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Climb Every Mountain

Year 5 student Patrick Horan has completed one of the world’s hardest hikes, trekking more than 140km to the 5300m-high Everest Base Camp in the September holidays.

The 12-day high-altitude hike was almost a year in the planning for 10-year-old Patrick, who spent almost every weekend training for the trek with hikes around South-East Queensland’s peaks such as Mt Maroon and the Glasshouse Mountains.

The trip is one of the hardest hikes in the world, not only due to the distance but because the lack of air pressure at average altitudes of more than 4000m means there is only 50 per cent of the oxygen that there is at sea level.

Patrick and his father Matthew, who has climbed throughout the Himalaya and New Zealand, followed a careful acclimatisation schedule to ensure they did not suffer acute mountain sickness, which can lead to collapse and death. They ascended from 2800m to almost 5400m – although with the ups and downs the total vertical gain was more than 6500m! Temperatures were as low as -5C, with Patrick even wearing chemical hand and foot warmers at the higher altitudes to prevent frostbite.

“The trip was Patrick’s idea,” Matthew said. “He saw the pictures from my last Himalayan expedition and wanted to experience the high mountains for himself.

“There was a real feeling of achievement for him when he arrived at Everest Base Camp after eight straight days of walking – he realised that he had set himself a goal and worked really hard to achieve it. And from a parent’s perspective, 12 days alone with your son and no screens is a terrific bonding experience, not to mention all the the weekend hikes we spent together training.”

Patrick said: “The hardest bit of walking was the day we walked into Base Camp. We had done a lot of walking but I had never walked more than 14km in one go before in my life. I pushed myself to the limit and now I know what I’m capable of.

“When we got to Base Camp I was just blown away with our achievement – I was tired but we got there.

“Base Camp is mostly uninhabited, on a glacier with no plants near it. The only living things are humans and some yaks to deliver supplies.

“It was right in the middle of a sort of bowl, surrounded by some of the world’s biggest mountains.

“Some of the best views in the world can be found on the trek, but it took us a few days to see them because we were walking in rain, fog and then snow.

“I really want to do some more trips like that, back in Nepal or maybe even Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa.”

And while most Base Camp trekkers stake a picture at the bottom of the mountain and turn around, Patrick was surprised with a lunch at the Madison Mountaineering expedition thanks to Sherpa legend Dorjee Gyalzen, who has climbed Everest 19 times.

The trip was the first time Patrick had been overseas since he was three, and there was significant culture shock.

“Everyone there is either Buddhist or Hindu and I found out quite a lot about their religions,” he said.

“In the Khumbu Valley, which is a mostly Buddhist area, there were lots of monasteries, giant mani stones carved with prayers, and prayer wheels you spin clockwise along the trail.

“Most of the time I ate rice and potato, as well as a lot of daal bhat, which is a lentil soup with rice and poppadums. We ate a lot every day because we were walking so much.”

The trip was organised as a private trek through Himalayan Expeditions, a Kathmandu-based logistics company which usually runs expeditions to Everest and other 8000m peaks.

Patrick and Matthew had their own guide and porter, which allowed them to modify the itinerary based on weather and – towards the end – exhaustion!

Patrick is now planning his next trip back to Nepal – hopefully in two years’ time when he hopes to convince some of his classmates to bring their parents along.

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