A group of five girls from St Mary’s School (Waverley, Johannesburg) and their parents made history by trekking to Everest earlier this year.
Guided by Klasie Wessels from the adventure coaching company, Streetschool, the group reached their goal recently after trekking for eight days up the Khumbu valley in Eastern Nepal. Included in the group were the youngest South African sisters ever to make it to Everest Base Camp.
Their journey started in October 2011 when Alex von Bardeleben, Bianca Bailey, Bernie Burger, Julia and sister Kim Huysamer decided to join the Streetschool expedition. It took them six months of training to prepare for the physical challenge, and part of this program included a hike up Sani pass to Thabana Ntletyana, at 3482m the highest point in Southern Africa.
The group of 18 people left for Nepal and flew to Lukla to start the trek. The landing at Lukla is in itself an adventure – at 2,840m regarded as one of the most dangerous airstrips in the world.
On the hike of nine days to Everest base camp the girls had to deal with the challenges altitude bring such as diarrhea, nausea, headaches and dehydration. Their acclimatization plan included two nights in the charming Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar, at 3,440m the capital of the Sherpa people. From there the journey really got tough. When a normal person walks through the altitude barrier of 4,000m the body rebels; even more so for young girls in their teens.
It was at the village of Dingboche at an altitude of 4,410m where things really got difficult., Kim was too weak to walk. And the whole group had to decide on what to do. After some discussions a decision was made – we were all to wait with Kim while she recovered.
Said sister Julia: “I’m doing this with my sister. If she stays, I want to stay with her. We are in this together”. And the group agreed.
The next morning Kim was better and the journey continued. But not for much longer. After two hours of walking and at an altitude of 4,600m, Kim could go no further. After many tears and hugs of encouragement , another decision was made.
This time a much more unpleasant one – to split the group with expedition leader, Klasie, and dad, Martin, taking Kim to the nearby Edmund Hillary Hospital and the rest of the group continuing on their journey.
The plan was to make a final decision at the hospital whether Kim should abandon the expedition and retreat back down the mountain, or continue upwards and onwards. At the Hillary Hospital staffed by volunteers, a very efficient Swedish doctor diagnosed Kim as being very tired yet fit enough to continue.
Some magic Nepalese medicine did its work and by 2pm that day, the evacuation team had rejoined the main group amidst lots of laughter and shouts of delight. Said Kim: “This was the hardest day of my life. I really wanted to continue. I worked so hard and didn’t want to let my family down by abandoning the expedition”.
For Julia, the unification was equally special: “As a family we are a team. I was so excited when I saw Kim and my dad coming over the hill to join us. We belong together on this mountain”.
The group continued for two more days and successfully made it to Everest Base Camp at 5,350m . Here the five St Mary’s girls sang the school war cry and celebrated their achievement by taking pictures to capture the most special adventure moment of their lives.
Kim and Julia concur: “Once you have achieved a tough, challenging goal such as this one, nothing else looks impossible. Whenever we face tough challenges, we will just think back to Everest and know we can overcome any challenge!”
Expedition leader Klasie Wessels adds: “The girls were amazing. They were very determined and set an example for us all. The courage they showed will carry them to great heights in their future lives”.
Streetschool specialises in taking people on amazing adventures as part of personal development. Their next journey is taking 28 Grade 10 and 11 Children to teach English to Tibetan monks in Dharamsala, India.
The expedition to Everest Base Camp was such a success, plans are already being made for the next one in April 2013. Anyone interested can contact Klasie Wessels at Streetschool on 082 55 44 614, email@example.com or visit www.streetschool.co.za.