Travel outside your comfort zone 0
The first expedition to reach the summit of Mt. Everest was back in 1953 when Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, reached the peak of the famed Nepalese mountain.
Since that day, climbing Everest has become something of an elusive dream for many people. It's a dream they have that may or may not ever come true, and yet they continue to dream it.
But being able to scale a mountain of that size - the summit measures just over 29,000 ft - requires years of dedication, training, and planning.
However, there is an alternative for those who aren't quite ready to risk their lives on a mountain that has claimed the lives of hundreds of people, many of their bodies were just left on the peak.
It was this alternative that Lacombe police chief Gary Leslie chose, when he set out on his adventure to Nepal Mar. 30.
He flew from Calgary to Vancouver to Hong Kong to Bangladesh, finally landing in Nepal's capital of Kathmandu, where he met up with the 29 members of his expedition group.
"I was so impressed with the city of Kathmandu," said Leslie. "I would definitely recommend somebody to go to Kathmandu, (and) coming from North America it's an unbelievable place to go."
But he wasn't in Kathmandu long, before he, and the other 11 climbers, set out for Lukla, the starting point for all Everest expeditions.
"Once we got to Lukla, we went over all our equipment. We checked and made sure everything was right and then we left from there," said Leslie.
Of the 11 climbers, Leslie was the only Canadian. The rest were from the USA. The remainder of the team was made up of porters and sherpas, hired to guide the climbers safely to base camp.
"I put a lot of effort in to making sure I was going to meet the challenge (but) what I found was still difficult, was the altitude," said Leslie.
The climb to base camp is 82 km but the real challenge comes from the change in altitude. Base camp sits about 17,600 ft above sea level, and the trek from Lukla to base camp can take between six and eight days.
"The group was very competitive but I basically stuck to my guns and made sure that I could meet my every day needs in how fast I was trekking, in my breathing, and how much energy I was using," said Leslie.
Leslie's group took eight days to reach base camp, and during that time, they all experienced a bit of the altitude sickness they had been warned about. Unfortunately, for Leslie, that wasn't all he had to overcome. Leslie had picked up a local parasite, which caused him to feel nauseous throughout most of the trek. That proved to be an annoying handicap.
"I couldn't eat very much but I was still making sure I got lots of fluids," said Leslie.
If Leslie had been feeling well enough to eat he would have been feasting on carbohydrate-heavy meals, including lentils, porridge, rice, and spaghetti.
The trek itself is one that every climber will take, no matter if you're going to summit Mt. Everest or just climb to base camp.
"Every day you'll climb high and sleep low, so you might climb for eight hours and you'll go maybe two or three thousand meters up, and then by the end of the day you've come down 1,000 meters," said Leslie.
This formula helps acclimatize trekkers to the changing altitude.
"Basically, what you're doing is you're trying to build your body up so that it can go to that altitude," said Leslie.
After eight days of climbing, Leslie and his expedition team reached the Everest base camp on April 12.
"It was overwhelming, very much overwhelming," said Leslie.
The camp itself was in a constant state of movement, with trekkers, sherpas, porters and yaks, plus all the equipment that went along with the different teams coming in and out of the camp, said Leslie.
But it was the memorials to the missing and dead climbers that really captured Leslie's attention during his trek to base camp.
"There's a lot of people (whose) family members are still on Everest; they're dead and their bodies are still up there," said Leslie. "In memory of those people, the families usually have these tombs or these pedestals erected."
When a person dies ascending or descending Everest, their body isn't brought back to base camp for safety reasons. Instead they are left on the mountain. Sometimes, when the glacier melts, bodies are recovered, but most remain on the peak for decades.
"It's quite a moving area," said Leslie.
All in all, this was an amazing trip for Leslie, and while he won't be planning any trips to the summit of Mt. Everest anytime soon, he would like to revisit the mountain one day.
But it was the city of more than one million people, who were so friendly, sociable and hardworking, that Leslie will never forget.
"This was my first time in a third world country," said Leslie. "And it was unbelievable."