The Achilles heel of trekking


A keen sense of adventure led me on an ancient trek along an old pilgrim's route in the Himalayas. I had just conquered the Kuari Pass, 5000m high and nicknamed ‘the doorway’. Standing on the rooftop of the world, I marvelled at the spectacular views. 5 days of tough trekking had finally paid off. A sea of mountains slept peacefully among cosy, fluffy clouds and my weary legs made me wish I could join them.

In my adrenaline fuelled state, with my last ounce of energy, I jumped triumphantly in the air, piercing the peaceful atmosphere with a broad Yorkshire “Ey up, we’re eya”. As I came back down to earth from my momentary heaven-like high, I lost my footing, stumbled; fell; bumped….”SNAP”. I hoped it was my walking stick but then reality hit me in the form of excruciating pain. Something in my leg had snapped.

In minus degree temperatures, a foot of snow and night fall approaching, I was incapable of attempting the long, rocky slope back to civilisation. My guide pitched a tent, tumbled me inside and disappeared into the sunset.

Was he going to cut his losses and leave me there?

With nothing but a pack of cheap painkillers and instant noodles in my bag, I shoved my leg in the snow to numb the pain and waited.

I awoke to heavy breathing and a strong smell of wet dog! There was a moment of dread as I thought I was going to be mauled by the infamous Himalayan Yeti! Surely not? I opened my eyes to see a scruffy, skinny donkey staring at me. Attached to it was a tatty rope and a boy no more than 8 years old with a big grin on his wind burnt face.

Before I knew it, I was thrown over the skin and bone donkey like a sack of spuds. I was cold, tired, in agony and heading down a steep slope, hanging on for dear life. It was going to be a bumpy ride.

It took 9 horrendous hours to reach flat ground.

Trying to get off the donkey was a mission within itself. The boy held my injured leg and the guide tried to lift me down. The animal took off like a lightening bolt throwing me backwards and smashing me against jagged rocks, sandwiching me between the guide and the boy, with an elbow to the face. It added an impressive black eye and several cuts to my injuries.

By the time I was back up on one foot, the boy was well away with his steed. I sighed with relief to see the back of it. I’d never take public transport for granted again.

As I looked ahead, my guide was preparing a wooden box. It looked just big enough for a person, a coffin perhaps? I dreaded what was to come. I hobbled over and he ushered me to sit inside. He attached a few wires, jumped in and swung us in mid air. Before I could protest, I was hanging 50m over a raging river. I clung on as I tried to forget my fear of heights. I was terrified, stunned like a deer in headlights as he manoeuvred us on a pulley system to the other side.

Back on dry land, the guide dragged me to the side of a dusty road, said nothing, smiled and stuck out his thumb. Time to hitchhike!

We had no food and little moral but 6 hours later a lorry finally picked us up. Alas, he was transporting 200 squished up cockerels, cock-a-doodle-doing to their hearts content.

It was the noisiest, stickiest, dirtiest and longest 5 hours of my life but finally, I saw the hospital. It was like finding the Holy Grail!

It had been a torturous 24 hours since the accident. I’d ridden bareback on a donkey, in a box over a raging river and mid-birds in a chicken truck. My ankle was the size of a football and I looked and smelt worse than that donkey!

I soon found out that I had snapped my Achilles tendon, the result of renting a pair of shoddy, unfitting boots. This amateur mistake, which I can only describe as the Achilles heel of trekking, led to a series of events that was without a doubt the worst journey of my life.



S Fawcett

More information on advertising opportunities,
Click Here