My experience climbing Everest (3/3): The Western Cwm, Camp 2 and the way back

[Comes from previous post] Around 9am, and after a minimal breakfast, the other climber, the remaining sherpa and I set out to Camp 2. I couldn’t fathom the idea of another long day, so I started at a decent pace, and soon found myself well ahead of them. I was on the Western Cwm, a massive ice valley, with possibly the most spectacular views in the world: Everest on the left, the Lhotse face in the middle, Nuptse very close to your right, and a whole range of beautiful mountains behind you, among other, Pumori and Cho Oyu.

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My experience climbing Everest (2/3): The Khumbu Icefall and Camp 1

[Comes from previous post] So after another uneventful rest day, and a short night dominated by nerves, we got up at 5am, gobbled some breakfast and grabbed all our gear. It was dark and extremely cold when we set foot on the icefall, and I struggled to get my stride. My hands were freezing, and one of the two sherpas that were accompanying us had to help me put my crampons on, and even clip and un-clip to the fixed rope a couple of times. When the sun finally hit us, I felt much better and picked up the pace. And I also allowed myself to enjoy the moment for the first time. Wow, after so many books and movies, I was on the mystical Khumbu Icefall, and what a sight it was.

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My experience climbing Everest (1/3): Base Camp

Let’s get the #1 question out of the way: no, I did not summit Everest. I did, however, hike to Base Camp, spend a fair amount of time there, climb up to Camp 1 and Camp 2, and share the whole experience with true mountaineers and aficionados alike… in one of the deadliest seasons in Everest history. The experience, in fact, left me so raw, it’s taking me over a month to sit down and write this post.

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Destination guide – Jordan

MUST DO:

  • Hiking all of Petra… and marveling at the Treasury at night

NICE TO HAVE:

  • Bedouin camp in the Wadi Rum desert
  • Floating in the Dead Sea

PENDING:

  • The Roman ruins of Jerash
  • The Crusader Kerak Castle

MIN TIME:

  • 5 days

GETTING AROUND:

  • Ferry from Sharm el Sheikk (Egypt)
  • Buses / public shuttles if you can make the schedule work…
  • … Otherwise private drivers / taxi for Aqaba – Wadi Rum, Wadi Rum – Wadi Musa (Petra), Wadi Musa – Dead Sea, Dead Sea – Amman (airport)
  • Organized tour in Wadi Rum
  • Hiking on your own in Petra

DIARIES:

  1. Freezing in Wadi Rum
  2. Exploring the hidden city of Petra

COMBINED WITH:

Exploring the hidden city of Petra

Just 10 days earlier I had marveled at the pyramids of Giza, one of those rare sights that live up to their tremendous expectations. The pink city of Petra, immortalized in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, stands to the same test. And our first impression of it, on a dark, starry night and lit up by hundreds of candles, was magical. I definitely recommend planning your trip to make sure that you can enjoy Petra by Night, which runs only certain days. Make sure to get there early (they let people in way before the official 8:30pm start time), and don’t let the high price (17 JD, ~S25), the hordes of tourists, the organizational chaos (if too many people come they just sit them in front of the first row, blocking the view), and the tacky show ruin it for you.

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Freezing in Wadi Rum

Maybe we should have done a bit of research before deciding to go to Jordan over Christmas. Or at least think about it for a minute, and we would have realized that the desert in the middle of the winter is bitter cold. But maybe it was blissful ignorance, because a couple of days later I’ve pretty much forgotten how cold we were, and we still managed to do everything we intended to 😉

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Mt. Kinabalu and the world’s largest flower

We arrived at Mount Kinabalu late at night, in a bus from the Sepilok Orangutan Center. This was our last leg of the trip, and much to my disappointment, we had to discard hiking up the tallest peak in Malaysia (4,095m), because it required two days and MYR 1,800 ($400). The independent one day option that we had read about in other blogs was no longer permitted. We still wanted to do some short hikes and enjoy the landscape, and we had gotten excited reading about the possibility of seeing a rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world, native of this area. We woke up early and surprised by the low temperatures (we were under-prepared, coming from diving in Sipadan and hiking in the rainforest), and what followed was one of those days that make me love traveling.

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Close encounters with orangutans

Seeing orangutans was one of our main goals in our Malaysia trip. We weren’t able to do it in the wild, at Kinabatangan, but the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center offered a semi-wild setting with guaranteed sightings. The reserve is a large area of protected forest, where 60-80 orangutans live free, and also contains a nursery for 20-30 orphan orangutans. It’s a great initiative to protect these extraordinary animals, which are under huge pressure due to deforestation and trafficking.

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Kinabatangan on our own

A Kinabatangan river cruise is one of the most typical activities in a Borneo trip, one of the few remaining real opportunities to experience the jungle and its wildlife. The most common way to do it, and at first glance the only one, is to join an organized tour from Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan. But we were coming from Semporna (from our diving and island hoping adventure), and we prefer to travel independently… and as cheap as possible. The basic 2 day / 1 night tour to Kinabatangan goes for over MYR 1,000 (over $300) per person! There had to be a better way.

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