After nearly two years of training, Amelia Old set off on her dream to hike to Mt. Everest Base Camp.
The blogger behind Passports From the Heart, Amelia focuses on philanthropic travel on her website. But this was the 37-year old’s biggest challenge to date.
Because she wasn’t just hiking to Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Amelia was using her trek to raise money for Cancer for College, an American organization that gives cancer survivors money for college tuition.
After plotting her adventure, she broke the news to her husband at a bar. She recalls him saying that she was “nuts.” What she didn’t expect was that he would chose to join her in her trek.
Why Cancer for College
Her journey to Everest started with a press release. After receiving an email from World Expeditions, a company focused on thoughtful travel, Amelia’s interest in trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp was sparked. The email shared info about their Huma Charity Challenge, where participants do an expedition and raise funds for an organization.
Amelia and her husband had been involved with fundraising initiatives for Cancer for College for a few years so she immediately thought of the organization. Although they paid their own way for their World Expeditions trip, the couple raised over $ 20,000 for Cancer for College, and are continuing to generate funds for the organization here.
“When families go through this, their savings tend to go away because it all goes to medical bills. There’s no money left for college,” said Amelia. “At the end of the day all they want is an education.”
As she hiked in Nepal she repeated the names of cancer survivors that she’d met using their stories as her motivation to summit to base camp.
And in some ways, that was the idea behind the whole trip. Amelia said, “ I wanted to put myself in a situation where I had to leave my comfort zone .”
Getting fit for Everest
After publicly committing to hike to Mt. Everest Base Camp, Amelia realized she was in for a challenge. The blogger had never hiked before embarking on her year and a half training mission.
Working with a trainer, she focused on cardio while her husband focused on strength. She says, “as long as you’re consistently active, four to five times a week, anyone can do it.”
The hike to base camp
After nearly two years of training, including a break for shoulder surgery and a painful bout of shingles, Amelia set off on her trek. At the time, she’d had raised over $ 10,000. Along the way she documented the journey, including video updates, in the hopes of raising more money as she hiked.
“Each day you are always seeing something new,” says Amelia. “The only thing we knew to expect was 6:00 A.M. they come to our tent with our cup of tea. At 6:30 they come with our little bowl of water to bathe in.”
One thing that Amelia did not expect was the level of litter in Nepal. As hiking Mt. Everest becomes more and more popular, the level of tourism is having an outsized effect on the surrounding environment. However, with World Expeditions, trekkers were encouraged to pick up ten pieces of litter a day in order to leave their surroundings better than they found them.
“It would be ridiculous. We would be picking up litter and just see people throwing it on the ground,” recalls Amelia. She thinks that in 10 to 15 years, the natural beauty that she experienced will likely be gone.
The effects of altitude
Living in the low lands of the Carolinas, one aspect of training the that the couple wasn’t able to tackle before the big hike was the altitude.
“You don’t even think about [the altitude] prior,” said Amelia. “I never would’ve thought that would’ve been the thing that took it out of me.”
Altitude sickness is a group of symptoms that occurs when a person gains elevation too fast, and is related to the amount of oxygen in your blood. Symptoms usually include dizziness, headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia and shortness of breath. They usually kick in at around 8,000 feet.
Located at 17,600 feet, Mt. Everest Base Camp is at such a high elevation that it’s very difficult for the average human to acclimatize, even if they slowly ascended as Amelia did during her 13-day trek. Although she was able to summit to Base Camp, she did need a helicopter ride down the mountain afterwards due to the Khumbu Cough as well as effects of the altitude.
Amelia did take altitude medication which helps with the effects of high elevation, but not until she was mid-trek. If you’re interested in hiking in altitude, Amelia recommends hiking in different elevations before, as well as taking altitude medication (if you need it) before embarking.
More than the pride of summiting to base camp, Amelia was incredibly humbled to surpass her goal of raising $ 10,000 for Cancer for College. To date, the 37-year old generated over $ 20,000 for the organization with her “Hike for Hope” campaign, something she never thought she would do.
Although they were not backpackers before deciding to trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp, Amelia says that she and her husband have officially caught the hiking bug and are planning to summit Kilimanjaro in the next few years.
“I’m married, I have three kids, I have a business. You don’t slow down,” says Amelia. Trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp, she says she “was forced to stop and take a look at what was around…you weren’t on your phone all day every day. You had conversations with people.”
This post is the seventh in a series on women succeeding in the travel industry, whether it be as a solo female traveler or founder of an adventure startup. Know a woman who is killing it in the world of travel? Send an email to actalty at gmail.com to nominate them for next month’s installation of #AdventureHackingWomen.
Others in this series include: