Sunday, May 2, 2010
Everest Base Camp – BC
I forgot to mention that during our first nights dinner I asked Lapka Gelu if it ever snows at ABC or BC. He said that it often snows at ABC but he has never seen it snow at BC. Well you know what that means. We woke up to 1 ½ inches of new snow everywhere. Now it was day two at Base camp and all of us were fighting off the dreaded headache that comes with gaining altitude. So what do we do, drink lots of water and rest in our tent. I wasn’t a big fan of this type of acclimatization as on most of my climbs we climb high and sleep low. It appears according to our schedule that we will be doing a lot of climbing high and sleeping high. Rah. So day two was spent doing much of nothing. So it boils down to talking about my favorite part of the day, eating! Breakfast is always the same which is either pancakes, an omelet, or porridge. Lunch can be considered pretty boring except they make us these sandwiches that you have never seen before but know they are going to be good. Too hard to describe but just know they are tasty. Now it’s dinner time! Tonight we had our first and hopefully not our last Yak burger. Anyone who knows me knows that I love burgers. This one was great because I have basically been protein deprived and it had a different flavor that was between buffalo and very lean beef. Fanuru added his own seasonings which made it all the better. I got extra of that one too!! Now during the night you all can only guess what happened again? Yep, it now snowed 2 inches of fresh powder. The next day (3) we knew we were going on an acclimatization hike to possibly 20k but more like 18k. As we headed out we ran into another group bound for the same hill. There were probably some 16 of them and we were to learn there are a total of 27. Not to point fingers or anything but these people couldn’t hike up their shorts let alone this straight up climb we were about to do. I asked the guide how many of the 27 were going to attempt Everest and he said all but 5. Then he looked at me and said anyone can attempt to climb the mountain. In retrospect I think that meant a lot. He knew that most of these people wouldn’t get past ABC but you could see the determination on these people’s faces. This was their dream and be damned if someone was going to take it away from them. Each day I learn something new. It is the journey! Our group made it up to 18,600, sat there the needed ½ hour to adjust to the altitude and then headed back down for lunch. The rest of the day was spent in the tent or staring at the mountain (in my case thinking about dinner). What could top a Yak burger? How about sizzling hot chicken in an amazing sauce with vegi’s. I wasn’t ever going to leave. Clearly the altitude wasn’t effecting my appetite! We had leechi nuts in syrup for dessert. I had to explain to everyone that evening that one of my favorite martini’s is leechi nuts in vodka. Boy do I wish I had some at that moment. Day 4 was spent resting and packing up for the move the next day. I meandered over to a spot that really tugs at the heart. There at base camp is a location with many of the tombstones of people who have died. You then turn around a get a full view of the mountain. It was very sad to see all the people who have passed away making this very same climb. It did bring tears to my eyes knowing that these lives have been taken away and they won’t be seeing their families any longer. I had to really sit there long and hard to reason why I am making this very same climb. What makes me different? Will I be like them? What am I doing differently? To me this was sort of a right of passage. I don’t think it is responsible to move forward till you pay your respects to the people who climbed and lost their lives before you. Now, having done so, I felt more comfortable moving on up to ABC tomorrow. For our last night’s dinner at BC we had Sherpa’s stew. This is just like shepard’s pie except we are with Sherpa’s so it is Sherpa’s stew. It just doesn’t have the crust on top. For dessert Fanuru out did himself. He made a banana tart with the top layer completely braided. How does one get the flour to cook let alone rise at 16,000 feet. It was cooked perfectly. No snow tonight but there wasn’t any shortage of wind. This brings me to one of the reasons I am here. After dinner I walked back to my tent and just stared at the sky. Fortunately it was a clear night and you could see forever. Literally. The sky was filled with so many stars you couldn’t get any more in there. You could see the Milky Way galaxy along with all the constellations. There were tons of clusters along with moving satellites and shooting stars. We had it all to ourselves! In a way, it really lets you know how small you really are when compared to the rest of the universe. We hear a lot that there is more wind on the North side as well as being colder and so far the mountain hasn’t disappointed, unfortunately. The next day was moving day along with our Psuja and dealing with the Yak herder’s. We woke up a tad earlier because I think everyone gets excited about making a change and seeing the new terrain. Unfortunately for Hoshino the change in terrain wasn’t what he was looking for. Apparently he had been dealing with some immense pain in his back molar tooth but just wasn’t telling anyone. We found a dentist who was nice enough to come over and check out his tooth. It wasn’t that scientific. He grabbed one of our spoons and hit his tooth. Hoshino’s reaction was right along with a roar out of the lion king. Just what the Doctor thought, the tooth was badly infected and had to be pulled. It had decayed to the point that there was already a hole in the side of the tooth. Hoshino’s next stop would be Kathmandu and the dentist’s chair. It was sad to see him go as he brought a lot of great spirit to our team. He did get to stay to be part of our psuja! Right then our holy Lama road up on his motorcycle for our ceremony. Everyone started running around getting our prayer flags, making these domes out of barley and setting up the temple. Right where we were staying someone had already erected a stone temple so we just got to use that one. About a half hour later we were ready to get the ceremony started. We lit the tons of incense, the Lama started his chants and all the Sherpa’s started to spread out the flags from the top of the temple. Right in the middle of it all it sounded like Hoshino’s cell phone started to ring, and Hoshino was sitting next to the Lama. Nope, it was the Lama himself. We all laughed so hard it even made the Lama smile. Now back to the ceremony. As the smoke continued to billow over into our faces we had the final parts of throwing grain onto the temple, chanting, drinking some of the holy water and pouring it on ourselves. Then as the finale ritual we grabbed some white looking flour substance and wiped in on each other’s chin. This is all for good spirits and luck. It was a unique experience and glad that it was over as Julio and I looked like chimney sweeps from all the smoke hitting us. As we stood up we were all greeted with cheers and yelled Chomolungma! Then the beers and celebration started. It was important to celebrate the ceremony and eat some of the food that had been blessed by the Lama. Strangely enough most of it was candy. I went for the bread. Just like perfect timing the Yak herders arrived. Now began the process of weighing all the cargo going up to ABC and back. This was a unique process where they put the bag on one end of a long stick and a weight of dubious amount on the other. The yak herders all yell and the weight has been measured. Of course it is nowhere near what the actual weight is but how are you going to argue. Then they write some numbers on their arms, start to yell at you about their poor Yak’s that can’t carry anything because it is Spring time and you owe them $3,000. I’m just glad that Julio and I paid all up front because we would have been chewed up by these guys. None of them have taken a shower this century and quite frankly smell worse than the yaks. I think it is part of their negotiation tactics. So it was up to Geljen to worry about his margins for the trip. After it was all worked out the yak herders had the gear on their yaks in 15 minutes and on their way. Now it was time to say goodbye to Hoshino and Geljen and for us to start towards Intermediate base camp IBC. FYI, the average temperature at BC was 10 degrees. Add in the heavy winds and it is enough to chill anyone to the bone. More later.