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A life of adventure: 30 years of travelling with KE

Meet Paula. 30 years ago she thought she'd missed out on travelling, having chosen to work instead. But then in 1992 she went to Everest Base C... Read more
A life of adventure: 30 years of travelling with KE

Meet Paula. 30 years ago she thought she'd missed out on travelling, having chosen to work instead. But then in 1992 she went to Everest Base Camp with KE - and was instantly hooked. Over 30 adventures later Paula has travelled worldwide, built a network of lifelong friends and amassed an incredible collection of memories and stories. We caught up with her to hear a few and find out what adventure means to her. 

You've done more than 30 trips with KE. Why?


There are a bunch of reasons.

Trekking with KE back in the 90s meant I got to know Glenn Rowley and Tim Greening, KE’s founders. They have been pioneers in adventure travel since the off, looking for unique experiences in less travelled destinations around the globe and sharing them with us. Truly inspirational.

In all the many places I’ve been with KE, there are always excellent ground agents who know everything about their 'backyard’.

A seamless service with first-class support and back office staff in Keswick (the perfect backdrop). Honest and professional views about whether trips are suited to my capabilities and what I am looking for. For example, on my way back from trekking the Manaslu circuit Vanessa suggested the Oman trekking trip on the way home because the Oman Air flight from Kathmandu changed in Muscat. So we switched homeward dates by a week, I got a fab desert trek and notched up a few more KE experiences with tales to tell!

I can't not mention the competitive pricing - which can be important. But for me, it’s all about the destination and the journey, which is why it’s great that with KE I don't even have to think about the logistics. It’s all taken care of by people I have 110% confidence in.

What’s been your absolute favourite trip?

K2 and Concordia 1996 remains my top of the pops for several unbeatable reasons. It was a true adventure every day – even with flash floods and a broken jola which meant for a longer hike and a cliff scramble on trek rather than direct ascent. This made for quite the story - miraculously a spare part arrived in the middle of the afternoon and with a scurry of activity to get everyone and everything across a rising river, we made it to our campsite in time to celebrate Helen's 40th birthday (one of my fellow group members).

Top left: Bralldu Valley; bottom left: crossing the river by jola; top right: Liligo Glacier; bottom right: flash floods

I could go on...it was wild and remote. We got to meet a Japanese expedition coming down from the summit of K2. The scenery was simply incredible. It was an amazing group of fellow adventurers, led by Ed. We even caught up with Glenn in Rawalpindi with his group of bikers doing a reconnaissance trip. We all piled into Rex Munro's room (KE guide) – as he was the only one with beers!

Can you pick some favourite moments? The ones which left you awestruck, or the funniest?

I’ll never forget coming over the John Gardner Pass in Patagonia with winds of about 70 mph, to witness the wondrous sight of the grey glacier below, complete with rainbow. I haven't got words for this. But I have got a photo! 

Another one would be the views across to Tibet just over the Shey La before trekking down to Saldang. You just can’t get enough of this sort of stuff - magical. This photo of me in my bright pink down jacket looking across to Tibet, taken by a fellow trekker, was featured in the Great Outdoors, November 2017 issue and also BMC Q1 Handbook (both photography competitions).

Here I am on the same trek next to Lake Pohksundo, a photo taken by Ben Walker KE guide. The sky and the lake really were that blue.

Funniest? I thought Val Pikethly was kidding when she said we were going fishing for our supper in Peru – and then there we were, knee deep in freezing river water tickling trout from under rocks on the Huayhuash circuit.



What's the most satisfying trip you've ever done?

All of them were satisfying. But maybe the most humbling trip was to Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains. The people there were desperately disadvantaged, but there were such huge smiles everywhere for us.

Can you pick a favourite trek in Nepal? If not, why not?

I don’t feel like I can quite answer as I haven't been to all the magical places in the Himalayas - yet. This is my absolute favourite place in the world. I love how you can be sociable in the Everest Region, or explore remote areas near the Tibetan border. If you pushed me – the Dhaulagiri Circuit and Shey Gompa and Inner Dolpo take an equal first place, followed by Kangchenjunga Trek. It's hard not to mention all of them - I love this fabulous photo of our camp on the Naar to Mustang trek.



Your last trip was cycling Sri Lanka End to End, in 2018. What made you start cycling holidays with KE?


I thought I would try an adventure on 2 wheels instead of 2 feet, as since retiring I have done more cycling than just a commute and am enjoying that. It was very rewarding because obviously cover more miles and experience more of the area you are visiting. A great group of cyclists and excellent guide has encouraged me to look for another two-wheeled trip soon.

The obligatory 'dipping front tyres' in at Pedro's Point- the most northerly tip of Sri Lanka 40 km from India and the start of the journey.


What's your favourite meal experience? And your strangest? 

Fave meal is the veg curry you get on trek in the Himalayas - it never fails to be delicious. And the strangest was a goat burger. I have never been hungry on a KE trip, and I don't usually eat meat – but the goatburger was a one-off as it would have been rude to refuse!

Favourite campsite?

Definitely the remote Pang Pema basecamp on the Kangchenjunga Trek




What piece of kit always goes with you?

A wraparound pashmina serves lots of purposes – pillow, towel, a cover-up for visiting temples etc. And when camping I always take a tarp to put under my sleeping mat - keeps it dry and prevents moisture being drawn through the ground sheet when in wet weather and snow.

What tip would you give somebody thinking about KE for the first time?

Just chat to the KE office team about where you want to go to, tell them your capabilities they will help fulfil your wildest dreams. It's a gobsmackingly beautiful world with many beautiful people - go find them.

Which KE trips are next on your list?

Greenland or Bolivia! Nepal will always hold a special place in my heart and I'm always going to return, but I made a conscious decision to spread my wings and explore elsewhere some years ago. There's plenty more of South America to see - Peru and Aconcagua Base Camp are next.

SNAPSHOTS FROM PAULA'S ADVENTURES:

 

Nepal

On one of my first trips to Nepal we were delayed for 2 days in Kathmandu due to bad weather at Lukla.  Our local guide 'hired' (or hijacked?) this Asian helicopter to get us up the mountain where we camped virtually on the runway.  All very exciting stuff.


Top left: arriving at Lukla; bottom left: bridge crossing over the Dodh Khosi; right: camping outside the airport in Kathmandu

A later trip, Everest the Hard Way, remains a firm favourite memory. We were at high altitude when we reached an area it had been snowing and ended up skiing down the slopes on our bums with poles. We couldn't stop laughing as we filmed each other skidding down. 


Morocco

As a time-honoured classic, I knew that Morroco (July 1995) was a sure bet for a great trip, and I was right. Beyond the madness of the rabbit warren souks, the medina, mosques, mausoleums and madrassas (all of which are hugely fascinating and attack all the senses) is a wonderland of desert landscapes whatever time of year you travel and no matter how long for. Lucky its only 3 hours ( cheap and cheerful to get here ! ) Here we are at the top of Toubkal - great group, great fun - but my favourite parts were sleeping out under the stars, the food, and scrambling up and across the finishing line of Ras Ounaoukrim with a respectable altitude of over 4000m.

India

A photo of myself with our wonderful sherpa in India, Udeb Sherpa. Here we are at the top of a pass on the Southern Zhanskar & Phuktal Monastery trail in August 2012. We saw stunning wide open spaces in Spiti, Karzok, the remotest village on the planet (where I did manage to get my camera battery recharged!), Tso Morari lake where we met a lone German hiker who had taken a wrong turning - 4 days earlier (totally dehydrated).

Peru

I loved completing the Huayhuash circuit Peru, with Val Pikethly and fellow like-minded trekker types in July 2016. This panorama sums up what we saw.

Here we are around a campfire - a fantastic group, all of whom still trek with Val and help to fundraise for her charity LED (Light Education Development), in collaboration with Gerry Griffiths of the Nepal Youth Foundation. We also work to fundraise for The Juniper Trust in Nepal.

Armenia

Armenia appeared on my radar a few years ago, when a KE hiking buddy recommended I put it somewhere near the top of my list, even though it was being pretty well ignored as a trekking destination. I was assured it had heaps going for it, including a unique combination of wide open spaces of the central plateau being surrounded by volcanic mountains and lakes. A trekkers paradise methinks, but add to the mix that this place is where you'll find local shepherds and herders maintaining a traditional way of husbandry; medieval influences on architecture; a plethora of monasteries (even if some are a bit neglected); a chequered history with its neighbours which I understand continues to the present day; friendly people; lashings of yummy honey with lavash (Armenian flat bread ) and an eagerness to share - not just the bread and honey!

I don't know why it took a couple of years to book but I am so pleased I finally did and found it - unsurprisingly - very interesting!

Above: emerging onto Armenia's plateaus; below: buying lavash from the markets

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