It was all worth it in the end.”
Roseen and Picon credited Agarwal with the quick actions that led to the group’s safety.
“Sid was awesome,” Roseen said. “He sprang into action and was able to pull the necessary information we needed from our emergency plans. He worked with the trekking agency to ensure that we got the help we needed to come back down safely.”
Overall, Roseen and Picon said that they had a wonderful experience in Nepal.
“I got to see a lot of beautiful things,” Picon said. “Even when it was cloudy, it was amazing because I was able to see some of the tallest mountains in the world.”
Though the expedition was ultimately unsuccessful, ORGT was still able to use their resources and planning to ensure that all members of the group returned home safely.