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Climbing Updated: 23 Feb 2016

The Himalayas, or standing at the gates of heaven

Everything is different up there. As you come closer you notice the change, and not just because altitude sickness starts taking its toll on your body or you have to sleep in a tent. But also because it means standing at the gates of heaven, in the Himalayas. All mountains hold many secrets and require anyone venturing into them to be fully aware of them.

Everybody knows that making it to the top of Mt. Everest, or of any other eight-thousander in the Himalayan range, is making it as close to heaven as one can. At least from Earth’s perspective. In planet Mars, however, we’re badly outscored. The Olympus Mons, the highest volcanic summit discovered so far within the Solar System, stands 27 kilometers (16 miles) tall. The colossus was named after the mountain where, according to Greek mythology, gods resided.

Carlos Soria’s experience, for the time being, is restricted to planet earth. The seasoned mountain climber, shares some advice for planning an expedition to one of these marvelous places, based on his more than 60 years of mountaineering across the globe. It is essential to pack the proper gear: good footwear, warm clothing, insulated hat, sunglasses and trekking poles. But even more important is to pack the right mindset.

In the mountain, the brain is the ‘muscle’ that is used and exercised the most, the muscle that should prevail during the trek, more so than the legs and arms that will carry us along the way. As climber and doctor of BBVA’s Expedition Doctor, Carlos Martínez, puts it: “if your head’s OK, everything is easier”.

In the Himalayas it is essential to keep your eyes wide open. Not to spot danger, but to wonder at the scenery, the planet’s tallest peaks,  its peoples and its Sherpas, its customs and its kids always ready to greet you with a warm and kind ‘Namaste’, its Buddhas and its other religious symbols such as the stupas (sacred monuments).

Learn about the Himalayas

Food is also different there. Don’t pass on your opportunities to enjoy a dish of dalbhat, a cornerstone of Nepali cuisine consisting of meat, lentil soup and vegetables with rice, of tandoori chicken or of chicken momos, always served with a cup of black tea or mint tea, delicious vestiges of the country’s British colonial past.

Another secret that the Himalayas keep in store is their fauna. Besides the well-known yaks, long-haired bovids who're famous their strength and capability to carry heavy loads of material, one of the most iconic animals in the region is the snow leopard, which inhabits the Great National Park of the Himalayas, a feline that does not roar, can live at a height of up to 6000m, preys on wild animals and which has been classified as an endangered species. But the fauna and flora you will find in the Himalayas changes with altitude and weather conditions.

Weather forecasts should be yet another key element when planning a foray into the mountains, regardless of the heights you’re planning on reaching. Prudence is always a good counselor and helps prevent many problems. This is why Carlos Soria has always been able to enjoy all that nature has to offer in these giants.