22-28 April 2016 #805

Trekking is child's play

A couple with their children trek to the base of word's highest mountain, allaying concerns that Nepal was unsafe to visit after the earthquake
Yu Wei Liew

Rosie and Freddie Mundell are among the youngest people in the world who can say they’ve been to both sides of Mt Everest. The young trekkers along with their parents had trekked to the northern Base Camp on the Tibetan side two years ago when they were just seven and six.

This month, the family returned to the base of world’s highest mountain from the Nepal side (above) and made their way to advanced base camp at around 5500m. Parents Neil and Polly Mundell say their goal was not to make or break any records.

“It was just the right time for us to make this trip,” said Polly. “Both of us have plenty of high-altitude experience, and we had a brilliant expedition team, which is why we felt safe bringing the kids up to Base Camp.”

A penchant for scaling heights certainly seems to run in the family. The couple met in Ecuador while climbing Mt Cotopaxi and although their attempt to summit it was unsuccessful, the pair hit it off from there. Rosie and Freddie are clearly following their parents’ footsteps when it comes to their love for the mountains.

From the children’s point of view, the hardest part of the journey wasn’t the physical demands or the altitude. “The scariest part was the flight to Lukla,” said Rosie. “The plane just kept shaking and shaking.”

The parents said their children handled the trek remarkably well, attributing their success to the preparation they had undergone. “We brought the kids up to Wales to do a lot of walking before we came over, and we made sure to teach them about earthquake safety,” said Neil. “The first night we were here, we simulated an earthquake drill and got them to go the corners of the room with strong structural support.”

Polly also stressed the importance of addressing the children’s’ fears beforehand.

“Because we had these conversations about earthquakes, they’re not going to be as scared as they would be if something happens that they don’t fully understand or expect.”

Polly and Neil also hope the trip would allay any concerns of their friends that Nepal was unsafe to visit after the earthquake, and know many who had cancelled their Nepal treks.  They say trekking tourism is the best way to help Nepal recover.

While weighing the risks of visiting Nepal a year after the earthquake, Neil, a geologist, explained that there was actually a lower risk of a big earthquake occurring again so soon.

“Once the tectonic tension is released after a big earthquake, you’ll get aftershocks of smaller and smaller sizes. So the chances of having a second big earthquake are actually slimmer,” he explained. But the couple acknowledged that while life has its risks, they would not be stopped by their fear of the unknown. 

“We were very conscious of the reality of an earthquake. With Nepal’s geological position, I think it’s inevitable,” said Polly. “But it’s like the terrorism. You can’t let these things scare you or put you off.”

Read also:

Trekking in Nepal turns 50, Robin Marston

Pack your gear and go, Elvin L Shrestha

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