Monday, April 30, 2012
Sunday, April 29, 2012
A request to all sentient beings on this planet...
Give up all intentions to harm others from your heart
And do you best to benefit them all.
If each and everyone fells the universal responsibility to do so,
We will all enjoy the feast of peace!
This wishing prayer was written by Lama Geshe from Pangpoche,
located in the foothills of mighty mountain Jomo Langma (Mt. Everest)
Saturday, April 28, 2012
I set no alarm and slept in until 9:30am in my cracker box overnight hotel (the Hyatt was either full or too expensive). The shuttle brought me back over to the airport just before noon, well in advance of my 6pm departure.
Two meals, a snack, a few lattes and miles of walking later, I think I've seen and done all that the airport Skytrax (who ever they are) seems to have awarded "World's best airport 2012", has to offer.
Boarding now and home in 11 hours!!
Friday, April 27, 2012
|Outside Magazine (@outsidemagazine) |
4/28/12 4:00 AM
Major avalanche #OnEverest forces helicopter evacuation. Report from @GraysonSchaffer: bit.ly/IxTCUF
Alpine Ascents team was in base camp resting between their rotations. The Patagonia Brothers camp is right next door to AAI.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Komi had Tsering and me on standby for the first flight out. A lot of standing around and the next thing you know in comes the plane and we are on the tarmac. This time the plane lands and with the fastest turn over you have seen, we are sardeens once again in the flying tin can.
There was a bit more of a view them when we left KTM nearly a month ago. I definitely got a better sense of the immense size of the Kathmandu valley.
Arriving, we are greeted by the ever-jovial Jiban. Jiban is THE MAN! Check out this Outside Magazine profile on him: http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/climbing/mountaineering/The-Fixers-Fixer.html Jiban is the coolest and most connected guy in Nepal. It was great to be able to spend so much time with him yesterday and today at the Yak and Yeti. Many good stories and laughs.
Once back at the Yak, I found myself with a whole day to kill by myself. 10:30am too early to start drinking beer? Not by my Nepali watch, it isn't. By 12:30 with three or so 18oz'ers of cold Kathmandu brew down the hatch, an afternoon nap was looking pretty good.
But just then Jiban reappears with a one, Mr. Steve Richards in tow!! I'm totally blown away. Steve hopped a helicopter at Everest base camp in the morning about the time I was leaving Lukla, and then was able to catch a flight directly following from Lukla to Kathmandu. Physically much more efficient than my 3 day, 35 mile, 9,000 ft. elevation drop trek down. Hats off, the man's got style!
Leslie can spot movie, TV, and sports stars. Me? I can spot Mountaineering stars. A couple tables over at lunch I see David Breashears. If you have seen the IMAX Everest film, you have seen his work. Perhaps the world's finest high altitude mountaineering film maker and photographer, Mr. Breashears is a legend. I chatted with him for a few minutes and told him that both Steve and I had enjoyed his photo exposition that was set up in a large tent at base camp, "Rivers of Ice." (http://www.glacierworks.org/). Very nice guy, he was headed back up to BC.
For dinner, Steve and I capped off the trip the same way it started with pizza and beer at local favorite, Fire and Ice Pizzeria. This morning after dropping me at the airport, Steve emailed to report he had found Shangri-la in Kathmandu and it's called the Hyatt Regency. I think he called the Yak and Yeti a Motel 6 and the Hyatt a Four Seasons. That should make his two extra days that much bearable. The man needs to be pampered. :-). But after climbing to Camp II on the world's highest mountain, I would say he has more than earned it. You have my unending respect, my friend!!
Only two more hours to kill before my hop to Korea.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The incident shocked and saddened me such that I didn't feel comfortable publishing on this blog. Here is Outside Magazine's coverage: http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/climbing/mountaineering/everest-2012/Second-Death-on-Everest-Raises-Safety-Concerns.html
This happened above the Ice Fall before Camp I on a double ladder crevasse crossing that our climbing team had completed shortly before this awful, preventable accident.
It was sickening to listen to all radio traffic as various teams joined in a highly impressive professional effort to what quickly became a body recovery after Alpine Ascent's Sidar, Lapka Rita Sherpa, who had repelled into the hole, reported no signs of life.
Sunday morning as I departed base camp headed down, I watched the body recovery helicopter fly up above the Ice Fall and quickly back down. Sad and tragic.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The three day walk out from EBC (17,500 ft.) to Lukla (9,800 ft.) and 35 miles is done. Today was 7.25 hours including a laid back hour and a half at Phakding over lunch and sunning. And who doesn't enjoy Phakding? (or have I overplayed that pun?)
It was a quick trip down the hill from Namche at 8am and then on a casual decline to river valley. Tracking the river the day's trek reached a low point of 8,700 ft. before steadily climbing back up to Lukla at 9,800 ft.
I prepared for the day by making best use of the deluxe accommodations at Namche with the included bathroom to shower, shave, and change into the clean underwear that I have been saving since they were washed at base camp for this very day.
From about Monjo where I checked out of the National Park to Phukding where I had lunch, I played trail leap frog with a lone, saddleless horse who was headed in the same direction as me. He would pass me and then I would pass him. I finally made my way around him which was good because I was getting sick of smelling horse ass. I didn't hear any similar complaints from the horse when I was leading. I attribute that to the shower and the clean undies.
Regarding yesterday's comment: today was, in fact, easier. With today's again great weather, the time on the trail just flew by. Arriving at 3:15pm, I checked into the Namaste lodge, confirmed my 9am flight to Karhmandu, and enjoyed a litter of cold water.
A good priming of the pump. I headed down the "Irish Pub" for happy hour. I was hoping to catch some highlights of the Man U match but all they showed was Man City! I hung out with two Australian dudes that had just come off Mera Peak, the most popular "trekking peak" in the region, ahead of Island Peak. Pretty funny guys that were quite interested in the latest in west coast music and sports. We exchanged band names and I promised to check out "My Morning Jacket" while I persuaded the bartender to jack-in my iPhone and blast "Dog Scratched Ear" by "Henry's Funeral Shoe". I do believe the Aussies liked it. They certainly enjoyed my story of the Fiat 500 Arbath TV commercial featuring the song and Charlie Sheen. Of course we were well into happy hour at that point after a month's hiatus from al-kee-haul. Good times.
I found my way back to the Namaste Lodge for a late dinner of momos and chicken curry with rice. Ready for bed now with breakfast and flight to KTM awaiting in the AM.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Once again it was a perfect day for trekking. In fact, other than the trail dust, I was thankful for the occasional wind to help keep things cool. It was warm!! In theory, today might have been the hardest of the three days - but I will hold out final judgement until tomorrow night.
The trail climbed up and down to reach high about the right side of the Imja Khola river, eventually crossing via a steel bridge strung directly above the old wood the rope bridge. After this bridge, the trail climbs back up to the Tengboche Gompa at 12,664 ft. I couldn't resist taking a break for some apple pie before continuing on to Phunki Tenga for lunch. The coolest suspension bridge goes right into the the restaurant. As I enjoyed my lunch of vegetable fried noodles and watched the trekkers and porters come and go over the bridge, I checked my email. I had the phone online and a new email popped in while I was sitting there. It was from Nicki, who trekked to base camp wtih her brother and father who are climbing the mountain. It was about her pictures that she had put online. I thought it was funny that I replied immediately with where I was and what I was doing. I knew she knew the place.
After Phunki Tenga, the trail once again climbs up. WTF! I thought I was going down? Up, up, up another 800 ft. vertical before leveling off and traversing along the side of the hill. With the mountain on my right side and the steep drop to the valley below on my left, I reached many places where the trail curved to the right tracking the terrain before swinging back to the left out to a point. Every time I saw one of these points, I imagined that it was the final one and when I reached and curved around it, Namche Bazar would lie in front of me. This happened about six times and each time my swearing grew stronger and more intense (I was getting a bit tied and my feet had seen enough trail).
Finally I reached Namche and the Panorama Lodge at 3:30pm. I gave Joe a call up at base camp to check in and he gave my ego a boost by letting me know that was a pretty good time. Perhaps 5th place in my age group. I even beat my porter who showed up 1.5 hours later.
I couldn't resist heading downtown - and when I say downtown in Namche, it is quite literarily DOWN to the town - for some more of that best apple pie in the Khumbu.
Back to the Panorama for dinner of chicken fried rice and they surprised me with desert - you guessed it - apple pie. Three times in one day. Not even close to touching today's caloric burn.
Hard to believe, after all these weeks, that tomorrow is my final day hiking. I must say that the Khumbu is the best hiking I have ever experienced and likely ever will. It is absolutely an amazing and awe-inspiring place. Everyone should do this once in their lives (if you are into that kinda thing).
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Actually that break provided the energy I was missing for the long day. With the climbers up on the mountain, the base camp staff took a much needed and extremely well deserved break. The bloom was off the rose and that meant that I had a light camper's breakfast: oatmeal. I should have eaten more because my butt was dragging from EBC to Gorak Shep. I left EBC at 8:40am and arrived in Gorak Shep at 11am. After lots of food and a good rest, I kicked it into gear, left Gorak Shep at 12:30pm and made it to Lobuche at 2pm. I hung out in the same lodge that we had spent two nights in on the way up, drinking some black tea, downing a litter of water and a Clif Shot; pressing on at 2:30pm.
The guy at Lobuche estimated it was about a 3.5 hour walk down to Pheriche. Doing the math I was a tiny bit concerned about daylight. I rocked it non-stop down to Pheriche with plenty of sunshine to spare. In fact it was a perfect day for trekking - the typical afternoon clouds with snow never came. When I arrived I checked my watch and was surprised to see it was only 4:30pm. Boo-yah!
Going from 17,500 ft. down to 14,200 ft. in one day certain provides a ton of extra oxygen to breath. It feels good. I'm just typing this in at the lodge over tea and popcorn waiting for dinner at 6pm. AND in walks AAI guide Ben Jones. Ben is on his way back up to base camp after successfully guiding two clients up Island Peak and walking them down to Lukla. Pretty cool that we are able to have dinner together and hang out.
Tomorrow Ben will walk all the way up to EBC while I will head down to Namche. To get to Namche I will have to climb up to the Tengboche Monastery and then back down to the river at Phunki Tenga before climbing back up again to Namche. Should be a 6-8 hour day. I'm hoping to get into Namche in the mid-afternoon to check out the shops again.
One step closer to home!
Saturday, April 21, 2012
For you foodspotters out there let's get this out of the way first - Breakfast: French Toast, French-press coffee; Lunch: Massive grilled cheese sandwich with sliced tomatoes and onions (it was like it was made on two slices of French toast - I couldn't finish it), one fried egg, and fried potatoes slices; Dinner - personal pepperoni pizza. Living? Yes, quite nicely, thank you.
I was up at 2:30am to see the climbers off on their first rotation. After they had started up the Ice Fall, I took this wicked long exposure of the headlamp trail up the Ice Fall and the star filled sky over the Western Cwm. I also set up, what I think will turn out to be an awesome timelapse video of the sunrise over Everest Base Camp and then crawled back into my tent and sleeping bag.
Up at 8:30am I hung out with Joe and Jenny for a while before heading out for a solo day hike to Pumori base camp (18,000 ft.) - hoping for some great views of Mt. Everest. By the time that I had hiked down to the bottom of EBC (about 45 mins - EBC is huge and well spread out) and found the trailhead for Pumori BC, I could see that those views were once again going to be denied. There were some menacing looking clouds gathering in the lower valley. I knew for sure that snow was coming, so I set turn around time at 1pm or when the snow started to fly - which ever came first. As it turned out, three things happened simultaneously: the clock stuck 1pm, the snow started to come down, and I reached by alitutude goal of 18,000 ft. - a high point for the trip and the location of Pumori base camp. The only thing missing was a view!
When I reached the main trail back to EBC, the snow was really coming down. On my way back to AAI BC (which is nicely located at the very top of EBC), I stopped in on the "Rivers of Ice - Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya" an Everest Base Camp Photo Exhibit. Set up in a large tent sponsored by Mountain Hardware was a set of before and after panorama shots of receding glaciers. Cool photos.
Back in base camp, Joe, Jenny, and a number of the Sherpa and I watched a couple of episodes of "Flight of the Concords" and "Arrested Development" on the laptop. Joe briefed me on the logistics of trekking out and I headed to my final night in a tent.
Friday, April 20, 2012
I spent the morning doing a transfer of knowledge regarding the power and solar charging system to Joe, the base camp manager. This is Joe's baby. There was a lot of talk of Watts, amps, voltage, wire gages, battery dissipation rates, loads, charge controllers, etc. I knew that that second quarter of Physics was going to come in handy some day. Maybe going to class drunk wasn't as good of an idea as it seemed at the time.
I also set up the GoPro camera to record a few time lapse sequences that I edited in the afternoon on the team's laptop. One of them came out nice. I entitled that piece, "Klouds in the Khumbu" - by Sir Edmund Kurt Hunter. I'm going to enter it into the short, short, short film festival. Running time: 36 seconds. Massive potential to go viral on YouTube. File under "New GoPro owners." I'm certain that no one has made a time lapse video of clouds moving yet. I'm a trendsetter.
The climbing team organized their equipment and loads for their first rotation and the next thing you know we were having dinner. A spicy beef and vegetable stew with rice and fresh baked rolls. Come to Everest Base Camp for the views, stay for the food!
After dinner all of climbers wanted to go straight to bed because they will be getting up for breakfast at 2am in order to headed up on their first rotation by 3am. They will climb tomorrow about 8 hours to Camp I, spend two nights, move further up to Camp II, and spend another two nights before descending back to Base Camp on Wednesday, April 25. By that time I should have trekked the 35 miles down to Lukla and have flown back to Kathmandu on that same Wednesday.
As they headed to bed, I said my safety farewells and goodbyes to all of them in the unlikely (ha!) case I don't get up with them at 2am. I think I should be able to considering I didn't seem to have much trouble last night making another last ditch attempt to post my dispatch when I woke at about that same time. I also gave a call to Stuart and Scott in Edinburgh to hear about Stuart's travel experiences and make sure he arrived safe.
Tomorrow after the climbers go and all the communications business is taken care of, Joe and Jenny and I are planning to hike up to the Pumori advance base camp (18,700 ft.) for a view of Everest Base Camp, the Khumbu Ice Fall and Mount Everest, itself, that is said to rival Kala Patthar. And then Sunday I start my solo trek out early in the morning.
Hard to believe it's starting to come to an end! In less than a week I will be on a plane back to the States. And then it will just my memories and the about 50 billion photos that I've taken.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Also yesterday - our expedition leader, Garret, and our Sidar, Lapka Rita Sherpa attended the annual meeting of the Everest expedition teams down at the Russell Brice's HiEx camp. This is where all the white leaders discuss plans for fixing the rope on the routes, establish timelines, roles, and responsibilities. And then the next day the Sherpa Sidars get together and set the actual plans. :-)
After dinner, we watched 5 of 7 Years in Tibet.
== The Next Day (today) ==
After our breakfast of spectacular scrabbled eggs, bacon, and toast, the team set out to the ice for more training. Today I tagged along, even without my crampons, and spent the time watching the show and taking tens of photos and a time lapse video of the action. It was super fun and truly wished my gear was here to allow me to join in. Fixed line travel, jumaring up vertical ice with front pointing, horizontal ladder crossing, rappelling, etc. Great fun.
We came in for a great lunch and then the climbing team had a team meeting at 3pm to discuss the 3 hour round trip hike into the Khumbu Ice Fall tomorrow. It is possible that I might go, but likely not. My climbing gear was supposed to show up today, but I haven't seen it yet.
At 4pm, our base camp cook, Jenny set up scones with fresh cream and tea. Cheeri-o! Also about that time my plans for a time lapse video of the sunset, base camp lighting up, and the stars coming out were dashed by snow. It's been coming down a bit harder than we've seen.
Dinner in 20 minutes and then another movie. But first the last 2 Years in Tibet. I'm also going to premiere my Khumbu Ice Training short film (58 seconds).
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
At lunch time the climbing team came in from their training on the ice with a course that the guides had configured.
Most of the afternoon was spend hanging out and charging electronics. Dinner was a great steak and mashed potatoes. The movie tonight by popular vote was "Old School." One of my favorites.
Weather was great again today but it really cooled off once the Sun went behind the mountains. Tomorrow should be even more laid back for me with nearly all my work on the power system completed. More training for the climbers. I rather enjoyed hang around and fixing things today.
Today we had our Puja ceremony at base camp. Each of the teams here at base camp have their own Puja before starting up the mountain. The Puja is a Buddhist act of worship in which a Lama leads the prayers for safe passage for the Sherpa and climbers up and down the mountain. Articles of climbing gear (ice axes, crampons, etc.) are blessed by the Lama. (My RainOn banner was blessed!) But it's also a GREAT party!
The Sherpa had spend the last few days building an elaborate altar out of stone and ornate decorations (including pictures of the Dali Lama himself - the flowing robes, the grace... striking!) with a tiered flat area for everyone to sit that they covered with a tarp and cushions. Many offerings were placed on the altar - my favorite of which was a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label.
The Puja began with the Lama and the Sherpa chatting the mantra for nearly 40 minutes. It was amazing. Sherpa passed around a plate of blessed rice and on certain cues everyone tossed rice all over - some a bit more targeted then others. I admit I aimed quite a bit at Steve. Luckily he was wearing his safely glacier glasses. Sherpa were frequently also filling our milk tea cups. At some point the milk tea turned into Chang, the native alcoholic drink.
Suddenly our Sidar, Lapka Rita climbed up the altar and hosted a long flag pole into a hole in the center of the altar and the Sherpa began to unfurl prayer flags in six directions all tied to the top of the flag pole. The prayer flag streams were so long they amazing covered most of our entire camp. The red, green, yellow, blue, white repeating patterning of the prayer flags made a stunning contrast to the white and gray of the snow, ice, and rock of base camp. It looks frickin' awesome.
Blessed strings are tied around everyone's neck - I have two now, the other from the the Lama at the Tenbouche Monastery. And a HUGE bowl of snacks is brought around to each of us - quite the party mix: coconut pieces, M&Ms, dried fruit, Mars bars, Clif bars, cookies, etc., etc. Just grab what and as much as you want.
Everyone then stood up and the plate passed around this time has blessed flour of which you take a handful in your right hand. In a synchronized movement, you raise your right palm three times and on the last all the flour is thrown into the air and consequently all over everyone's clothes!! Cool! And if that's now enough everyone runs around rubbing whats left in their hand on each others faces.
Sounds like a good time to start drinking, signing, and dancing! Bless you the blessed Johnny Walker! Along with rice wine and San Miguel beer. Many shots and beers were consumed with the enhanced altitude effect. Everyone links arms in a big simi circle and the Sherpa sing and sign and sing. The dance is a foot shuffle that only the Sherpa know, everyone else is trying their best to follow along. This goes on for more than an hour non stop. What a great morning! 10am to 1pm and every second ruled.
Well now it's time for lunch of course. After lunch the guides wisely called off the afternoon ladder practice for the climbers. Not that everyone too tipsy but lets just say balance wasn't the order of the afternoon.
A new battery arrived in the afternoon and a started work on removing and replacing the old one. This took me up to dinner time. And another topper by Jenny and Gopa in cook tent - Salmon, coconut shrimp, fresh corn bread. I never realized I would have to climb to Mount Everest Base Camp to eat so good!!
And as become the norm, dinner was followed by a movie: the Guy Richie classic, Snatch. Good times.
Tomorrow I'll finish my work on the new battery and will also completely rewire the entire solar charging and power system as it hasn't been performing properly. That should take most of the day while the climbers continue their practice out on the ice.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Today was even more laid back than yesterday. I spent most of the morning taking some pictures and hanging out and reading. 11am to 1pm the climbing team had a meeting and when through their climbing gear. After a lunch of salmon cakes, more hanging out and when the team started their ladder training, I set to work setting up the new cellular booster than had just arrived. Unfortunately after we got it all set up it proved to be as ineffective as the other one. Major bummer; this means no low cost 3G network connection. The team will be limited to a once a day BGAN satellite sent/receive of email. It also means that I will have to upload my dispatched via my sat phone and receiving email will be next to impossible. Hey what do you want? We are at Mount Everest Base Camp!!
Amazing diner of miso soup, peanut noodles, and... SUSHI! It was awesome. We are eating well. After diner Garrett set up the pico projector an we watched most of "Fargo" until the batteries in the laptop died.
It my tent now at 9:30pm with my big puffy down jacket on and my legs in my -40 degree down bag. Gloves are off to type and my finger tips are starting to get numb. Just took some nice long exposure photos of the lights in the many tents and the unbelievable stars. I will post one tomorrow.
Gotta go before frostbite sets in on the fingers. (just kidding).
Saturday, April 14, 2012
In another change of plans, I offered to go back to Plan A and stick around base camp to help get all the communications equipment and electronics charging set up. Of course, that meant giving up my Island Peak climb. But that's okay because that wasn't the really the reason I'm here and I'm trilled to spend a week at base camp helping about and watching the climbers go thru their paces. I can't think of a more amazing place to hang out.
Garrett and I got to work on finishing up the comms tent that Joe put together so quickly. That guy really knows what he is doing. The main thing we were working on is trying to get a cellular booster working so that we might get a 3G signal from Gorak Shep. No luck. We will try again tomorrow when a different booster is scheduled to arrive. In the meanwhile we set up a nice station to allow the climbers to charge the plethora of devices that more and more accompany them: Blackberries, iPads, iPods, Kindles, laptops, ... Clearly I'm not the only Nerd in Nepal.
The next thing you know we are ...wait for it... eating again. Jenny, our base camp cook, created some wonderful soup and excellent quesadillas. I thought that her Mom should know that she is feeding us very well and everyone is quite enjoying the food. Plus she is a joy to be around.
After lunch all of the climbers and guides headed down to the HRA (Himalayan Rescue Association) camp to check it out. I choose to hang at our camp, tidy a few things up, move into my own tent, rest, and watch the snow begin to fall. The first true rest day so far. It felt good and I even got to try out the shower tent. Ah!
The rest of the week should be pretty similar. I'm going to try to get in some side hiking, like up to the base camp to Pumori for a view, while the climbing team begins their practice on the ice and the ladders and ultimately starts their first rotation up the mountain through the Khumbu Ice Fall to Camp I and Camp II.
Well, gotta go because they have put out some snacks now while we wait for more food. I hear steak is on the menu.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Today might have been the most difficult day so far because of the sheer mileage we covered at altitude. After about two hours we stopped briefly at the last village of Goark Shep where they have a cell phone tower to provide coverage to base camp. A very uneven and rocky trail that seemed to big endless ups and downs before we finally gazed upon Base Camp in the distance. Still at least 90 minutes away.
Base camp covers a very wide expanse of the glacial moraine. So big in fact after we past the first tents in camp belonging to HiEx (Russell Brice's team) it was still about 45 minutes to reach the Alpine Ascents camp near the very top of the overall base camp.
What a spread!! These guys really know how to keep the morale of the climbing team up for the six weeks or so they will spend here. The dinning tent is huge! There is a an entry area for getting drinks, etc. and then a long table with a tablecloth with seats for 18. The table and the hanging LED lights are adorned with plastic flowers. There is also a domed 'social' tent for the climbers to spend their downtime reading and relaxing. They also have a pico-projector and screen to have movie nights from a selection of over 200 movies. Pretty sweet.
Everyone has now gone to bed and I'm sitting alone in the dining tent typing away. Tomorrow I should be heading all the way back to Dingboche where we will spend the night will all of the trekkers and Island Peak climbers before biding farewell to the trekker the next day as the Island Peak climbers branch of a separate valley towards the mountain.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
For our acclimatization hike today we headed about 25 mins up the trail and off a slight branch to the Italian Research Pyramid. We were kindly given a brief tour inside where the Italians man the station year round to conduct atmospheric research. Super interesting. While we were there a group of Sherpa and other researchers were being trained on how to make repairs to the weather and collection station that is maintained on the South Col of Everest at 26,000 ft.
After we continued our hike by climbing the ridge behind the Pyramid to 17,000 ft. to gain our first view of Everest Base Camp and part of the Khumbu Ice Fall. I snapped off a picture while one of the very frequent avalanches came down off the side of the Ice Fall. Look for the plume in the center of the photo above the one of Steve, Garrett, and me. I felt great on the hike.
We came back down to Lobuche for a lunch of chow mien and egg rolls. The food here at Lobuche is actually really good. Most of the crew is off resting or down to the Internet cafe. I'm still hanging out in the dining room typing up this dispatch before I head down to upload. Willi Bengas of the Patagonia Brothers just came in and I spoke to him for a bit. Last year on Everest, Garrett had talked to Willi about RainOn and he had an interest. I met Willi's twin brother when we were on Aconcagua in 2010. The Bengas brothers are probably the most famous climbers from Argentina; do a web search.
This morning the trekkers and Island Peak climbers, along with most of the friends and family of the climbers headed up to Gorak Shep. Tomorrow the friends and family will climb Kala Patthar in the morning, then met up will the trekkers back in Gorak Shep and all will head to Everest Base Camp. After lunch, the trekkers and Island Peak climbers will descend back to Gorak Shep while the family and friends will spend the night at base camp.
Tomorrow we (the Everest climbing team that I'm hanging with) will head up to Gorak Shep for lunch and then on to Everest Base Camp. Along the way we will pass the trekkers and Island Peak climbers on their way down.
After a night at Base Camp, I will descend with the family and friends to met up with the trekkers and Island Peak climbers in Gorak Shep. While we are doing this, the trekkers and Island Peak climbers will have their Kala Patther climb in the morning. We will all then descend all the way back to Dingboche for the night and then the split of trekkers and Island Peak climbers.
Complicated these expedition logistics! Tomorrow I'm in Everest Base Camp!!
Last night after we arrived at Lobuche, my slightly dizzy head turned into a full blown headache (4 on a 5 scale). This is very common and I've been reading in the trekking book that most altitude effects on the base camp trek actually occur near Lobuche. I tried drinking, pressure breathing, and music induced meditation. Red Hot Chili Peppers perhaps not the best choice to meditate to but they do rock!
About 7:30pm I talked with Eric (one of our guides) and he suggested two Excedrin and see how I was feeling in an hour. After an hour the headache was still in full swing, so I took another Excedrin and 125mg of Diamox and went to bed. I fell straight asleep and when I woke up at 12:30am, the headache was gone and I felt great! A well known side effect of Diamox is an increase in pee. And we come full circle to the pee bottle I featured a couple of weeks ago. I'll spare you the details. I feel great today and very much back to normal.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
IMG_3297, a photo by kurthu on Flickr.
Today we moved up from Dingboche at 4350m to Lobuche at 4940m. That's 14,271 ft. to 16,207 ft. or a gain of 2,000 ft. The trail was pretty mellow incline for a while affording us views down into the Lobuche Khola river valley including the village of Pheriche. Once again the clouds rolled in and we didn't get the peak views. Light snow started at 10am and continued off and on all day, falling the hardest just as we finally approached our objective of Lobuche in the early afternoon.
About half way through the day we reached the village of Dughla for a short break and some soup before tackling the day's big challenge of climbing up the terminus of the Khumbu Glacier. We switched back our way of the 800 ft. elevation gain. At the top a collection of stone memorials dotted the landscape. I felt as if we were taking a break in a cemetery. The memorials honor climbers and Sherpa that did not make it back from Everest. I sat just below the stone memorial to Scott Fisher, who was one of the guides killed in the 1996 Everest disaster that Jon Krakauer wrote about in his book "Into Thin Air". It was kind of eerie.
Beyond this the trail continued up following the glacier for much longer than I was expecting. By the time we reached Lobuche, I had begun to feel the effects of the altitude for the first time. No headache or nausea, just more of a slight dizziness. I'm working on my breathing and don't feel the need for diamox yet. But I will be watching.
Once again, we are all hanging out in the dining room. The late lunch of chicken cordon blu with potatoes was served around 2pm. Quite good!
It is quite noticeably colder up here and everyone plans to spend as little time as possible in the unheated rooms. The trekkers are in a lodge just a couple over because the lodges are much smaller up here. They will move on to Gorak Shep tomorrow, while the climbers will spend the day further acclimatizing here at Lobuche. Part of the strategy is also to stagger the 42 people that make of our total group as resources become scarcer as we move up. For example, base camp would have a hard time serving lunch to the entire group at one time.
I think tomorrow we will visit the Italian Research Center Pyramid where one of the webcams on this blog is located. That should be cool, or perhaps, cold.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
After breakfast, we had a short acclimatization hike 1,100 ft. up the Nargkartshang Peak near an old seasonally used gompa. It was cool and by that I mean air temp. A light dusting of snow had covered the ground again overnight and unfortunately, the clouds were low and thick. Blocked from our view were four 8,000m peaks: Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu. Returning to the lodge for lunch I didn't feel bad about missing Mountain Conditioning.
As an option, another hike for the afternoon was available: 45 minutes over to Pheriche to listen to a lecture on the effects and potential dangers of high altitude. Many of us opted out and were feeling pretty good about our decision as we watched more snow come down from the comforts of our burning Yak dung heated dining hall. FYI: burning Yak dung does not smell like burning shit. It's a bit more woody.
It's been great to just hang out and chat with folks. One trekker works in finance at Shell Oil and is ticking off the world's greatest treks. Another has read about Everest for years and always wanted to see it but no real interest in doing mountaineering. He and his 25-year daughter are trekking together. There is another father - daughter doing the trek too. He climbed Island Peak four years ago and she is a small business owner.
There are three other folks that I will be climbing Island Peak with: a woman from Seattle that has done tons of climbing raising money for cancer research with Fred Hutchinson; an ESL teacher from Alabama that works in Seoul; and a CEO of a biotech company. Everyone has a great story. Such a diverse group of people.
Munching on the now expected cheese, crackers, tomato, and cucumber as we wait for diner at 6. It feels good to rest.
Tomorrow we head to Lobuche where we will see and begin to parallel the Khumbu Glacier all the way to Everest Base Camp. The big challenge of the day will be climbing the 800 ft. steep hill that is actually the terminus of the glacier. The climbers will spend two nights at Lobuche, where as the trekkers will move on to Gorak Shep after one night. It's hard to believe that we will be in Everest Base Camp in just three days.
FYI: I'm not planning to walk down to the end of the village to the Internet cafe to post this so, it will likely go out tomorrow or I might try the sat phone again.
Monday, April 9, 2012
The trail was moderate and fun. We climbed up to Pangboche Gompa and hit the highlight of the day and perhaps the week. At the gompa we had a 30 minute private blessing from the Lama Geshi, the holiest religious man in the whole Khumbu. It was an amazing experience. The spiritual presence in everywhere in the Khumbu from prayers carved into rocks along the trail, to prayer flags and prayer wheels, to the occasional sutpas.
From Pangboche we dropped back down a bit to Shomare for lunch and continued on to our day's objective: Dingboche at 14,500 ft. To reach this we had one more hill of 1,000 ft. of climbing. I'm feeling great and all this up and down is actually quite enjoyable. I did a head to toe survey and everything is feeling great!! Loving every minute!
We will be here at Dingboche for two nights to help with our acclimatization. Tomorrow we will do a hike in the morning and hope to catch some great views. Right now Steve, Ben, and I walk up to the far side of town to the one Internet cafe with Wi-Fi. There is really no cell coverage here. It quite amazing that there is cell coverage at all in the Khumbu and it's a relatively new thing at that.
One more thing: with all the views, the great guides and staff, and the wonderful people that I'm trekking with, I must say the most impressive thing is watching the Sherpa porters at work. I can't believe how hard these guys work. They are constantly passing us on the trail with their 132 pound massive double loads borne just by a strap across their foreheads (no shoulder and waste straps). Many in sandals. And they turn around and serve us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I, for one, am quite thankful!
Sunday, April 8, 2012
It just keeps getting better and better. I can't believe it. We awoke this Easter morning to a coating of snow and a view of Ama Dablam from the window in our room that was simply stunning! We were also able to see Lhotse as well.
Some puffy clouds here and there but bright blue sky everywhere else treating us to the ever growing set of mazing peaks. The trail immediately headed down 2,000-ish feet to the river below and the village of Phunki Tenga ("funky tonga"). Everyone was signing "Won't you take me to... Phunki Tenga". At the Zambala Restaurant, located right at the bridge of over the Dudh Koshi river, we enjoyed a great lunch of fried egg and fried rice. It was so, so good.
The bridge over the river meant one thing: the rest of the way is up. Actually the 2,000 ft. climb up was beautiful and once again remarkably similar to hiking in the Cascades. The amble switchbacks and traversing up to the ridge made effort not the struggle that some were fearing. It was quite, quite enjoyable. For me, Ben, made it most enjoyable by DJ'ing tunes off of his iPhone with a small speaker. Michael Jackson kicked it off and soon I was moon walking my way of the trail in my hiking boots. We played quite a bit of name that tune and the next thing we knew we had reached the world-famous Tengboche Monastery.
We slipped off our boots and toured the inside of the monastery. This gompa is considered the cultural and religious center for the people of the Khumbu region. Fortunately we were allowed to photograph inside. What's interesting is that this gompa is not really that old. It was originally established in 1916 but was destroyed in an earthquake in 1934. And then a year after electricity was installed in 1988, a fire burned the gompa to the ground. Since rebuilt, it was quite a site to behold. The spiritual aura added a wonderful touch to this Easter Sunday.
We had planned to also tour the museum as well but it was closed until 3pm, so we opted for plan B: Cafe Tengboche bakery. Oh yeah, that's right more apple pastries. Have I mentioned that we are NOT roughing it? Tengboche presumably offers some of the best views in the Khumbu, but once again the cloud denied us the pleasure.
Some stayed behind to wait for the museum to open and also get a chance to hear the Monks chant. Unfortunately, I didn't know that was an option and head down the 20 minutes to our lodge for the night: The Rivendell Lodge in Deboche, proudly named after Rivendell from Lord of The Rings. The short hike down passed through the rhododendron forest which unfortunately was not yet in bloom. Since it was super cool to pass thru huge rhododendron trees forming an arch over the trail. I'm hoping for bloom when we make our way back in two weeks.
The Rivendell is another nice lodge, we are all once again hanging out in the dinning room snacking (does the food ever end?) on some wonderful cheddar, tomato, cucumber on cracker with hot tea. Dinner at the typical 6pm (in about an hour).
Tomorrow we move on to Dingboche, climbing 2,165 ft. along the Imja Khota river and making four river crossings. The suspension bridges are so cool. We will spend two nights in Dingboche with an acclimatizing hike on the day after tomorrow.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
The weather was clear with occasional clouds but we were treated to many amazing peak views. Camera were clicking off all day. We retraced our route in from Namche, stopping for lunch in Phurte. Before we reached Namche, we took the high trail to the left and climbed past the Syangboche airstrip and on up to Khumjung. It was a good workout. I think that tomorrow will be fun too, as we will drop down to the Dudh Kosi river cross a bridge and then climb switchbacks up to the Tengboche Monastery at 12,664 ft. then we will descend to our nights stay in Deboche. It's about 4.32 miles with an elevation loss of 2,588 ft. before climbing basically the same again.
The village of Khumjung is really a site to see. Wonderful layout and more of those great stone buildings. After we checked into the Himalayan Chain Resort, quite a few of us headed to the Everest Bakery here in Khumjung for some apple pie (of course) and then we headed down here to the Internet cafe. Looking around the room there are nine of us there typing away.
We are NOT roughing it. Life is good in the Khumbu.
Friday, April 6, 2012
After another sensational breakfast at 7:30, the trekkers/Island Peak climbers headed out, while the climbing team of which I'm paired with along with the family and spouses of the climbers hung back and the climbers were blessed for a safe journey and climb in a Tibetan Buddhism ceremony called a Kahta. In the ceremony, you first dip the tip of ring finger of right hand into a bowl of Chag, a rice-based liquor and make the flick of finger to honor the god of Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest), this is repeated two more time to bless youself and... it don't remember the third. A Kahta scarf is then place around your neck and tied in front. You carry this blessed scarf high on your body and never near your feet. I was honored that I was also included in this. Many photos were taken!!
Setting out for the day to Thame, we first traversed around to the other side of Namche and followed a path very high above the Bhote Koshi river through an amazing pine forest. Believe me when I say that it looked exactly like my training hikes along the I-90 corridor near Snoqualime Pass. Carl, for this segment, you weren't missing a thing. Except this is Nepal and you weren't here with me. :-(
We took a break at the Tahi Dele Restaurant & Lodge tea-house in Thamo. I was able to get an EDGE connection (no 3G), downloaded and read your wonderful comments on the blog (thank you!! keep em coming) and read a couple of emails. I didn't have the thought to make a quick dispatch, which would have been a good idea, since there is no Internet access up here in Thame. I am planing to post this via my satellite phone, so pictures will be keep to a minimum or none.
At Thame we had a quick lunch and then hike 30 minutes up to the 325 year-old Thame Gompa (monastery). It was a little bit of a puffer to get there and they fortunately openned the monastery for us to view the inside. No photos and we were required to remove our shoes. Inside was relatively small and hand painted wall to ceiling. It was striking! The monastery is home to 35 Tibetan Monks but we didn't see any or hear any chanting. The view from the monastery back down to Thame and surrounding peaks knocked your eyes out (I'm running out of ways to describe the magnificence of it all).
We are all now all back in the dinning room with lots of reading, chatting, backgammon, and warming of feet by the stove in the center of the room.
BTW: I did have the presence of mind to skip the bacon at breakfast this morning. Good Friday to all of you and God bless.
Tomorrow we will return to the area just above Namche called Khumjung. Khumjung is the home of the famous Hillary School. Built by Sir Edmund Hillary who spend much of his life after making the first ascent of Everest working with the Sherpa people in the Khumbu.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
The hike up was wonderful and the views were priceless. Coming back down was great as well, we had nearly aerial views of Namche. Arriving back at the Panorama Lodge, we had more food, a lunch of beans, veggies, fried bread, and (...wait for it...) potatoes. After hanging out for a bit, we went downtown and at Namche it really was down-town. We bee-lined for the Everest Bakery and had ..the.. ..most.. delicious apple pie ever! The bakery was atop a bar that was blasting Eric Clapton. So awesome. I can't get the Clapton out of my head. Wonderful. The mix of culture was so blowing my mind. Next door was the coolest Internet cafe that was a great hangout. Among the folk getting on line were Jake Norton and Dave Morton of the First Ascent team climbing the West Ridge of Everest. See http://pitchengine.com/eddiebauer/eddie-bauer-honors-historic-everest-expedition-with-twin-climbs-of-the-south-col-and-west-ridge-in-spring-2012
Namche is simply awesome. The buildings are great. I love the way the Sherpa make use of color in the buildings. In some ways, it parallels the colors of the pray flags that are ever present. It gives the architecture a spiritual feel. Hard to really explain. The shops sell just about everything. I visited a Sherpa expedition official outlet and a real Mountain Hardwear shop. Keep in mind we are two days from Lukla in an area with no roads and at 11,500 ft. I heard others in the group say that if they lived in Nepal, they would want to live in Namche. I agree! I would love to have another day to spend here, but tomorrow we move on.
Tomorrow we will hike up the Bhote Valley to Thame (12,467 ft.), the hometown of Lapka Rita Sherpa. We will visit his sister's home for some tea and later we will visit and 325 year old Thame Monastery and spend the night in Thame.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Steve and I were up at 5:50 am, packed up, and in the warm dinning room for hot drinks at 6:30. Oatmeal was brought out for a warm up and I mixed in my whey protein power and Justin's peanut butter. Good call Denise! Yum. After our full breakfast of eggs, toast, and potatoes, we grabbed our day packs and headed out from Phakding at 8,661 ft. bound for 11,319 ft. elevation of Namche. Our largest single day elevation gain (I think).
The first couple of hours trace along the river in the deep canyon. I think that most of the SPOT tracking devices were not able to get a good satellite signal, same as yesterday -- so most of the tracking will be from here out. The beautiful hike was much like the Sierras. Pine trees, great views of the roaring river and an occasional rhododendron. We criss crossed the turquoise colored Duth Kosi river several times on suspension bridges.
We took an early lunch break after an hour and a half of comfortable hiking at the Monjo Guest House. A bowl of noddles and a plate of vegetables and (more) potatoes with a Nepal bread hit the spot.
Shorty after the team checked in at the entrance of the Sagarmatha National Park in which Mt. Everest is located. A bit later we crossed the final bridge for the day and began the 2,000 ft. climb up the hill to Namche that took us about two hours. In order to acclimatize properly we need to move a slow pace in order to gain the altitude without tearing the body down so recovery becomes much more difficult at altitude.
At Namche, which a wonderful ring of shops, homes, and guest houses arranged in a horseshoe shaped bowl of terraces, we arrived at our home for two nights, the Panorama Lodge & Restaurant. Located on once of top terraces, absolutely beautiful place with a stunning views of Namche and some of the great peak in the area. Dinner was meat and you guest it, potatoes.
Our Sitar, Lapka Rita Sherpa served us chocolate cake to desert. More Yum. (maybe this is a food spotting blog)
We have a nice room with a hot shower and I took advantage of before returning to the dinning room to bring you this dispatch. :-) It's now 9:15 PM and everyone has gone to bed except me and the Sherpa. Not a word of English being spoken.
Tomorrow it's breakfast at 7 and then we are off to climb up to the Khumjung and the Everest View Hotel. Which hopefully the clouds will allow to live up to its name and offer us our first view of Mt. Everest. I'm pretty excited!
Oh, one more thing: We have Yak!!! I repeat we have Yak!!