"I'll lead the way. Watch where I place my feet and copy me," he said. "And, above all else, don't look down."
We waited at the start of a terrifyingly narrow ledge carved into the side of a ridiculously steep mountain.
Lakpa, my surefooted Himalayan Sherpa, wearing nothing but flip flops, an unwashed long-sleeved t-shirt, a pair of well-worn cargo pants and a bright orange rucksack on his back. Sarah and I kitted out in our new hiking boots and shiny North Face jackets from Cotswold Outdoor.
We looked the part but it's safe to say I was petrified.
I've never been good with heights. In fact, I don't like heights at all. Yet for some reason, we'd booked a 17-day high altitude trek through Nepal, circuiting a renowned and dangerous group of mountains called the Annapurnas.
A different kind of challenge
We've always liked to challenge ourselves, both in the workplace and in life in general, but this was something else. I'd completely underestimated the size and nature or this trip. I'd pushed my fear of heights to the far reaches of my mind, choosing to focus on the cultural and scenic aspects of the trek instead.
But this was a high elevation circuit considered one of the finest in the world. Nearly three weeks of hiking and climbing up 8,000-plus metre high mountains and across rivers on suspension bridges made of mere rope and sticks.
It wasn't a trek for the fainthearted and I felt woefully unprepared as I stood with my wife and our Sherpa, ready to tackle one of the more technical and distinctly frightening parts of this Nepalese adventure.
As Lakpa picked his way along the steep ledge, carefully choosing the best rock to stand on and the ideal crevice to use as a handhold, I waited my turn and dared to look down below me.
A river raged hundreds of feet down, a near vertical cliff face dropping away from me to meet its angry passage. No guardrail, no safety net, nothing. If I stumbled or tripped, I would tumble down to the rocks and river below. The remnants of a bunch of flowers laid at the cliff edge reminded me of the ever-present danger.
Paralysed by fear
I followed Sarah as she set off behind the Sherpa.
My legs shook as the adrenaline coursed through my veins. I felt unsteady and unsafe, my boots too large and too clumsy, footsteps that didn't seem like my own. I could sense Sarah's own fear as she stayed close to Lakpa, mimicking his foot placement step by painfully slow step.
As I followed, I found myself falling behind, unable to match their pace as my fear of heights gripped me. I could picture the sheer drop beside me even though I refused to look down. I could feel the ravine pulling me towards it and fought the temptation to turn around. But then I did something stupid.
Hugging the wall of the trail, I didn't dare move forward and I couldn't go back. The others were unaware of my situation, concentrated as they were on reaching the end of the precipitous ledge.
To my horror, I spotted an old lady coming towards us from the nearest village carrying a bundle of firewood in her arms. With barely enough room on the ledge for one person, I couldn't see how she would pass us but she did.
Deftly navigating her way around me, she had the bundle balanced upon her head. I dared to look at her as she passed by and she smiled back - a warm, comforting smile that radiated from her eyes as well as from her mouth.
And just like that, my fear eased and my strength of purpose returned.
All about the journey
This was no ordinary travel trip. This was an adventure of a lifetime, quite possibly the most rewarding travel experience I would have.
Here, in this place, as far from home as could be, it wasn't about reaching the endpoint, getting to the chosen city or tourist site at the culmination of my journey, but about experiencing moments such as these along the way. Those encounters I would remember for the rest of my life - the ones that would test me and push me and often terrify me.
It was about living in the moment.
And so I pushed on, heart in my mouth, hands clinging to the rock face for stability. Of course, I made it past the mountainside ledge - and past many other frightening trails just like it.
As we climbed to the circuit's summit of the Thorung La pass at 5,500 metres, we travelled through the world's deepest gorge and witnessed Buddhist villages and Hindu holy sites.
Traversing the pass at high altitude was extremely difficult yet immensely satisfying - near impossible to get a decent lungful of air, whilst being spoilt by typical Himalayan mountain views that are hard to adequately describe.
This trip was more than four years ago, yet the memories and emotions - images, events, people, places, colours, tastes and smells - are still as fresh in my mind as the day we set foot there.
My fear of heights remains the same but the way I view my life - from travel to work, lifestyle to family - has changed. Travel changed that. The trek in Nepal changed that.
For me, it's no longer about the destination I've always tried to reach, but about the journey that I take to get there. It's about being present in the moment, cherishing each day and enjoying the here and now, rather than focusing on what may or may not occur in the future.
Can you relate to that?
Have you faced something unexpected and found ways to confront it? Have events in your life - large or small - changed the way you look at things?
This was a sponsored post.