Follow ABC7's Michelle Gallardo as she runs the Everest Marathon for good cause

ABC7 Chicago's very own Michelle Gallardo will be running for a good cause, but first she must endure a 10-day hike before she even makes it to the starting line.

Gallardo arrived in Nepal on May 16 to begin the next leg of her journey to the Everest Marathon.

"Fortunately, we made it to our hotel for the night intact, if a bit rattled. Tomorrow, though, the real adventure begins," Gallardo wrote.

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On May 22, she spent time in the village of Khumkjung, and reached the point where she officially began hiking, in reverse, the Everest Marathon course.

"I'm told today will be much more gradual; the terrain less severe, either way, if before I was pretty sure my race would be more of a hike, than a run, now I am sure of it," Gallardo wrote.

Michelle Gallardo arrives in Lobuche.

She said during the race, she'll be descending for the most part, rather than ascending.

"But descents under these rocky condition must be taken even more carefully," Gallardo wrote. "One wrong step can end in disaster."

Gallardo said the route, like every day, was a narrow trial, hugging the mountainside. Ama Dablam, which isn't as famous as Mt. Everest, is over 6,000 meters, one of the world's highest peaks.
She said the Everest Marathon team has gone a terrific job taking care or her and her team.

"Our group of guides, porters and doctors are always there for whatever we may need. They make sure we get three abundant meals every day, plus tea time. They provide more than enough boiled water for us to drink," Gallardo wrote.

She said two doctors are following their two hiking groups.

"Last night they came over to take everyone's blood pressure and blood oxygen levels. From now till race day we're told this will be a semi-regular occurrence," Gallardo wrote.

Gallardo said the change in altitude has caused some challenges for hikers. She said some hikers have been outright sick or with near-constant headaches.

"For myself, it's been a bit of upset tummy. Fortunately, it's remained mild. Nothing to worry about," Gallardo wrote. "It is getting increasingly hard to breathe though. Most of us have stuffy noses and what we're told is a mountain cough. But again, all manageable."
She said the best thing they can do for themselves right now is to eat, drink and sleep well.

The longest hike so far was on Thursday, May 23. Gallardo covered 6.5 miles in under four hours, her pace slowed by the diminishing amount of oxygen. Doctors are constantly monitoring her group so that no one gets sick.

The view is totally different now that the group has risen above the tree line, she said.

Gallardo arrived in Lobuche on Friday, May 24. She said Lobuche isn't a village, but "is simply a cluster of tea houses set up for trekkers en route to Everest Base Camp."

Memorial to mountaineer Scott Fischer. Died on Mt. Everest May 11, 1996.

She said the hike was not a problem, but their bodies need to adjust to the change in altitude.

"But shortly after arriving in Lobuche, elevation 16,100 ft I felt like I was about to collapse with fatigue. Every little effort is a struggle now," Gallardo said.

She said the most difficult part is the weather.

Honestly though, the most difficult thing to deal with is the cold. The higher up we go, the colder our nights become," Gallardo said. "The best example I can give you is this. Each night, our porters fill our water bottles and reservoirs with boiling water. By morning, they may as well have come out of the refrigerator."

Gallardo's next stop is Gorak Shep.

While she said much of her trip has been "surreal" and a "privilege," she said it is no easy feat to make it this far. Sharing not only the struggle is had been traveling from base camp to base camp, Gallardo takes small victories in luxuries such as mattresses and toilet paper.

"We were pretty excited to find toilet paper inside when we first arrived. That's how low our standards have fallen over the last two weeks," Gallardo wrote.

Sitting at 5,364 meters, or 17,598 feet, the Everest Base Camp was the farthest point the group was allowed to travel before they reached what is known as the "death zone," which had killed at least 11 people in recent days according to ABC News.

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There are 41 teams with a total of 378 climbers permitted to scale Everest during the spring climbing season.

"Getting beyond it requires specialized training and experience to cross the Khumbu icefall, widely considered one of the most dangerous parts of any summit attempt. It is, where most of the deaths occur," Gallardo wrote.

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Despite having the security of a guide and doctor along the way, Gallardo jokingly described sleeping through three avalanches the night before.

"I must be a heavier sleeper than I thought. Didn't hear a thing," she wrote.

Arriving at the Everest base camp on May 28, she only had a few hours to settle in, get some rest and prepare for what she had travel so far to endure - the Everest Marathon.

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She is taking on this adventure to bring awareness to the 20,000 Nepal girls who are lured or sold into slavery each year. They end up in the brothels of India or as domestic slaves, which was actually still considered legal until recently in Nepal.

The American Himalayan Foundation works hard to combat the problem. Through its STOP Girl trafficking program, AHF educates over 12,000 girls in more than 500 schools across Nepal each year, keeping them safe. That's what Gallardo is climbing for.

From how she packed, to more on the cause she's supporting, and her day-to-day experience, you can follow her journey along the way on her blog, She Ventures.
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